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Articles: Operational Efficiencies

Fifteen-minute, biweekly “scrum” meetings allow colleagues to quickly exchange necessary updates before getting back to business on project completion.

For years, The Extended Campuses of Northern Arizona University used a traditional marketing model. The four-person marketing team would create an annual budget and tie its goals and specific projects to it. Freelancers and local advertising agencies provided support for the 50 or so marketing pieces produced throughout the year.

That model worked fine until around 2010, says Ann Marie deWees, director of strategic marketing. “Then things began to change with increasing digital expectations.”

Generating lab inspection reports for a campus used to take more than a week, but that time has been reduced to 1.5 business days.

The Texas A&M Health Science Center’s Environmental, Health and Safety Office is responsible for inspecting facilities and laboratories across eight campuses in the Texas A&M University System.

A look at the big picture of mobile use throughout campus revealed  hundreds of service plans, and it became clear that consolidation was in order. Now there are just 12 accounts.

When was the last time you took a good, long look at your wireless bill? What it contains might surprise you. An international roaming plan used for a trip last year that you neglected to cancel, perhaps. Scores and scores of unused minutes that roll over into infinity. Or 411 calls made despite your smartphone’s ability to search the web.

In taking a look at a year’s worth of wireless invoices, administrators at the University of Massachusetts found the system was spending a lot of money it didn’t have to.

Picture the amount of paper associated with almost 42,000 travel reports and 300,000 procurement card transactions. That’s how many expense-related documents the University of Colorado’s four campuses generate in a single year. Besides the sheer challenge of filing and storing so many receipts, a few years ago there also were major hurdles for reconciling and auditing.

Customization and automation are key elements  of the new administrative system developed for the Distance Learning Center, located in Ullsvik Hall.

In the past, University of Wisconsin-Platteville staff had to manually enter the records of any student pursuing an online degree. With more than 2,500 students enrolled, this was no easy feat—especially considering staff also had to manually enter course registration, financial aid and even basic contact information. This effort required approximately 500 hours of staff time each semester—or 1,500 hours a year—to accommodate the university’s three-semester system.

A bookstore renovation gave officials the chance to reimagine how  technical support is provided to students and make changes for the better.

Tech support is rarely fun—even, apparently, if it’s a lot closer than an overseas call center. Despite 24/7 help desk availability and in-person technical consulting, Computing Services and Systems Development (CSSD) staff at the University of Pittsburgh believed their services were being underutilized by the main campus’ 26,000-plus students.

When you think about the blinding pace of technological change, it’s a wonder the University of Iowa’s student information system worked for as long as it did.

More than 30—yes, 30—years old, Iowa’s SIS was less an integrated series of data processing functions and more a collection of individual siloed systems that didn’t work very well together. Because the underlying technology and architecture were so old, enhancements were difficult. Data were redundant and difficult to synchronize. And manual, paper-based processes frustrated users.

Administrators in the IT department at the University of Ottawa help get staff in other business units excited about CRM by explaining its benefits. (Photo: Sang Trinh)

Vanderbilt University’s medical school is among the best in the country, but its officials still wanted to create awareness of it with prospective students—those who are only in high school.

The undergraduate admissions office had deployed a constituent relationship management (CRM) system, but university officials knew from the outset that the system could be used across campus to share information and target students for specialized programs.

In her 2014 State of the University of New York Address, Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher launched Open SUNY, a systemwide distance learning consortium. Over the near term, it will reduce the time it takes to complete a degree, course or certificate.

What is especially distinctive about Open SUNY is that it is one of the largest and most complex statewide public university systems in the US. By creating this multipronged approach to sharing distributed learning , Open SUNY has reduced the time it takes to complete a degree - which typically lowers the cost of instruction.

Since UB’s Models of Efficiency program launched in 2010, more than 100 campus departments have been honored for their efforts in saving resources while enhancing service. We’ve shared their initiatives, but with efficiency stories, there is no “The End.” This year, we will periodically check in with past honorees to catch readers up on the institutions’ latest, greatest efficiency successes.

There are options beyond operating a university-owned computer repair center. Outside repair companies operating on campuses can save universities money in technician salaries and center administration costs.

Best Buy’s Geek Squad, for example, has run centers on campuses. And the regional tech repair company that operates Harvard’s campus repair center is Micros Northeast.

As a frontline supervisor in Facilities Management, I often think about succession planning in our various organizations across the globe. I ask myself a lot of questions like; what would happen if our director won a million dollars or was offered that ultimate dream job? What would happen if our management team decided to relocate to other institutions? What is going to happen when the management decides to retire?

Oregon State is one of three universities to be governed by an independent board.

In a climate of declining state funding, Oregon higher ed policy leaders needed to bring in more resources while taking some of the burden off students. That’s why three of the state’s universities are breaking off from the Oregon University System. Effective July 1, Oregon State University, Portland State University and the University of Oregon will have their own boards.

Brian Slavinskas, Director of Special Projects, Loyola University

When as much as 80 percent of Loyola University's documents were in hard copy form, missing paperwork, unnecessary duplication, clutter and the never-ending need for more storage only made peoples' jobs inefficient and time consuming.

Employing an assessment and relocation strategy consolidated the  number of locations with computers and printers on campus, but easier  access to the technology has increased usage.

Despite having 4,500 computers and dozens of printers deployed campuswide at Boise State University in Idaho, students had to wait in line to print out assignments and term papers during busy times.

CIO Max Davis-Johnson arrived in 2010, and officials began taking a closer look at how technology was being used, and where. Davis-Johnson uses the phrase “keeping score” to describe this process of tracking technology usage to ensure that every available asset is being productive for the university.