A Look Back at Operational Excellence: Supporting the Academic Vision

Since the announcement of the Operational Excellence for the Second Century (OE2C) project in March 2014, the Office of Operational Excellence has made great strides in investing in academic growth at SMU. In a memo to campus explaining the project, President R. Gerald Turner said, “The changing national landscape for higher education trumpeted daily by the media creates opportunities as well as challenges. If we broadly examine our operational practices and plan wisely, we can develop the course of action that keeps us firmly on track toward our strategic goals:  ever-increasing academic and faculty excellence and student quality combined with our unique campus experience.”

Since that time, the Office of Operational Excellence has overseen 17 major initiatives to examine the efficiency and cost effectiveness of campus processes. Some initiatives, such as those dedicated to Finance, Facilities and OIT, were broad and resulted in Shared Services across campus. Others, like Procurement, have been focused on identifying ways our campus community can save money in targeted categories by harnessing the purchasing power of the entire University. Additional initiatives concentrated on areas where there was an opportunity to streamline work, including graduate application processing, repurposed property and event management, among others.

The total savings realized by the Office of Operational Excellence crossed the $20M mark in SMU FY17. The reallocation of these funds for academic purposes is ongoing, and President Turner presented an update at the March 2018 Faculty Senate meeting.  “We have set aside a million for academic initiatives and a million for undergraduate equalization, primarily oriented to Dedman College and some of the service functions it provides to the rest of the institution,” President Turner said.

A large percentage of the annual funds going to academic initiatives will be dedicated to SMU Libraries. This includes funding for digital preservation software and long-term data storage, as well as a new position in technology (Head of Library Systems) that will report dually to the Dean of Libraries and Michael Hites, SMU’s Chief Information Officer. These funds will also be used to increase the library’s annual collections budget by 15 percent. “This is the number one request of a lot of the faculty and the Dean of Libraries,” President Turner said. “We are pleased that our savings from Operational Excellence can finally help us make this possible.”

With these newly allocated investments, the total spending from the Operational Excellence initiative is just under $15M. “As we go into FY19, there is a little over $3 million in additional annual funds available to commit to the University’s goals for academic quality,” President Turner said. “An additional $1.9 million will be available beginning in FY21, after we realize the energy savings of new, efficient equipment installed on campus.”

The work to redistribute funds from SMU’s administrative operations to its academic vision required significant input from employees. “We appreciate all of the SMU faculty and staff members who served on initiative teams, made recommendations and gave feedback to our Operational Excellence work,” said Chris Regis, Vice President of Business and Finance. “The work to strengthen SMU’s financial positon required a great deal of perseverance from everyone, but the results help us counteract the economic realities facing all institutions of higher education.”

After July 2018, the Office of Operational Excellence will close, but the University will continue to look for ways to reallocate spending from operations to its academic vision. The Operational Excellence Executive Committee will meet once a semester to review metrics from initiatives and make sure efficiencies and cost savings gained continue to make progress. The committee will continue to review how the funds are spent and will look for additional opportunities to invest in the future of SMU.

If you have ideas for further cost-saving measures or ways to improve processes at SMU, submit them online using this form.


Operational Excellence: April-May 2018 News and Highlights

The Repurposed Property Initiative encouraged faculty and staff to sign up for the listservs that offer free furniture and office supplies no longer needed by other campus departments. The listservs can be especially helpful to those cleaning out and stocking up their offices at the end of the semester. Staff spotlights continued with a story on Tracy Horstman, new director of space management. And a year-end report was posted in late May recapping the progress of myriad Operational Excellence initiatives in 2017-18.

Featured News

Free Furniture and Office Supplies Available Through Listservs

SMU Staff Spotlight – Tracy Horstman

Operational Excellence Progress Report: 2017-18 Year in Review


Procurement Initiative: New FAQ on Secure Printing

Q: How do I print confidential or sensitive documents to a secure printer?

A: All of the newly installed Canon printers on the SMU main campus have the secured print option.  Instructions for secure printing from both Macs and PCs can be downloaded here. OIT and Imagenet will add the secure print capability to 200 additional HP printers by January 31, 2016.  If you have questions, please contact Patrick Cullen at 214-768-3400 or


How can we justify the cost of large tents and fireworks as part of the Centennial celebration?

Most of the costs associated with our Centennial celebrations have been specifically underwritten by sponsors and other donors to the University. Our 100th birthday will include many opportunities for students, faculty, staff and the larger Dallas community to celebrate this milestone. These events also help donor cultivation and community outreach. We are grateful to our many sponsors and donors for helping make this celebration possible.


OE2C IT Initiative: Listening, Learning, Moving Forward


“I appreciate having a voice in this process; it means a lot.”

This feedback from one SMU staff member epitomizes the reason SMU staff and faculty members have organized and led dozens of focus groups as well as distributed and analyzed hundreds of surveys in the past few weeks. The initiative team is in the process of determining how SMU can deliver highly effective and highly efficient IT services moving forward.

The IT Initiative team has sought to learn specifically about which IT-related systems and processes are perceived to be working best at SMU while also determining where obstacles are experienced. The goal is to retain or enhance existing best practices while looking forward to development and implementation of the most effective and efficient technologies possible..

Organized under three broad umbrellas, the OE2C IT Initiative has achieved a number of wide-ranging goals:

  • Operational Computing (Team Lead: Jason Warner, Meadows)
    • Conducted 20 focus groups with staff and students to prepare a 57-page document detailing focus group findings (view summary of findings here)
    • Surveyed all IT staff on campus and determined that there are about 150 full-time IT staff members serving the campus today
    • Began outlining the future IT service needs across campus
  • Academic Computing (Team Lead: Thomas Hagstrom, Dedman College)
      • Received 270 responses to a faculty survey seeking to understand IT needs for course development, teaching, and research
      • Conducted faculty meetings in each school of the University to discuss faculty and student IT-related teaching and research needs (view summary of findings here)
  • Enterprise Resource Planning or ERP (Team Lead: Ron Lujan, OIT)
    • Met with key users and stakeholders to understand strengths and shortcomings of our current PeopleSoft system
    • Held vendor demos of cloud-based ERP systems Workday and Oracle Fusion
    • Sought feedback from other universities about transitioning to the cloud or how to use PeopleSoft with few customizations

As we transition into designing the future of IT at SMU, we continue to welcome input and feedback via the OE2C comment box. Please select “IT” from the dropdown menu.