By Kyeland Jackson —
Adhering to the 21st Century Initiative, a business operations center will be coming to the Belknap Campus. Chief Operating Officer Harlan Sands hopes the plan will streamline business and encourage efficiency.
Presenting in the Chao auditorium, Sands said the plan was created after analysis of universities like Yale, Michigan State and Portland. A different version of the plan is expected for the Health Sciences Campus.
Serving the position of middle man, the business operations center promises efficient processes for student form completion, communications, troubleshooting and management. The plan would address some of the current business model’s redundancies, and vows to be transparent by allowing departments to look at transactions and receive updates via direct messaging and town hall meetings.
“One of the main components of the plan is about improving service,” Sands said.
Lee Smith, the associate vice president for process improvement of business analytics, said the plan started in the fall before talks of a $6.5 million budget cut rocked the university.
“There have been conversations on campus for a number of years about shared services,” Smith said. “It’s emerged in the university of the 21st Century plan to really help drive to some of those larger goals we have as well.”
Phase one of the plan involves on-boarding, job transfers, new hiring and expense transfers during an eight-month period. Internal hiring and budgets are used to sustain the program during the phase. Some staff voiced their concerns on what that means for their departments and the university.
“It seems to me that in that time, when everyone is kind of unsure, that the office of the vice president is kind of taking care of their own,” Travis Henretty, an administrative staff coordinator, said. “How can you kind of reassure other people within the university that they’re safe during this time.”
Sands said the plan is in the early stages and will involve hiring from departments outside the vice president’s office as well. Faculty currently working business operations can apply to transfer into the new centralized operation.
“The central business operation center concept makes it easier to do good compliance work because you have all those transactions in one place,” Sands said.
Sands’ position was made after the Strothman report detailed widespread misuse of funds on campus. He reassured there’s been “substantial improvement” during the board of trustees’ annual audit meeting.
The first phase of the process is from April to December, with the second in 2017.
“Our focus is to deliver the first phase, focused on customer service and getting those processes rolled out in a way that can demonstrate to the campus that we are focused on better service. That’s what it’s all about,” Sands said.