Process redesign and system improvements in the University Services and Finance portfolio

Updates on four key initiatives and a new engagement channel to better serve the university community.


As we focus on the future of our university, we are finding new ways to work together to advance our shared goal of building a university with even greater impact. The Service Excellence Transformation initiative has been an opportunity to demonstrate we are committed to relevance, effectiveness and efficiency. What we are doing matters. As a large institution with many stakeholders, we need to continuously evaluate and enhance our approach to integrate our work, our systems and our people to learn from our experiences as we move forward together. 

In the University Services and Finance portfolio, we are advancing process redesign and system improvements to streamline work and help areas that are feeling overwhelmed. We are also dealing with scenarios that are emerging for the first time, which is to be expected as we progress through the first cycle of working in a new model.

Recent developments

The University Services and Finance team recently solicited feedback on four main initiatives that were identified as pressure points across the institution to develop a coordinated project plan to address these areas:

  • Recruitment/Appointment/Reappointment: Co-led by AVP Shared Services Ria Ames and AVP Human Resources, Health, Safety and Environment Tanya Wick – and in consultation with stakeholders, including KPMG, Faculty General Managers and Academic Department Managers – the team continues to create clarity on ownership and accountability through process maps to help prevent process delays. The project focused on three areas: the review and simplification of the recruitment process, review of the job posting template and a more robust review of the offer letter process and its supporting technology. The goal of the project is to simplify activities within the process based on client feedback. 
  • Contract for Services/Payments: The Finance Services team within Shared Services allocated additional resources to reduce the backlog and to bring processing down to under net 30 days. In collaboration with Procurement, this has reduced the number of ways an invoice can be submitted for new vendors and will then transition existing vendors over the next year. A workshop for purchase to pay is also under development. Through the transition, the time for payment processing decreased to within 30 days. We will be developing a process for new vendors to submit invoices and are working on efficiencies with existing suppliers to streamline contract and payment processing.
  • Salary and benefit adjustments (SBAs): An awareness campaign was launched to drive reduction in the number of SBA requests. This will help reduce overall volume and turnaround times. A recommendations report has been drafted and will be shared with senior leadership.
  • Research Finance: Led by Rob Munro and in consultation with diverse stakeholders (including faculty members, faculty administration, Shared Services, the University Initiatives Office, the Research Partner Network, Research Administrative Services, the Finance Partner Network and IST), the team has reached a consensus on the definition of Research Finance and prioritized a list of services and activities. This list has been confirmed with faculty stakeholders. In addition, resources have been assigned to work on improvements in the priority areas. 

It's important to recognize that although the SET project has ended, we are still early in the transformation, and improvements are ongoing. I am heartened by early successes such as the adoption of the service partner networks, the successful launch of the Staff Service Centre and Student Service Centre and the upcoming implementation of the university's first ever university wide Technology Strategy, and I am recommitted to improving on priority areas such as processing challenges and system limitations experienced recently in areas like graduate student appointments, and solidifying the new operating model. 

Our successes show that — together — we can succeed in positioning the University of Alberta for sustained success. We are continuing to redesign processes, improve upon our technology, identify new opportunities for collaboration and also create new content streams to ensure our internal community is well informed and engaged moving ahead. 

Engaging and informing our internal community

To support this evolution, we will be launching a new institutional channel called Working at the U to streamline and strengthen how we communicate administrative, operational and community information to staff across campus. Working at the U will consolidate unit or work-stream focused channels and ensure aligned and consistent best practices for the benefit of the entire university. Watch your inbox on Tuesday, October 11 for the first edition. Working at the U will complement our primary internal communications vehicle, The Quad, as a source of information in response to the community need for ongoing engagement with the One University and SET processes. 

Through our One University approach, we have an opportunity to set ourselves up for success in this rapidly evolving environment by continuing to leverage our strengths, align our resources and maximize our impact. While it will take some time, we are committed to moving forward with a people strategy that is centered around building greater engagement and continuing to evolve how we make decisions at the university. 

Todd Gilchrist
Vice-President (University Services and Finance)