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.
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.”
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.
“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.