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Business Officer Magazine

Internal Analyses Shape Change

Seventeen sessions addressed how to reorganize functions, manage risk, systematically evaluate facility needs, cope with reductions in force, and keep up with technological changes.

Consultants in Your Midst

Often it makes sense to engage an external consultant, but why not tap your reser-voir of internal institutional knowledge whenever possible? In the session titled “Insourcing Consulting,” a panel from George Washington University shared the secrets behind its successful Business Management and Analysis Group (BMAG), an internal consulting group available to help departments throughout the university with financial analysis, project management, and metrics development. Members of the group are also available to fill in as short-term replacements for critical positions, helping to keep GWU staffing costs under control.

When the group was first launched with a staff of two, it was largely transactional, focused on ensuring accuracy of financial statements. Today, with nearly a dozen team members, the group has assumed an insight-oriented approach toward enhancing operational effectiveness.

Institutions interested in exploring something similar should begin by identifying key executive issues for which you can obtain high-level buy-in, said Andrew Salzman, BMAG project manager. Focus initially on one critical area of concern for which you can leverage your native genius to demonstrate success. One good approach for testing demand without ramping up staffing is to form a small group of individuals who each spend 10 percent of their time in this interactive consulting role. Panel members concurred that employees most suited to such a role include those who are results-oriented self-starters, able to deal with ambiguity, adept at helping others see the big picture, and capable of taking personal ownership and responsibility of projects.

Among the positive byproducts of developing an internal consulting group for your institution:

  • Employee consultants are already attuned to the institution's culture.
  • Because internal consultants represent a cross-section of experts universitywide, cross-pollination of best practices naturally occurs.
  • Establishing an internal consulting group offers another opportunity to retain key talent. Some who have joined BMAG have transitioned from their consulting roles to new areas of the university.

Health-Care Makeover

Health care has dominated the popular press since Congress and President Obama finally agreed on revamping the legislation in spring 2010. In the session “Health-Care Reform: What the New Law Means for You,” Dean Hatfield and Norm Jacobson of Sibson Consulting and Dwaine Duckett, vice president of human resources at the University of California System, offered attendees a thorough examination of the new law and detailed what steps institutions will have to take now—and later—to be prepared.

“The law requires employers to redesign their health-care plans to meet new coverage requirements, and in some cases those changes will have to be made almost immediately,” said Jacobson.

Possibly the most-talked-about rule, drawing several questions, was the new requirement that extends full preventive health-care services to employees' adult children until age 26 and eliminates lifetime dollar limits and certain annual limits. “Now is the time to consider your grandfathered status,” said Hatfield. “Until 2014 a grandfathered plan does not need to offer coverage to a young adult if—and only if—that young adult is eligible for employer-sponsored coverage. After 2014, eligibility for other coverage is irrelevant.”

Other discussion items surrounded the cap on flexible spending account contributions and considering whether it still makes sense to offer retiree prescription drug coverage. Duckett explained that ultimately all institutions will have to consider what design changes they need to make to reduce their exposure “to a whopping new federal tax” that will be imposed on the most costly employer plans.

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