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

By  R. Gerald Turner, President

Steven C. Currall, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

In making financial allocations for the fiscal year 2019 (1 June 2018-31 May 2019), the University’s leadership has made a number of new allotments that expand upon previous financial commitments to enhance the academic quality and stature of SMU.

The purpose of this memo is to inform the SMU community that, in terms of sources of funds for this round of new allocations, nearly $5,100,000 have come from financial savings that were previously captured through SMU’s Operational Excellence (OE) initiative (formerly “OE2C”), with an additional $200,000 for fiscal year 2019 funded from other resources.

As the strategic basis for our new fiscal year 2019 allocations, in 2015 the University issued, “Launching SMU’s Second Century, Shaping Leaders for a Changing World, 2016-2025 Strategic Plan.”  The plan’s Goal Number One is: “To enhance the academic quality and stature of the University.”

Informed by the Second Century strategic plan, and through an extensive campus-wide dialogue about academic quality that began in early 2017 and concluded in mid-January 2018, the University is coalescing around a shared understanding of the academic priorities that will enable us to fulfill Goal One of the strategic plan.  Those priorities will further elevate SMU as a premier research and teaching university with global impact.

Based on extensive consultations with Vice Presidents, Deans, the Faculty Senate, and open meetings with faculty and staff, the entire SMU community has contributed to the dialogue about academic quality. Key to the consultation process, several faculty-led task forces were commissioned by the Provost to provide extensive thinking and direction on the following core topics: (1) Scholarly Research and Creative Impact, (2) Creative and Interactive Technology, (3) Data Science and Analytics, (4) Future of SMU Libraries, and (5) General Education Review (core undergraduate curriculum).

The fiscal year 2019 budget allocations were reviewed and approved during the University’s annual budgeting process and the OE allocations were reviewed by the Executive Committee of the OE initiative. This aligns with the process of utilizing the OE funds, as described on the OE web site:

Examples of new fiscal year 2019 financial allocations from OE funds that advance the University’s academic mission are:

  • Central University Libraries: 15% increase to collections budget
  • Central University Libraries: Digital preservation software and long-term data storage
  • Central University Libraries: New Head of Library Systems staff member
  • Undergraduate Teaching Equalization Fund: Support for Dedman College’s University Curriculum required courses
  • Office of Research: New Research Grant Management Specialist staff member
  • Office of Research: New Research Grant Compliance Coordinator staff member
  • Office of Graduate Studies: New Director of Doctoral Student Enrollment staff member
  • Office of Graduate Studies: Nearly 100% increase in funding for graduate student academic fellowships
  • University Research Council Grant Funds: Nearly 30% funding increase
  • Innovation Seed Fund: Phase I investment of $2,000,000 to elevate SMU’s intellectual footprint and attract sustainable philanthropic and/or grant revenue (more information on the Seed Fund will be released later this spring)
  • Academic Information Technology: Provide greater technology support to faculty with three new positions for high performance computing, data science, and internet of things (e.g., research equipment) software developer
  • Campus Classroom Technology: Nearly 30% increase for classroom technology upgrades

Thank you for your vital and ongoing input on how SMU can continue to become ever stronger with respect to academic quality. We are excited to reinforce the University’s positive momentum and to demonstrate our institutional commitment toward further strengthening academic quality with these recurring and one-time investments in fiscal year 2019. Because OE funds are to be reinvested in academic programs and activities, the University is planning for a multi-year strategy for optimal allocation of those funds.  Further investments in academic quality will be made in subsequent years.  We will inform the faculty and staff throughout the process.

As per the process outlined in the October 2017 discussion draft paper entitled, “Enhancing the Academic Quality and Stature of SMU,” and reinforced throughout the campus dialogue period, the University’s leadership team is currently working to complete a summary paper that describes our future plans in more detail. Later this spring, we will share a copy with the University community.

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News Staff Spotlight

SMU Staff Spotlight – Brian Cook

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

Brian Cook is not only SMU’s RFP coordinator, but also an entrepreneur. He earned a B.B.A. in finance and accounting from Stephen F. Austin State University and, while completing his M.B.A. there, he launched his own music entertainment business.

