Business Process Improvement: A Tool for Enrollment Management


Business Process Improvement (BPI) is a practice that has its roots in the business environment but has also found a home in higher education.  Designed primarily to help organizations, especially large organizations, re-evaluate internal operations and improve production, the end process should produce operational efficiencies while maintaining customer satisfaction.  Translated to higher education, it can mean doing more with less while still providing service to students.

As a theoretical approach, the concept of BPI is straightforward.

  1. Define the process to be reviewed for redesign including the structure that accomplishes that process.
  2. Identify desired outcomes.
  3. Reorganize the internal workforce as now required by the redesign of the process/function/service.

Items 1 and 2 are often the easiest part of the 3-part plan.  Whether the defined process review is externally mandated, internally desired to create efficiency, or as a response to new technology or process changes within higher education, especially within core Enrollment Management (EM), business process functions are commonly understood as to why, when and where.  Grades are recorded by the Registrar, new students are recruited and processed by Admissions, and aid is packaged by Financial Aid.  Depending upon other areas often contained within EM (student account receivables, orientation, first-year experience, etc.) students and the campus are usually aware of who does what and the campus calendar generally dictates when things happen.  

Identifying outcomes, while not as internally autonomous for EM as Item 1, is still achievable without much complication assuming the project manager ensures the opportunity for broad input from constituents, always focuses on student service, and maintains the integrity of the mission of the university.  
Item 3 is more problematic and can have unintended consequences.  Reorganizing the internal workforce, especially within a collective bargaining environment or strictly defined HR policy, can be problematic.  Moving staff to new functions, providing and/or requiring the development of new skillsets, or creating a change environment can create human resource problems.  When a BPI creates extensive change in a unit, the project manager should consult regularly with Human Resources to ensure that no policies or bargaining agreements are being violated

Overall, it should be remembered that Business Process Improvement is about just that, improvement.  It should be undertaken for purposes of improved efficiency and desired outcomes.  It should use technology to achieve those purposes, and not have technology drive the process.  The ultimate goal for enrollment management is to provide information to the campus community, improve service to students, and ultimately impact student success.

Article for AC and Connect written by Betty Huff, Senior Consultant.  Do you have questions for the author or would you like to learn more about Business Process Improvement Reviews  through AACRAO Consulting ?  Contact us today at or (202) 355-1056.  

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