Time for Change: Collaboration for Improved Communication, Productivity

Consistently ranked among the top public universities in the United States, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill offers its 26,000 students academic programs that span more than 100 disciplines. Coordinating the administration of a university of this size and stature is a monumental task.

Like many higher education institutions, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is challenged to continually improve operational efficiency across campus. The university consistently looks to the promise of new technologies—to streamline processes and elevate the productivity of its staff and faculty.

Recently, the university identified an opportunity to use technology innovation to improve its scheduling capability. We did not have an integrated, standardized electronic system for scheduling appointments within and across departments. Faculty and staff relied on paper calendars, personal digital assistants, and a variety of disparate software systems to manage their schedules. As such, scheduling even the simplest meeting between departments was often a time-consuming and labor-intensive process.

The university decided to implement an integrated calendar solution that would elevate productivity and allow individuals from different departments to easily access each other's calendars to schedule meetings and events.

To solve our scheduling challenge, we examined several vendor solutions and looked at developing our own internal solution. We determined that the “build” strategy would require extensive financial and skill resources and would be a time-consuming process. It would clearly not be the best use of the university’s resources. Instead, we focused on finding the vendor solution that would best meet the university’s needs.

To achieve the goals of streamlined scheduling capabilities, improved efficiency and cost savings, the university required a solution that would:

• Simplify and consolidate existing systems.
• Provide access campus-wide to faculty and staff regardless of platform.
• Provide high security for sensitive scheduling information.
• Prove to be highly reliable and scalable.

An additional consideration was the selection of a vendor that would offer long-term stability.

We installed the Oracle Calendar, part of the Oracle Collaboration Suite, in August 2002 and today have more than 5,000 users from every department of the institution. Staff and faculty users can easily access the system through Microsoft Outlook, the Web and wireless connections, saving coordination time and boosting productivity.

In addition to scheduling meetings and tracking schedules, faculty and staff are using the system’s alert feature to remind them of appointments. Users now receive scheduling reminders via a range of platforms, from e-mail reminders to alerts received via personal scheduling devices. The solution makes it hard to miss an appointment.

The system has also proven itself to be highly available and reliable. With a large number of departments using the system—and a limited number of IT staff to support the system—reliability was an important factor in the university’s decision. As important, the solution is secure and has the capability to scale to a large number of users.

The new calendaring system quickly became engrained into everyday life at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, and has literally, changed the way we work. Staff members from different departments can easily schedule meetings and access each other’s calendars—something we were not able to do before. The university has had widespread acceptance of the system at all levels of the organization—from the executive staff to the administrative team. With the integrated calendar system, the chancellor’s office can see departmental calendars, greatly improving visibility and communication throughout the university.
Moving forward, the university plans to roll out Oracle Calendar to its 26,000 students. This next phase will integrate all students, faculty and staff on one calendar system for the first time, taking productivity and communication to an even higher level.

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