External engagement workstream

The external engagement functional review will define the people, processes, and technologies required to implement the new operating model for external engagement services across the university. With the newly established External Relations portfolio at its heart, a restructured and reorganized, university-wide network of external engagement services will deliver cost-efficient, responsive, professional, and effective resources and services across all of our campuses. By streamlining our service offerings, we can better support faculties and departments in fulfilling their missions, as well as help staff within the External Relations portfolio to engage, advocate, fundraise, market, and communicate on behalf of the university.


Latest updates


Service catalogue

Developed in consultation with staff from across the university, service catalogues provide a list of activities and services in a particular functional portfolio and determine where those services would be best placed within the model. For more information on the intent of the catalogues and how they were developed, please read this article.

External Engagement Service Catalogue


External engagement stream approach

The external engagement stream is divided into three main phases: discover, prepare, and transition. The purpose of discovery is to gather information on the external engagement processes and staff activities that are currently being done at the faculty/unit level. This provides the means to identify opportunities for optimization in processes and to streamline service deliveries.

In the prepare phase, the focus is on analyzing the functional needs and identifying gaps in external engagement and staff activities. Lastly, the transition phase will consist of developing and implementing transition plans to align the delivery of external engagement services with the new operating model.

External engagement stream approach overview

  • Discover Phase (March to May 2021): Discovery. Understand the current state of external engagement (people, technology, and applications).
    • March: Discovery Toolkit
    • April: Unit Discovery and begin to Analyze and Validate
  • Prepare Phase (May to July 2021): Analysis and Validation. Synthesize the information collected. Identify key considerations for planning the transition (e.g. big gaps, risks, quick wins).
    • Finish Analyze and Validate in mid-June
    • June: begin Plan
  • Transition Phase (July 2021 to March 2022): Transition Planning. Develop and implement transition plans considering people, processes, technology, applications, and timing.
    • Finish Plan in mid-July
    • Continue transition phase to March 2022

Career opportunities

To view upcoming position opportunities in external engagement, please check the SET Position Opportunities Page (otherwise known as “POP”) regularly. Once a position has been finalized and the competition launched, you can apply to it on the U of A Careers page.


Membership

The external engagement stream consists of the following project team members:

  • Elan MacDonald — VP External Relations, Executive Sponsor
  • Matina Kalcounis-Rueppell — Incoming Interim Dean, College of Natural & Applied Sciences and Dean of Faculty of Science — Executive Sponsor
  • Andrea Smith — Chief of Staff, External Relations, Initiative Lead
  • Jasbir Sunner — Project Manager
  • Robbie Saul-Georgel — Project Consultant
  • Raji Rajalakshmi — Business Analyst
  • Sara Horseman — Financial Analyst
  • Zac Ashkanasy — SET Expert Advisor
  • Janice Miller — Change Management Specialist

Consultation and engagement events

  • August 25, 2021: Ask SET Anything: External Engagement Edition
  • July 21, 2021: Presentation of proposed structure to External Relations portfolio staff
  • June 29, 2021: Presentation of External Relations proposed structure to Service Excellence Steering Committee
  • April 22 - May 3, 2021: Discovery drop-in information sessions
  • April 27, 2021: Service catalogue discussion with Engineering Advancement Team
  • April 21, 2021: Service catalogue discussion with Health Science Advancement
  • April 21, 2021: Service catalogue discussion with FoMD Advancement
  • April 12 & April 19, 2021: Discovery Workbook Sessions with Faculty Communications Leads
  • April - ongoing: Biweekly Lunch with Elan McDonald, VP External Relations
  • March 16-23, 2021: Focused sessions on service catalogue, 200+ staff consulted
  • February 11, 2021: Ongoing engagement through current with Communications Network, Advancement & Alumni teams
  • January 14, 2021: New VP orientation and ongoing engagement with key leaders across the organization including Chairs, college general managers, faculty general managers and deans
Be sure to check the UAT consultation page for upcoming events.

Frequently asked questions

Operating Model
Can you clarify where communicators fit in the new operating model?

The primary responsibility for communications, including faculty/unit service partners will reside with the VP External Relations portfolio; however, opportunities to move client-focused services to the Shared Services unit will be explored and implemented where possible.

What is the difference between external engagement and external relations?
For clarification, external engagement is the workstream being reviewed within the SET program as part of the U of A for Tomorrow initiative. External Relations is the name of the central portfolio under the VP, External Relations. The external engagement stream will review all activities related to communications, marketing, stakeholder engagement, and advancement across the university.
Where will internal communications live within the new administrative operating model? Will some of it reside in shared services?

Institutional internal communications currently falls under the responsibility of the VP External Relations and will remain there in the new operating model. Under the new External Relations structure that was released in July, Internal Communications falls under the AVP Strategic Communications. There may be a service component of this that moves to the shared services and/or certain faculty/unit focused communications that remain within the faculty.

