Regents tap Deloitte firm to conduct 'transformational' review

The state Board of Regents on Tuesday selected Deloitte Consulting to conduct an efficiency review of the three regent universities that will look at each school individually and the three as a system. The review will include academic and administrative units and consider variables such as staffing levels and operational costs.

The process, minus the implementation phase, could be completed by early next winter, according to regent Larry McKibben, who chairs the board's Efficiency and Transformation Review Committee. The group reviewed 10 proposals and interviewed four consulting companies before recommending the Deloitte firm. Chief of staff Miles Lackey is Iowa State's representative on the review committee.

The board's contract with Deloitte will cost $2.45 million. It outlines an information gathering/diagnostic/benchmarking phase and a design/solution phase. McKibben said faculty would be involved early, in the first four to eight weeks of the process.

"It starts with listening. We will learn through visiting with our university folks," he said.

Board president Bruce Rastetter, an ex-officio member of the committee, said the four firms interviewed talked about "a six to 10 times return on what we invest in this study."

But Rastetter said the study isn't just about saving dollars. Speaking during the board's Feb. 6 meeting, he said he expects "transformational change" in how the universities operate, including new processes, structures, even systems.

Noting that two of the regent universities (Iowa State, Iowa) are among just 62 AAU universities, he said, "We need to ensure the viability of those two schools and ensure that UNI is on solid financial footing. It's important to recognize, celebrate and embrace the strengths of the three universities. We must get enough information about the schools, including how they compare with their peers, in order to make sound recommendations."

Implementing recommendations

Deloitte – or another consultant – could be hired to oversee and monitor an implementation phase. That decision will be made after Deloitte's recommendations for change are known. It will depend, Rastetter said, on how much needs to be implemented and how much can be handled at the university or the board office levels.

McKibben estimated that implementation would take a couple of years.

Deloitte's review comes on the heels of more than a decade of board-directed merging and sharing among the schools in areas such as purchasing, information technology, vehicle fleet operation, employee benefits and public radio operations. The last comprehensive review occurred in 1989, when Peat Marwick completed an organizational audit of the three universities.