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‘Business Innovation’ set to launch in support of William & Mary Promise

William & Mary is launching an initiative that will enhance its business processes to support its long-term success as a leading liberal arts university.

Aptly named “Business Innovation,” the effort is part of the William & Mary Promise, a new operating model adopted by the Board of Visitors in April.  The Promise takes a three-pronged approach to expanding resources – through earned income from tuition, philanthropy and innovation – to achieve institutional priorities identified in the strategic plan.

As part of the innovation prong, W&M will work with outside consultants to conduct a comprehensive review of its operations. The consultants will not look at the academic programs.  

“Part of this effort on campus involves looking at our own administrative processes to see where we can improve them,” said President Taylor Reveley.  “Success in pressing to higher levels of operational excellence will allow us to invest even more in our highest priorities.”

The university’s lack of resources is well-documented. Currently, W&M ranks 32nd in academic quality among national universities in the U.S. News and World Report’s annual survey, but ranks 114th in financial resources. No other university in the top 50 has a comparable gap between performance and funding. 

The Business Innovation effort is projected to last several years. The goal is to achieve gains in operational excellence that are sustainable. The work will be phased to identify opportunities and address them in a way that balances expected gains and the effort required to achieve them.

The initial two-month review will begin in mid-January by examining business processes across the university. Areas for assessment include information technology, human resources, finance, procurement and facilities operations. After the preliminary review, the consultant will recommend areas that have the greatest potential for improvement. Those possibilities will be reviewed internally and discussed with the Board of Visitors in April.  Then decisions will be made about the sequence in which opportunities should be explored in more detail.

The Business Innovation initiative is guided by a 13-member steering committee, co-chaired by Provost Michael Halleran and Vice President of Strategic Initiatives Jim Golden, and include faculty, staff, a student and a member of the Board of Visitors.

“We believe the initial benchmarking will be particularly valuable,” said Golden. “We think we will find that we are already doing well in several areas but there will also be opportunities to streamline our processes, reduce frustration and shift our time and resources to the university’s highest priorities.”

Steering committee members include:

  • Provost Halleran and Jim Golden (co-chairs)
  • Bob Archibald, professor of economics
  • Courtney Carpenter, associate provost and chief information officer
  • Bill Cooke, professor of physics
  • Kate Conley, dean of the faculty of Arts and Sciences
  • Dave Douglas, dean of the School of Law
  • Sam Jones, vice president of finance
  • Jennifer Latour, chief financial and administrative officer, VIMS
  • Anna Martin, vice president of administration
  • George Rudebusch, undergraduate student, Class of 2016
  • Lisa Szykman, associate professor of the School of Business
  • Tom Watkins, member of the Board of Visitors

During the initial review, groups of W&M teams – with membership from staff and “customers” of the services – will work closely with consultants to gather data and describe current processes. The teams will stay involved as the project moves forward. Julie Summs, the new director of economic development and business innovation, will coordinate the ongoing work between the steering committee, W&M teams and the consultant team.

The innovation and greater efficiency website will provide updates on progress as the process continues. The site also includes a “Give us your feedback” page for comments or questions.

“We hope folks will take advantage of the website to give us feedback as this process moves along,” said Golden. “We will welcome ideas. Input from the whole community will make this effort far more effective.”  

Since the William & Mary Promise was announced, Reveley has stressed that it will take contributions from everyone to sustain a solid financial foundation for W&M in this century.

“The Promise calls on the whole William & Mary family to contribute in the ways each of us can contribute: students through tuition, alumni and friends through philanthropy, and faculty and staff through productivity gains in our work on campus,” Reveley said. “We will all benefit from our common success.”