Embracing self-service technologies

04 November 2021

Technology is a critical component to administrative transformation. Leveraging the capability of technology to help us work more efficiently and effectively is integral. Over the past number of years—well before the U of A for Tomorrow (UAT) initiative and implementation of a new operating model—the university has introduced many self-service technologies that have been more convenient for faculty, staff and students, as well as more efficient. As we implement the new operating model to promote consistency, avoid duplication, and support a university-wide service culture, there is even more opportunity to modernize as well as further develop and embrace these technologies.

What are self-service technologies?

Self-service technologies enable users to complete a service or produce a result without having to interact with a formal provider; they are intended to be faster, more accurate, and convenient. With continual advances in information technologies, we've become increasingly tech savvy and reliant on these self service technologies. Without realizing it, many of us already use self-service technologies as we shop, bank, and even order dinner.

What are the benefits of self-service technologies?

The most important benefit of self-service technologies is that people who have common issues or tasks can solve them immediately, while those who have more complicated issues experience shorter wait times and receive dedicated assistance as service providers can focus on complex problem solving. In fact, many people prefer self-service methods over other forms of support because of the following advantages:

  • Increased convenience and efficiency
  • Faster, more immediate results
  • Improved user experience; greater user control of transactions and interactions
  • Access to information and self-service tools 24/7

Self-service at the U of A

Through the addition of self-service technologies, the new operating model aims to remove some of the administrative burdens that faculty and staff currently encounter. To help create these administrative efficiencies, the university is developing readily available, new self-service resources and tools that are easy for faculty and staff to navigate.

In many cases, administrative activities are being streamlined through self-service technologies to simplify the process so that it's even easier to complete. An example of this is the new Corporate Purchasing Card (PCard) process where PeopleSoft routes charges for approval electronically, eliminating the need for a lengthy, paper-based process. Administrative activities such as this can also be delegated if an administrative support person is available.

Examples of self-service technologies at the U of A

Chatbot technology with Vera

Many university web pages, including the Registrar's Office, ONEcard, International Student Services, eClass, and Information Services and Technology, have integrated chatbot technology to connect faculty, staff, and students with information quickly. Clicking on the chat icon in the bottom right corner of each page provides instant access to curated content, knowledge-base articles, and a live agent if additional support is needed. One of the key benefits to using chatbots is that the more we interact with them, the more they learn and improve, which means a better user experience.

IST's self-serve portal

Information Services and Technology has a comprehensive self-serve portal where users can help themselves quickly and easily with a few simple keywords to access information in a database of hundreds of knowledge-base articles. Learn more about this portal here.

Self-service password resets

Because of self-service technology, anyone with a CCID can reset their password without calling a help desk. Password resets can be done from any device, at any time, and from any location; and staff, faculty, and students can enrol at any time. Learn more here.


SupplyNet is the university's electronic web application for purchasing and paying for goods and services. It allows users to "shop" approved online catalogues, add items to a shopping cart, and submit the requisition electronically for approval and the creation of purchase orders, which are then sent electronically to suppliers.

As new structures and processes are introduced, we will continually ensure that new self-service resources and tools are readily available and easy for faculty and staff to navigate, thus achieving greater administrative efficiency.

Staff Service Centre

The new website for the Staff Service Centre provides quick access for faculty and staff to review common inquiries and FAQ articles, making it possible for them to find an answer to their question before submitting a ticket or reaching out for support.

Time and labour self-reporting

Since 2016, the university has been working to make time entry easier for staff. Now, PeopleSoft HCM self-service allows support staff, excluded student hourly staff, and academic hourly staff to enter their own time. Supervisors and employees can make corrections or adjustments to hours entered as needed. This process expedites and streamlines both the entry and approval process. If you need more information, Shared Services is currently offering training sessions.

Student Service Centre

The new Student Service Centre is using technology to improve the student experience, including an expanded roll-out of the university's chatbot, Vera, and additional FAQ pages. The team has also introduced remote queue technology allowing students to put themselves in line for in-person advising before they arrive at the Student Service Centre, reducing unnecessary wait times.

The future of self service at the university

Embracing self-service technologies at the university requires a shift in how we do some of our work. With the addition of self-service technologies, faculty and staff will have the tools they need to be more self-sufficient to perform their work efficiently and effectively as well as receive services faster and more conveniently. As the functional workstreams continue to redesign services, technology and innovation will be implemented to make challenging and cumbersome processes easier, more streamlined, and user-focused. It's also important to remember that the more we use and interact with these technologies, the more we can learn how to improve and advance them to their fullest potential.

Additional support

As the university continues to implement more self-service technologies, we hope that faculty and staff continue to utilize them, problem-solving resourcefully and independently. While you may likely be familiar with many of the tools already available, we encourage you to get acquainted with some of the new tools the university has to offer. And if you need help or have questions as you are working with some of these new technologies, support is available by contacting the Staff Service Centre, the Student Service Centre, or Information Services & Technology (IST).



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