College Bowl scores time and cost savings through an automated workflow solution


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An inefficient and costly manual content-creation process consumed time and resources the company needed to devote to generating new revenue streams

An automated workflow built on IBM Lotus Notes and IBM Lotus Domino software designed to accelerate, simplify and enhance the content-creation process

Key Benefits
– Cut overall printing and shipping costs by US$75,000 per year
– Increased content accuracy rate from 90 to 99.3 percent
– Reduced typical questioncreation time by 50 percent
– Decreased time required to locate and update content from days to minutes
– Saved and reallocated thousands of employee-hours to new business pursuits

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College Bowl scores time and cost savings through an automated workflow solution

  1. 1. Content management solutionsBusiness case study College Bowl scores time and cost savings through an automated workflow solution. Overview  Challenge An inefficient and costly manual content-creation process consumed time and resources the company needed to devote to generating new revenue streams  Solution An automated workflow built on IBM Lotus Notes and IBM Lotus Domino software designed to accelerate, simplify and enhance the content-creation process  Key Benefits – Cut overall printing and shipping Pictured are students competing at The Honda Campus All-Star Challenge, a competition for America’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities. costs by US$75,000 per year – Increased content accuracy As a diversified production, live- “We didn’t find any com- event and marketing company, rate from 90 to 99.3 percent petitive alternatives. – Reduced typical question- College Bowl ( produces and distributes academic There wasn’t [any other creation time by 50 percent – Decreased time required to competitions in America and abroad, solution] that was even locate and update content from reaching millions of students, faculty, remotely competitive days to minutes alumni and family members through- from a price or func- – Saved and reallocated out the world. Over the past 35 years, thousands of employee-hours tionality standpoint.” the award-winning, California-based –Mary Oberembt, general manager, to new business pursuits company — consisting of 11 full-time College Bowl
  2. 2. and several part-time employees — has expanded to coordinate and provide questions for three major programs: the annual College Bowl, High School Bowl and Honda Campus All-Star Challenge competitions. Aside from working continuously to improve question content, College Bowl strives to globalize its questions for a broader audience, repurpose existing content into new products and secure corporate sponsors for College Bowl products. But as a small business constrained by an inefficient, manual question-generation process, College Bowl had little extra time or money to invest in new ventures. The time-consuming question-generation process typically lasted ten weeks per game set. Employees manually authored, categorized, edited, approved,“Because of the IBM assembled and logged 130 files of questions per month on topics ranging from technology, College science and current events to math and history. Relying on staff members to catch mistakes, the process was subject to errors that undermined content Bowl is able to do quality. Duplicate questions, an unbalanced number of topics and inaccura- things at a ten-person cies sometimes led to contestants challenging question content. company that a 50- to 100-person company The cumbersome question-generation process was entirely paper-based. When booking (assembling) games, College Bowl printed between 5,000 and 10,000 can do. So it’s a big win.” pages of questions per game to create a physical, categorized deck. From –John Head, enTouch offerings and development manager, PSC the deck, a booker selected questions based on specific criteria to be used in a game. The resulting preliminary game, printed on 53 sheets of paper, was shipped to as many as eight outside reviewers. The subsequent cost of paper, printing and shipping totaled approximately US$30,000 per year per game — a heavy burden. To position itself for growth, College Bowl needed to improve the efficiency, cost-effectiveness and quality control of its process. Building an automated solution that’s ahead of the curve Recognizing this labor-intensive, manual workflow prohibited College Bowl from meeting its business objectives, the company decided to automate its question-generation process. Along with replacing manual steps, the solution 2
  3. 3. needed to support College Bowl’s specialized document format, efficientlystore large volumes of questions and provide remote access to offsite review-ers. College Bowl chose IBM Business Partner PSC Group, LLC to design andbuild a new workflow and content management architecture. By the end of theproject, College Bowl got a lot more — a complete transformation that broughtits business process into the 21st century.During the first few years of their partnership, PSC and College Bowl attempteddifferent solutions. They tried simple word-processing applications and evenbuilt and rejected an entire application. Ultimately, they decided to switch froman Internet-hosted Microsoft® Outlook messaging system to IBM Lotus® Notes®and IBM Lotus Domino® software. PSC developed College Bowl’s solution grad-ually, building on the new capabilities of each Lotus Notes and Dominoupgrade, until the content-creation process was fully automated.The platform switch was largely due to the rich messaging and collaborativecapabilities of Lotus Notes and Lotus Domino software, including integratedinstant messaging for real-time collaboration among employees and clients inthe context of their work. Stronger security capabilities that safeguard confi-dentiality and protect against viruses. And the ability to support multiple e-mailaccounts — one for each College Bowl program. “We didn’t find any competitivealternatives. There wasn’t [any other solution] that was even remotely competitivefrom a price or functionality standpoint,” says Mary Oberembt, general manager,College Bowl.As part of the solution implementation, PSC and College Bowl imported some17,000 existing questions into a newly developed Lotus Notes question data-base. This database enables writers to post and index questions by category.Outside reviewers can log on to the system from anywhere via a Web browserto view, comment on and return questions electronically. Printing and shippingare no longer required, significantly speeding the process. 3
