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

News Staff Spotlight

SMU Staff Spotlight – Tracy Horstman

Since last summer, the Operational Excellence website has been featuring a series of staff spotlights: stories about staff members who’ve taken on new leadership roles since the implementation of OE2C and are helping bring more innovation and efficiency to campus operations. Read more SMU staff spotlights

Tracy Horstman, SMU’s Director of Space Management, loves putting the right and left sides of her brain into action. “Space to me is a giant puzzle that requires both data-driven and creative processes in order to provide thoughtful solutions,” she said. “I like working with folks to come up with options that fit their needs.”

After earning a B.A. in interior design from the University of Iowa and an M.B.A. from the University of Kansas, Horstman spent the first part of her career in real estate development, notably design and construction management.  “Before coming to SMU in January 2017, I spent 13 years working at a public research university in the areas of space planning and programming, space management, and master planning,” said Horstman.

Horstman came to SMU for a position created out of the work of the Operational Excellence Facilities Initiative. Her responsibilities include:

  • Space data organization, accounting, analysis, and reporting;
  • Evaluating technical and visual plan data for space efficiencies, allocation, and modification;
  • Planning for short-term and long-term space needs in accordance with the University’s strategic initiatives; and
  • Assisting with the programming and space planning of new facilities, building renovations, and department relocations.

Horstman feels that space management at any institution is a sensitive subject and can be challenging.  “Space must be effectively and efficiently managed as it is a valuable and potentially finite resource, critical to SMU’s mission and financial stability,” she said. “Universities have had to implement processes to better utilize space simply because buildings are expensive to construct and maintain.”

In her short time at SMU, she is proud of the work she has done in the University’s space database, redefining more than 15,000 rooms per higher education guidelines.  Her work has provided a solid foundation from which to forecast and plan.  “After all, how do we know what we need if we don’t know what we have?” she asks.

Horstman’s goals for the future are ambitious and exciting for the University. “We are currently researching software options that will provide a bi-directional connection between our existing building plans and space database,” she said. “Not only will this provide accurate and consistent space data, but we will be able to visually gather all kinds of facilities data essential for planning and reporting purposes.  This allows us to be much more nimble and proactive so we can provide top-notch services to our campus customers.”

Horstman is also working with the University Space Task Force, a temporary work group that will finish in the summer.  Their charge is to work toward a recommended governance structure for University space, including roles and responsibilities, in addition to defined utilization standards for office, teaching, and research space.

“My goal is to build a robust and supportive space management program for SMU,” she says. “So far, we are doing all the right things to accomplish just that.”


Free Furniture and Office Supplies Available Through Listservs

As summer approaches, the Operational Excellence Repurposed Property Initiative hopes SMU employees will remember its new exchanges when cleaning out and stocking up. Both the office supply exchange and the furniture exchange are voluntary listservs where items can be posted and claimed for campus use for no charge on a first-come, first-served basis, enabling employees to keep waste and unnecessary expense to a minimum.

“We anticipate that both lists will ramp up as the academic year comes to a close,” said Karie Conklin, project manager for the initiative and assistant to SMU’s chief information officer. “We expect that office supply closets will once again be cleared of old, unused office supplies and that office personnel will choose to post their items via the surplus office supplies list.  We also believe that as new furniture is ordered, departments will seek out the property exchange list to post the old furniture.”

As faculty and staff approach the end of the fiscal year and gear up for the year to come, the exchanges are a great way to keep unused supplies and furniture out of landfills and prevent duplicate purchases for the University.

Registration for both listservs is ongoing. To join in the cost-saving and waste-reducing action, subscribe to the office supply exchange and the furniture exchange.


Operational Excellence: February-March 2018 News and Highlights

In February and March, two stories highlighted news from the Purchasing Department. One featured the ongoing savings – $1.7 million a year and counting – that the department has achieved through carefully negotiated contracts with vendors in such areas as printing, promotional items and event services.  The second story continued the series of employee spotlights with a focus on Brian Cook, purchasing agent for SMU and the procurement card administrator and coordinator for all requests for proposal (RFPs) for the University.

Another key story in March was a letter from President Turner and Provost Currall summarizing new allocations to SMU’s budget in FY2019 made possible by OE2C savings. These will include an increase in the library collections budget, new positions to help faculty apply for grants, an Innovation Seed Fund and much more. The most recent operational metrics were posted and the Operational Excellence Savings Tracker was updated to include the expenditures, some of which will be recurring and some of which are one-time allocations.

Featured News

Changes in Purchasing From Contract Savings Plan Result in Additional Annual Savings for SMU

SMU Staff Spotlight – Brian Cook

SMU’s Financial Investments in the University’s Academic Quality and Stature

Operational Excellence Savings Tracker Updated