Operational Excellence Progress Report: 2017-18 Year in Review

The focus of the Office of Operational Excellence is to improve operations at SMU and, through its pursuit of continuous improvement and organizational efficiency, to identify savings in administrative costs that can be reallocated to academic purposes. Annual savings from the ongoing initiative work are currently more than $20 million, and are supporting areas including the University Research Council, Central Libraries, High Performance Computing, graduate fellowships, and interdisciplinary studies, among many others.  A complete listing of the financial allocations to date can be found on the Savings Tacker.

SMU continues to implement initiatives begun over past years, and has established continuous improvement teams to examine other ways – suggested by staff, faculty and students – to improve administrative functions and reallocate funds to the academic mission. 

Ongoing Initiatives

Access Control – This initiative will improve the administration of requesting, approving, processing and returning keys, cards and codes for faculty, staff and student employees related to access to building, rooms and offices.  A fully automated process has been recommended, and implementation will occur over the next three years.

Account Permissions – The goal of this initiative team was to reduce the amount of time between the request submission and the assignment of permissions (i.e. access to PeopleSoft and other programs) for faculty and staff.  Processing time has been reduced from nine days to approximately four days.

Contract Administration – The Contract Administration initiative sought to streamline processes related to contract review and approval. At the team’s recommendation, a Senior Contract Administrator role was developed, along with contract leads in each school and administrative unit. A new electronic tracking and database tool, Cobblestone, monitors contract processing and volumes and ensures best practices are followed.

Data Warehouse – The Data Warehouse team explored implementation of a data warehouse at SMU. The team conducted a thorough review of the University’s data holdings, processes and systems. The team found discrepancies in how data was entered and defined by campus users, which highlighted a need to better define and organize data. Additionally, challenges were identified regarding inconsistent definitions, lack of integrative reporting, and the absence of robust data visualization capability. At the team’s recommendation, two governance committees, along with a Director of Data Governance, were approved.  The emphasis will now be on the creation of smaller, focused Data Marts.

Event Management – The Event Management team explored ways to improve the process of scheduling events on campus and arranging for related services.  The Use of Campus Grounds Form is now online. The team addressed policy and a consolidated events website and developed an “Event Team” comprised of representatives from each school and major unit.

Exit Process – This team is streamlining and improving the employment exit process from the University for faculty and staff by developing an electronic process, standard operating procedures and enhanced communication between supervisors and HR.

Facilities – The Facilities initiative focused on service delivery, space utilization, and energy usage through three sub-teams.  The Service Delivery team helped define a newly structured organization. A permanent space planner was hired to develop formal space utilization policies to move the University closer to higher education best practices. The Energy Usage team helped to identify a set of strategic energy infrastructure investments that should reduce SMU’s overall energy costs.

Finance – The Finance initiative was comprised of three sub-teams, each of which identified multiple opportunities to improve service and reduce cost. The Service Delivery team identified the fragmentation and overlap of finance work. The information it collected and analyzed was used to further streamline finance activities and redesign processes, enabling user-friendly services and more strategic decision-making among university leaders. The Data and Analytics team worked with finance leaders across campus to identify key information gaps and design a reporting system capable of providing critical financial information to budget owners and campus leaders. The Budgeting team, tasked with improving the budgeting system and procedures, redesigned budgeting to improve transparency and enable cross-unit strategic initiatives.

Graduate Application Processing (GAP) – Through the implementation of SLATE, an  applications processing software,  and consolidating the processing of graduate student applications,  the processing time and tracking for the Lyle School of Engineering, Dedman College, Meadows School of the Arts, Simmons School of Education, Cox School of Business and Perkins School of Theology has been streamlined and improved.

Hard Campus Mail Opt-Out – At the request of many faculty and staff, the ability to opt-out of hard campus mailings was developed by this team.

Human Resources – Process improvements for multiple areas of Human Resources have been implemented.  These processes include more extensive use of electronic forms, including Payroll Authorization Forms and a Performance Review System; new recruitment processes to reduce administrative burden on hiring staff; implementing a complete Classification and Compensation Study; and partnering with Kelly Services for the provision of temporary workers.

Information Technology (IT) – The IT initiative focused on analyzing operational and academic computing. The initiative team recommended unifying IT services across campus, increasing support for academic technology, and maximizing use of PeopleSoft functionality. All IT services are now unified under the Office of Information Technology, with the Chief Information Officer reporting directly to the University President. As operational services are consolidated, additional resources will be available for academic technology, including high performance computing and unique faculty teaching and research needs. 

Procurement – Initially, the procurement team identified “fast-track” opportunities that could be quickly implemented to achieve savings. These categories included office supplies, printers and cell phones. Additional savings opportunities have been identified in travel and professional memberships, meals and entertainment, advertising and promotion, event services, security services, and computer equipment, among others. Ongoing development of RFPs (Request for Proposals) by the Category Managers within Purchasing help ensure best prices for goods and services.

Property Re-Purposed – This team developed and formalized the process by which University-owned property, including furniture and office supplies, can be re-purposed and utilized by other departments on campus.  Faculty and staff can join listservs devoted to each category.

Staff Recognition – The recognition of staff was researched and documented. A comprehensive recognition program is under development.  The first event was a campus-wide Staff Recognition Celebration held in October 2017.

Travel and Entertainment – The Travel and Entertainment initiative sought to streamline processes related to booking travel and expense submission. An electronic booking and expense tool, Concur, has reduced travel processing time and is also used for all monthly personal reimbursement reconciliation. A Concur User Group was established to share suggestions and information between users and travel administrators.

Other News

Metrics – Metrics to track the progress of each initiative are posted on the Operational Excellence website on a quarterly basis.

Communications – Ongoing communications are provided through the Office of Operational Excellence website. An annual progress report, monthly news and highlights, and frequently asked questions can be found on the website as well. In addition, “Staff Spotlights” continued on the website to highlight staff members who have experienced job growth due to OE2C, and/or who have really “stepped up” due to changes within the organization.  Highlighted employees in the spring 2018 semester included Curt Herridge, Abby Kinney, Brian Cook and Tracy Horstman.