  4. 4. PSC also developed other Lotus Notes databases, including an individualizedprogram database for each competition and a keyword database. In each programdatabase, employees can quickly organize questions into packets using an agentrunning on Lotus Domino software that is guided by program-specific rules —known as the pre-book process. Leveraging Lotus software automation capabilities,the pre-book process is automated to quickly select 53 questions from thedatabase based on 25 criteria points, assign them to a game and pass themalong for online review.The keyword database enables users to rapidly search for duplicate questionsand to edit multiple instances of content. Automating each step of the pro-cess — including data searching — using Lotus Domino workflow capabilitieshelps significantly reduce human error. And fewer instances of inaccurate,unbalanced and duplicate content helps the games run more smoothly.After game content has been verified as accurate and complete, an administratorsimply clicks a button to generate the questions in a Microsoft Word document andsave the document as a PDF—all in minutes. A rich-text connector created by PSCmaintains all formatting required for proper printing. Finally, the PDF is sent elec-tronically either directly to a printer or to a contact at a school for final printing andpackaging. This system helps limit printing and shipping to finished products only.Accomplishing more in less timeImplementing an automated, user-friendly workflow and distribution processwith Lotus Notes and Lotus Domino software has reduced College Bowl’squestion-creation time by 50 percent and drastically shortened revision time.For example, manually searching through a year’s worth of questions to ensureexisting questions are updated used to take three or four days. With the keyworddatabase, automated searches return results in about two seconds, allowingusers to update content more quickly. 4
  5. 5. Remote access for outside reviewers has streamlined the review process byeliminating time spent printing and shipping questions. Assembling questionpackets takes only hours instead of days or weeks. Now completed gamepackets are produced just weeks before their use, increasing accuracy, timelinessof material and customer satisfaction. And any new employees the College Bowlrecruits are able to get up to speed on the automated process quickly and easily.“Because of the IBM technology, College Bowl is able to do things at a ten-person company that a 50- to 100-person company can do,” says John Head,enTouch offerings and development manager, PSC. “So it’s a big win.”Getting high marks for accuracyThe online process allows College Bowl to expand and work with international “[The IBM solution andreviewers and content providers to globalize its questions for an increasingly PSC applications have]diverse audience. This capability not only increases the potential for new absolutely revolution-customers, it also helps further improve content quality. A significant reduction inhuman error as a result of an automated workflow has decreased the number of ized how we do ourduplicate questions and helped generate optimum topic variation within game jobs. Even the naysay-sets. Overall, question accuracy rates have risen from about 90 percent ers are saying, ‘I’dto 99.3 percent, virtually eliminating question protests. And with the shortened never go back.’”production time, questions are shipped to and used by clients promptly — –Mary Oberembt, general manager, College Bowlmeaning content used in competitions is up to date.Saving money—and treesPreviously, each question was printed about eight times on its way to approval.Electronic distribution through Lotus Notes and Lotus Domino software haseliminated the paper-based process and postponed the need to ship hardcopies until final customer delivery. The IBM and PSC solution has cut paper,printing and shipping costs by more than US$75,000 per year. Also, by switchingto the Lotus Notes and Domino platform, College Bowl has eliminated costsassociated with hosting its e-mail externally. 5
  6. 6. Leveraging existing resources to drive business growthThe content management solution from IBM has helped College Bowl free upthousands of employee-hours per year. Now the company can devote more time tobuilding its event-planning business. Attracting more corporate sponsors. Improvingquestion quality. And repurposing content into new question packets for different © Copyright IBM Corporation 2004audiences. For example, College Bowl recently launched new diversity question IBM Corporationpacks to focus on specific categories, including African American and women’s Software Group Route 100topics. College Bowl and PSC quickly created the diversity program database by Somers, NY 10589reusing the new IBM solution’s application architecture and copying questions from U.S.A.existing program databases to the new database. Category-specific game packets Produced in the United States of America 09-04such as this one require minimal extra work or costs, and allow College Bowl to All Rights Reservedresell content for a high margin. Domino, IBM, the IBM logo, Lotus and Lotus Notes are trademarks of International Business Machines Corporation in the United States, otherMastering a successful future countries or both.The next planned refinements to College Bowl’s system will involve introducing Microsoft is a trademark of Microsoft Corporationmore rules-based automation to further reduce duplicate content and automating in the United States, other countries or both.the creation of various documents to reduce clerical work. With IBM Lotus Other company, product and service names may be trademarks or service marks of and PSC as its committed IBM Business Partner, College Bowl has References in this publication to IBM productsrelinquished its manual operations for a fully automated, paperless business and services do not imply that IBM intendsmodel. As a result, the company has gained a substantial competitive edge and to make them available in all countries in which IBM poised to retain the title of industry leader while developing innovative products This customer story is based on information pro-and creating new revenue streams. “[The IBM and PSC solution has] absolutely vided by College Bowl and PSC and illustratesrevolutionized how we do our jobs,” declares Mary Oberembt. “Even the naysay- how one organization uses IBM products. Many factors may have contributed to the results anders are saying, ‘I’d never go back.’” benefits described; IBM does not guarantee comparable results elsewhere.For more informationPlease contact your IBM sales representative or IBM Business Partner.Visit us /lotusFor more information about PSC, G225-4331-00