Hacking the Bureacracy: Direct Deposit

This should be filed under “general problem solving,” but I’m putting it in the usability category because it deals with a workflow issue. When I managed student employees, one of the biggest problems I had was getting them successfully enrolled in direct deposit. Now, being that we had a separate payroll department that handled all of the financial stuff, you’d think that would be a fairly simple task.  And it was… kinda.

The standard form that Georgetown uses for direct deposit asks for every piece of information needed to initiate the service for an employee: name, bank name, account number, routing number. Most students have absolutely no problem supplying this information on their own. The problem arises when they submit the form — you see, Georgetown’s payroll department requires that applicants attach a voided check along with the form, because they don’t trust people to write down the correct bank info themselves.  This itself wouldn’t be a problem, if student employees actually had checks.  Apparently, a staggering number of banks do not provide paper checks with their checking accounts, preferring instead to simply issue a debit card and call it a day. Checks cost extra, so students typically forego them (honestly, who needs paper checks anymore, anyway?).  The payroll department had its requirements, but I really wanted to help the students get their direct deposit: when you have 180 of them working for you, it’s kind of a pain to deal with paper paychecks every two weeks.

My solution, basically, was to give students a way of printing a check to submit with the direct deposit form. I added a second page to the original PDF direct deposit form with the image of a blank check on it. Using a simple bit of JavaScript, the second page pulls the student’s name and bank info from the first page and superimposes it into the image. A MICR-style font is embedded in the PDF so the bank info displays properly and includes the appropriate symbols for account and routing numbers.  After filling in the form and printing it out, students can simply cut out the check from the second page and attach it to the form. Works like a charm.  Ah, the things we do for bureaucracy…

Try it out!  Download the form here and open it with Adobe Acrobat Reader (you actually do have to use Acrobat Reader specifically for this — other PDF readers don’t support the JavaScript I used to generate the image).