Areas for efficiency
Kansas University chose eight areas presented by the Huron Consulting Group on which to focus in the coming years to improve efficiency as part of its Changing for Excellence plan.
• Budgeting process — The university will look to redesign its annual budget allocation process to encompass all sources of funding.
• Campus construction — KU will increase its involvement in the construction process in many areas, including the way it purchases materials for construction.
• Creation of business centers — These would centralize functions done in several departments in one central, specialized location by employees who specialized in those functions.
• Enrollment management, domestic and international — KU is looking at new ways to increase its enrollments and retention rates among students.
• Facilities maintenance and upkeep — The university is hoping to achieve savings by combining its maintenance operations.
• Human resources — The plan calls for KU to upgrade its software and establish a strategic role for its HR functions.
• Information technology — The university will look to centralize and standardize its servers and IT staff.
• Procurement — KU hopes to continue its efforts to seek savings in how it purchases goods and services.
As Kansas University officials and members of the Huron Consulting Group told KU staffers about plans that will likely lead to job cuts, consolidations and other efficiencies in how KU does business, maintenance staff members expressed frustrations with the process.
Jeff Vitter, KU’s provost and executive vice chancellor, acknowledged in an interview that some of the initiatives will involve cutbacks in personnel.
“We would certainly do everything we can to use attrition to handle job reductions,” Vitter said. “That doesn’t mean there won’t be job losses.”
He said the overall level of staff reductions associated with the effort still wasn’t known.
After audience members peppered Allen Humphrey, KU assistant director of human resources and equal opportunity, and Mike Phillips of the Huron Consulting Group with questions for about 40 minutes on issues related to KU’s plans to consolidate its maintenance operations throughout the campus, one questioner expressed concerns.
“It sounds like to us you have virtually no specific answers to specific questions that have been asked,” the questioner said, after which the audience leapt into applause.
Humphrey tried to answer the group’s questions, but said many elements were still unknown.
“I want everybody to understand we really are at the beginning of a process here,” he told the crowd. “It’s going to take awhile to move through that process.”
Though handouts distributed at the meeting included some specific mentions and time lines — they said the maintenance changes could be implemented by March 2013 — Phillips said those weren’t hard-and-fast dates.
Humphrey encouraged the group to submit feedback, and placed a sign-up sheet for those interested in contributing to more discussions at the front of the room.
The level of interest in the maintenance part of the plan took KU officials by surprise, and they had to move the gathering from Alderson Auditorium in the Kansas Union to the bigger Woodruff Auditorium to accommodate the more than 200 interested people who showed up for the presentation.
On Monday, they discussed the eight “business cases” selected from the 12 options presented to KU. Vitter said the university won’t tackle all eight at once and will move forward with some of the easier-to-implement plans first, like a change in the way KU handles its procurement processes.
The more the changes involve personnel, the longer they will take, Vitter said.
Among options not chosen by university officials included a plans to improve efficiencies at KU’s libraries, research administration on all campuses and administrative support at KU Medical Center. KU officials said that efforts already underway to improve efficiency in those areas would continue, but would not involve the Huron Consulting group.