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The Challenge: Increase Efficiencies of Financial Processes
How can a unit make the most effective and efficient use of limited administrative resources? Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology was faced with having to provide continuing financial and administrative services at the same or increasing level of satisfaction with decreasing resources.

The Solution: Document, Educate and Inform, Decentralize, Verify

The team began by identifying all financial forms used, and matching them with related financial processes. They then prioritized the processes to target those with the greatest inefficiencies. For each process, they collected performance data, developed a flowchart, and then identified improvement areas. They realized that one of the issues related to all of the processes was availability of needed information, and they created an online, internal directory of budget and project information. The team then addressed the four areas below. Several months following implementation of the improvements, the team met again to verify that they had accomplished the desired outcomes.

Travel: Budget reductions resulted in a decrease in the number of staff processing financial forms. The team determined that 90% of the financial forms processed were related to travel. To deal with the reductions, the team decided to decentralize processing of forms related to travel, and involve staff not previously involved. To accomplish this, the team: provided customized training to staff assistants not previously involved in handling travel; revised the related departmental forms; and then decentralized the travel support activities. It was expected that this change would also result in better service to faculty. Feedback has indicated that both faculty and staff are satisfied with services, and the team is looking at ways to expand this decentralization.

Mail charges: 46% of outgoing mail did not have billing information, and staff time was needed to gather that information after the mail had been sent. The team improved forms used for mailing and educated staff and faculty, to reduce the time to identify the correct budget for billing, and increase the billing accuracy. After this, forms with correct billing information were returned for 75% to 80% of the outgoing mail. Departmental mail costs continue to decrease.

Copying: In one 6-week period, 60,000 copies were made with no information about who was making the copies, or for what project or class. The team developed a list of codes to increase billing accuracy and provide detailed information on which to base any future plans. Staff had access to the whole list so they could easily identify the code to be used. More detailed information is now available on the amount of copying and printing being done for specific projects or classes. Now the baseline information is available to look for opportunities to reduce costs.

Telephone: While telephone charges have been decreasing, a lot of time was spent on internal rebilling to ensure correct charges to budgets. The team encouraged increased use of authorization codes to reduce the time needed to assign and recover charges related to grants. The use of these codes (making use of technology) has resulted in a reduction of tedious staff work to recover minimal charges (freeing staff to concentrate in other areas), without a significant increase in telephone charges for the department. However, there is more work to be done in this area.

The team published information about their changes on an internal departmental web site, and discussed the changes at regular faculty and staff meetings, as the changes were developed and implemented. Early changes resulted in increased accuracy in financial processes, with less staff intervention. Staff assistants also indicated that they had a better picture of the department and University activities. The team members will continue to track financial performance data, and look for additional opportunities to reduce costs or save time.

For more information about this team, contact Linda Mace at lem@psu.edu.

 
David Blandford
David Blandford,
Team Sponsor
"...because of budget cuts, [...] we had to become more efficient."
Linda Mace
Linda Mace,
Team Leader
"The team estimates that this effort will address approximately 90 percent of the financial processing..."


Sponsor:
   David Blandford
Leader:
   Linda Mace
Facilitator:
   Barbara Sherlock
Members:
   Sue Confer
   Joan Haus
   Linda Kline
   Traci Shimmel
   Cindy Teeters
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