Cornell to save at least $75 million annually by 2015

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Simeon Moss

In letters to deans and vice presidents, Cornell President David Skorton and Provost Kent Fuchs have accepted the proposed actions in each area from the Initiatives Coordination Office (ICO). The approved actions are expected to save Cornell $75 million to $85 million annually by fiscal year (FY) 2015.

"We are very pleased with the progress made to date in identifying cost savings opportunities and developing strategies that will improve the effectiveness of operations across campus," Fuchs said. "There is still considerable work ahead as implementation plans are now to be executed, but having a foundation of well-considered designs is critical, and we believe this has been accomplished."

"The goal of these plans is to perform administrative services with fewer resources, with improved results and with less strain on faculty, students and staff by creating improved systems and processes," said Vice President for Human Resources Mary Opperman. "While the implementation plans do impact staff positions, they do so specifically related to the changes in the plans. The impact on positions is specific to the areas under review. There are no across-the-board position implications."

The ICO was established in December 2009 as part of a strategy to "reimagine Cornell" for a leaner, more academically excellent university, and improve service quality and effective delivery.

The major decisions include the following (Unless otherwise noted, the figures are estimated annual savings by FY 2015 as measured against the 2010 budget.):

Organization and Management of Support Activities: $17 million by FY 2013

Skorton and Fuchs have asked deans and vice presidents to submit by July 7 plans to make their administrative organization more effective and reduce costs. One tool each unit has used, a spans-and-layers analysis, seeks to increase spans -- or the number of people who report to managers -- and reduce supervisory layers, resulting in better communication and more efficient management. The divisions of Planning and Budget and of Human Resources will be responsible for ensuring that savings are realized and spans and layers targets are achieved and maintained.

Information Technology: $10 million to $15 million

The biggest changes involve more centralized support for staff and faculty computers and less application development. The IT Governance Council (ITGC), formed in May, and a new chief information officer will coordinate IT services across the Ithaca campus. The ITGC will cluster unit IT staff into service groups; implementation plans are in the works. The ITGC will also limit the types of hardware and peripherals bought with university funds to make support more efficient. For development of new applications using university funds, the ITGC will generally buy rather than build. The chief information officer will ensure that the approved recommendations are implemented.

Facilities: $16 million (compared with 2009 expenditures)

A new, campuswide governance structure will be established. Vice President for Facilities Services Kyu-Jung Whang, who is responsible for implementing the plans, will work with units to define campuswide facility standards, staffing and the basic services provided to all units.

Most savings will come from energy conservation and reductions in central facilities operations, much of which has already occurred as operations scaled back in response to the economic conditions. Trades shops will shift their primary focus to maintenance from construction, while maintenance staff will work in campus zones.

Procurement: $30 million to $40 million (compared with 2009 expenditures)

The key to hitting an initial target of $8 million of savings in FY 2011 is making sure most goods and services are bought from suppliers registered in e-SHOP, Cornell's online shopping tool. Supply Management Services, which runs e-SHOP, is working to make the system more effective and efficient for users. Unit administrators will regularly monitor use of the system.

Vice President for Finance and Chief Financial Officer Joanne DeStefano will be responsible for implementation and developing further plans.

Financial Transactions: $1.8 million by FY 2013

Several shared service centers to process financial transactions for the Ithaca campus will be established. One will process transactions for all administrative divisions; another will handle transactions for the Division of Student and Academic Services; and five centers will support academic units. An implementation plan is being developed, and full implementation of the shared centers will occur in phases over the new fiscal year.

Human Resource Services: $800,000 contingent on implementing a new HR/payroll management system

The Human Resources (HR) initiative committee's primary recommendation was to implement the new HR/payroll management system developed through the prior workforce planning effort. The ITGC will give its recommendation by July 31 on whether the university should implement the system.

The Cornell Chronicle will report on each initiative in a series during the fall semester.


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