UO Business Practices Project Success Stories

Several units and departments have already implemented processes to share business services through a regional hub. The following information provides insight from the perspective of the unit leaders who utilize the business practices hub and the service experts who transitioned from a single department to the regional hub to provide services such as payroll, recruitment, and information technology.

Finance and Administration Shared Services (FASS)

FASS is a shared service hub that was created in 2016 and currently serves 16 units in the Finance and Administration (VPFA) portfolio. FASS provides business operations, HR, and IT services.

CPFM, Office of Sustainability
Steve Mital, Sustainability Director

(unit leader utilizing regional service hub)

I cannot say enough about the value you get from the support. As a small office, some things happen on an infrequent basis, including hiring staff, setting up tech, or figuring out travel. Before FASS, I would have to get HR, purchasing and contracting, payroll, IT, and budgeting support in any way I could. I was leaning on informal networks and trying to re-train myself every time I had to hire someone or deal with travel forms. It was massively time consuming to have to figure it out every year.

For a small office, there is nothing but upside to this. FASS started rolling services out incrementally a few years ago; they did it gradually enough that we could get accustomed to how things work and develop confidence in the unit. They started with timesheets and payroll support and then moved onto travel-related stuff, which saved me the hassle of learning Concur when that rolled out. They then took over PCard review and reconciliation, IT support, and finally the monthly budget review and annual budgeting projections. FASS even has someone acting as Department Grants Administrator for us, which is a huge help--we don't have anyone internal who can really do that. And FASS cross trains a range of people so if someone is out, there are always staff to cover those duties and we don't miss opportunities or deadlines for anything.

In addition to the value of the services themselves, me not having to learn all the different the programs and processes or keep up on all of that has saved me 15-20% of my time!

Safety and Risk Services, Environmental Health and Safety
Steve Stuckmeyer, Director of EHS

(unit leader utilizing regional service hub)

EHS became a FASS client a few years ago. FASS brings a mix of tailored, personalized services as well as the knowledge and best practices that come from serving a lot of different departments. The experience has been the most beneficial in budgeting and HR support with recruitments, and as a director, I really appreciate the budgeting and finance support. FASS uses their professional experience and knowledge of the broader portfolio to help with budgeting, which takes a significant load off our shoulders and allows us to focus on EHS work. We can focus on waste management, hazardous materials, compliance, and research safety instead of being professional specialists in budgeting and accounting. That has been the biggest asset.

There are a lot of benefits. The single most important piece has been that knowing FASS professionals are actively engaged with budget and HR responsibilities enables EHS staff to focus more energy in our areas of professional expertise. Also, while FASS supports a lot of different groups, they are still close to us and approachable; if I need anything, they are there to provide it. At the same time, FASS supporting different units means they understand the bigger picture. FASS serves as a connective hub between the positives and negatives that might be happening in any all of the areas, so we all benefit. This connectivity and professional learning wouldn't happen in quite the same way from a business operations standpoint if each unit was covering their own services.

FASS Payroll services
Catherine Stemple, Administrative Program Assistant

(service provider who joined a regional hub)

I moved over from UOPD--I used to do purchasing, payroll, invoices, contracts, and travel for UOPD and Transportation. Transition to FASS took some time, which was nice because change is hard. After I moved across to the FASS building, I was with a Payroll group, which I loved and appreciated. If I had a payroll-type questions, I had a team to go to; I had never had that before. It was so nice to be able to talk to people about payroll and have an answer immediately rather than emailing someone and waiting. I still connect with Central Payroll and FASS-HR for some questions but it is nice having a team to bounce things off of and connect around professional ideas.

There are some different processes within FASS--for example, we use a standard form for gathering travel information to enter into Concur. Some of my clients are comfortable using Concur and others need more help with the process, which is completely fine. The standard travel form has really helped.

I serve some of the same clients I did before I joined FASS (UOPD and Transportation), and I also work with some other units. It's nice for UOPD because they still get to deal with me. I don't think they have seen much change there, particularly with payroll and travel. We keep trying to improve the process so things are more and more streamlined and smooth every year.

