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Redesign teams aim to streamline support services

By Shang-Lin Chuang

Throughout 1994, several support services re-engineering teams have been working to reduce complexity, improve quality, and reduce costs, according to James D. Bruce ScD '60, vice president for Information Systems and manager of the Institute-wide effort.

Although re-engineering is aimed at reducing costs, a lower-than-expected budget deficit for the fiscal year 1994 will not affect the effort, according to Vice President for Finance and Treasurer Glenn P. Strehle '58.

The project began in November 1993 with the goal of finding new, more efficient ways of providing services since the decline in federal funding of research and the shift in federal priorities at the end of the Cold War.

As part of the project, interdepartmental teams of staff members design efficient models for specific administrative processes, ranging from custodial services to information technology transformation. Each redesign team completes its work in about 12 weeks, then reports to the steering committee, Bruce said. Once a redesign is approved, it is turned over to an implementation team, he said.

Designs ready to implement

In early December, eight redesign teams had been created, with four ready to enter the implementation phase. The four teams with redesigns focused on the appointments process, management reporting, custodial services, and mail.

The Appointments Process team focused "on automating the appointments process for all classes of employees," Bruce said.

Team captain Stephen D. Scarano, an assistant to Bruce, said that the development phase begins this month and the program will be ready to pilot in about four months.

The management reporting group "has developed a design to deliver the management information that a department, research laboratory or center, or an administrative unit needs to it in a timely, effective manner," Bruce said. Now that the redesign is done, the team has been succeeded by a set of teams that will install a new financial management system from an external vendor, he said.

The Custodial Services team has finished its redesign, and "two pilot teams are now deployed and are testing the concept," Bruce said.

The Mail team's redesign, which calls for paper mail to be distributed through 40 centers around campus, has been approved, Bruce said. A process for handling outgoing U.S. mail still needs to be developed, he said.

The other teams still in the design stage in December covered information technology infrastructure readiness, information technology transformation, supplier consolidation, and community in- volvement.

The Information Technology Transformation group will keep existing systems running and support the use of them until they are replaced, connect over 1,000 administrators to the campus computing network, and deliver and support campus-wide use of several new network-based administrative applications, services, and tools, said Marilyn A. McMillan, team captain and director of Information Systems planning.

The Community Involvement team "works to communicate the re-engineering work to the community and to involve the community in the work of the teams," Bruce said.

Last month, the Training and Development team began work. "Key to the success of any re-engineering project is a well-trained work force," Bruce said. "Training needs to occur in three basic areas: organizational culture and the ability to function in a changing environment, computer skills, and new business applications."

The Repair and Maintenance team started working recently, and the Student Services team will probably start in late February or early March, Bruce said.

"The desired impact of re-engineering on the community is that everyone - faculty, staff, and students - will be able to do their work easier," he said.

Deficit less than projected

MIT concluded fiscal year 1994 with a deficit of $6.2 million, $4.1 million less than projected, according to a report issued by Strehle.

This is down from the $10.1 million deficit recorded in FY 1993.

However, the decrease is not expected to affect the fiscal year 1995 budget, with an estimated deficit of $8.9 million, or re-engineering plans, Strehle said.

"The continued search for ways to improve efficiency and self-imposed conservatism across the Institute were important to this [year's] outcome," Strehle said in Tech Talk.

The deficit decrease was unrelated to the re-engineering plan, said Senior Vice President William R. Dickson '56. "I think it had more to do with constraint on the part of people at MIT," he said.