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Updated 11:00 AM January 16, 2006




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Forecasting tool will help Medical School weather faculty changes

The Medical School is developing an innovative tool to create rolling five-year forecasts that link the activities of faculty to the resources necessary for them to do their jobs.

For example, the new tool will look at the number of faculty likely to retire in a given time period when forecasting the funds needed to recruit and support young faculty as they set up laboratories and pursue grant funding.

While it is not uncommon for academic units to use forecasting as a budgeting tool, U-M may be the only medical school in the country to incorporate both financial and non-financial resources—such as space and staff—that departments are expected to need based on where faculty are in their careers. The tool defines three career phases—phase-up, mid and retirement pending—in recognition that faculty have varying resource needs in each of the phases.

"As a result of this process and the combination of financial and non-financial information, the school will better be able to quickly identify capacity constraints, financially stable or unstable activity, and opportunities to reduce cost," says Bill Elger, executive director for administration and CFO of the Medical School.

The project began in September and is managed by Paul Salow, chief department administrator of anesthesiology. He oversees six department administrator-led teams that are working with Medical School Administration and Medical School Information Services to develop the process and information technology that will create a five-year rolling forecast application.

"This application will use one central database, replacing the numerous spreadsheets used in the prior process," Salow says. "This will significantly improve forecast data aggregation and reporting capability."

"The collaboration among the departments to develop the forecasting tool along such a demanding timeline has been impressive," says Dr. Allen Lichter, Medical School dean. "The new tool will make it easier for us to predict space needs, faculty and staff levels and the grants to sustain our research, clinical and education enterprise."

All Medical School departments starting in February 2006 will use the forecasting computer application. The resulting forecasts for fiscal years 2007-11 will be reviewed and approved in June.

"By developing a forecasting tool on this scale, the Medical School is changing the landscape of resource management and budgeting at Michigan and beyond," says Timothy Slottow, U-M executive vice president and CFO. "Incorporating the faculty impact on the school's expected financial needs is truly innovative."

Dr. Robert Kelch, executive vice president for medical affairs and U-M Health System CEO, says that a forecasting tool like the one being designed and implemented by the Medical School also will help strengthen the long-term planning and financial management of the Health System.

"When the forecasting tool goes live, it really marks only the beginning," Kelch says. "As the tool becomes a standard part of the management process, it will undergo continuous improvement as more valuable management information is identified, incorporated and made available to Medical School users."

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