Accenture forums continue, discuss University savings

In the last two Accenture forums this week, committee chairs addressed cost-efficiency measures that includes changes to the bookstore, computer labs and Union functions, among others.

The week’s forums allowed chairs of the Accenture Report Out Committee [AROC] to update the community on the work they’ve done since December.

The projects are a response to recommendations made by Accenture, a management consulting firm, which the University contracted in fall at a cost of $500,000.

Since Accenture presented its findings in December, University officials have identified a project management structure and appointed chairs for six committees who oversee a different opportunity: research and advancement; educational platform; organization, employees and benefits; student services; core administration; and auxiliary operations and facilities.

Chief Information Officer John Ellinger spoke about core administration during the first forum on Friday.

One of the goals for saving money at the University that Ellinger emphasized is cutting down on the use of paper in administration, such as forms for travel.

Ellinger said the University will be using the LEAN process to lower uses of paper. When asked what the acronym meant, Chief Financial Officer Sheri Stoll said she wasn’t sure what it meant, but it was a methodology for reducing paper use.

Another goal for the University is for administrators to use travel agents when traveling. Ellinger said about five percent of travel goes through agents, but he wants it to be higher.

He said it costs more when one personally plans travel than when using a travel agent.

The University also plans to cut down on computers. Ellinger said there are 130 computer labs with 1,700 computers, which cost the Universty $550,000 a year.

Ellinger said the change will take about five years.

“In order to do this effectively, we need to change gradually,” he said.

In the future, more classes will institute a “bring your own laptop” policy and the University will make more alternative study spaces.

During the second forum at 1 p.m., Steve Krakoff, vice president of Capital Planning and Campus Operations, presented proposed changes to auxiliary operations and facilities, the committee he chairs.

These included changes to conference and events services, fleet management, Union bookstore, energy management and rates, and co-located student services.

The University plans to reduce campus vehicles from 174 to 150 by the end of the fiscal year. The ultimate goal is to reduce them to 100 and to promote vehicle sharing, Krakoff said.

This is a projected savings of $125,000 a year.

The “bookstore of the future,” as Krakoff referred to it during the presentation, includes expanded online offerings and rental program, and a possible consolidation to one floor.

“In general, people have gotten accustomed to a more expansive model of the bookstore,” he said.

Krakoff identified a potential savings of millions of dollars by becoming more energy-efficient.

This includes setting a standard temperature schedule for buildings, reducing the demand for energy and exploing geothermal and solar energy. The University will continue to work with the city on setting an affordable electricity rate.

The University will also begin an energy consumption transparency campaign to promote to the community the efforts they have made.

“It’s important everyone know what we’re doing in terms of green initiatives around campus,” Krakoff said.

Plans also include centralizing more functions in the Union, including financials services currently located in the Administration Building, and Admissions, now in McFall Center.

Stoll, the project manager for AROC, introduced Friday’s forums the way she did the previous three forums this week; by citing an expected budget shortfall in coming years between $3-10 million as a need to implement cost-saving and revenue-raising measures. She reiterated that state funding has been reduced by 30 percent since 2009, during which time enrollment has been flat or dropped.

Stoll also made clear that the projects and planning are in the preliminary stage. University officials remain unclear on just how they’re going to proceed in the coming months.

When asked by an audience member during Friday’s second forum what the next stage of the plan is, Stoll responded, “There isn’t one yet.”

The audience member got a similar answer after asking if there will be more forums such as these for the community to give their input.

“It is still very early in the process and we still have a lot of work to do,” Stoll is quoted as saying during Monday’s forum. “The question is, how should we proceed?”

One of the forums was cancelled on Wednesday due to weather; that forum, which will address the educational platform and is the final forum, has been rescheduled for Monday at 3:30 p.m.