The Oregon School Boards Association is a non-profit member services agency for more than 200 locally elected boards serving school districts, education service districts, and community colleges. OSBA helps locally-elected volunteers fulfill their complex public education roles.
Watch the video to get a snapshot of their story and read on for more details.
The policy department of the Oregon School Boards Association (OSBA) is responsible for writing and maintaining policies for over 200 school districts. Each individual district has hundreds of policies—from hiring and dismissal to busing and other general policies—and the number of documents can add up in the thousands. OSBA originally had these policies written in WordPerfect but needed to convert them to Microsoft Word to better fit organizational standards and collaboration across all districts.
For each individual policy, they would have to follow a two-step process to first convert the WordPerfect file to a .RFT file, and then to Word. With the long list of policies, this seemingly-short process was taking one person more than a week to complete the conversion for just one individual district. At first, OSBA thought they could speed up the process by hiring a temp, but the backlog continued to pile up and efficiency was lacking.
Trying to come up with a better solution to convert the tens of thousands of files, Bryce Carson, OSBA Manager of Information Technology, started looking into robotic process automation (RPA). A coworker had told Bryce about a comprehensive automation solution used at a previous job—Automate from Fortra.
After researching more about Automate RPA software, Bryce tasked out OSBA IT Analyst Andrew Norval, to vet the software and see if it fit the needs of their organization. Andrew started an Automate trial and was able to quickly create a basic RPA workflow to automatically manage the tedious conversions. “Once we put Automate into the mix, we were able to clear the backlog in about a month and a half,” Andrew says. He was quickly convinced this was the route to go to finish the job and convert the rest of the policy department’s documents.
He was up and running in no time thanks to Automate’s quick implementation time. “I picked it up from not having known anything about it and learned it in about a week,” Andrew says. “It’s a really user-friendly product with drag-and-drop features and it couldn’t be any easier than that.”
Andrew also found Automate’s Workflow & Task Library helpful in getting up to speed on the product. The Workflow & Task Library is a place where Fortra's support team and customers upload sample tasks to highlight and demonstrate specific features of Automate—giving users a head start on automating their tasks. Whenever Andrew was unsure of how to automate a task, he could quickly search and find a sample task to implement to get him through any roadblocks and model the way.
Once Andrew had his basic workflow up and running, he was able to integrate existing WordPerfect macros into Automate to further speed up the policy conversion process. Now every single policy document for a given school district can be converted in just 20 minutes. And better yet, Andrew could let the process run overnight so he could spend his working hours on more value-adding activities.
“With Automate I was able to turn my computer on, let it go through the evening, and I had 10 to 20 districts converted,” Andrew says. “That saved me a lot of time getting district policy documents verified and ready to go so I could get through another batch of 20 or 30 districts.”
OSBA started using RPA in their policy department and expanded into others like the labor department. Within the labor department, they were able to reuse the workflows they already had set up within Automate to convert that department’s files and further fuel the speed of their expansion.
After the success Automate is having converting WordPerfect files to Word, Bryce and Andrew are excited to see OSBA’s RPA footprint expand. Once they complete the job of getting WordPerfect out of their departments, they hope to put Automate’s application integration abilities to work and automate more of their tedious tasks related to email and CRM processes.