‘We just have to get there’ — benefits of Interfolio to outweigh transitional challenges

Infographic of Interfolio process

Designed by Rachel Baschnagel

Colorado State University is piloting a new annual review workflow using the Interfolio faculty information system within the College of Agricultural Sciences (CAS) and the College of Health and Human Sciences (CHHS). The pilot is in its early stages, and there is both excitement for the new system and nervousness about the transition as feedback is collected.

“Any time there’s a new system, there’s some challenge and frustration, but we see the opportunity that Interfolio is going to bring,” CHHS Dean Lise Youngblade said. “I think this is a really good move for the university. It’s really important that we support people on their learning journey to transition to Interfolio, and I think the pilot is helping us find ways to improve that.”

The pilot program is focusing solely on Interfolio’s annual review workflow at this time. The Office of the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs designed Interfolio templates for annual reviews, and the two pilot colleges customized the templates to meet department-specific parameters.

The university will use insight gained through the pilot to aid a universitywide implementation of Interfolio’s full Review, Promotion and Tenure (RPT) and Faculty Activity Reporting (FAR) systems over the next few years. Cultivating an easy-to-use, efficient and transparent workflow for faculty and staff is the topmost priority in this transition.

“The use of Interfolio will eventually be required for everyone, but in these early stages we will give ourselves the time to gracefully transition to the new system,” Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs Sue James said. “Once we know more from the RPT pilot and FAR implementation, we will communicate more details about the timeline before the end of the spring semester.”

“Overall, we are excited about the possibility of this system to facilitate smooth transitions in the workflow of the faculty evaluation process and visibility and continuity of faculty records,” said Shannon Wagner, executive assistant to the dean, on behalf of the CAS Dean’s Office. “We appreciate the support of the Provost’s Office in implementing and administering an IT system that will be value added, no matter what role an individual may hold in this process.”

About Interfolio

Current review, promotion and tenure workflows at CSU vary greatly from college to college and between departments, and resources for those processes are decentralized. Interfolio’s integrated system will bring all the relevant forms, supporting documents, instructions, timelines, candidates, reviewers and administrators onto one platform to streamline workflows, saving time and energy for all parties and creating consistency throughout the university.

“Interfolio is a very user-friendly system,” Interfolio and VPFA Project Manager Jessica Watkinson said. “It allows faculty to more easily curate their materials for reviews, promotion and tenure, and for committees and administrators, it should make the workflow processes consistent and more efficient.”

Before the universitywide transition takes off, documents and other data from CSU’s existing faculty information systems, e.g., Digital Measures/Watermark and HR, will be transferred to Interfolio’s database. Then, faculty and staff will be able to upload more of their work to their Interfolio profiles manually and through Interfolio’s Data Service, which continuously searches the web and suggests works that appear to belong to an Interfolio user, allowing that person to edit the details gathered, add the work to their profile or reject the suggestion.

This assistive FAR platform will house all of a faculty member’s work in a central, searchable hub that can be regularly updated and used to auto-populate customizable CVs. Among many other functions of FAR, users can pull directly from FAR to attach documents in RPT workflows.

Templates and notifications

Customized templates will be created in the RPT module by department leaders and used to direct review, promotion and tenure workflows within those departments. Every step of a review, promotion or tenure case will be clearly laid out with instructions, required documents and a timeline for completion.

Candidates and reviewers will be notified when action is needed from them, and once they complete their tasks in a case, they can send it to the next step with the click of a button and check back to see the case status at any time.

“I think what’s so nice about Interfolio is the ability to move whole cases back and forth and customize different templates but still all be working in the same system,” Youngblade said.

“The RPT workflow is about bringing consistency and security and ease to the review, promotion and tenure processes,” James said. “It’s reducing the administrative burden for all the people involved, whether it’s the candidate going up, the administrative professionals who are helping with the logistics of the process or the people who are playing roles, like the reviewers. It should be a more consistent and secure process, so things don’t get lost or misplaced or mislabeled.”

Support for faculty and staff

All faculty and staff in the eight academic colleges and Libraries will receive specialized, live Interfolio training sessions. In addition, training documentation for faculty, committees and administrators is available on the Office of the Provost’s Faculty Policies, Forms & Resources page, and a separate Interfolio webpage with more information and resources is under construction.

One or more Unit Administrators — someone who has been given administrative permissions in Interfolio and can create and edit cases — will be touch-points in each department and college for department-specific questions. Watkinson, CSU’s Interfolio training lead, is also a contact for questions and support post-training.

There are also support resources available through Interfolio. Its Product Help site contains information and step-by-step instructions for completing different tasks in Interfolio, including e-Learning training resources and “office hours” that allow Interfolio users to connect with the Client Services team to ask questions, troubleshoot issues, receive guidance and more.

“There will be a little bit of pain as we transition, but I firmly believe that everyone involved in the process will appreciate Interfolio and want to use it because it’s going to make everyone’s lives easier,” James said. “It’s going to be a good thing — we just have to get there.”