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"New programs launched to help staff during shift to new administrative systems"
Marvie Viado landed her first job at Stanford 11 years ago as a temporary typist for the university's Travel and Reimbursement department.
She went on to become a permanent typist and, for the last five years, held the position of accounting assistant reviewing travel receipts and ensuring that individuals, schools and departments are reimbursed properly.
In some respects, says Viado, 31, she felt more secure about her job prospects at Stanford when she first began as a temporary typist than she did a few months ago, when she learned about the ambitious restructuring efforts under way to overhaul 22 different administrative information processes.
"Everybody is afraid. You never know if you are going to get laid off," Viado said in a June 15 interview. Whereas typing used to be a skill that was in high demand across campus, the task of reimbursing people for travel- related expenses is more narrowly defined and may become outdated under the new system.
So when Viado learned she was one of three employees chosen to participate in a cross-training program with other university departments, she jumped at the chance to try her hand at learning new skills.
Three months later, she was offered a position as an administrative associate for a group of project managers at Information Systems.
"At first it was hard to adjust," she said, from her receptionist's desk on the second floor of 857 Serra Street. "I had been with Travel and Reimbursement for 11 years. There, I did most of my work over the telephone. Now I have more person-to-person contact. I realize I can do more things."
The cross-training program is one of a series of efforts being launched by the BuyPay reengineering team to assist employees in Accounts Payable (AP), Travel and Reimbursement, and Procurement offices who will be directly affected by the group's efforts to expedite the way university employees buy and pay for goods.
The BuyPay team has been taking a hard look at Stanford's system of transactions since January 1994. The group has designed a new system that will allow managers to receive reports that track spending after the fact; put in place purchasing cards to speed up the processing of routine, low-risk transactions; and launch campuswide agreements with airlines, hotels, car rental and travel agencies, and equipment suppliers to help reduce business costs. The changes, which are scheduled to be completed by September 1996, will save Stanford an estimated $4 million by the second year of implementation, according to a 1995 study.
Since the restructuring effort will employ new technology and new ways of thinking to reduce costs and improve efficiency, many employees will have to retool their skills to fit new work patterns, said Whayne Herriford, associate controller, who is part of the BuyPay reengineering group that is streamlining procurement processes.
"A lot of times, employees in central offices become so specialized at something that their ability to move into a department job that is less specialized is very difficult," Herriford said. "I think it builds up impressions that they can't do it and that it's scary."
As a result, Herriford's group has initiated the cross-training program for staff from AP and Travel; sponsored brown bag lunches so that employees from the central offices can compare notes about their jobs with administrators in schools and departments; and encouraged staff from the offices of AP, Travel and Procurement to attend a seven-week career management session to enhance their jobs skills. Software also has been loaded onto computers in AP and Travel so that staff may learn wordprocessing and spreadsheet programs like Microsoft Word and Excel at their own pace.
"Reengineering, while it probably means changes and in fact may mean downsizing, doesn't mean people have to leave the university if they don't want to," said Herriford, who has made a commitment to secure jobs for all employees who might be displaced as a result of the restructuring.
Under the new system, an estimated 80 percent of transactions eventually will be handled by a new BuyPay Information System, a graphically based computerized ordering system that will allow employees to acquire goods from their desks.
Consequently, the offices of Procurement, Accounts Payable and Travel and Reimbursement will be merged into a new organization called Stanford Acquisition Support (SAS), which will be made up of about 40 people who will focus on complicated transactions that require specialized attention. The combined staff of the three departments is currently about 50, so staffing will have to be reduced.
"There are more issues to deal with than just the absolute numerical issue that perhaps there will be 10 fewer positions," Herriford said. "The nature and scope of the new positions may or may not lend themselves to the existing employees."
That's why the training programs are so important, Herriford said. "They've been specifically designed to help employees' career development and job searches during the next six months, so that they will be better positioned to move into the new SAS organization, move to another university job or find a job outside of the university when these departments are restructured," he said.
Another area that will be affected by administrative changes is the University Central Stores. Stores is one of the places from which schools and departments acquire a variety of goods, from lab equipment to office and janitorial supplies. Because the BuyPay system opens the door for campuswide agreements with outside suppliers, a significant chunk of Stores' operations will be curtailed.
"We are going to substantially reorganize and downsize [Stores] as we move away from providing certain supplies," said Susan Webert, director of procurement, who emphasized that Stores is not closing. "That is not the design at this point."
Webert said there will be reductions in personnel during the next six months, but said she could not estimate how large the reductions will be because that depends on the number and types of agreements that are worked out with outside vendors.
Although the campuswide agreements will determine the degree to which Stores will be reduced and modified, Webert said the operation has been on a downward trend for a while. "I have been here about a year and a half and even prior to my coming, it was obvious that Stores was having difficulty breaking even."
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