Minimizing Delays: New Account Permission Request Forms

To streamline processes for requesting, approving and assigning access for new employees to email, Box, Sharepoint, my.SMU, network drives and other platforms, last year the Office of Operational Excellence established the Account Permissions Initiative earlier this year. In August, the initiative team launched a series of new account permission request forms available via The forms have been redesigned to ensure all required information is submitted with the request to minimize delays caused by incomplete forms. The team created help guides for each of the forms to assist managers in completion.

The forms or their fields may not appear different to managers submitting requests, but the process to assign permissions was completely overhauled. “In many cases, a single request would involve multiple teams,” said Rachel Mulry, project manager for the initiative team. “This, of course, required more time to complete as the request moved from team to team through the workflow. With the new processes, we’ve minimized the number of teams needed for approval or interaction with the request. In some cases, we have been able to eliminate any need to involve other external teams at all!”

OIT is now managing account request submissions and aims to fulfill them in under a week. “For those processes requiring training prior to any permissions being assigned, we have enhanced the communication to both the manager and the employee, enabling them to assist us in completing the permissions in a timely manner,” said Mulry. “We are closely monitoring the improved process and working on completing the request within the timeframe outlined by the established service level agreement.” Prior to the redesign, account workflows were requiring an average of 9.5 days to complete. Since they were implemented, requests are now being completed in 4.6 days on average.

The initiative team continues to work on automating permissions assignments based on job classifications and roles. “We recognize there is a significant amount of work to be completed before we can realize that goal,” said Mulry. “In the meantime, we will continue to refine the processes to ensure all employees have the access and training required to fulfill their job responsibilities at SMU.”

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

Read More

News Staff Spotlight

SMU Staff Spotlight – Eric English

This summer, the Operational Excellence website is 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

Few departments at SMU have undergone more change in the past eight years than Facilities. Eric English’s career reflects that change.

English started working at SMU in 1996 as a painter. He was promoted to facilities building inspector in 2003 and then, in 2006, became environmental services manager, overseeing the custodial and sustainability departments. In 2010, a large portion of Facilities was outsourced to Aramark, and he became Aramark’s operational excellence and sustainability manager. Eighteen months later, he left to take a position as the building and grounds manager at Parkland Hospital. After five years away, he returned to SMU’s Facilities Department in April to become director of maintenance and grounds.

It’s a big job, encompassing landscaping, pools and fountains, fleet management, office moves, trash and recycling collection, sports turf, plumbing, electrical, carpentry, locksmiths, building maintenance repairs and more. English oversees more than 50 managers, supervisors and staff members as well as outsourced custodial and landscape personnel.

Four months into his new role, English says he has noticed a positive transformation in Facilities’ business model. “How we did business in the past is certainly different from how we do it today,” he says. “We are much more focused on customers – students, faculty and staff – to make sure they have the best possible educational/work environment.”

One significant change that English and his team have implemented in the past several months is expansion of maintenance coverage. “Whereas before we had two people who worked weekdays only, we now have four people and shifts that handle weekends as well,” he says. “We can now provide coverage seven days a week, from 7 a.m. to midnight every day. We can respond to most emergency requests much faster because staff is now on site instead of having to be called to come to campus. That’s particularly important for calls regarding leaks and flooding, which are actually our most common emergencies.”

English says one of the chief advantages of the new structure is the leadership. “I have great leaders to lean on, along with fellow peers,” he says.

With leadership support, English says he and his team are working to make improvements in a number of areas. “For example, we are focusing on reducing the number of call-backs, making sure the work is done right the first time,” he says. “We are also responding to work orders more quickly, and making sure we have clear communication with our customers so they understand the status of their work requests.”

The biggest challenge, he says, has been changing the mindset and culture of how tasks should be performed. “It is difficult to get people to change, especially when they have been doing things a certain way for a long time. However, I am encouraged with the way we are moving toward being more proactive and more productive.”

As an example, he says, his department is creating a strong preventive maintenance program. “We will be able to extend the life of equipment and reduce repair calls by setting up regularly scheduled maintenance checks on a variety of items,” he says. “It’s like taking your car in for scheduled service – do that and your car will run more efficiently and have fewer problems.”

As his department continues to evolve, English says he is setting a number of goals for himself and his team. “My immediate goals range from building a strong recycling program and improving our floor care program to teaching staff to be good stewards of University funds (which will allow us to reduce costs), streamlining processes and developing training programs for staff. All of these things will take time, but we are focused on making steady progress to keep improving our service.”

And he is happy to be at SMU once again. “I love the SMU community and the people here – it’s what brought me back,” he says. “SMU has a real family atmosphere. It’s why people stay so long, and, like me, want to return!”

News Staff Spotlight

SMU Staff Spotlight – Windy Epperson

This summer, the Operational Excellence website is 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

In the 11 years that Windy Epperson has been at SMU, she has worn several hats. With a background in accounting and purchasing at Baylor Medical Center, she joined the University in 2006 as a purchasing agent in Procurement, followed by a post as the procurement card (“p-card”) administrator. For the past three years, she has been changing the way the University pays its bills as the accounts payable manager.

“My team and I are responsible for timely and accurate payment of SMU bills, while also making sure the University remains in compliance with all regulatory requirements and that we abide by our own University policies when making those payments,” she says. Since taking on her managerial role, she has helped the department look for ways to process payments more efficiently within Shared Services. “We have also explored opportunities to reduce the time spent in preparing and processing the requests to create time savings for the schools and business units,” she says. “Some of the improvements implemented include the electronic submission of payment requests, eliminating scanning by attaching documentation within PeopleSoft, centralizing the receipt of invoices and using DocuSign to obtain electronic approvals. This has eliminated the need for a paper request for payment of an invoice and enabled us to process payments daily rather than twice per week.”

The efforts she makes with her team have paid off in a dramatic way. “Before the changes were implemented, the service level agreement (SLA) for processing payments was 10 days from receipt of the request in Accounts Payable,” she says. “We have reduced the SLA to 5 days.”

Epperson began her role in Accounts Payable (AP) before OE2C, but feels the campus-wide initiative brought new support from SMU leadership to make changes needed to increase efficiencies and customer satisfaction from both vendors and campus constituents. “The restructuring of the department to allow a dedicated AP specialist per school/area has helped that specialist become more familiar with activities for their assigned client and provide better service,” she says.

Her favorite part of the job is research. “Doing the research to resolve an issue for a vendor or internal customer and working toward a resolution that leaves them satisfied is very gratifying,” she says.

Of course, the transition has not been without challenges. “The process of implementing changes is not always smooth, as people are accustomed to doing things the ‘old’ way,” says Epperson. “We spent time explaining the changes to each department/area and detailing how the changes would result in getting vendors paid in a timely and accurate way while reducing time required to submit information for processing. Most feedback from internal customers about the changes has been positive, as they’ve seen the processing time reduced significantly.

“I really credit my accounts payable team for welcoming change and helping guide others on campus through it. They are smart, engaged and work hard to meet or exceed expectations. They are a big reason why our changes have been successful.”

Epperson’s success in cutting the AP processing time from 10 days to 5 days keeps her motivated to make further improvements. “During this fiscal year we plan to implement the upload of worksheets to create vouchers, which will eliminate the need for processors to key hundreds of payments from a worksheet,” she says. “This will result in timely payments and eliminate the possibility of keying errors. We also are looking at ways to take advantage of any available discounts and/or rebates with early payment or different payment methods.

“Our overall goal is to keep finding ways to make the entire bill paying process faster and easier for our vendors and our campus colleagues!”