University Business Magazine Honors Northern Arizona University For Being A "Model Of Efficiency"

Share Article

Northern Arizona University is being honored by University Business magazine in its spring 2014 “Models of Efficiency” national recognition program.

Northern Arizona University is one of eight colleges and universities nationwide being honored by University Business magazine in its spring 2014 “Models of Efficiency” national recognition program. Sponsored by Higher One, a leader in providing financial services and data analytics to more than 1,900 college and university campuses across the U.S., the Models of Efficiency program recognizes innovative approaches for streamlining higher education operations through technology and/or business process improvements.

“Northern Arizona took a proven, practiced approach to solving their marketing efficiency challenges and it served them well,” said Tim Goral, senior editor of University Business. “They have done an excellent job in reducing both time and costs across the department.”

For years, The Extended Campuses of Northern Arizona University (NAU-Extended Campuses) operated using a traditional marketing model. The four-person team would create a plan and budget at the beginning of the year and tie its goals and specific projects to it. Freelancers and local ad agencies provided support for the 50 or so collateral pieces produced annually. That model worked until 2010, when digital media expectations increased.

The department reorganized several times, but never found a structure that would enable greater productivity with fewer resources. Then in 2011, leadership infused new thinking and tactics such as shared services and the lean approach.

Next, they discovered agile marketing, where annual marketing plans are replaced with shorter-term bursts of focus. With a traditional approach, projects would be assigned to a single individual, with freelance graphic designers for support. “Now we can break down a big project and assign pieces to individuals within the department [based on skills and availability] and get the whole thing done in two weeks,” says Tara Cobourn, marketing manager.

Reducing the amount of work outsourced has had a positive impact on cost savings and resource efficiency. By pursuing a shared-services model with the technology team, marketing and IT now rely on a single in-house design group for support. Significant time was saved in not having to bring outside consultants up-to-speed at the start of a project, as internal team members were already briefed. This has enabled the team to hire more full-time writers and part-time designers.

In 2013, marketing created more than 200 collateral pieces—quadruple the number from the previous year. Yet the department is less stressed, and there are fewer meetings. The team holds just one hour of meetings a week. In addition, twice-weekly 15-minute scrums are a big contributor to the improved efficiency, as they help people stay accountable and share information without wasting time.

Overall, outside agencies and freelancers have been all but eliminated, resulting in a cost savings of 20 percent. Productivity is up 400 percent, and sprint tasks have a near-95 percent completion rate. Most important, however, client satisfaction increased by more than 30 percent in six months.

In addition to Northern Arizona University, spring 2014 Models of Efficiency honorees include: Salisbury University (Md.); Texas A&M Health Science Center; University of Colorado; University of Iowa; University of Massachusetts; University of Pittsburgh and University of Wisconsin-Platteville.

Models of Efficiency is an ongoing recognition program. Higher ed institutions can participate in upcoming rounds by visiting

The program is sponsored by Higher One, a leading company that offers a wide array of technological services on campus, ranging from streamlining the institution’s performance analytics and financial aid refund processes to offering students innovative banking services, tuition payment plans and the basics of financial management. Higher One works closely with colleges and universities by allocating resources more efficiently to provide a higher quality of service and using data to impact success with a focus on empowering students.

“The spring 2014 Models of Efficiency honorees have done an excellent job achieving process improvements and operational efficiencies in their higher ed institutions,” said Casey McGuane, chief operating officer of Higher One. “We are pleased to recognize their efforts alongside University Business.”

About University Business
University Business is the leading publication for senior managers at colleges and universities throughout the United States, reaching 75,000 leaders who manage enrollment, technology, business, finance, facilities and academic affairs. More information is available at

About Higher One
Higher One partners with colleges and universities to lower their administrative costs and to improve graduation rates. It provides a broad array of payment, refund disbursement and data analytics and management tools to institutions that help them save money and enhance institutional effectiveness. And for students, it offers financial literacy programs and convenient, flexible and affordable transaction options to help them manage their finances. Higher One is a leader in higher education, supporting more than 1,900 schools and 13 million enrolled students. More information about Higher One can be found at

Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

Adam Wade
Follow >
Northern Arizona University - Extended Campuses
since: 05/2010
Like >
Visit website