Striving for efficiency

(From left) Yurong Hu, Sandra Smith and Pam Anders from the UF College of Medicine's Research Administration and Compliances Office received the 2012 Prudential-Davis Productivity Award. Photo by Jesse J. Jones

A high level of productivity within a unit of the UF College of Medicine doesn’t just benefit the college; it also contributes to the wellbeing of the whole university and the economy of the state.

To recognize state employees whose work significantly and measurably increases productivity, the state government’s initiative, Prudential-Davis Productivity Award, rewards winners each year.

In March, Sandra Smith, Yurong Hu and Pam Anders from the college’s Research Administration and Compliances Office learned they were among the 2012 winners. The three will attend the local award ceremony in June.

“They are stars,” said Yvonne Brinson, R.N., M.H.Sc., assistant dean of research administration and compliance, who nominated her staff members for the award. “These three women came together when they saw a need, even though they are not typically in a team together on a daily basis.”

Smith, the office’s research programs and services coordinator, noticed that the process to manage the office budget was frustrating and time-consuming. To teach such process to other staff members also took a lot of energy and often resulted in a high percentage of error. So she voluntarily started looking for a solution at the end of 2010.

“For so many years, we used large Excel spreadsheets to manually track our financial data,” Smith said. “When we reconciled our monthly budget, sometimes we needed to insert additional lines, which would then shift the entire spreadsheet and cause problems with the formulas. It was inefficient.”

To address this issue, Smith and Hu, management analysis coordinator, designed and built a financial tracking system in Access. The features of the system include a minimized reconciliation time and easily configurable reports to meet the needs of different users. The tools in the new system have eliminated the errors that would normally have occurred with Excel and has significantly reduced the amount of time spent tracking financial data.

“It’s a more efficient system that provides snapshots of our finances at any given time,” Hu said. “When management wants data, they don’t always want to see a long list of confusing numbers. With just a few clicks, we can give them either a high level or detailed report.”

Anders, who was the primary user of the spreadsheet, said adjusting to the new process was easy and it saved a lot of time and energy. Based on her user experience, Smith and Hu kept improving the system to better meet their needs.

“There’s always room to be efficient,” Smith said.