Strategy Seventeen (August 2012 update)

Systematically review arrangements for the provision of administrative and professional services

Efficient, cost-effective and coordinated administrative services are an essential foundation for the realisation of our aspirations in education and research. If we are to sustain a University that seeks to achieve our strategic purpose we must support our staff and students through an effective, coordinated and efficient system of administrative and professional services delivery.

As with the introduction of the University Economic Model, this review of administrative and professional services has, in areas where change is further advanced, increased efficiency and effectiveness, as well as driven cultural change.

17(a) Establish a Services Reform Steering Committee of SEG systematically to review arrangements for the provision of professional services, including mechanisms for ensuring client responsiveness, and beginning with marketing and student recruitment.

The Services Reform Steering Committee was established in January 2011 but progress was slow and the committee was disestablished at the beginning of 2012. Two working parties, chaired by the Provost, were convened to look specifically at (i) marketing, communications and student recruitment and (ii) student administrative services.

Both working parties have had significant input into the development of an integrated framework for these services that recognises the critical nature of good customer service and the importance of seamless transition of responsibility for the student experience as students move from their first enquiry to the administration of their studies. SEG has agreed to a new conceptual model and consultation has begun to develop a proposed organisational structure (see also initiative 4(f)).

17(b) Refine existing arrangements for location and management of services in relation to finance, human resources and ICT.

Since implementation began on the strategic plan, Finance, Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and Campus Infrastructure and Services (CIS) have been refining their structures and the management of services to ensure optimum performance. A review of Human Resources is currently underway.

Clearer role definitions and career development opportunities have been established for Finance staff, and a Strategic Financial Solutions unit was created to enable delivery on critical projects and system and process enhancements. Finance has had cumulative cost savings of $3.1 million, and by the end of 2012, transformation of financial services will result in significant service improvements, a higher degree of staff specialisation, and more streamlined processes and systems.

More coordinated management of our procurement strategy has achieved savings of $4 million on major University-wide costs such as electricity, repair and maintenance contracts, software, equipment leasing and telecommunications. We have also been developing and piloting strategies that will deliver further savings across the University: an integrated imaging and copying device strategy has been implemented; plans are underway to transition the in-house printing service to an external provider; a panel of preferred airline arrangements has been established; and we are moving to the use of government-approved contractor firms.

Through the shared services program, the ICT professional services unit (PSU) is now responsible for providing support for 89 percent of all ICT needs, and the University has saved around $8 million in staff costs. Work is continuing to migrate the faculties of Arts and Social Sciences, Veterinary Science, Agriculture and Environment, and Medicine as well as the Finance PSU into a shared services model. During 2011 and 2012, $2.9 million will also be saved as a result of retired and renegotiated software and hardware.

CIS has reduced its staff numbers by 65 percent since 2009, and this has led to staff savings of approximately $4.2 million. Facility management and services on the Camden, Cumberland and Rozelle campuses have been entirely outsourced, which will lead to cost benefits, improved services and transparency regarding the true costs. A better strategic procurement framework has also led to savings of approximately $5–6 million in CIS costs.

Work has begun on a strategy to better coordinate non-award course offerings. This strategy aims to reduce duplication and streamline the provision of administrative infrastructure, freeing faculties to focus on curricula and pedagogy. To date in 2012, the Centre for Continuing Education has provided the administrative infrastructure to support nine non-award courses offered by faculties and centres, up from three in 2011. Promotion of courses through CCE marketing channels to its extensive customer base has also increased student numbers and, consequently, revenue.
In 2010, the Research Portfolio and ICT undertook a review of the ‘end-to-end’ management processes that support researchers, to identify how to improve the provision of University-wide, effective and integrated systems and technologies.

After extensive consultation, the review made 10 recommendations that aim to enable greater collaboration and mutual accountability between the functional groups which support researchers, to embed a cycle of continuous review and improvement, and to support better IT investment decisions, prioritised from a whole-of-University perspective.

Implementation of these recommendations has created a more integrated and consistent approach to the support provided to researchers. Key achievements to date include:

  • alignment of the Research Portfolio organisational structure with research support functions in order to facilitate clear communication about services and support available, as well as accountability within the portfolio for outcomes
  • implementation of more effective governance arrangements and practices to manage research support processes such as applying for and managing research funding, post-award requirements and monitoring and reporting performance that cut across functional areas, both within the portfolio and across the University
  • improved research data integrity based on better information definitions and linkages, enabling more integration of disconnected business and IT systems and better-informed selection of new ICT systems, management and use.