Administrative Operating Model

The new operating model will include: universal front-end service centres; centres of excellence in each functional portfolio; function-specific embedded service partners linked to expert functional portfolio teams; faculty managers for faculties; and a universal transaction processing hub to manage simple and moderately complex transactions.

The high level administrative model (approved by the Board of Governors on Oct 16) consists of five key components, with a hybrid of centralized and decentralized services and functions. Most of the detailed planning that will make this model functional is still in the process of development (eg: defining processes and activities, determining organizational structure), but the broad shape of the model is as follows: 

Service Centres

There will be two frontline services centres, one for students and the other for staff. Within the service centres, there will be a number of service teams focused on specific areas but both service centres will provide students and staff with one “front door” to all services—no matter your question or need, the staff in the service centre will either be able to serve you or connect you to the office that can. 

Centres of Excellence

Under the leadership of vice-presidents’ portfolios, these centres will provide strategic expertise and service in their specific functional areas, such as finance, HR, IT, or communications. They will provide broad institutional leadership both in terms of setting service standards and ensuring service satisfaction. 

It is critical to note that specialized functions and services that are integral to the delivery of specific academic programs will continue to be delivered within the faculty. For example, where co-op programming is a core element, these will continue to be administered by the faculty. 

Service Partners

Service partners are functional experts who will be embedded in academic units with a direct link back to Centres of Excellence. They will provide strategic advice to deans, associate deans, and chairs and be the main point of contact for matters relating to their specific functional area. For example: have a question about hiring? Your HR service partner will help. Service partners will report directly to their central functional lead and indirectly to the faculty general manager.


Where specialized services and administrative needs are integral to academic programming, these will be provided in faculties under the direction of a faculty general manager who will work closely with the dean and provide strategic advice and leadership on all administrative functions in the faculty.

Universal Transaction Processing Hub

This centralized hub will include specialized teams that will handle administrative transactions that are common across the university, either directly or through the development and maintenance of automated systems. A key element of the hub will be the Continuous Improvement Team, charged with measuring service satisfaction levels and ensuring that activities are meeting the needs of the institution efficiently and effectively. 

Transactional activities that staff and systems support are typically high-volume activities (e.g. payroll, expenses) that require processes to be standardized across the university. 

For examples on how people will access and receive services, please see sample service narratives.

Proposed AVP & Faculty Structures

Proposed AVP structure

AVPs will have the administrative lead for delivery of portfolio services, including Centres of Excellence and Service Partners.

Each function within a VP Portfolio will be led by an AVP or functional lead (eg: Director of Alumni and Fundraising, Director of Marketing, Director of HR, Director of IT, Director of Finance) who will oversee service partners and centres of excellence. Service partners report directly to AVPs and indirectly to the office(s) in which they are embedded. Centres of Excellence (3—5 within each central unit) oversee important strategic activities that require specialist expertise.

Proposed faculty structure 

Deans will be supported by a Faculty General Manager who will manage any administrative resources in the Faculty with additional support from Service Partners.

The faculty general manager will administrative resources unique to the Faculty or funded through restricted funds and directly appointed (e.g. medical secretaries, farm hands) as well as generalist faculty administrative resources such as Executive Assistants, teaching administrators, and Department administrators in large departments. Central units will provide services such as student services, research administration, HR, finance, IT, and external engagement to faculties and other units.

Service Culture

Core to the operating model is the enhancement of the U of A’s service culture and a commitment to continuous improvement. . All administrative functions and activities must serve and enhance the teaching, research, and community engagement mission of the university to the highest standard possible with the resources available. Key performance indicators (KPIs) will be developed to measure performance and a Continuous Improvement Team will be a permanent feature of the model to deal proactively and effectively throughout the months of implementation and then into the year to come.

Timeline (as of Oct. 22)

The element of the operating model will require further details about specific functional services and processes, which will be determined over the course of the next year with consultation from leaders and the staff who perform the work. The transformation is a joint effort and members of our community will continue to be engaged and consulted for advice and feedback on the process.

The following timeline is subject to change as the process unfolds.

SET timeline Sep Oct Nov Dec Jan Feb Mar Apr May
Develop preliminary service catalogues to locate services delivery in the new structure
Conduct process-level impact assessment to determine scale of change
Test new model and build support through townhall and leadership forums
Finalise Faculty and functional service blueprints and undertake budget assessments
Conduct Functional reviews
Map current roles and draft org structure
Soft launch the new model
Determine direct appointments
Further develop position descriptions and org structure
Finalise the scale and scope of the student service centres
Finalise the scale and scope of the transaction processing hub
Announce final structure
Support functional streams’ transition to new model with ongoing process reviews
Pilot the transaction processing hub
Staff selection and notification processes
Staff transition
Engage leaders on new ways of work


Operating Model ‘Framework’ vs. Operating Model
An operational ‘framework’ is a “big picture” conceptual depiction of one or more models to help guide an organization’s design. Once additional detail is added - for example, an indication of how particular functions and services will be delivered and the high-level organizational structure - it becomes an operating model that is organization-specific and aids in making informed design choices by providing the architecture for operations.
Service Centre
Service centres provide users with a central virtual and/or physical point that can address and triage their enquiries according to need and complexity. It often includes a digital platform that is able to resolve many queries virtually. A service centre will also often be complemented by a walk-in location that provides users with access to self-service portals and in-person services, when their query requires a degree of human interaction. An example may include, offering a ‘one-stop-shop’ for students, in the case of a student service centre or staff enquiries through a staff service centre, with the user experience front-of-mind.
Centres of Excellence
Centres of Excellence consist of functional specialists within a Support Unit who possess great depth in specific knowledge areas. Their detailed responsibilities vary from one organization to another, but may include developing offerings, providing specialist expertise on targeted problems, and providing thought leadership.
Service Partners
Service Partners are specific to administrative functions and provide functional support for Faculties/Support Units. They focus on relationships and decision-support and are embedded in Faculties and portfolios where necessary, but report directly to their ‘home’ function. For example, an HR Service Partner could be embedded in a Faculty, but report to HRS.
Transaction Processing Hub
A transactional processing hub is a predominately technology driven way to automate highly transactional services and processes. Highly specialized transaction staff support the hub. The transactional activities that these staff and systems support are typically high-volume activities (e.g. payroll, expenses) that require processes to be standardized across the university. Transaction staff focus on end-to-end process design, efficiency and automation.