Administration to launch another round of Shared Services pilot programs

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Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

Shared Services, a plan to centralize the University’s human resources, information technology, finance and procurement services, will be implemented differently in future pilot programs as a result of feedback from the first round of voluntary implementation. 

After months of discussion last spring, Shared Services’ implementation was scaled down to a few pilot programs in the College of Education and the Provost Portfolio, an administrative unit that oversees academic and professional areas in the University. The scaling down of the program was a result of recommendations made by the Shared Services Steering Committee. In February 2014, the Committee released a report calling for the University to conduct a pilot version of Shared Services so administrators would have more information about the effectiveness and impact of the program before rolling it out to the entire campus.

Now that pilot programs have been active for one long session, administrators are working to see what has gone well — and what could be going better. Jamie Southerland, associate vice president for Shared Services and Business Transformation, said the College of Education’s pilot program revealed issues as the semester went on.

“As the fall progressed, it became clear that the academic units involved in the pilot did not desire to reduce [their own] cost and/or administrative staffing, and therefore Shared Services offered no benefits to the units,” Southerland said.

To remedy this problem, administrators will recruit departments with a more active interest in implementing the pilot program’s services.

“We are also exploring the idea of offering services that any campus department could opt-in to,” Southerland said. “We know that there are processes that no one is happy with. We are in the process of determining how we can combine re-engineered processes into a service that campus finds valuable.”

Although groups such as the UT Save Our Community Coalition insisted that Shared Services would result in mass layoffs, one year after the pilot programs began, no jobs have been terminated, Almasy said.

“I think we’re now at the very least a year, if not two years, from when this discussion began, and there have been no layoffs or firings,“ Almasy said.

University officials are now looking for another department or college willing to implement a pilot program in order to collect another round of data.

“We are in conversations with other departments who are exploring a move to Shared Services, but we are not in a position to announce anything yet,” Southerland said.

Radio-television-film senior lecturer Anne Lewis said the University’s small-scale attempts at using Shared Services have not succeeded.

“It [has been] a miserable failure,” Lewis said. “It just didn’t work well when they tried to merge so many functions — so many individual functions, that served provost or faculty, into one kind of automated system.”

Southerland said the Provost Portfolio experience with Shared Services was a positive one.

“Thus far, the Provost Portfolio has been pleased with the quality of service from both the [Central Business Office] and [Academic Technology Support],” Southerland said. “They estimate that the switch to Shared Services has saved more than $1 million annually, most of which has already been reinvested in academic programs across the campus.”