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Expert Advice: Going with the Workflow

By Stacey L. Murren


In June, the International Association of Conference Centres (IACC) delivered the first-ever IACC Americas Innovation award to the team at the University of California Irvine Student Center & Event Services for its “Real-Time Ops” app that was designed to improve staff communications and the overall customer experience. Beating out finalists including Electro-Media Design and Sodexo, the award was a prominent distinction and one that the team prides itself on after creating meaningful change in its own organization with the self-made app that has delivered proven results.

“One of the key elements I use to measure efficiency is the ability to communicate effectively,” says Director Stacey L. Murren. “And one of the key things that repeatedly comes up in surveys is that folks want to feel that they have some decent communication, that they are in the know. We are a 24/7 operation, and as a director it’s hard for me to know all the things that are happening throughout the day.” As such, the “Real-Time Opps” app started out as a channel for delivering daily shift reports and as more came in, the team developed more categories. “But what was happening was that the reports were based on individual recall and things were being left out, so we moved to real time.” The app now has a record of activity the moment it happens, “and by the end of the evening the user has gathered info on everything that they could possibly have experienced, and the findings are shared with the entire management staff and other team members,” says Murren. “That allows me at the end of the month to see if there’s any type of repeating problems or to know if I’m not giving staff the tools they need or if we don’t have the right equipment. So it allows me to evaluate the organization efficiently as well.”

Currently the app is solely being used in-house, “but two other universities would like to use it,” says Murren, excited by the fact that she and her team could have made something that could revolutionize the industry.

Inspired by the award-winning app, here Murren shares her tips for creating workflow efficiencies that are adaptable to any organization.

-As directors or CEOs, we spend a lot of time gathering data and doing data analysis to see what our key drivers are. I do not believe that is a starting point for anyone overseeing a large operation. Decisions based only on data analysis or key drivers become rather ambiguous. How do you figure out what it is you need to measure? The place I always start is spending a huge amount of time training my staff in efficiency models. There are many of them; the one I have used is the Baldridge Award. You don’t have to apply for the award but train staff in terms of thinking about models or concepts. It’s critical that people that report to you are trained in how to look at efficiencies.

-Once they have a periphery idea of efficiency, each staff member needs to map out their processes that they will be using, all the way from ordering A/V equipment to janitorial supplies. At every level they need to map out processes they do on a daily basis. When you look at those processes, teach the staff to identify where the customer has a touchpoint.

-The next step is to figure out how much time it takes to do all of these processes. I ask our staff to do time journaling beginning when they get to work until they leave, and they do that for an entire month. Then we can go back together and look at evaluating which of those processes or components is taking up the most time. Once they have figured that out, the magic happens and you start to solve those problems. One other example we developed was a leveling up program. We start every new hire at level 1, and teach them the skills they need to be efficient at the first level and give them an idea of what they need to learn to get to the second level. In so doing, our training program went from a timespan of 12 months to 7 months.

-After you have implemented these steps, then you can analyze the data and see where the cost savings are. Some ideas won’t bring you huge cost savings necessarily but you will address customers’ needs and that is priceless. I tell our staff to stop thinking about it as an employee but become the customer and figure out how the process should work from their viewpoint. The ability to empathize and be on other end is invaluable.

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University of California, Irvine
Irvine, CA
(949) 824.5252

Stacey L. Murren is a 26-year veteran in team-building and leadership at the University of California, Irvine. Murren is currently responsible for the management of the UCI Student Center conference and event planning services. Murren has been honored with many personal and professional awards in her career including the Student Service Award from the Associated Graduate Students, Commitment to Excellence-Management and Organizational Patterns Award, the California Council Quality Award for Team Excellence, the United States Environmental Protection Agency Award, Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award, UC Irvine Living Our Values Award, the Best Practice Award for Energy Efficiency and Sustainability for the Student/Conference Center, and most recently the 2018 IACC innovation award.