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Editor's Note

Effective Efficiency

University Business, December 2012

It’s nice to see something grow and take on a life of its own. When we first developed the Models of Efficiency program, we honestly didn’t know quite what to expect. We knew that, in the depths of one of the worst economic crises the country has faced in many years, people were desperately trying to find ways to “do more with less.” That mantra was drilled into the way we all did our jobs each day. Now, even as the economic picture improves, the “new normal” requires that college and university departments continue to rein in costs while improving service and effectiveness.

But, even after nine cycles of the program, I am continually surprised at the number of innovative ideas that are sent to us for consideration. As has been mentioned before, we receive far more entries than what we eventually recognize. The reason some are chosen over others is not typically that the entries are poor or that the ideas are lacking. More often it is that the entry does not include supporting information that proves the return on investment and, importantly, that the solution can be replicated elsewhere.

After all, the whole point of the program is to spread ideas that work so other departments can save time and money, and better serve their constituents.

To date we’ve recognized nearly a hundred campus departments that have found ways to work smarter and with less cost as Models of Efficiency. It has really opened our eyes to the levels of resourcefulness that higher education professionals contribute to their institutions.

For example, in this issue, we profile an IT department that discovered it had an abundance of unused server space that could be turned into a powerful virtualization system. Rather than buy new equipment, the team upgraded and reassigned what they already had. That simple change took full advantage of under utilized existing systems to improve efficiencies and reduce the cost of licensing. How many of you have unused technology assets that can be similarly repurposed?

Another example is the print and publishing department at one school that was given the directive to become self-funded within two years. Self-funded. Those are terrifying words when budgets are being cut across the board already. Yet, as you’ll read, the team rose to the challenge, not only meeting its goal of becoming self-sustaining and improving productivity, but also discovering new revenue streams for the department.

Still, even with all the departments we’ve recognized and all the stories we’ve told to date, I believe we’re only scratching the surface. As we judge the new entries in each cycle, I’m impressed with how many of them represent solutions that can be adapted for use elsewhere. Maybe the answer to your HR department’s record storage problem can be found in the document management solution employed by the admissions department at another school.

So, as you read the profiles in this issue, think not only about the solution presented, but also the thought that went into it, and how it might help you.