FASS IT services
Bill Anderson, Operating Systems Network Analyst

(service provider who joined a regional hub)

For about ten years, I was the only person doing IT support for UOPD. I was also running the campus-wide access control system, security systems, and camera access, which meant I was on-call 24/7.

I started with FASS in 2016, right after it was formed. Initially, I was not sure how everything would work, but I was eventually brought into an IT team. After 10 years of being the sole person providing services, it's been great to work with a team day to day. I can bounce ideas off other people if I encounter roadblocks and it's nice to know that if I go on vacation, there's someone else there to help the customer.

When I moved to FASS, it was a bit of a change for UOPD because they couldn't just stop by my desk for something. Now they have to put in an IT ticket, but I am still the main person providing their support. From my point of view, I gained a team, and I also had the opportunity to move into a team lead position where I help junior team members. I am the lead for UOPD IT services and I help support SRS, CPFM Utilities and Energy, Olum, and Transportation Services. 

The shared services model works well, particularly when it comes to HR and IT working closely together. IT and business ops work well together but we really shine when we streamline services with HR, particularly when onboarding and offboarding customers we directly support. It is nice for everyone that we are a one-stop shop.

A lot of people don't like change, and I am one of them. When it comes to the shared services idea, I would tell people to give it a chance--it has worked out really well for me and for our customers.

Print Services
April Nero, Print Services Manager

(unit leader regionalizing service hub)

Print Services is an auxiliary, which means the unit is self-supporting budget-wise. Over the past few years we have undergone different restructuring and we are now very streamlined. FASS makes that possible because they provide expertise in many different areas: they took on payroll, budget and finance reconciliation, and they partner with us for HR reviews and recruiting.  

We recently had to reposition some accounting tasks that were done by an employee who is no longer with us. We needed to keep the tasks in-house, so FASS helped with some transactions in the interim and then trained our current staff on what to do and how to do it—they were great.  

It has helped to have a single point of contact within FASS. There were lots of questions about why we were moving to the shared service model; why we should pay FASS a fee instead of keeping business functions in Print Services, etc. It was great to have a person in FASS able to talk about the benefits of access to HR and IT and finance experts.  

We are really happy with FASS. It has been a great experience and they do a great job of making sure we feel supported all the time. 

FASS Business Operations
Valerie Mickelson, Accountant

(service provider who joined a regional hub)

I used to work in Print Services helping customers with questions, paying invoices, doing JVs, and managing the fleet copier program. I studied to be an accountant, which was not really an option in Print Services so after four wonderful years in that department I applied for an accounting position within FASS. I had an understanding of the shared services model because we used that at PeaceHealth where I was before UO. My supervisor in Print Services supported my career development, which was great—that kind of professional encouragement continues within FASS. 

Moving to FASS was a promotion and allowed me to pursue accounting properly; also, it broadened my world because I learned what other units do and how they make things happen, particularly CPFM. It is nice to understand what goes on in other parts of the university.

My knowledge of Print Services has been really helpful in FASS because I still process their month-end JVs. Other than that, I do very different work now, but my institutional knowledge of Print Services still comes in handy.

Within FASS, there is a culture of learning and supporting each other. We cross-train so we can support each other when someone is out. I love learning new things and being able to pivot and help; the more knowledge I have the more flexible and useful I can be to the team. The move to FASS allowed me to me use my skills, gain new knowledge, and continue to build relationships across the university; being connected to a wider community has been really helpful professionally and I am very happy here. 

