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Reengineering questions answered

A number of questions remained to be answered when the recent town meeting ended. Over the next several issues of Tech Talk, the Community Involvement Team will find answers to those that are applicable to reengineering and present them here on a space-available basis.

Q: How will departments, centers or labs be chosen for participation as pilots?

A: A number of criteria will come into play, including technological readiness, high interest and willingness to be part of the experiment, and the ability to maintain the existing administrative processes while testing new ones. In addition, the redesign team will be looking for organizations where new processes will be quickly understood and easily monitored so that adaptations can be made as needed to perfect the new processes for general application.

Q: Will reengineering apply to Lincoln Lab?

A: No. Since Lincoln is a special laboratory that operates under government contract, its administrative structure undergoes periodic review for cost effectiveness as part of the federal auditing process.

Q: Has the Institute (Physical Plant) considered using different substances that are cheaper and healthier for cleaning (for example, white vinegar vs. ammonia or bleach; baking soda vs. chemical abrasives)?

A: During the redesign process, the Custodial Services team consulted with a number of other universities about best practices and products used, resulting in a number of changes here. Now the custodians here participate in decisions about what products will be best for carrying out particular tasks.

Q: Would you provide some details about improvements to current computer uses and capabilities with respect to reengineering?

A: We now have many computer software systems that have been with us for some time, called "legacy systems." Although the legacy systems have served us well, they are now outdated and do not take advantage of current desktop computing capability. The reengineering efforts will replace these legacy systems as each process is reviewed.As an example, an effort currently underway through reengineering is implementing SAP, a financial management system. This new system will bring far more capability to the desktop allowing managers and administrative officers to run their business with more information in a timely manner.

Additionally, many actions that we now carry out on paper will become computer-based processes. Instead of mailing a paper form, information will travel electronically. As the information moves from one point to another, the initiator wil be able to keep track of work in progress from his/her desktop.

Finally, the systems will be integrated. One of the problems today is the constant need to move from one application to another to collect information needed even within a single process. Integration will mean a smoother, faster and more understandable process through the use of the systems.

Some examples of projects currently underway that are building/implementing new computer applictions and uses include:

  • SAP, a financial management system
  • TAP, a new appointment process system
  • Electronic Catalog for ordering
  • Computer Help Desk
  • Data Warehouse for storing central information
  • Development tools to speed delivery

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on May 24, 1995.

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