Delegated Authority Student Decisions Project
By Iseult Ó Síocháin, UCD Registry
When I took up a secondment as Deputy Director of Assessment in September 2017, it was clear that there would be a steep learning curve to familiarise myself with the policies, procedures and operations of the unit. After a number of months and with one Exams session under my belt, I felt I’d gotten to grips with things. However there was one process that seemed difficult to fully comprehend and which was giving rise to regular issues – Delegated Authority Student Decisions. For the uninitiated, that’s the mechanism through which decisions on student related matters are decided upon by UCD’s 22 Governing Boards, communicated to Registry, and actioned . This was being carried out as a paper based activity, with the responsibility sitting across both the Assessment and Admin Services teams.
Problems that were surfacing from the team members and from users within Programme Offices and Graduate Schools centred mainly around an over reliance on tacit knowledge , variable turnaround times, invalid information leading to processing errors and limited transparency on request status or completion. In January 2018 the opportunity came up to take part in Green Belt training, and following discussions with Michael and Olga in Agile, it was clear that a process improvement in this area could create significant impact across the University. I was able to get approval for the project, and critically, secure time with EAG to ensure that the IT elements could be developed. The objective was to use Lean Six Sigma methodology to redesign and streamline the process with the aim of delivering improved quality, effectiveness and efficiency.
A project team was set up with members of Assessment, Admin Services and EAG. To understand the ‘Voice of the Customer’, consultation was carried out across the Registry teams as well as Programme Offices, Graduate Schools and Schools. Data was gathered and analysed on the volume of incoming requests, turnaround times and error rates. A review of the decision categories and definitions was conducted, as well as an investigation of the causes of the variable processing times. Over the summer, an online workflow was developed with a range of features including a standard list of decisions options, data validation, the ability to track decision requests, and on-screen checklists to ensure accuracy of processing. By October, we were ready to roll out the new process. (We were also ready for a holiday).
Six months out, we can see how the new process has delivered a significant improvement in processing accuracy and turnaround time (reduced from 9 to 5.5 working days). Importantly, it is clear and intuitive for system users, providing them with the necessary transparency and assurance of task completion. A full suite of reports now ensures the University has oversight over the student related decisions taken by Governing Boards, facilitating improved review, audit and monitoring. As is often the case, there were some great ideas and suggestions which we couldn’t implement in this project but it leaves plenty to think about for the next iteration!