2016-2017 News Year in Review

Operational Excellence Progress Report: 2016-2017 Year In Review

One of the largest milestones for Operational Excellence in FY17 is SMU crossing the $20 million mark in annual savings as a result of Operational Excellence for the Second Century (OE2C) initiatives. Of the $20M saved, currently $14.1M (70.5%) has been committed for new uses. The largest portion of the $14 M is going to general academic reinvestments (27.9%). Another 41% is being distributed to the University Research Council, Research Staff Support, Academic Fellowships, High Performance Computing, the Academic Initiatives Fund, Undergraduate Equalization Fund, an Interdisciplinary Institute and the OIT Academic Technology Group. For more information, visit the Savings Tracker.

Currently, 34 doctoral students are receiving University Ph.D. Fellowships supported by funds that were saved through OE2C, and examples of their research were highlighted.

The University Research Council now has an additional $100,000 a year to allocate to faculty research and travel, more than doubling its previous budget for faculty grants, thanks to funds saved from OE2C. Grant applications are reviewed each semester by the URC.

Other funds saved through OE2C have helped expand SMU’s high performance computing (HPC) capacity, making sure the SMU Center for Scientific Computing is open 24 hours a day for faculty research.


Five new Operational Excellence Initiatives were launched in FY17:

Access Control – An Access Control Initiative has been undertaken to improve the process by which faculty, staff and student employees request and receive access to campus buildings and spaces. Team members evaluated best practices from other organizations to help streamline current procedures involving keys, cards and codes.

Account Permissions – An Account Permissions Initiative has launched to streamline the process for getting new employees set up with accounts they need to do their jobs. The initiative will greatly reduce the time it takes for them to get permission to access PeopleSoft, my.SMU, email, TimeAccess and other necessary workplace tools.

Exit Process – Currently an employee’s exit process requires interaction between a minimum of six offices and the process is manual and managed through email, with no streamlined electronic way to coordinate between various departments. The Exit Process Initiative was created to better understand the current system and identify ways in which SMU can more efficiently process departing employees.

Repurposed Property – An initiative team was assembled to improve and formalize the process by which University-owned furniture and office supplies can be repurposed and used by other areas on campus. Thanks to the team’s efforts, staff and faculty can now sign up for a new surplus office supply listserv, an effective cost-saving recycling measure. Everyone who joins can send and receive email notices of free surplus office supplies across campus in new or gently used condition, available on a first-come, first-served basis. A similar exchange for larger physical assets including campus furniture was launched after the beginning of the 2017-18 academic year.

Staff Recognition – In May, the Office of Operational Excellence launched the Staff Recognition Initiative to identify, evaluate and streamline existing and potential outlets for creating a culture of honoring staff excellence. The team began implementing ideas at the end of August.

Ongoing Initiatives continued to identify ways to streamline processes and save money:

Event Management – Following months of research, the Event Management Initiative team began implementing improvements to event planning on campus. The Use of Grounds form, which was a paper form that had to be physically carried to different departments, is now managed online, and a one-stop website with all the information needed to plan an event, for both on- and off-campus users, is being developed.

Procurement – Streamlined purchasing practices enabled SMU to save $84K on technology and pushed the University to the $20M mark for savings from the OE2C project. A Concur User Group has been established and will meet quarterly to help identify ways that Concur, the University’s new system for managing travel and expenses, can be improved and used more effectively by faculty, staff and administrators. Meanwhile, ongoing Concur cost comparisons by Purchasing have shown that in almost every case, prices for hotels and flights available through Concur are equal to, or cheaper than, rates for those same hotels and flights available through other travel sites.

Finance – The Payroll, Accounts Payable and Grant and Contract Accounting areas of the Finance Department are now offering more personalized service and new electronic solutions. These include electronic authorization payment forms, more frequent processing of direct deposits, and designating grant/contract accountants for each school and area.

Data Warehouse – In early April, President Turner announced that the University is complementing its exploration of a data warehouse with the creation of a Data Governance committee structure. The work will be overseen by Michael Tumeo with the support of the Data Governance Steering Committee and the Data Governance Committee. Both groups gathered for an inaugural meeting on May 25.

Facilities – Effective June 1, 2017, the management of campus facilities and grounds was returned to the Facilities Office from Aramark.

OIT – During the summers of 2016 and 2017, the OIT Department made significant tech upgrades to more than 60 classrooms, including installing remote control technology, and it has begun testing several exciting new interactive teaching tools in selected areas. These new tools, such as cloud-based audience response systems, interactive projectors and wireless mirroring devices, will allow professors and students to engage in ways never previously possible at SMU.


Key performance measurements have been identified to track progress in administrative cost savings in numerous areas, including the OIT Help Desk and Support area, Facilities, Finance, Contracts, Graduate Application Processing and Purchasing. Leaders in each area were interviewed about the measurements – why they chose those particular metrics to evaluate progress, what findings most interested them, and what their main areas of focus will be as they move forward. Extensive charts and graphs were provided with detailed information about savings and progress in each area.

About a year after SMU implemented Shared Services in Finance, Facilities and OIT, the University conducted a campus-wide survey to understand how new workflows in these areas affected all employees. Of the 2236 employees invited to participate, 663 (30%) completed the survey and generated feedback on what each area was doing well and what they could do better. The results were given to the Shared Service centers to begin addressing.

Other News

Faculty and staff were notified that they can now opt out of receiving promotional brochures, flyers, invitations and other printed mail from campus departments, although they would continue to receive mail considered mandatory for all employees.

This summer, the Operational Excellence website featured a series of staff spotlights: stories about staff members who have taken on new leadership roles since the implementation of OE2C and are helping bring more innovation and efficiency to campus operations. Highlighted employees include Melanie Bailey, Yvette Castilla, Vali Dicus, Eric English, Windy Epperson, Rachel Mulry, Teena Newman and Jason Warner

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