Case Study: Staff Incorporates Process Redesign Skills and Technology to Streamline Certification Process and enhance effectiveness and revenue.
The Society of Wetland Scientists was formed to further non-profit scientific and educational objectives related to wetland science. The Society developed a program for certification of wetland science training and experience as a separate not-for-profit corporation to meet the needs of professional ecologists, hydroliogists, soil scientists, educators, agency professionals, consultants, and others who practice wetland science.
The certification process was bogged down with paperwork and took three to four months to complete. The application has eight sections including code of ethics, education, work experience, a statement of expertise essay, and references. Most sections went through a verification process, which meant copies had to be made, and the confirmations were assembled with the original application. Each of the nine-person review panel received a printed packet of materials for every candidate. The reviewed applications, which sometimes needed to be accessed, were kept in boxes neatly piled high in storage rooms. Applications were sometimes rejected numerous times and the process was restarted each time. Because the process was so onerous, selected candidates gave up on completing their application and did not get certified. Review panel members donated many hours of their time to ensure the process was performed accurately and fairly. Labor, storage, printing, and mailing expenses were high.
The Center for Association Resources (The Center) introduced an improved process and certifications are now completely online. The application is now completed, reviewed, and verified without a single piece of paper.
Tracking number, instructions, examples, and required fields were added. Other improvements included keeping the application open so the applicant did not have to start over after locating information needed, clearing old comments before a new review, reviewing all supporting documentation before the application is submitted, and ensuring payment before a review is begun.
Certificates are now sent electronically and seals are mailed directly from the manufacturer. Fifteen years of applications were digitally scanned onto a single searchable DVD, saving many hours of time as well as storage expense.
To attract those who may have started but not finished the process in the past, the website now proudly states “The application process is done EXCLUSIVELY online” and “SWSPCP, in an effort to serve you more efficiently, has moved to an online Certification Application and Certification Renewal Application process.”
The online process developed by The Center has reduced cycle time from about 120 to 45 days. In addition to the time saved, expense saved, and error reduction inherent in automating a manual process, the project has increased revenue from multiple sources and improved cash flow.
Key improvements are:
• More people apply for certification since the process is much easier.
• The annual renewal is online and most people pay faster and online rather than by mailing a check.
• Staff now has time to make a friendly reminder call to slow payers which has yielded excellent results.
• Staff also does Internet searches to find those who have not renewed and may have moved.
• Lapsed members are removed from the membership file in a timely manner.
Over a two-year period, total revenue is up 129%. SWSPCP was so pleased that they signed a new contract of longer duration with The Center.