Message from President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., MD to Students, Faculty, and Staff

It has been several months since my last update on the progress we are making related to Operational Excellence and the Bain & Co. consulting process. As we continue to move forward with our work in this area, I have asked the Operational Excellence Program Management Office (PMO) to keep the communication to the campus community robust and continuous, so you can expect to receive program updates each month.

President's perational Excellence UpdateThe first phase of the Operational Excellence project included comprehensive information-gathering, review, and peer institution benchmarking of Stony Brook University’s administrative structure, practices, and processes. The review took place from July 2010 through June 2011 with the help of the consulting firm Bain & Co., paid for through a targeted gift from the Stony Brook Foundation.

As Stony Brook University staff worked alongside Bain to facilitate data collection from all facets of the campus community — students, faculty, staff and administrators — together they were able to benchmark and evaluate existing systems and procedures and determine how best to improve those, and implement new ones. This resulted in a number of recommendations presented to the Operational Excellence Steering Committee by team members from specific departments, which led to targeted decisions made by the Steering Committee. Steering Committee decisions are in turn being implemented by administrative departments as guided by the Program Management Office (PMO). Ultimately, the data collection, benchmarking, analysis, and recommendation process paved the way for the University to make its own decisions on how best to manage change. And that is why the process is taking a long time; it is iterative and consultative by nature, and no two areas are the same.

The PMO has received several requests to see a “final report” from Bain & Co. A final report was not part of the Bain assignment because Operational Excellence is an ongoing process meant to address the University’s administrative challenges and growth over the next 50 years. The Bain & Co. phase is now complete, and consultants from the firm are no longer working with the University. Getting the work done is completely in our hands and the responsibility of specific teams made up of departmental faculty, researchers, and their staff who have volunteered to get involved and help manage the change.

Where are we now? Some administrative areas of the University are still in the “design” phase — which is to say, they are creating department specific solutions to save money and add value to departmental output. Others are in the “Delivery Phase.” Simply put, this is what they are actually doing to improve how their department functions. Right now, several areas on campus are initiating department-specific programs. For example, Procurement is implementing programs to buy more effectively and get lower prices, and soon those programs will be expanded to include the entire campus. Human Resources Services has already begun to design a new system to simplify the hiring process and reduce the time it takes to make a hire.

In addition to time- and money-saving activities, we are exploring further operating efficiencies through department-specific “shared support services.” Shared support services allow administrative staff to use their specific skill sets across similar departments to benefit more people and provide a greater level of expertise. It is not a merging or diminution of departments. It is a more efficient, effective, and equitable use of administrative resources so all departments and students in those departments benefit. For example, Undergraduate Biology, a model department in this realm, provides services for all the undergraduate programs in the Life Sciences. This was the case before the Operational Excellence project began, and truly showcases how effectively and efficiently a department can operate.

A more recent example of a successful shared support services implementation is in Fine Arts, in which five support staff members have been reorganized to handle specific duties with some strategic overlap. All serve as backup to the front desk, which is now always covered; the phones are always answered. With more staff dedicated to shared support services in Fine Arts, the positive effects are: 1) human resource and budget specialization; 2) a full-time graduate coordinator for all programs; and 3) backup for all functions and enough staff power to shift staff to help where the current need is the highest.

We understand there are still many questions; that each department is different, and I have asked the Provost to work with departments to ensure a thoughtful and effective implementation of this activity.

These changes cannot and will not happen overnight, nor can they be implemented any faster. It takes many people to bring them about. Input from faculty and staff, including participation in focus groups, response to surveys; direct feedback at the departmental level about processes that needed improvement or ways to save money are all being evaluated and taken into consideration. Operational Excellence has always been about seeking input and listening to faculty, staff, and students. The teams that were assembled to initiate change were not made up of just those in management. They mostly included people in the department who would be affected most.

Finally, some have asked why we need to worry so much about costs with the additional income that will be provided by revenue increases realized from NYSUNY 2020 legislation. The reality is that income realized from the SUNY 2020 tuition increases does not solve the University’s $82 million accumulated budget reduction over the past four years. These cuts have had a significant impact — resulting in larger class sizes, elimination of staff and faculty positions through attrition and voluntary separations and retirement incentives, reduction of services in the area of facilities operations and more. We need to continue to manage spending and operate more efficiently to continue to manage these tremendous cuts.

In the coming weeks and months we will talk about many areas on campus that are making changes to improve services and how those changes are being received. As we move through this process, we welcome your questions and comments. Please feel free to communicate via email with the PMO, and continue to review the Project 50 Forward web pages for monthly updates.

I’d like to add that I recognize that we have all faced some difficult challenges over the past two years. It is extremely encouraging to see how everyone on campus — students, faculty and staff — is working together and participating in this process that will help bring Stony Brook University to the next level of greatness.


Samuel L. Stanley Jr., MD
President, Stony Brook University

November 29, 2011