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New Model for Shared Services

Chancellor Randy Woodson meets with the team implementing shared services on campus.

The university’s top business and academic leaders have embraced a sweeping change in the way shared services will be implemented on campus over the next two years. Chancellor Randy Woodson, flanked by the provost and the vice chancellor for finance and business, met with the team guiding the effort Tuesday in Winslow Hall. All three offered strong support for the course change.

“Thanks for your courage in thinking differently,” Woodson told the implementation team, composed of business professionals from across campus. “It says that you’re listening and learning from others.”

With Woodson’s support, the team can now move forward with its ongoing effort to streamline business services at NC State.  But instead of organizing Business Operations Centers – or BOCs – around clusters of colleges and units, they’ll organize the new centers around specific finance and human resource services.

For example, the first BOC will be an onboarding center that will coordinate all the activities involved in processing new hires. That center is scheduled to open this spring and will serve every college, department and unit at the university.

Dottie Haynes discusses the BOC implementation plan.

Dottie Haynes, a member of the BOC implementation team, discusses the plan to streamline business services across campus. Photos by Becky Kirkland.

Implementation Continues

Over the coming months, the team will decide which other services will be channeled into BOCs and set a schedule for establishing the centers, which may number six or seven. With the assistance of two task forces and several process improvement groups, the implementation team will look for ways to achieve the greatest economies of scale, along with the highest levels of customer service.

For example, team members have discussed expanding the onboarding center to include other hiring services.

It’s possible that purchasing activities, such as travel authorizations, procurement and accounts payable will be combined in another center. Other functions that may eventually find a home in a BOC include payroll, leave services, position management, and accounts receivable, among others.

The new way of organizing the centers has the advantage of being easier to implement, Woodson said.

“What this team has proposed makes eminent sense,” he said. “Each time a new center is rolled out, people across campus will see the value more quickly, and will find it less disruptive.”

Economic Realities Drive Effort

Provost Warwick Arden said finding the most efficient and effective way of organizing the centers is critical in NC State’s “resource constrained environment.”

“I’m really excited about what will come out of this effort,” he said. “If we can move in the direction you outlined and implement shared services in a way that keeps a close eye on outcomes and measures, then we can really change the way we do business here.”

Vice Chancellor Charles D. Leffler, foreground, endorses a new model for the delivery of finance and HR services across campus.

Vice Chancellor Charles D. Leffler endorses a new model for the delivery of finance and HR services across campus.

The chancellor noted that the move to streamline business services is being driven primarily by economic realities. State support for higher education, while still considerable in North Carolina, has been significantly reduced in recent years due to the economic downturn.

“The desire to move in new directions isn’t a reflection on the quality of the service we’ve provided,” he said. “The faculty and staff are committed to making this a great university. This is a result of the changing dynamics of the world we’re in and what we need to do to be successful moving forward.”

In fact, said Scott Inkley, executive director of university business operations, staff providing business services across the university have performed heroically in the face of budget cuts.

“They’ve been asked to do more and more with fewer and fewer resources,” he told the Bulletin after the meeting. “But that’s not sustainable.”

Inkley said the BOCs will open up new opportunities for many staff members.

“We will be transforming generalists on campus, whose time and attention are being divided by an ever increasing range of tasks, to deep experts in particular business services,” he said.

Communication is Key

Charles D. Leffler, vice chancellor for finance and business, said communicating with faculty and staff about the new model is essential to the success of the project. He joined the chancellor and the provost in offering to help engage the campus community.

Provost Arden

The provost says he’s excited about the opportunity to change the way the university does business.

“It’s incumbent on everyone to be a voice on how we’re going to do this,” he said. “Simply announcing the change isn’t enough. That doesn’t answer all the questions that we know we’re going to get.”

The move to shared services began almost two years ago when the university launched a business realignment effort as part of strategic planning. Currently, finance and human resources services are provided through 36 business offices located within colleges, divisions, departments and units. Consolidating these into BOCs will help NC State achieve higher-quality service at a reduced cost, Inkley said.

He praised the implementation team’s effort to find the best model for the centers.

“We know where we are, we know where we want to be, and we think this is the best way to get there,” he said at Tuesday’s meeting.

A number of university systems are moving to shared services through efforts like the University of Missouri’s Operational Excellence Initiative and the University of California’s UC Path Initiative.

Responses (2 Comments)

  • Bill Thompson

    In my experience, people operating in narrowly-defined “empires” (such as BOC’s) tend to emphasize smooth operation of their empire over the interests of the larger enterprise. So I have to wonder, how is it that we are motivating people in these centers to put faculty success on the top of their agenda? History says you can’t just declare that goal, you need structure to support it.

  • Scott Inkley

    Bill,
    This is a great question.
    Let me say from the start, we do not think of the BOCs as building an empire. We do not want one person more than we absolutely need to provide our customers with the highest quality services that we can. More importantly, we do not view the BOCs as “ours” in the traditional sense. This is shared service, so we see them as yours. Faculty and staff are pooling their resources within the BOCs so that they can get better service at less cost. We take the stewardship of your resources very seriously.

    Yes, we want the centers to work efficiently, effectively and smoothly. We want the services that customers get from the centers to be world-class. You are right that this does not just happen.

    We intend to build structures to support quality and customer service. Motivating employees to put the customer’s needs first will be done in several ways. There are two sets of transparent performance measures that we intend to track and have available in real time, Key Performance Indicators and customer satisfaction.

    1) Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), Benchmarks and Best Practices
    • Cycle times for every discreet part of the business process
    • Completion times
    • Cost per transaction
    • Case loads
    • Error rates and accuracy
    • Time and effort it takes faculty to initiate and manage their business transactions
    • Quarter-to-Quarter and/or year-to-year percent improvement of the above.

    2) Customer Satisfaction Measures
    The person helping you on the business transaction:
    • Was available
    • Was knowledgeable
    • Was helpful
    • Was professional
    • Was courteous
    • Did the best he/she could do to help me
    • Carefully listened to me
    • Sincerely tried to understand my needs
    • Replied to my questions right away
    • Worked with me to find a solution to unexpected problems or issues

    We are also developing the new BOC organization based on the Malcolm Baldrige Performance Excellence model. The Baldrige Program educates organizations in performance excellence management and helps them achieve best-in-class levels of performance. The structure and organizational framework is built on the following categories:

    Leadership
    Strategic Planning
    Customer Focus
    Business Results
    Measurement, Analysis and Knowledge Management
    Workforce focus
    Operations focus

    Our meetings with Department Heads have led us to consider better ways to measure the BOCs impact on faculty productivity. Although faculty productivity is not a direct result of the reduction of administrative and business burdens, there should be a correlation between reduced burden and the increase of faculty productivity. We are very interested understanding this correlation and finding better ways to measure our success.

    Shared services (Business Operations Centers) are the best approach for preparing the university to thrive in an uncertain future. Making these changes today when there is not an immediate budget-cutting crisis enables us to focus on improving the quality and effectiveness of our business services, letting attrition reduce costs over time. Developing a high performing business services support system driven by continuous improvement will enable the university to maximize its resources now and be well positioned to handle future needs. Change of this magnitude is always difficult and complicated, but it will be worth the effort.

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