In 2004, Steve Kreidler, University of Central Oklahoma's VP for Administration, published a NACUBO article promising universities "the skinny on getting lean." Kreidler pointed to a host of administrative processes at UCO that made sense within the institution, but would baffle an external onlooker. For example, getting a key required seven authorization signatures. Generating a single work order took 19 pieces of paper.
The Lean University was born when Kreidler and his staff confronted these absurdities. With it came a new operating mantra: "Get rid of everything that doesn't have value and identify world-class practices to solve problems."
The growing imperative
Over a decade later, colleges and universities still struggle with labyrinthine processes riddled with redundant steps, manual interruptions, and inefficient logic. Automation has developed piecemeal, resulting in patched workflows that inefficiently pass information in and out of systems across campus silos. With more information collected and distributed around campus, someone must connect the dots and support seamless information exchange across the institution. Enter the CIO.
It's no secret that IT needs to be involved in process reengineering initiatives. But at institutions where process efficiency units sit under other functions, the sentiment is clear: As one shared service operator told EAB's Business Affairs Forum, "I want IT to be in the room, but I don't want them talking first."
Yet in these interactions, IT has a real opportunity to shine—though the interaction must always be one of collaboration and not coercion. To quote an IT Forum member and process innovation evangelist, "The CIO has the perspective and skills to lead the conversation around integrating or connecting functions." Where workflows involve systems and data (and in the modern university, they should), IT can significantly improve the success of technology implementations by understanding, evaluating, and reengineering the processes they support.
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