In April 2020, in response to the global novel coronavirus pandemic, President Martha Pollack required all administrative areas to develop strategic plans to gain significant long-term savings for the university. These savings aim to shield Cornell’s resources from future impacts of catastrophic economic events such as those caused by the COVID-19 emergency and result in more efficient administrative operations.
The efforts of this project have focused primarily on integration rather than the centralization of resources. In this context, integration means moving transactional processes shared by most units to a central function, allowing units to retain control of mission-critical activities.
Individuals in leadership positions, including deans, vice presidents, college and senior financial officers, and BSC directors who represented their customer base, have been involved in the project from the start. Focus groups performed analyses on transaction analytics, created process inventories and process maps, among other activities. These activities focused on services and transactions that are generated in units and pass through BSC.
Senior leadership has approved a phased implementation of a single shared service center. The center will consolidate all BSC and deliver financial transaction and management services to campus from one central organization.
Some system changes may be required or desired to optimize SSC operations. New and modified reporting will be necessary to manage workloads and reduce touches. Lean Six Sigma techniques will inform process improvements.
System work and enhancements will take time and have differing levels of complexity. The team will use a phased approach with appropriate analysis, prioritizing simpler, higher impact changes in early phases and postponing other work. The team will employ technical and functional experts analyses to create the optimal plan, including system testing and quality assurance components. The team will prioritize work using the DFA IT Governance process.
Some likely areas for work include:
During the integration phase of a college or unit into the SSC, conversations will occur about how and what local customer systems and KFS e-docs are used (e.g., I Want docs). As part of the internal control process, roles and responsibilities will be clearly defined. Customers may be asked to submit requests using the I Want doc to gain efficiency and streamline operations.
Each functional area will handle activity specific to that function. The goal is to standardize processes for the entire university and keep practices consistent within each functional area. Ensuring that the integrated units receive high-level services while maintaining the budgeted cost structure will be a priority. To this end, the team evaluated an inventory of all functions that currently reside in the BSC. The UBSC has produced process narratives, process maps, and risk assessments of many of these functions. This information will be provided to and used by the SSC. The SSC will execute service-level agreements with each unit and (with the assistance of internal audit, regular meetings with unit leaders, and the unit liaisons) ensure that these service levels are met or exceeded.
Staff members will be guaranteed positions at their current band level, salary, and benefits (endowed or contract college). Current BSC staff members do not have to apply for the jobs they will fill. The organization’s structure will accommodate the current BSC staffing levels at the university. The team does not anticipate downsizings. While we don’t yet have all the answers, the team and colleges and units will work together on issues of equity and compensation.
The project team’s objective is to put staff members in the best possible position to advance their careers. Band levels depend on position types, not on the functional areas. Because of the rolling implementation (one unit at a time), positions will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis. Organic turnover is expected to occur over time, which will open more opportunities for existing staff members.
Before each college/unit is implemented, staff members will receive information on the SSC organizational structure and staff position descriptions (SPD) and the various tasks involved in each functional area. Before being integrated into the SSC, staff members will complete a Talent Profile document to provide information on their key strengths; areas for development; goals and career aspirations; certifications; training; and education they have acquired and would like to pursue. In the profile, staff members will rank functional areas in order of where they would prefer to work. Gathering this data will help the project team balance the organization’s needs with employees’ preferences and match employees’ skills and competencies with those necessary to succeed in their positions. The team will identify gaps to address in aligning staff members in positions with appropriate classifications.
Creating a culture of belonging and development is of utmost importance. The team wants the SSC to be an excellent place for everyone to work. The SSC will provide training within and across the functional areas to address identified gaps and provide growth opportunities and institutional knowledge sharing. By partnering staff members across functional areas, staff members will have greater opportunities to learn the activities of and interact with more colleges and units and become a resource of financial talent for the entire university. Professional development opportunities will also provide a path for advancement.
Initially, SSC staff members familiar with a particular unit will work with that unit and pass along their institutional knowledge to other SSC staff members. This plan will allow more people to learn the business of a particular unit, including unit-level practices, accounts, etc.
Moving forward from initial placement, staff members who show proficiency in a functional area will participate in activities in other functional areas. The variety of tasks in each functional area will offer opportunities for cross-functional interaction and movement to other functional areas.
Further details about cross-training will be provided during implementation.
In large part, the plan aims to allow most staff members in the SSC to work remotely. Some functions may require hybrid work (some remote days, some in-office days), and some functions will need to be performed on campus. Hybrid or on-campus activities are determined by necessity, and the staffing plan cannot accommodate personal preferences. Office space for on-site activities is located at 377 Pine Tree Road in East Hill Plaza. This office includes conference space and temporary workstations for occasional on-campus needs.