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Reengineering marks milestone

MIT's reengineering effort reached a milestone November 18, when all seven redesign teams met together to hear the progress of four whose work will soon be coming into public view.

Presenting reports at the day-long session were the Appointment Process team led by Stephen D. Scarano, the Custodial Services team led by Karen Nilsson, the Management Reporting team led by Katherine Cochrane, and the Mail team led by David Lambert.

"Over the 12 weeks or so that the teams have been working, one of their common discoveries is their great interdependence," said Professor James D. Bruce, vice president for information systems and reengineering program manager. The session presented the first opportunity for face-to-face feedback from their colleagues as the reengineering effort moves forward.

Members of the Appointment Process team, who had a head start from work carried out earlier, reported on what they learned about applying information technology in the complex area of academic appointments, while maintaining flexibility and confidentiality. A potential redesign of the appointment process was demonstrated, showing how information technology gives everyone involved immediate access to its progress and at the same time virtually eliminates the often massive amount of paperwork involved.

One of the newest teams, Custodial Services, has made considerable progress since beginning work in October. After interviewing a broad base of customers, the team has analyzed work processes and identified several ways to streamline operations, Ms. Nilsson reported. A major proposal is a team approach which will both eliminate much traditional "waiting and walking" time for custodians and increase flexibility in responding to cleaning needs of individual areas.

The Management Reporting has completed its redesign and is ready to begin testing its plan, Ms. Cochrane said. The team offered a slide/video presentation that highlighted its findings in defining management reporting and showing how changes in budgeting and planning, purchasing and financial reporting, for example, will lead to streamlined and simplified processes.

Using a universal data store eliminates much duplication that now exists and encourages collaboration based on the nature of the work involved and skills needed while providing more responsive customer service, Ms. Cochranereported. She and members of the team will present their proposal upon request to interested administrative organizations throughout the Institute (they have already made a presentation to the administrative officers in the School of Engineering).

The Mail Team, which also benefited from an ad hoc study conducted during 1993-94, addressed a system that is badly out of date yet surprisingly well liked. Among its recommendations are a new centralized Mail Service with a manager, greater automation and an Institute-wide education campaign, including mailing tips that will begin appearing soon in Tech Talk. Team captain David Lambert closed the reporting part of the program with a junk-mail delivery demonstration, noting that 350 tons of it arrives annually.

In summing up the afternoon's program, President Charles M. Vest said that the redesign teams have doon a good job of analyzing a number of problems that have not yielded to "the usual committees." Noting that MIT may be unique among universities in tackling reengineering across the board, he said that it is very much like MIT to try to create something better.

A version of this article appeared in the December 7, 1994 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 39, Number 14).

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