The College of William & Mary continues to run a highly efficient and effective operation despite limited resources, and it is launching additional projects at the university and organizational levels to encourage even more innovation in business processes, according to a new report.
Last year, President Taylor Reveley announced plans for William & Mary to build a new financial foundation resting on four interdependent pillars: (1) continued taxpayer support for capital projects and, to diminishing extent, operations; (2) growing streams of earned income (tuition and fees, research grants and contracts, and entrepreneurial leveraging of William & Mary strengths to generate new sources of revenue); (3) greatly enhanced philanthropy (annual giving, endowment growth, funds for bricks and mortar); and (4) internal efficiency gains that maintain the quality of learning and campus life as cost effectively as possible. In October 2010, Reveley announced a project to pursue that fourth pillar. The effort began with a review of business processes to encourage innovation and greater efficiency, to be followed by a similar review in the academic sphere.
The review of business processes was designed to record and communicate gains that had already been made, share ideas across campus, develop and implement plans for even more efficient business processes and new revenue initiatives, and initiate university-wide projects to complement and enhance organizational-level plans. Reveley shared the findings from the W&M Business Process Innovation Project report Thursday with the Board of Visitors.
“Innovation leading to even greater efficiency is a key part of our plans to maintain taxpayer support, increase earned income and enhance philanthropy,” Reveley said. “To attract resources, we need to let everyone know that our people are already amazingly efficient, and that we are aggressively pursuing ways to become even more innovative and effective. This report shows that William & Mary is doing just that.”
The report released Thursday and posted on the William & Mary website (www.wm.edu/innovation) highlights the university’s effective use of resources and cites steps taken to deal with recent budget cuts.
- William & Mary remains one of the nation’s top universities despite a disparity between outcomes and resources. The College was tied for 31st among all universities in the 2010 U.S. News & World Report undergraduate rankings. However, William & Mary also ranked 85th in terms of financial resources – by far the lowest ranking of the top institutions.
- Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine’s 2011 rankings list William & Mary as the fourth-best value among public universities.
- According to a report released in December 2010 by the Chronicle of Higher Education, William & Mary’s graduation rate of 91 percent is second among public research institutions. This high graduation rate means the cost per degree is among the lowest for public universities in the Commonwealth.
- From 2008 to 2010, the College reduced its base operating expenditures by $8.2 million. Savings resulted from the elimination of 35 faculty and staff positions, targeted reductions in the law and business schools, elimination of the December 2008 salary increase (non-general fund share) and a variety of non-personnel service operating positions.
- VIMS lost $6.1 million in General Funds for operating support between fall 2007 and December 2010. The loss resulted in elimination of 10 faculty and 22 staff positions.
- Faculty of Arts & Sciences absorbed a cut of $1 million in its instructional budget while maintaining student credit hours and course offerings. Its operating funds per faculty member, measured in constant dollars, are now 38 percent below comparable figures in 1998.
The review identified more than 100 examples of how organizations identified opportunities, implemented changes and achieved gains either through lower costs, greater benefits at constant cost, cost avoidance or new sources of revenue. Most of those savings reflect the details of how organizations adjusted to the imposed budget cuts described above. But the ways in which organizations adjusted reflect considerable innovation in business processes.
The examples – which range from the reorganization of departments to creative uses of technology – were developed by business innovation teams in each organization. Many are now being shared university-wide as part of a new “William & Mary Innovation at Work” document and web feature, Golden said.
“Organizations developed many innovative ideas for achieving even greater efficiency,” Golden said. “We want these examples to be shared across the university as projects other organizations may want to emulate moving forward.”
For example, the School of Business recorded $888,000 in savings between 2008 and 2010 by taking a number of actions to reduce costs. This included introducing a zero-based budgeting system, adjusting staff support functions, and shifting marketing from print to digital formats. Several examples included reorganization of functions or the merger of units to reduce layers and combine skills. In 2008, for example, Reveley converted the Office of Public Affairs into the Office of Strategic Initiatives as part of an effort to organize a much-needed strategic planning process and devote more time to strategic communications. The shift included the elimination of some senior-level positions and a reorganization to address key priorities such as strategic communications and federal relations. The net impact was the absorption of new functions without additional resources and cost savings of approximately $170,000 per year.
Other examples include the merger of the publications office and the IT Web Team to form Creative Services and a collaborative project between Undergraduate Admission, the University Registrar and Information Technology to greatly increase the efficiency of the domicile review process for undergraduate applicants. The domicile project was recognized last fall as a Model of Efficiency honoree by University Business magazine.
Golden said the initiative also identified 17 university-level projects that could enhance opportunities for innovation and greater efficiency across campus. President Reveley selected eight of those projects, he added, to start immediately as phase one of the implementation.
The first list of university-level projects includes improving information technology coordination; expanding coordination between the finance and grants offices; streamlining faculty and staff recruitment processes; standardizing calendar and events coordination; reducing the costs of computer leasing; placing policies, procedures and forms on a central website; investigating summer use of facilities and expanding the net revenues from summer programs; and seeking changes in fees paid to the state’s eVa electronic procurement system.
At the organizational level, teams across the university developed 55 business process innovation projects that will be launched in the spring of 2011. They have various completion dates depending on the scope and complexity of the projects. Some should be completed by the summer of 2011 and some will take over a year for full implementation. As projects are completed the appropriate dean or vice president will record and certify the gains achieved.
“The report shows that our exceptional people are already very innovative. Now that we have recorded what we have already done and shared ideas we’re poised to launch additional projects at the university and organizational levels that will promote innovation and even better use of our limited resources,” Golden said. The next phase of the project, which is being led by Provost Michael R. Halleran, will focus on processes related to academic programs.