[Updated September 23, 2021]

How will we ensure that central has the capacity to support the quantity of work that faculties require?
In all SET service streams, there has been a discrepancy between the amount of work that faculties require and the amount of work that central units can take on. We ask that everyone continue to be flexible during these next few weeks and communicate when there are challenges. During the discovery process, we are looking for opportunities for efficiencies and talking to all partners to discuss future needs and set expectations.

At what point will we know which roles will be centralized, and which remain in faculties/units?

The new integrated structure for External Relations was released on July 22. This structure indicated the positions that are available across the central and partner structures.  More work is currently being done on determining how externally funded positions will fit into the structure.

[Updated September 9, 2021]

Is process improvement part of the external engagement stream the way it is with other streams?
In some of the external engagement functions, specifically marketing and communications, the previous structures did not have linking processes across the university and will have to be developed. Ongoing process improvement should be a recurring theme in the new structure. An area where process improvement could play a role is the brand initiative to ensure that faculties and units across the university focus their work and align their strategies.
Will each faculty only have one service partner for all external engagement services?

Each faculty will have a single designated partner that is responsible for connecting that faculty to the Centres of Expertise in communications, marketing, and digital.  Each faculty also has senior dual reporting development officers that are responsible to both the faculty and central development for fundraising goals.  We have also organized alumni support for faculties at the college level (two per college); these individuals will work with the faculties to support alumni engagement.  Finally, there will be faculty support for government relations through a newly established position within government and community relations at the centre. 

[Updated September 9, 2021]

How will the new operating model ensure that important relationships are maintained? There is concern that relationships with donors may become lost in the changing structure.

From our research of competitor institutions across North America, we learned that our existing Development structure, with positions that jointly report to faculties and the centre,  is in line with current best practices. Therefore, the changes in the Development structure should not affect the relationships currently held by the team. We also recognize the strategic importance of our Alumni Relations team and have created a direct reporting relationship between the Executive Director, Alumni Relations and the Vice President, External Relations. As such, the Vice President, External Relations will be able to provide direct support and oversight to the Alumni Relations team in order to manage the changes from the new structure and ensure that relationships are preserved and strengthened.

[Updated September 9, 2021]

As identified during discovery, more than 60 per cent of external engagement activities happen at the faculty and unit level. How will the new centralized model handle that workload with less staff?

The service catalogue details what work will be centralized and what will remain at the college or faculty level, as well as any services that may be moved into Shared Services. We expect to see efficiency gains from the centralization of many processes and services, as discovery indicated that there is substantial duplication and fragmentation of effort across the university to deliver similar services. However, the reality is that we will also have to stop doing some things as a result of reduced resources. 

The External Relations leadership team will be engaging with faculties to understand what activities and services they currently deliver. This information will help the Communications & Marketing partners hit the ground running once they are appointed. The information will then drive decisions around what work can be consolidated either centrally or at the college/faculty level, and what work may no longer be carried out going forward.

[Updated September 9, 2021]

Can you describe a typical day in the life of a faculty External Relations partner? Who does this position report to?

The communications and marketing partners are key team members who play a critical role in the success of the External Relations portfolio. The partners have a key leadership role in the structure as they will engage with deans, faculty general managers, and other faculty/staff members to develop a strategic approach to the faculty communications that fit with the university’s overall strategic priorities. The partners will also ensure that the needs of the faculties and units they represent are considered through the institutional communications and marketing strategy, and are supported by the Centres of Expertise. As is the nature of communications and marketing, the work will be varied and diverse depending on the needs of the faculty; in all likelihood, no two days will be the same. The partners will play a critical role in prioritizing the strategic needs of the faculty within the larger External Relations strategy and U of A brand, supported by the college/unit team and Centres of Expertise. The faculty partners, alongside the communications associates, will report to the senior partner for their respective college.  

[Updated September 9, 2021]

Working Capacity
As identified during discovery, more than 60 per cent of external engagement activities happen at the faculty and unit level. How will the new centralized model handle that workload with less staff?

The service catalogue details what work will be centralized and what will remain at the college or faculty level, as well as any services that may be moved into Shared Services. We expect to see efficiency gains from the centralization of many processes and services, as discovery indicated that there is substantial duplication and fragmentation of effort across the university to deliver similar services. However, the reality is that we will also have to stop doing some things as a result of reduced resources. 

The External Relations leadership team will be engaging with faculties to understand what activities and services they currently deliver. This information will help the Communications & Marketing partners hit the ground running once they are appointed. The information will then drive decisions around what work can be consolidated either centrally or at the college/faculty level, and what work may no longer be carried out going forward.

[Updated September 9, 2021]

How will we ensure that central has the capacity to support the quantity of work that faculties require?
In all SET service streams, there has been a discrepancy between the amount of work that faculties require and the amount of work that central units can take on. We ask that everyone continue to be flexible during these next few weeks and communicate when there are challenges. During the discovery process, we are looking for opportunities for efficiencies and talking to all partners to discuss future needs and set expectations.

Can faculties/departments keep their own communicators if they pay for them?/If External Relations doesn’t have capacity, can faculties use their own budgets to hire staff to fulfill their needs?

