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CWU Tech Overhaul Cuts Costs, Speeds Business


Central Washington University has retired 70 servers, saved tens of thousands of staff hours, and eliminated more than 41,000 signatures as the result of a two-year overhaul of its old paper systems. The project, improving Central Applications and Technology (iCAT), also reduced the purchasing cycle by 80 percent and cut more than 100,000 pieces of paper annually.

“iCAT was an intensive, super-charged effort to accomplish in three years what normally would have taken a decade,” said Gene Shoda, interim vice president for Operations. “The transformation has improved student services, as well as the precision and speed of our business information systems.”

Shoda explained that the transformation was driven by the necessity to communicate with digital platforms already adopted by students and the private sector. CWU also recognized the need to continually evaluate business processes--and to know, with greater precision, what optimization opportunities exist.

iCAT launched a data warehouse that standardized data definitions and collection processes, which positively impact CWU decisions on budgets, program priority setting, purchasing, and hiring. Shoda said the transformation touched just about every aspect of university business, including the complex and well-established traditions surrounding faculty promotion and tenure.  iCAT introduced “Faculty 180,” software designed specifically to track the diverse work of faculty. The software made obsolete hundreds of three-ring binders and filing cabinets of paper with digital records, which faculty can now post to or update with the click of a mouse.

“The new systems help us direct money, assign space, and deploy people exactly where they are most needed,” said Shoda. “We know more about our work than we ever have and can see and understand the information better than ever.”

Shoda said the iCAT project also established a new change-management culture. iCAT involved users in the development and implementation of systems, rather than just announcing an “upgrade.” The project set up a comprehensive review process for technology purchasing along with a standard for continuous review and improvement.

“We know we can’t just update a system and forget about it,” said Shoda. “Our ‘implement-adapt-and-evolve’ approach reviews the original projects to see what works and how we can continue to evolve to take advantage of new and emerging technologies, and fulfill changing university needs.”

By digitizing outdated paper processes, 12,000 pieces of paper no longer require CWU printing and storage. In addition, Central saved an estimated 25,000 hours of staff time. Consolidation of software licenses also produced considerable cost savings for the university, as has the elimination of extraneous servers, which also cuts repair and maintenance costs significantly.

Other key changes included an overhaul of campus cyber security, with new and enhanced policies and procedures, along wth encryption and masking of sensitive data. CWU shed an outdated e-mail and calendaring system and replaced it with Microsoft Outlook. Its adoption came with a companion launch of the Office 365 productivity software, and infrastructure changes to campus Internet services.

“These changes are an important part of our ability to support the university’s future and provide improving services to students that are more connected than ever before,” said Shoda.

Shoda said the project could not have been completed so quickly without the determined and consistent leadership of former Chief of Staff Sherer Holter, Vice President of Operations Steve DeSoer, and Chief Information Security Officer Andreas Bohman.

More high-tech changes are on the horizon. In the 2016, CWU will also unveil an updated website, designed to accommodate mobile-device users as well as desktop clients.

Media contact: Gene Shoda, CWU interim vice president for Operations, 509-963-2777, shodag@cwu.edu

December 23, 2015