Update: OSU Business Centers implementations and post-implementation plans

By Bob Nettles, OSU Director of Administrative Services

Over the past year, Oregon State University has opened four “business centers” in an effort to cluster finance and accounting and human resources responsibilities in regional offices around campus. The Arts and Sciences, Business and Engineering, Health Sciences and University Administrative business centers were the first to be implemented, with business centers serving Forestry and Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences, Auxiliary and Activities, and Agriculture and Marine Sciences set to go online by August.

We are beginning to see a reduction in concerns generated by changing our administrative service model for accounting, finance and human resources functions and the extra work involved in implementation of the new business center model.  Even though we have three business center implementations to complete, we have begun the work necessary to ensure achieving the goals for the business center model. As a reminder, the major goals for the business centers are:

1.      Higher quality customer service;
2.      Increased efficiency in transaction processing;
3.      Effectiveness in providing efficient support services for  faculty and administrative efforts;
4.      Generating cost savings or cost avoidance thru effective use of technology and process redesign.

We expect that as we make progress towards these goals, everyone in the Oregon State community will experience fewer days required to process reimbursements, fewer days to make employee appointments (of all types), better vendor relations, timely research budget and accounting processes and reduction in errors associated with these processes.

In a very real sense, OSU is a victim of its own successes. Our rapid growth in enrollment, tremendous growth in research and grant activity and the growth in physical and fiscal assets brought us to the point of needing a new administrative services delivery model. We have confidence the business center model brings the management structure, division of labor, redundancy, depth and training emphasis we need to be successful in achieving our goals. Our mission is simple: freeing up faculty and staff time to be devoted to education, research, and outreach — not administrative processes.

We appreciate the feedback that we have received from faculty, staff, and administrators during the initial implementation phase of the project – positive and critical. There is still understandable skepticism about the value of the new model and its efficiency and effectiveness. While we are just beginning efforts to measure our performance through data-driven metrics and benchmarks, we are seeing evidence that progress is being made in customer service, reduced time to complete financial transactions, and our ability to identify and correct ineffective and or inefficient processes. Early signs of improvement include:

·        The Arts & Sciences Business Center reduced the average number of days to reimburse for travel from 15 in July 2009 to eight in April 2010.
·        The Health Sciences Business center has improved the quality and timeliness of grant reports, communicated more effectively with principal investigators and reduced the number of overspent grants within these three colleges by 80 percent since October 2008.
·        The University Administrative Business Center has shrunk the percentage of invoices paid beyond the net 30-day term from 38 percent in October 2009 to 30 percent in May.
Each implemented business center is actively engaged with their advisory committee or key contacts sharing metrics data and seeking input on areas of concern.

By the end of August you can expect to see all the business centers implemented. To continue making progress over the next six months the business centers will be engaged in the following activities:

1.      Developing communication structures and relationships between the business center and the departments they serve. We must continue to understand the needs and concerns of business center users clarify and communicate the role of the business centers and develop and the communication and protocol that ensure we take full advantage of services provided by the business centers.
2.      Planning the post implementation training program for business center staff and the departments served.  We believe training will improve the quality of service and employee versatility and productivity.
3.      Developing accurate evaluation metrics with the advisory committees and key contacts to aid our evaluation process and identify areas that need improvement. Performance metrics will be developed to help gauge productivity, staffing levels and workload sharing within and across business centers.
4.      Enhancing our technology tools and increasing our use of the improved technology to improve productivity and accuracy. We will concentrate initially on student worker employment and time entry, data mining to support the evaluation and performance metrics, and implementing Banner Workflow to enhance transaction processing and guide process redesign.
5.      Implementing process redesign on processes already identified for evaluation such as the recruitment and hiring process and grant post award setup. We are continuing to look for ways to eliminate unnecessary processes and improve other processes for greater efficiency and providing seamless support to the faculty and staff.

We hope this information has generated thoughts or suggestions on the business centers you would be willing to share. Please call Bob Nettles, Director of Administrative Services, 541-737-9611 or email him at Robert.nettles@oregonstate.edu

2 Responses to “Update: OSU Business Centers implementations and post-implementation plans”

  1. Mike Gamroth says:

    Can we put IACUC in a Center?

  2. Christopher K. Mathews says:

    As a principal investigator on two grants, I found research support services much better when accounting was carried out in our department office. If I needed an interim financial report or help with a grant budget, it was immediately available. If I needed to submit a purchase order in a hurry, it could be done immediately. The services are still available, but at a remote location, where it is less convenient to have face-to-face contact.