The Art of the Mail Merge Package
For about 10 years Pathways users have been able to automatically generate mail merge documents in Microsoft Word including parent letters, host letters, work experience and placement agreements, surveys and workplace diaries. This in itself is quite handy as it makes document production really easy, however there are smarter ways to handle mail merging where you do many placements and are looking to really simplify document production.
In the mid nineties a gentleman named Frank Hayes managed a placement cluster in Mackay that processed a huge number of placements with only a handful of coordinators - one of the biggest productivity gains they could implement was dramatically streamlining the paperwork. Schools still, unfortunately, tend to use very much paper based documentation and workflows, and this meant many hours of document collation, checking and sending for the up to 10 mail merges that may be needed for any given placement. Frank asked us to build Mail Merge Packages for each type of placement or scenario that would automatically merge so no checking or collation was needed. This in itself sounds logical, however at the time it meant coding custom reports, ensuring things like notes fields weren't too long etc.
Fast forward to 2013 and documents and reports are now automatically generated in Microsoft Word, so merging a series of documents into a package is as simple as combining all the word files into a single document file.
For example in QLD we have some customers who have the Queensland Work Experience Agreement Form C, parent letter, host letter and Daily Diary all combined into a single word file. Better still they don't even print it; they use the function build into MS-Word to send the file as a PDF for the teacher to print as required. These same clients have a similar package for VET students doing structured work placement with different letters. By having these documents in a common format like Microsoft Word, it means creating, maintaining and ultimately duplicating mail merges and mail merge packages is super easy.
We HIGHLY recommend you look to see if building a standard package in the Pathways Briefcase will help - as even small work experience programs with low placement numbers can make their document production so much easier if they have all the paperwork coming out in a single file.