Though Less Ambitious, YaleNext Project Simplifying Campus Services
A number of new services will be introduced this year as part of the YaleNext project. The following article from the Office of Finance and Business Operations looks at the genesis of the initiative, its current status and what’s on the horizon.
A little over a year ago, the Office of Finance and Business Operations initiated an extensive overhaul of Yale’s administrative processes and systems. A thorough review of the University’s business practices made clear the complexity of Yale’s processes and systems and the challenges they present to the faculty and administrators who have to work with them. The goals of this initiative, which came to be known as YaleNext, were:
• To automate processes and replace outdated systems that are no longer working effectively;
• To simplify and/or eliminate inefficient and ineffective processes identified by faculty members as being frustrating, even painful, to interact with;
• To build a strong foundation for Yale’s research enterprise supported by timely and accurate information from robust and integrated administrative systems; and
• To increase staff productivity in a manner which would enable future growth in Yale’s programs without corresponding growth in Yale’s administrative costs.
In his recent letter to members of the Yale community, President Richard C. Levin suggested that the University would be reducing the use of outside consultants, narrowing the scope and slowing the pace of implementation of this program in order to help narrow the budget gap. Over the summer, even though the value of the endowment had not been established, it was clear that the expenditures on the project would need to be reduced and steps were already underway to accomplish this.
The YaleNext team developed and implemented a plan to adjust the approach and pace of the program, including a significant reduction in the use of consultants.
“The program will move forward, albeit with a scope that is somewhat skinnier and a pace to completion that is somewhat stretched out,” says Shauna King, vice president for finance and business operations. “Some initiatives will have a more limited scope or may take a little longer to deliver. The work will be done primarily with Yale staff, versus the significant assist we had planned for from outside consulting partners when we were trying to accomplish this in a much more compressed timeframe.”
YaleNext will reduce the FY10 investment in administrative systems improvements by 40%. The cost of the multi-year program has been reduced by almost 60%. By the end of September 2009, consulting support will be trimmed by 40% and will shrink to a consulting team of about 20 by early 2010. These reductions will in effect bring IT spending on administrative systems back down to near historic levels. The Office of Finance and Business Operations will direct that spending for much greater effect going forward as it works on more comprehensive changes to a few processes at a time, rather than making numerous small changes with insufficient impact.
The program is not being cancelled completely, notes King, because it delivers both more efficient and effective services and reduces cost at the University. Some examples include:
• Consolidating some payrolls and using a third-party administrator for benefits will provide a savings of $1.5 to $2 million;
• Enabling initiator approval of low-risk expense reports that will lower the cost of reviewing low risk transactions;
• Using the SciQuest system more extensively to purchase goods and services - which, when combined with a match of the order and invoice, will allow the University to pay vendors promptly enough to get early payment discounts (typically 2% if paid in 10 days). With the University spending close to $1 billion a year for outside supplies and services, this could represent several million dollars in savings; and
• Deploying “call center” approaches, like the recently launched Employee Service Center, to provide information on payroll, benefits and other human resource-related questions to the Yale community more efficiently, ensuring access to consistent and reliable information from knowledgeable staff while simultaneously reducing costs.
This summer YaleNext opened the Employee Service Center (ESC) providing a single contact for benefits, payroll and other employment information. By late August over 5,500 requests had been handled by the Employee Service Center; over 1,200 of these were from faculty.
Yale used the same technology to support its Information Technology Client Support Desk, expanding the footprint of the common tool from 125 to 400 users.
As part of a document management initiative, the University emptied many filing cabinets; more than nine million documents were digitized. This will enable Yale to manage documents more efficiently and to share important business documents electronically.
Improvements on the horizon
A variety of new tools will be available this fall.
This semester, faculty will find familiar tools for course evaluations, course proposals and grading, and new tools for managing teaching fellowships and course information which is located on a redesigned and improved University Portal. This is a preliminary step in implementing a single location to access tools supporting teaching and research at Yale and for managing employment benefits.
The portal will also be the place where Yale staff can enter time, request leaves of absence, change employment information, make benefit decisions, and access needed work tools and work lists. These changes will help improve the accuracy of payroll, eliminate the use of paper and reduce costs of existing manual processes. (See “Working at Yale” on the back page of this paper for details.)
There will also be improvements to financial reporting and commitments, including the ability to drill down to display images of vendor invoices - all designed to improve the usability and accuracy of Account Holder Reports. Efforts to standardize financial planning and management practices are intended to ensure consistently high quality business management support throughout the University.
Before the end of calendar year 2009, Yale must replace its expense management system. Users who have helped with the design and testing of the new system have said it is simpler and more intuitive to use than the current system, and it will cost the University $500,000 less in systems maintenance and fees than the current system.
Faculty and departments who develop and maintain websites will benefit from the roll out of a content management solution and a secure hosting environment to simplify the development of interactive websites with Web 2.0 capabilities. In January, ITS will install Drupal and Wordpress in a secure hosted environment. Creators can develop their own sites, use pre-set templates, or get assistance from ITS at a low fixed cost.
Delivering on future commitments
Reducing the administrative burden for principal investigators continues to be a top priority for YaleNext, the Office of Research Administration and departmental business offices. A team of individuals from across the University has been developing new pre-award and conflict-of-interest submission processes and configuring a newly-acquired system called InfoEd, which is on track for deployment beginning in the February-March 2010 timeframe. Yale will also begin piloting InfoEd’s Proposal Development functionality in the spring of FY10. These are important initial steps toward our long term vision of a fully integrated system for the administrative support of the entire lifecycle of sponsored research.
The effort to improve Yale’s administrative systems and processes, like other campus initiatives, is adapting to uncertainty but still moving forward, notes King.
“While our economic circumstances have changed, our values and mission have not,” she emphasizes. “From an administrative perspective, we will deliver services that are more helpful, simpler and more accurate and that use the University’s resources more thoughtfully. That is a mission more important now than ever.”
YaleNext: Highlights at a Glance
Employee Service Center (ESC)
· A single location to obtain employee, benefits, payroll and other HR information
Opened July 2009
· Bundling of telecommunications charges (phone sets, lines, long distance) into one charge to reduce number of transactions:
Started July 2009
University Portal (YaleInfo)
· A single, web-based l location for faculty to access existing tools for grading, evaluations, and manage teaching fellowships and course information
· A single, web-based location for Staff and faculty to access key information to do their work and manage benefits
Account Holder Report and Commitment Improvements
· More accurate financial information to account holders
Automated Time Capture
· Automate time capture and leave management to eliminate paper time capture ,
New Expense Management System
· Oracle iExpense replaces current EMS system; saves $500,000 per year
Sep - Dec 2009
Content Management System
· New capabilities to support interactive web site development and maintenance (hosting)
HR Self Service
· Self-service capabilities to modify personal employee information and access electronic pay stubs
· InfoEd proposal tracking and proposal development, and Conflict of Interest supporting technology, provide the basis of an effort to reduce administrative load for Principal Investigators