Comments from 2019-2020 FASS satisfaction surveys

"Consolidation, one-stop resource is efficient and beneficial." CPFM Facilities Services, 2019

"Fantastic service. [FASS] has been very helpful since they took over bills for VPFA office. Finance and payroll folks have great communication and are very helpful. It was a seamless transition when they took on service for our office." VPFA Office, 2019

"FASS has made the transition to central services pretty painless." CPFM Facilities Services, 2020

"Big picture: I really like (and use!) the centralized location for making FASS requests..." CPFM Office of Sustainability, 2020

"The Customer Service Center team has been so great - it's nice to have one place to send a request to instead of having to memorize all these different emails." CPFM Utilities and Energy, 2020

"I cannot speak highly enough of the excellent attention and support that [FASS] continues to give me and my department's budget. I greatly appreciate the ongoing budget analysis, attention to detail, and expertise they bring to the table. It's been especially important during the pandemic to keep our financial models up to date and adjust as trends change, which [FASS] continues to help us with. Thank you!" Transportation Services, 2020

Central Business Services Office (CBSO)

The Central Business Services Office provides a variety of accounting services, including accounts payable, purchasing, contracting, travel, grants management, and payroll, to various customers across campus. Customers include the College of Design (DSGN), the School of Journalism and Communication, Clark Honors College, the Graduate School, the Museum of Natural and Cultural History, and Undergraduate Education and Student Success (UESS). More information on the office and its services can be found online.

Office of the Provost
Rocco Luiere, Assistant Vice Provost for Budget and Strategy

Although the College of Design had been operating a central business office for quite some time, the office often struggled with processing times due to low staffing levels. In 2017 as SOJC was experiencing a high turnover in their fiscal staff, we looked to combine the two shops in an effort to build a more robust unit that would better serve both colleges. The full consolidation took less than three months to implement and within a half a year of the new group’s formation, we saw transaction processing times plummet across the board. Perhaps most tellingly about how positive this change has been, we’ve had extraordinarily low levels of turnover in the Central Business Services Office since the reorganization.

Overall, although this endeavor allowed us to save the university money through the elimination of two redundant position vacancies, the most important benefits were realized as we were able to redeploy talent in a manner that provided for improved financial controls with more robust backups. We cut down on risks and improved efficiency. Best of all, no one lost their job in the process and people had a voice in where they wanted to go and what they wanted to do in this new framework.

College of Design, CBSO
Shaymond Michelson, Director of Financial Operations

The transition to a shared service model was completed in different phases. We started by providing Accounts Payable and travel support services to the School of Journalism and Communication (SOJC). When we had everything working well, we gradually integrated more services for SOJC, and then started serving Clark Honors College and UESS.

With this model, we were able to take accounting generalists and train them as technical specialists. Staff benefited from  professional development and we vastly increased the accuracy of our transactions. Each accounting technician is able to stay up to date on process and policy changes in the field and become expert in the details in one area. 

Staff have a lot of input in how to improve procedures: they are all challenged to improve things wherever possible and do things better overall. This also allows us to have consistency in our processing because we are developing best practices and using the same processes for all the areas we serve. We have also developed a common flow and we can back each other up if someone is out of the office, so there are no delays in service. 

School of Journalism and Communication
Josh Buetow, Director of Financial Operations

Prior to implementing the CBSO, SOJC employees often waited several weeks for business office support. During high-volume travel times and before fiscal year-end, individuals were sometimes waiting up to 8-12 weeks for travel reimbursements. Today, the CBSO aims to complete reimbursements within 2-3 weeks or less, and the turnaround time is often much shorter than that. Additionally, we don't notice any changes in turnaround times or service levels when CBSO employees go on leave. Although each CBSO member specializes in specific area, cross-training has enabled efficient continuity of services. The CBSO stresses customer service as a top priority, which has led to its broad success and growth.

Regional business hubs at peer institutions

Many other universities have regional business hubs and shared services models on campus. If you are wondering what some of our peer institutions are doing, check out the regional business hubs below.

The Health Sciences Administration Center for Shared Services has been providing transactional administrative, financial, and IT services since early 2018. 

The UC Riverside Shared Service Center provides business support and administrative services to academic and administrative clients, including Athletics, Enrollment Services, International Affairs, the School of Medicine, and academic personnel.

IFAS Shared Services has teams of experts that provide services in research administration, financial services, and human resources to various academic departments. 

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Business Practices project overview