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Six areas targeted for redesign phase

MIT is about to launch the redesign phase of its reengineering project.

Senior Vice President William R. Dickson, who chairs the Reengineering Steering Committee, announced that the initial redesign work will focus on:

  • Management reporting
  • Supplier consolidation
  • The mail service
  • Facilities operations
  • Information technology
  • ������Appointment process

The redesign teams, whose members will be named shortly, will begin work during the summer. Redesign teams will begin by analyzing their assigned process and consulting with users and providers of the services involved. From that analysis each team, of about eight people, will develop a new design. A prototype of the design will be set up in a laboratory setting where people can come to try out and make suggestions on the new design. Following these laboratory tests, the system will be installed on a pilot basis in a small number of the Institute's organizations for fine tuning before being implemented across the Institute.

Professor James D. Bruce, who headed the Core Team and continues as program manager of the reengineering effort, described the scope of the redesign effort to be undertaken at this phase of the reengineering effort.


Professor Bruce said the management reporting team will design methods to improve tracking, reporting and analysis of information relevant to the effective operation of an Institute department, laboratory, center or administrative unit. The team's initial focus will be on finances, including financial commitments associated with the procurement of goods and services. Later on, its work will focus on other information such as information about personnel, property and space.


The supplier consolidation team will work to identify MIT's purchasing patterns in order to increase effectiveness by reducing the number of suppliers of routine goods and services, and to decrease the Institute's cost. Continued attention will be paid to the Inatitute's principles of doing business with minority- and women-owned businesses and with businesses located in Cambridge.


Work on the mail project will build on the results of a committee appointed by Mr. Dickson well before the start of the re-engineering effort. That committee has submitted a report recommending a number of changes in how mail service is provided to the community. Under the auspices of the reengineering project, the mail committee's recommendations will be pilot-tested in one area of the campus.


In facilities operations, the goals are to improve the quality and responsiveness of service and to reduce the costs of repairing and maintaining our facilities. This work will build upon the long-range planning activities begun under Victoria V. Sirianni, Director of Physical Plant.


Information technology transformation will seek to design and implement a management framework which achieves fundamental improvements in information technology services across the Institute. Specifically, it looks to put in place a framework whereby high-quality, flexible systems of significant value are rapidly put in place to support the new integrated and streamlined administrative processes.


Last winter, Joan F. Rice, vice president for human resources, chartered a team to examine the steps MIT takes as it makes academic appointments. Team members were academic and administrative staff members who process those appointments. The team recently recommended that the process for all appointments-academic, administrative, support and service staff-be redesigned. The goal is a paperless process and work will proceed under the reengineering project.

"The next phase of our reengineering work will involve broad consultation with people through the MIT community," Mr. Dickson said. "Redesign team members will include those who use as well as provide the services. In addition, people with expertise in human resources and information technology will be members of the teams.

"The teams will talk with faculty, staff and students throughout MIT, developing ideas and models that people can test and comment on as a way of refining the redesign.

"Reengineering will simplify what we do, thereby making work easier, more effective, more efficient," Mr. Dickson added.

The Steering Committee made its announcement after studying the results of the Reengineering Core Team's extensive review of a number of key administrative processes.

The Core Team, a group of nine MIT staff members which worked nearly full time for more than two months, selected five key processes for closer review. They were student services, support of the research proposal process, facilities operations, management reporting and buying and paying for supplies and services. The team analyzed the processes on the basis of cost, impact on revenue, potential for improvement, significance of changes to MIT's future and the ease of implementing changes.

"Every member of the Core Team has worked incredibly hard to strengthen MIT for the changing times the Institute is coping with," Mr. Dickson. "This is tough work, not an activity that people undertake for personal glory. Their efforts deserve the highest of accolades from everyone at MIT."

Those areas of the five not selected for the initial redesign work, as well as additional areas, will be considered for reengineering in the future, Mr. Dickson said.

The next phase of the reengineering effort will go forward in several steps. The first phase, design, lasts about three months. In this phase, the redesign team develops a new more efficient way to accomplish the Institute's goals. The redesigned process then goes into the lab phase for about six months, where the design is tested and redesigned as needed. Throughout the redesign and lab testing, the redesign teams will seek input from the community through participation in the labs and in focus groups. At the point a final design is agreed upon, a three-month pilot of the process with a small portion of the community is set up to get out any last kinks. After a successful pilot, the new design will be introduced so the whole community can benefit from the newly redesigned process.

Mr. Dickson said that the Steering Committee will appoint a redesign team for student services in January after the newly created Student Information System is up and running. "This new system was developed over the last three years by the Registrar's Office, in consultation with faculty, students and staff throughout MIT. The system will provide a much more comprehensive and flexible foundation for making significant improvements in MIT's student services," Mr. Dickson said. Student services is the collection of administrative services performed for students from their arrival on campus to graduation. These services include registration for subjects, recording grades, administering financial aid, collecting fees, placement, etc.

MIT President Charles M. Vest has referred to the Institute's reengineering effort as "pure MIT: think big, analyze ourselves, act on what we learn, and show the rest of the academic world how to do it."

This endeavor allows MIT "to think more about ourselves as a system-how one person's work affects that of others throughout the Institute, how a savings in one area makes possible creative investments in another, how to avoid duplicating each others' efforts, and how to do it right and do it once, thus making each individual's work more important."

A version of this article appeared in the June 29, 1994 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 38, Number 37).

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