Dear Colleagues,
As promised, we are beginning to provide regular updates on the work of the Budget Response Teams. This email covers our progress toward our $30 million cost-cutting target, updates from individual BRTs, and common questions and answers.
Here’s the Gain
We can be proud of the progress we’ve made so far. As you will see in the accompanying graphic, we’ve captured $6.6 million in Budget Response Team savings. These are real dollars – equivalent to a 2 percent tuition increase – a credit to BRT members and other campus personnel who are working hard to implement cost-reduction plans with the simultaneous goal of moving the university forward in these challenging times.
These Savings Have Not Been Painless
Most of our savings so far have come from position eliminations, not surprising since the bulk of university spending goes toward personnel. We’ve cut 61 positions so far through attrition and eliminating unfilled positions. These are all jobs that under better circumstances we would have wanted to fill as they existed or to redirect to new tasks. Their elimination means campuses are having to do more with less.
Our savings are on track, but we still have a ways to go. And, the seriousness of our state’s fiscal challenges was made even more clear a few weeks ago when Nebraska’s economic forecasting board lowered revenue projections further. It will take sacrifice and a real commitment to change on all our parts to reach our $30 million target.
Thank You
I have spent the past several weeks meeting and listening to hundreds of staff, faculty and administrators across the NU system. On each occasion, I have been impressed by everyone's commitment to our educational mission in spite of the challenges we face. Your feedback, suggestions and willingness to work in new and different ways are making a difference. With your continued involvement, I believe we will not only manage this challenge, but also help the State of Nebraska grow its way to a stronger future in the days ahead.
Marjorie Kostelnik
Senior Associate to the President

Reduction Target

Communications Update

The communication BRT is working to align strategy and focus on key communication priorities, which includes looking carefully at dollars spent on events, marketing and advertising, software, printing, media buys, etc. An estimated 2/3 of non-personnel communication spend is on printing and promotional items like pens, t-shirts, coasters, and other giveaways. These items are not trackable as far as results go, and provide little evidence of return on investment.
Communication budget response team members from across the University will be working with Procurement and Printing to develop university-wide guidelines for printing and promotional items. This will help ensure communication and marketing dollars are spent strategically across the institution. The guidelines will be informed by an ongoing review of current dollars spent, and the team will seek faculty and staff input before the guidelines are finalized and distributed. If you would like to offer feedback or participate in a listening session about these strategies, please email the Team Chair (Jackie Ostrowicki).

Human Resources Update

The HR/Payroll budget response team has been reviewing the feedback and ideas generated by faculty and staff regarding the 1/4 sick leave payout and maximum vacation balance strategies. Several thoughtful comments and possible alternatives to leave-related strategies were suggested and are currently being evaluated. An announcement has gone out that these leave-related strategies will not be implemented before 2019, and a comprehensive review of the university's benefits plan is being conducted in order to weigh all options.
The NU Flex benefits process, which just completed the open enrollment period, was conducted 100% electronically for active employees. Using a completely electronic process will save time and money, and eliminate printing and postage expenses.
Human Resources contracts with outside firms to provide services such as employment and criminal history background checks. A review of all HR outside vendor contracts is currently underway, with the goal of potentially folding some (or all of) the contracts together in order to leverage the purchasing power of all campuses.

ITS Update

Information Technology Services (ITS) began in Spring of 2017 with the OneIT initiative, which reorganized four of the five central campus ITS units into a unified division that aligned to the strategic needs of the University of Nebraska and each campus. The new ITS organization will help to maintain a high level of services, increase security capabilities, and drive significant cost savings through economies of scale.
Year 1 BRT savings have been realized through personnel attrition, reduction in operating costs such as mobile and data stipends, and technology efficiencies.

Printing Update

The Printing and Copying BRT implementation team has expanded its team expertise by including key experts from other BRT areas to support implementation of each strategy. For example, a current working group is developing printing and copying guidelines. New members of this working group are university-wide experts from communications, procurement, ITS, and the general counsel office.
This collaborative effort is also working through a multi-phase plan to review draft plans, processes and guidelines, with opportunities for feedback from units that have high volumes of printing/copying and opportunities for feedback from campus faculty senates, student governments, and staff advisory councils.

Procurement Update

Our newly united Procurement team is driving savings through system-wide contract negotiation. For example, one recently signed agreement resulted in a $45,000 savings over the pricing that individual campuses would have received.
The team is also beginning a series of meetings and surveys to gather feedback from university employees on major cost-savings initiatives, including a significant reduction in desktop printers, updated policies related to use of university vehicles, and the switch from branded to private brand office supplies. The team will use the employee feedback to devise implementation plans that best meet employees’ work needs while reducing overall costs.
If you have questions about desktop printers, contact Bob Goeman; university vehicles, contact Patrick Barrett; or office supplies, contact Roger Spiehs. If you would like to take part in a discussion group on any of the above topics, please share your contact information here.

BRT Mythbuster

As organizations carry out significant changes in their operations, rumors abound and myths make the rounds. Here are two examples.
Myth 1: On a certain date someone will sweep through the NU campuses, confiscating all desktop printers.
Myth 2: NU is going to throw away or sell all desktop printers.
Finding: Not true. The Procurement BRT proposed that the use of desktop printers on all NU campuses be significantly reduced, not completely eliminated. A plan is being developed to address this proposal. It will include an opportunity for campus users to provide feedback on how printer reductions will occur and under what circumstances printer reductions will happen.

Travel Update

In travel, budget response team members from all four campuses are working to develop a university-wide travel policy to ensure consistency and efficiency across the institution. The policy will be informed by an ongoing review of current campus practices, and once it is drafted, the team will seek faculty and staff input before it’s finalized.
Implementation of the finalized policy will be aided by the new Concur software, designed to simplify and streamline travel reporting. The Concur software was approved for purchase by the Board of Regents in August and is targeted for full implementation by June 30, 2018.

You Asked, We Answered

500 and counting—that’s how many emails we have received through the BRT website and the President’s office mailbox! Thank you to everyone who has written with reactions, recommendations and new ideas. Every email has been archived, themes have been identified, and many ideas have been shared with the relevant BRT group for use in their deliberations. Here is an example of a concern that came in through the President’s Office, and our response.
My biggest concern with the BRT process is the seeming lack of input by college or department staff who are directly affected by many of these recommendations – such as the reorganization of communication teams and streamlining of unit business operations. To be effective, planning and implementation of streamlined operations and processes should have the active involvement and input of personnel at all levels. This cannot just be a top-down process.
An NU Employee
Dear NU Employee,
The BRT Team agrees that getting input from those most affected by each BRT proposal is important. Here’s how that is happening. In Stage 1 of the BRT process, the proposal planning and design, more than 100 people were directly involved in developing the strategies currently under consideration. We relied on their expertise to get things started. Several teams solicited feedback from staff who carry out the work – and many of those suggestions were incorporated into the proposals that are now available on-line.
Now that the final BRT proposals have been approved by the Chancellors and the President, we have entered Stage 2 of the process—installation. Although the outcomes have been identified, the means for achieving these ends are still open to comment. The BRT teams have received many ideas and suggestions that they are currently considering. Those ideas will shape how the proposals are carried out. Our hope is that will avert the ‘top-down’ condition over which you’ve expressed concern. I hope personnel at all levels of the university will take advantage of this comment period to express their observations and thoughts on implementation, as you have done.
Best wishes,
We want to hear your thoughts and comments. This is a very important time when we are testing our assumptions and refining how these plans will be executed. Please email direct feedback to, or submit anonymous feedback through this form.