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ODU Receives National Recognition For Its Efficiency In Business Practices

Old Dominion University is one of eight colleges and universities recognized by University Business magazine's Models of Efficiency program, which recognizes innovative approaches for streamlining higher education operations through improvements in technology or business processes. The latest honorees are featured in the July/August issue of University Business.

The program is sponsored by Higher One, a higher education-focused company that provides a range of financial solutions to colleges and universities.

Old Dominion was honored for implementing a long term, institution-wide Business Process Management effort to reduce costs and improve efficiency in multiple administrative departments, including Accounts Receivable, Human Resources/Payroll, Student Accounts Receivable, Recruitment/Admissions, Student Financial Aid, and Student Records & Registration.

"Efficient business operations translate into better experiences for students and administrators alike, and the Models of Efficiency program aims to encourage schools to prioritize service," says Tim Goral, editor-in-chief of University Business. "Old Dominion University is an example of an entire institution that has made efficiency a priority."

University Business wrote that with rising enrollments and increased faculty hiring, but flat IT staffing, ODU officials took a "hard look" at technology it address resource planning, in hopes of addressing a simple but significant issue.

"We framed the basic question as, Is it Banner (the software application suite ODU uses to run its academic programs) or is it us?" Bob Fenning, ODU vice president for administration and finance, told the magazine. "We were wondering whether or not we were utilizing Banner in the most efficient way, that we were maxing out all the functionality that existed there, or was the issue how we did business."

It turned out it was both Banner, and the school's business practices that were contributing to the issues ODU faced.

While Old Dominion had been successful in applying technology solutions to enhance efficiencies, the rate of improvement was proving slow. The school addressed this by adopting Banner provider Ellucian's Business Process Management initiative. The company had launched this initiative at other institutions, though never as comprehensively as it did at ODU, Fenning told University Business.

Using complex flowcharts to identify both the most and least efficient and critical functions, ODU and Ellucian could pinpoint with precision where processes could be improved.

"We saw where the barriers were, and we were able to address it as a process flow and fit the people and technology where we needed to," says Deb Swiecinski, associate vice president and university budget officer.

The process has led to more than 200 recommendations and many measurable improvements. Customer service satisfaction with the finance office, a survey found, increased by 7 percent in under a year; payment to vendors is 9 percent quicker; and a new call center format led to 48 percent more phone calls being answered at the start of the semester.

Full descriptions of honorees' projects, as well as those of past rounds and application information for upcoming rounds, can be found at www.universitybusiness.com/moe.

Old Dominion University is the forward-focused residential metropolitan research university for high-achieving students who want rigorous academics and an energetic community with a rich mix of nationalities, cultures and life experiences.

University Business is the most widely received, most regularly read publication for higher education leaders at two- and four-year colleges and universities nationwide. UB covers higher education technology, news, finance, policy, profiles and more across print, digital and in-person event platforms.

Higher One Holdings, Inc. focuses on helping college business offices manage operations and providing enhanced service to students. Through a full array of services from refunds, payments, electronic billing, payment plans and more, Higher One works closely with colleges and universities to ensure students receive Financial Aid refunds quickly, can pay tuition and bills online, make on-campus and community purchases and learn the basics of financial management.

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