New office to improve U

Molly Moker

Two years ago, University President Bob Bruininks said one day he wanted the University to be recognized as much for the way it operates as it is for its education quality.

To help meet that goal, the University implemented a new office last week.

The Office of Service and Continuous Improvement will help University units and individuals improve efficiency, operations and customer service, Bruininks said.

“This will lead to more investment in research at the University of Minnesota,” he said.

The new office has been in the works since 2002, he said.

After a nationwide search, the University appointed Scott Martens as director of the office.

Martens previously worked for American Express as the senior program director for business transformation. He is also an adjunct professor in the Carlson School of Management, teaching graduate and undergraduate courses in operations and quality management.

The office will collaborate with University departments to work through financial constraints and help continue to make positive improvements, he said.

“Crisis creates a sense of urgency,” Martens said. “It’s a good and bad thing.”

Martens said he will work to reduce the time it takes to complete tasks at the University, such as filling out paperwork and registering for classes.

He will then express that increased productivity in financial terms.

“Money is the language all people in America understand,” he said. “When we reduce the time it takes to do things, we’ll ask ‘how can we put dollar signs into this?’ “

Showing constituents the amount the University is saving will increase institutional support, Martens said.

The office will work closely with many departments instead of taking over their decision-making processes, Martens said.

In the future, Martens said he also hopes his office will provide internship opportunities to University students.

John Anderson, associate dean of administration at the Carlson School, will serve as the faculty liaison for the Office of Service and Continuous Improvement.

Anderson said the office will be a valuable tool in overseeing service improvements and cost reductions.

“I think the University, like all universities in the U.S., is undergoing a fundamental change in economics and the way it does business,” he said. “And I think that we, like everyone else in the industry, have got to find a way to do more with less.”

But the office will not be solely responsible for changes made at the University, he said.

“I don’t see this office as being like a SWAT team that jumps in the middle of a college and says ‘this is how you do it,’ ” he said. “They will instead create an atmosphere at this University to all work together.”

Last year, the improved information technology saved the University $7 million. Bruininks said recent technology investments will save the University an additional $26 million in the next five years.

“There are a number of ambitious projects we plan to announce that are coming out of this office,” Bruininks said. “This initiative will help us to continuously improve our service and give direct support to other students at the University.”