YaleNext reforms already underway

The first batch of reforms under the banner of YaleNext appeared over the summer, and more are on the way this fall.

The multimillion-dollar upgrade of Yale’s internal computer systems — dubbed YaleNext — aims to make the University’s business operations more consistent and efficient. The project’s cost, which was not disclosed, has been scaled back some 60 percent and spread out over a longer timetable because of the recession.

This summer, a new employee services center opened to handle most basic human resources transactions. All employees can call this centralized office on Whitney Avenue, where about a dozen staffers assist them using the same technology as corporate customer service representatives.

“It actually works,” said Anne Murray-Randolph, the new assistant vice president for strategic projects and communications who was brought to Yale last fall to help the administration communicate with the staff on YaleNext.

Most questions can be answered by center staff immediately, and the rest within 24 hours, Murray-Randolph said.

Other efforts over the summer, she said, focused on introducing all the enabling software that lays the groundwork for future reforms, including a new server, a new database and a new expense reporting system.

Under pressure to reduce costs because of the University’s darkening financial forecast, about 30 percent of the 100 or so consultants working on the project have been sent home, Murray-Randolph said.

Meanwhile, the savings from YaleNext are already starting to appear. For example, the new expense-management system is projected to save the University $500,000 a year, Murray-Randolph said. Yale can also save $700,000 by confining all computer purchases to a preset slate of Apple and Dell configurations.

And new budget-modeling software, which will debut this fall, will help administrators avoid many of the difficulties that plagued last year’s stressful budget planning, when mapping budget scenarios using older technology proved time-consuming and imprecise.

The University has also consolidated its software that manages online content into a single system, using a different one than previously planned because it was four times cheaper, Murray-Randolph said. The administration is also in the final stages of testing a new central portal, similar to undergraduates’ YaleStation Web site, due at the end of the month.

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