His entrepreneurial experience also serves him in his current role as a purchasing agent for SMU and as the procurement card administrator and coordinator for all requests for proposal (RFPs) for the University. “I am responsible for approving purchase requisitions in various spending categories, ordering and maintaining the many credit cards held and used by SMU faculty and staff for business and travel expenses, and overseeing the University’s annual RFP calendar,” said Cook. “I also help lead or support any RFP processes completed by the University in order to select preferred or exclusive vendors for various goods and services.”

In his work to support the selection of exclusive vendors, Cook makes a major contribution to the work of the Operational Excellence initiative. “I have learned how important good planning is and that the most effective way to achieve maximum efficiency is to develop strong processes and procedures built on feedback from all parties involved,” he said.

Cook enjoys ensuring consistency in procurement operations and accurately reporting and tracking activity. “But my favorite part of my current position is getting to interact with many different SMU faculty and staff members who work in numerous different areas across campus,” said Cook. “I get to learn about their individual roles and work together with them and the University’s vendors to develop creative and efficient ways to meet their needs while helping to achieve the University’s overall goals.”

Although he only joined the SMU purchasing team in fall 2016, he has already scored several significant gains for the University, including overseeing the RFPs for security and parking services and for event services. “Both of these were very large undertakings that required many different areas and personnel across campus to work together,” said Cook. “They were only successful because of the strong precedent set by previous RFP initiatives related to OE2C prior to my joining the University. It is really cool to get to see the bottom line savings impact of the work that was put into these initiatives.”

Cook’s contributions to SMU’s bottom line are far from complete. “I hope to help streamline the SMU P-card process and create and maintain a central RFP calendar so that the University can ensure it is evaluating its vendors and contracts on a consistent and timely basis,” he said. “My goal is to help make SMU’s purchasing and procurement operations as smooth and efficient as possible.”


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

Over the last two years, SMU’s Purchasing Department has been charged with saving the University millions of dollars. To date, purchasing initiatives have contributed $5.86 million in annual savings, $1.7 million of which came from the Contract Savings Plan, and the Purchasing Department is working diligently to keep that number growing.

“After final campus-wide budget changes to meet savings goals at the conclusion of the OE2C project, our commitment in Purchasing was to make sure University-wide contracts were in place to help departments realize budgetary savings and to continue to find new sources of savings,” said Shannon Brown, SMU’s Director of Purchasing. “The Purchasing Department sees our job as providing resources to help all departments stay within their budgets.”

The savings come from a variety of areas including printing, promotional items and event services. As different as each purchasing category is, the process for identifying savings is the same. “First we look across campus to see where expenditures are occurring in a particular category,” said Brown. “The primary vendors are identified, and specific products and services are classified.  Information from invoices provides a lot of detail that helps bring the spending pattern into focus.

“Once we see some common expenses, we put together a price sheet to be able to include in our bidding process with potential vendors. A committee of frequent purchasers in that particular category reviews responses from the vendors interested in establishing a campus-wide contract and makes decisions about exclusive contracts that lock in consistent savings for the SMU community.”

In many cases, the resulting contracts include vendors who have been doing business with various parts of the University in the past. In other instances, the process brings new vendors to campus who offer specialty services that best fit the needs of campus departments.

The structure of the Purchasing Department has also changed to help manage the ongoing savings identification. “Our buyers have become category managers with more in-depth knowledge about specific areas,” said Brown. “So when Cathy Heckman is working with a group on a print project, she can help the group understand the options between the full-service printer and the print-ready printer and find ways to save money. The category managers are trying to get people comfortable with that process.”

Occasionally a campus department will purchase from a vendor that is not a part of SMU’s exclusive contracts. To address these issues, Brown said, “We contact the department and let them know we have another company available, and suggest they get a quote from that vendor. Usually that process results in the department saving money. Recently, using one of the event rental exclusive providers delivered $1,200 in savings for just one event on campus. In other cases, Purchasing may quickly reach out to our vendors ourselves to get pricing to offer to the campus department as an alternative to help them with their budget management. The goal is to offer something that is better – whether better means less expensive, better service or a better long-term solution – and that’s what we should be offering.”