The aim of administrative restructuring is to reimagine how we do our work so we can continue to provide high-quality services with fewer staff members and create administrative structures that focus the maximum amount of the university’s resources and energies on its core mission. The new, centralized structure for the External Relations portfolio, and the new operating model, is designed to achieve this. 

The accountability to provide External Relations related services to the university rests with the central External Relations portfolio. Duplication of services and positions are not allowed regardless of funding source. This expectation is consistent across all of the new central services.  There  may be exceptional circumstances where a faculty or department has a need outside the standard service provision. In such a situation, it is expected that the faculty engages with the relevant AVP and the VP External Relations to discuss the function/need and determine how it could be supported within the new structure.

[Updated September 14, 2021]

Staff Transitions
As communications positions move out of the department/faculty levels, how do we prepare for a knowledge transfer to ensure that none of this work disappears?

There are designated partners to represent all faculties across the university and senior partners and communications associates at the college and central unit levels. We are planning on a knowledge transfer process that will build on both the discovery data and the review that was completed last year.  Details around this process will be made available shortly.

[Updated September 9, 2021]

Can you help us understand the net job losses within our portfolios and how our scope of work is impacted? How many staff are we losing (or gaining) in each of Marketing, Communications, Development, and Alumni Relations?

From the discovery phase, we know that many roles in the old structure consisted of work across multiple functions, whereas in the new External Relations structure, all central unit roles are full time for the respective unit. This will improve efficiency of the services delivered. The focus of the external engagement stream has been on reducing FTE activity, which does not directly correlate to people or roles, as we will see efficiency gains from more full time roles, and fewer generalist roles. It is also up to the faculties to determine which roles they choose to redefine, and which roles they disrupt, so it is difficult to put an exact figure on job losses. 

The overall difference between the FTE activity from the discovery phase, and the future state, will mean a net reduction of 25 per cent in FTE activity across the portfolio—which is in line with the university’s overall restructuring aims. We would encourage you to have these discussions with your unit, faculty or department so you can understand the impact to you and identify opportunities that you may be interested in as they are posted to the Position Opportunities Page and Careers website.

[Updated September 9, 2021]

With positions moving centrally, what happens to the budget of the external engagement functions that were previously within the faculties?

There is a budgeting process being developed through the Vice-President (University Services and Finance) that will address the operating budget for all centralized services including External Relations.

[Updated September 9, 2021]

Services
Will gift processing transition out of External Relations and into Finance?
We are engaging with Shared Services to determine how gift processing could work as a shared service while maintaining strong relationships with donors and service users in External Relations and across the university.  More details will be released after this work has been completed.

[Updated September 9, 2021]
What is the role of philanthropic storytelling in the new structure?
The External Relations portfolio has an ongoing commitment to communicate the impact of philanthropy in our storytelling. The new structure will continue to have three positions, located in the editorial strategy pillar, that specialize in fundraising communications. We will continue to work directly with fundraisers to help identify their priority needs and, where appropriate, will work with the college/faulty partners and the marketing teams to deliver those fundraising communications. When decisions need to be made about competing priorities, we will work with the development leadership team to prioritize projects.

Centralization of communications also offers new opportunities to weave messages about the impact of philanthropy throughout our storytelling and other communications work across the institution.

[Updated September 9, 2021]

When will there be updates on the changes to IT and analytics in Alumni Relations and Development?

The external engagement service catalogue provides an overview of the services we intend to provide in the new operating model and where responsibilities for each of those services will reside. We are in the process of assessing Development’s IT functions to understand what IT services could transition into IST, and expect to complete an initial evaluation by October.

In addition, the SET team is currently in the early stages of exploring the possibility of developing an institution-wide Insights & Analytics unit. Further information will be released when this work has been completed.

[Updated September 9, 2021]

Will communications specific to current students (i.e. student newsletters, email listservs, etc.) be absorbed by central units or would individual faculties/departments still be able to manage how they communicate with their own students?

The service catalogue indicates that faculty-specific content will remain the responsibility of the faculties. The central unit will be responsible for developing institutional messaging and leading institutional communications strategy and governance.

In practice, this means that the faculties will continue direct engagement with their students, with the Communications & Marketing partners responsible for the communications, with support from the Communications Associates. However the Centres of Expertise will have a greater role in ensuring that the messaging and strategies align across the institution and providing resources to support communications where required.

[Updated September 9, 2021]

Will units outside of External Relations be able to update their own web pages after the centralization is complete? What about adding events to the ualberta.ca/events calendar?

Yes. Units outside of External Relations will have access to Cascade (our web content management system) to make simple edits and content changes. Partners will be granted access upon beginning their new roles and will also be able to request access for staff to perform similar edits within Cascade. 

We are still working through the processes and policies that will be put in place as part of centralizing. Event planning is one such area that we are examining and working on. Once these policies are finalized they will be communicated across the university and communications and marketing partners will be able to advise their faculty/unit clients on the relevant processes.

[Updated September 9, 2021]