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University participating in state shared services, excellence project

Many cost-saving initiatives already underway

Ohio University is one of 14 Ohio public universities participating in the Inter-University Council (IUC)* Institutional Excellence and Shared Services (IESS) project.

The IESS project is an IUC collaborative assessment that aims to examine potential shared-service opportunities among the participating universities. The goals are to elevate areas of excellence and explore potential areas of collaboration that would lower costs, increase service effectiveness, and/or lower operating risk to universities.

The project serves as a strategic plan for Ohio universities to maximize the collective opportunities for increased efficiencies, better service, and shared savings during a difficult economic climate.

"We must create efficiencies and increase savings and customer satisfaction," said Laura Nowicki, Ohio University Director of Procurement Services. "You can improve processes by cutting costs because it enables people to work more efficiently. This project is one for which we are proud to partner with our colleagues across the state."

In December 2010, the 14 IUC university presidents unanimously voted to guide the state's first multi-institutional collaborative effort to evaluate shared services opportunities in the areas of finance, information technology, procurement, and human resource functions. 

During the past several months, the IESS Project Teams at each institution have gathered quantitative data related to each university's functional areas for fiscal year 2010. National consulting companies Accenture and The Hackett Group are assisting the IUC with the project by providing benchmarking and consulting services.

Final findings have been shared with each IUC-member institution along with a comprehensive report to the IUC.  The comprehensive report will identify potential opportunities for partnership between the universities for cost savings across the financial and information technology functional areas.

Ohio's cost-saving efforts received a big boost in November 2009 when the Lumina Foundation for Education awarded a major, multi-year investment that will help the state deliver higher education in new ways and at lower expense to students and taxpayers. The grant is allowing the state to consolidate support operations at its institutions in an effort to save more than $100 million that can be redirected to improve student services and stabilize tuition costs.
Ohio University is already participating in the following shared services programs in an attempt to save money:

  • A SciQuest Grant led to a group purchasing program (called Bobcat Buy at Ohio University) which allows participating Ohio institutions to monitor purchases and analyze prices so that they can be compared across institutions and negotiated in order to reduce costs for supplies and materials.

  • Ohio University's Office of Information Technology is working with other university information technology departments to create savings and sharing opportunities.

Premier purchasing agreements are providing improved purchasing rates for participating universities.

  • JPMorgan Chase Commercial Credit Card Program: About 10 universities including Ohio University are enrolled and eventually all Ohio schools will participate. The cards are used for an assortment of expenditures, including like business supplies, travel, maintenance and repairs, operational expenses, and travel. Because the program offers a single management program, university employees are spending less time authorizing, tracking and processing expense data.

  • The Rx Ohio Collaborative prescription program: The statewide collaboration was formed in 2007 and includes some of Ohio's largest health benefit purchasers. It is a benefit initiative for Ohio public-sector employers to save money on prescription drug costs at both the institutional and consumer level.

  • OfficeMax Purchasing Program: Ohio University employees can purchase discounted items using preferred payment methods that allow for less administrative time and overhead costs.

  • Convenience store and grocery merchandise program: This collaboration is a three-year prime vendor contract with The H.T. Hackney Company in Gahanna, Ohio, that is projected to save Ohio University between $200,000 and $300,000 during the tenure of the contract. Ohio University also has received more than $100,000 in rebates from vendors who sell goods to Hackney. Miami University and the University of Akron are also participating in this initiative. Ohio State University and Hocking College are planning to join the initiative.

  • Elevator service project: This program, which is in the development stage, will reduce maintenance and repair costs for participating schools.

  • Janitorial supplies purchasing program: Another savings opportunity for participating universities is in the planning stages of development.

The Inter-University Council of Ohio (IUC) was established in 1939 as a voluntary educational association of Ohio's public universities. The association represents Ohio's 14 public universities.

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