The work to identify additional savings in purchasing continues. “Upcoming initiatives include on-campus printing, mailing and shipping. We will also be reviewing our travel management to see if more savings are available, now that we have some consistent baseline data from Concur to share with vendors. We will also work with HR on choosing the vendor that will handle the Employee Recognition Program” said Brown.

If you have additional ideas about ways in which SMU could save money, please submit your ideas here.

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Operational Excellence: December 2017 – January 2018 News and Highlights

The major news in December was the conclusion of the 18-month Data Warehouse Initiative and the establishment of a new Data Governance model for SMU. The University is now on a path to consolidate and transform complex, unmatched data across campus into usable, consistent data that provides a trusted information source for analytics and visualization tools. Two Data Governance committees will continue the work begun by the initiative; five initial projects are planned, the first of which will begin this spring.

In January, two employees were featured as part of the continuing series of spotlights on staff members who’ve taken on new leadership roles since the implementation of OE2C operations. They were Curt Herridge, director of software applications in OIT, and Abby Kinney, IT category manager in Purchasing.

Featured News

An Update on Data Warehouse Work at SMU

SMU Staff Spotlight – Curt Herridge

SMU Staff Spotlight – Abby Kinney

News Staff Spotlight

SMU Staff Spotlight – Abby Kinney

abby kinneySince 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

Abby Kinney has made a career out of efficient technology purchasing. During the shared services restructuring in 2015, she became the University’s IT category manager in the Purchasing Department, but her connection to SMU and coordinating technology purchases has a decades-long history.

“I graduated from SMU in 1986 with my BBS in Accounting and went to work with a regional investment securities firm as an analyst supporting the research group,” says Kinney. “I soon transitioned to helping with the purchase, installation and support of all their computers. I eventually moved to managing a team that supported the computers, phone systems and services, and data services for the main office and 42 branch offices.”

Kinney came back to SMU in February 1995 and started as a desktop support consultant as part of Project Pegasus, an initiative that issued desktop computers to all faculty and staff. “I completed my master’s in MIS in 1996,” she says. “I eventually became manager and then director for the User Services team and was responsible for buying computer technology for half of the University after the campus computer store closed in 2013.  During the OE2C project, I participated in the Purchasing Initiative, and when the possibility of centralizing technology purchasing came up, it was something I definitely wanted to be part of.”

In her current role, she purchases technology-related hardware for the entire campus (desktops, laptops, displays and accessories), tracks technology spending for the University and assists with RFPs for hardware, software and tech maintenance. Though she has moved from OIT to Purchasing, she still works closely with her former department.

“I have learned a lot about how the entire Purchasing team helps the campus with the procurement of the variety of goods and services the University uses, how the RFP process works, and how the IT procurement role can benefit the campus,” says Kinney. “The most significant advantage is the cost savings that we have been able to help SMU realize by purchasing the University standard computers in volume for the ongoing computer refresh process, saving more than $100,000 in FY17.”

Kinney says another key advantage of the structure is increased awareness about technology savings that helps individual departments spend their budgets wisely. “I get to continue working with everyone on campus to help them with their technology needs and ultimately help the University save money.”

As for challenges, the biggest one has been “keeping up with the demand, especially around fiscal year-end and the start of each semester,” she says. “Since moving to Purchasing, I now buy for the entire campus and the number of items I purchase each year has doubled, to more than 6000 items annually.”

Going forward, Kinney says there are many process improvements she would like to make in the technology purchasing process. “In partnership with OIT, I’d love to create a website with all purchasing information and Technology Fund eligibility details, create a web-based order form to help guide people through the ordering process, and provide more visibility to the purchaser on the status of an order in process.

“I’d also like to look more strategically at Technology purchases to see if SMU can realize any additional savings with software licensing and maintenance contracts. I’m proud of the cost savings we’ve established so far, and look forward to making them even better.”