It's one thing to streamline a process to save some time. It’s quite another to transform a system that once required weeks to submit and boil it down to something completed in mere hours.
But that’s exactly what NASBA has done with the National Registry of CPE Sponsors’ new online application and renewal system. What once was an onerous, paper-laden process for new and existing course providers is now merely a matter of a few mouse clicks.
"There used to be 16 pages in the application for new providers, and you had to submit printed attachments and examples with each," recalls Jill Gordon, Manager of Strategic Initiatives, who helped craft the new system. "It was very tedious, even for renewals. One provider told me they had to bring in outside help every year just to handle their renewal application."
"It would take them weeks, even up to a month, to get it all together and in the mail," Gordon says.
All that paperwork was an administrative burden for NASBA, as well.
The idea for an online solution came while Gordon and Maria Caldwell, General Counsel and Director of Compliance Services, were working on a special project. They were using some online tools that provided comprehensive management of contacts, documents and processes, and it struck them that a similar tool might work for the Registry. Further research turned up FormAssembly, a reputable web-based service used by companies like Yahoo! and BP to create web forms for collecting data. Using FormAssembly and the help of an outside consultant, Gordon and Caldwell were able to build an entirely new application and renewal system online.
"The new system allows renewing providers to answer 'yes or no' questions, and new applicants to use drop-down menus and digitally attach their supporting documents and links right on the page,” Gordon says. “New applicants now complete the form in 5 1/2 hours, on average. Renewals are being completed as fast as 26 minutes, which is a dramatic improvement."
The new system has many features of interest, including:
Providers have definitely noticed the difference. In fact, since the system’s debut last October, the comments have been overwhelmingly complimentary.
"They love it, especially the people who had used the old system and are now renewing,” Gordon says. “And even though new applicants didn’t have to go through the old system, they heard enough about it to be really glad that we have done this."