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.”

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.”

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.”

Staff Spotlight

SMU Staff Spotlight – Curt Herridge

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

Curt Herridge loves to solve problems. “There is something special about finding a solution to a technical problem,” he says. Whether it is building a first-ever data mart for SMU, managing a system outage or saving the University time and eliminating paper usage, he is always up for the challenge.

Curt came to SMU in 2007 to help the University migrate to its current electronic imaging system, ImageNow (AdminImages). He moved from systems administration to team leadership the next year, completed his MBA at Cox in 2010, and was named director of data and integration services in early 2015. Then, when SMU restructured the Office of Information Technology (OIT) in 2015 as part of the OE2C initiative, Curt was promoted to director of software applications.

“In this role, I am responsible for the implementation, operations and maintenance of enterprise software like PeopleSoft (my.SMU, SMU financials); departmental applications in partnership with individual departments; website development and support; and database management,” he says. “The goal of this new structure was to try to organize all teams that support campus software applications into one department, thus streamlining methodologies.”

In their first two years of work, he and his software applications team have achieved significant results for SMU. “We estimate thousands of hours have been saved with the introduction of electronic payroll authorization forms, grounds use forms, additional new payroll forms and others,” says Curt. “We are now automating forms like the one for pre-tax parking deductions. To accomplish this, we partner with a department and move a paper-based form to something electronic. I think it’s truly awesome to save time (and paper!) with technology.”

Curt says his team also tested a method to build a data mart, which is basically a mini data warehouse, from scratch in conjunction with the Simmons CORE group (Center on Research & Evaluation). “The goal was to automate loading of data that had traditionally been moved around in a huge spreadsheet having literally hundreds of columns. We entered into this project with the knowledge that it was completely experimental, and it’s been exciting to see how the work has expanded the skillset of our team and increased our contribution to University research. Now we are working to address our capacity in order to build a data warehouse for SMU.”

Of course, challenges have occurred along the way. “We had a fairly substantial system outage in October 2015, which began on a Saturday,” he recalls. “But our newly formed leadership team was able to band together and perform a massive recovery operation. In fact, some of the practices we developed during that long week still stand us in good stead today.”

In the months to come, Curt and his team will expand the use of technology that is more mobile-friendly. “You may have noticed a change to my.SMU,” he says. “We will continue these critical changes over the next year.”

“We also heard loud and clear that Sitecore, the software that runs, needs to offer more training and an easier way to make edits,” says Curt. “We have scheduled personalized clinics, updated documentation, and are working on a new set of templates designed to help the brand of SMU move forward.”

Curt says these problems are not easy to solve, but the challenges make the accomplishments even sweeter. “It requires us to have great teams, great partnerships with others on campus, and a willingness to do things differently than before,” he says. “I am proud of the progress we have been able to make together in our first two years, and I’m looking forward to continuing improvements for the campus in the coming year.”

News Staff Spotlight

Team Spotlight: The Progress of SMU’s Graduate Application Processing Initiative

As part of the OE2C project, an initiative was undertaken to centralize and streamline graduate program applications, whereas before each school had to manage its own applications. After moving graduate admissions to a shared services model and creating the Graduate Application Process (GAP), Joe Davis, associate dean of admission, now oversees a team that manages part of graduate applications for five of the seven colleges. The GAP serves as a central processing point for all application materials, leaving academic departments with only the review and decision-making to manage.

“What was split between five or six offices is now concentrated in one,” said Davis.  “We have been able to standardize and codify some processes within graduate admission and have brought best practices from each individual school forward to benefit all programs at SMU.  The process  also moves faster and students are receiving decisions sooner. We have also managed to vastly improve the process for international students receiving I-20s.”

Davis said that each graduate program has its own unique challenges. “Some of our graduate programs have a high volume, rolling admission process, while others have a smaller, very individualized process, so we had to develop a system that would work at both ends of that continuum.”

Cruz Lopez, senior business analyst and admissions module lead, focuses more on process improvement than employee management in his new role with the GAP. “A flatter reporting structure has been advantageous,” said Lopez, “mainly due to having a high-level supervisor in a leadership position whom we directly report to and whose main priority is improving operations.”

“The biggest advantage of the new GAP structure has been our ability to implement Slate for all SMU graduate programs who have wanted it,” said Jill Witt, senior business systems analyst in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions. “Since our admission operations team was already highly knowledgeable about Slate and admissions processing, the implementation for each school was relatively straightforward because we were able to apply best practices and processes used in the implementation of Slate for undergrad admissions. Although each graduate program is very different and has very different goals and processes, Slate is a highly flexible, customizable tool, and we have been able to develop it in such a way that it works for the many unique needs across SMU graduate programs.”

Witt said the new structure has given her a broader perspective about how things work at SMU. “I have very much enjoyed getting to know faculty and staff across campus. I have also really enjoyed learning about graduate admission processes, both on the recruiting side and the application side.”

Davis and his team continue to look for improvements in graduate application processes. “We are working to give graduate departments more functionality within the Slate system,” he said. “There is a lot of potential for programs to be more proactive with recruitment activities, and I see that as our next big opportunity.”

“I enjoy continuing to be challenged on a regular basis,” said Lopez.  “Admissions is ever-changing, which is exciting, and having the support and direction has been a real plus.”