Deloitte's work for regents is complete but more consultants to be hired

The state Board of Regents' contractual relationship with Deloitte Consulting to find efficiencies and cost-savings at the three regent universities is complete, at least for now.

Meeting telephonically on Nov. 14, board members voted to implement all eight administrative business cases presented by the Deloitte consultants last month. The board also agreed to hire implementation teams itself on four items. Deloitte could be among the bidders for that work.

TIER (Transparent Inclusive Efficiency Review) is a board-initiated review of the three regent universities to identify areas for dollar savings and/or more efficient processes. In February, the board hired Deloitte Consulting to lead the review.

Regent Larry McKibben, who co-chairs the TIER coordinating committee, expressed his satisfaction with Deloitte's work.

"They built a strong case for transformation, making it clear that the status quo is not sustainable for our universities," he said.

The board's TIER project manager Mark Braun said the implementation timelines vary in length, but he anticipates early savings for the universities in the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2015. He said the best opportunity for savings appears to lie with the purchasing business case. Some business cases will generate organizational efficiencies more than dollar savings, he said.

Following is a status update on the 17 business cases the Deloitte team presented to the board in June at the conclusion of phase 1.

Administrative business cases

In approving all eight administrative business cases, the board agreed to issue a single request for proposals (RFP) for assistance in implementing three of them:

  • Revise the universities' decentralized human resources service model
  • Streamline and standardize how the universities provide some finance transactions
  • Reduce duplication of services between central IT and distributed IT units

The RFP process would begin this month and conclude by mid-January, with implementation to begin by Feb. 1.

Taking their cue from the university presidents, board members agreed that five other administrative cases could be implemented among or within the three universities:

  • Invest in energy-saving initiatives
  • Adjust thermostats in classroom buildings during the summer (Northern Iowa only)
  • Replace desktop computers with thin client options
  • Reduce the number of software applications purchased or developed within and across the universities
  • Take advantage of technology improvements, innovations and leaner staffing requirements to transform central IT services

Academic business cases

McKibben also proposed that the board hire a firm to complete the academic programs portion of the review. Deloitte was in the process of hiring a subcontractor after dismissing KH Consulting, the first firm it hired to oversee the academic review. McKibben said that three academic business cases identified by the first subcontractor would remain in play. They are:

  • Develop regent system-wide institutional research reporting and data sharing
  • Shorten students' "time to graduation" by improving enrollment management variables such as faculty mix, class sizes and course configurations
  • Expand the universities' reach by collaborating to provide online and hybrid distance education degree and certificate programs

"Having the board issue the RFP rather than subcontract through Deloitte will allow faculty leaders at the universities to play a greater role in the selection process, which we feel is in line with the university policies of shared governance," McKibben said.

McKibben said a consultant would assist with the second and third business cases; the board will manage the first one internally.

Interrupted purchasing business case

The board also approved a separate RFP for implementation of a purchasing business case. At its August meeting, the board gave executive director Robert Donley authority to negotiate a separate contract with Deloitte for implementation of a business case that would find savings and efficiencies in the three schools' purchasing operations. However, those negotiations never were completed.

Space utilization business cases

The board voted to seek a service agreement with a Deloitte subcontractor, Ad Astra, for phase 2 work on two more business cases. Ad Astra specializes in course management and scheduling software. The cases are:

  • Improve classroom space usage through scheduling policies
  • Optimize faculty allocations through a data-informed, student-centered course schedule

Implementation progressing on three others

Braun provided an update on three administrative business cases the board approved for university-led implementation in September. The cases and their anticipated completion dates are:

  • Standardize the Regents Admission Index calculation when a student's class rank isn't available, Dec. 15
  • Create a common application portal for students who want to apply to more than one regents university, Feb. 1, 2015
  • Standardize size and structure of search committees for vacant professional and scientific positions, March 1, 2015