Apr 10, 2017 | Atlanta, GA
Steve Swant, executive vice president for Administration and Finance, talked with employees about physical and workplace capabilities for Georgia Tech’s future success in a town hall event held April 6 in the Engineered Biosystems Building. The event was the third of three Conversations with Senior Leaders sessions held this spring.
Swant shared his seasoned perspective from being at Georgia Tech for the past 20 years as part of 33 years in higher education to date. He talked about challenges through the years, including the controlling the costs of education, compliance issues, cybersecurity, efficiency and renewal of systems, and financial capacity. “Despite challenges, Georgia Tech has always found a path forward and the capacity to pursue it vigorously and successfully,” he said.
He talked about the need to envision and plan for facilities well into the future. “We anticipated this building (EBB) 10 years before we got support for it because we knew we wanted to continue to grow life sciences. We used the same long-term approach with Coda, and we continue to plan for long-term growth,” he said. When planning for both facilities, they brought together faculty and staff from several colleges to provide input into current and anticipated needs. He said that one of Georgia Tech’s strengths is its interdisciplinary approach, and our willingness to use our campus as a test lab.
Swant commented that when he arrived at Georgia Tech, it had 8 million square feet of space. Today, that number tops 15 million, almost double that of 20 years ago. In addition to physical capacity and capabilities, he addressed workforce and leadership, financial capacity, and renewal of systems.
Swant described two such transformations that impact how we manage and construct our physical campus. For four years, the internally focused “Smart Campus” research partnership between Facilities Management and the Aerospace Systems Design Laboratory (ASDL) has focused on harnessing millions of utility data points to optimize systems, identify anomalies, and model and simulate future opportunities on the infrastructure and utilities supporting Georgia Tech’s campus.
In design and construction, partnership with the College of Design and leading corporations has led to the incorporation of integrated design, construction, and project delivery techniques that save money, increase communication, and reduce change orders and delays on major capital projects. Utilizing the “5D” approach to planning/design/build, Georgia Tech is creating a cutting-edge learning and operational opportunity for faculty, students, and staff in designing better buildings more quickly and effectively.
The Institute continues to look for alternatives to generate revenue. He gave the new Online Master of Science in Computer Science, or OMS-CS, as an example of a program that is meeting the need for lifetime learning while creating a new source of revenue. A new OMS-Analytics has been approved by the Board of Regents. He talked about the power of making incremental improvements in liquidity and cash flow, maximizing use of space, and sustainable practices. “We continue to look for projects on campus with a strong ROI,” he said. “For example, through sustainable practices, we have been operating for several years with the utility budget at the same level,” he said.
Swant noted that tomorrow’s technologies will be supported by the Cloud, which could solve some of the problems that the Institute has carried for the past two decades. “We will implement that in a rapid fashion. It will require all of us to jump in and adapt to changes, including some compromises, but it will be well worth it, “he said. Swant emphasized the need to gain efficiencies in the way we support IT services, working to eliminate redundancies.
During Q&A he has asked about the need to change business practices to be compatible with new Cloud software. “Workday will tell you that they are seeing some significant numbers in efficiencies, some in the 30 to 40% range,” he said. “We encourage the campus to accept this cutting-edge product. We may not see everything we need at first, but we need to have careful conversations about how we can adapt,” he said.