A SharePoint Success Story

Before I got to Liquid Mercury and indeed before I even got into SharePoint at all, I was a contractor working for HHS’s Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).  When I started, we worked as the “Application Processing Center” the NHSC Loan Repayment Program.  It was a program for doctors who were willing to work in high need areas, like free clinics in urban or rural areas to get some help in paying back their student loans.  The branch had about 40 people in total working on processing, analyzing and approving about 11,000 applications per fiscal year.  Then we made the transfer to SharePoint, once everything got up and running, 50 of us were not only processing, tracking and generating business intelligence 11-15k applications, but we also had so much excess utility that we absorbed the work load for 9 other programs as well!  I cannot even begin to imagine how much money that saved the HRSA.

Allow me to start from the beginning and paint you a picture.  Originally the application process for just one program (the loan repayment program), candidate applications were all hard copy and tracking them involved Excel sheets, hundreds of them.  We tried to keep everything on the computer, but most of the people in the chain would make notes on the hard copies and this would never make it into the Excel files notes or worse, they would get lost entirely. In addition to the actual application process we also had a team of contractors who assembled and collated the data from the application for analysis and business intel.  I would guess that the ideal-est of candidates could be processed in about 2 weeks, but that only happened once, generally it took about 6 weeks to process an application.  Needless to say it was a fairly inefficient and labor intensive process.

In 2010, we moved over to the SharePoint environment and moved the entire application and tracking process online.  We eventually used SharePoint to manage our application intake through the website portal; an intranet to handle document storage and tracking; and business intelligence from automated report generation, analysis, and easy to digest metrics through management dashboards.  Bottom line: we went from a clerical office to a technology office by getting rid of the receiving, assembly, and data entry teams; then tripling the size of our IT staff.  But once the process was automated, applicants were processed loss went to zero, redundant processes were heavily reduced, metrics and analysis were 1 click away, and thus utility also dropped. This meant that we started doing the same work for similar departments like nursing and medical school scholarships.  In the end we were doing 9 times the work for less than double the cost and that is what made a SharePoint convert out of me.  

And yes, you should probably study IT in school.