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Business Officer Magazine

Integrate Institutional Strategies

In these sessions, attendees heard how to incorporate integrated planning, financial modeling, performance measurement, and other innovative strategies into their institutions.

Resource Allocation and the Budget Process

In a standing-room-only session, "Budget Models and Process: Challenges Facing Institutions Today," panelists examined the key aspects surrounding resource allocation from the perspectives of both public and private institutions. Participating were Craig Becker, associate vice president and controller, Yeshiva University, New York; and Melody Bianchetto, assistant vice president for budget and financial planning, University of Virginia, Charlottesville; with moderator Larry Goldstein, president of Campus Strategies. Becker and Bianchetto each outlined how their institutions integrate resource allocation with planning and assessment.

For Bianchetto, moving from a historic resource allocation model to one that significantly altered the institutional landscape not only utilized a change process but "ruffled a few feathers." She noted that "tuition price setting, state legislative environment, and volatility in state support and increasing accountability" are key aspects of resource allocation. She asked the audience to consider the following factors that influence the budget process: Where does responsibility for operational decisions lie? And where does responsibility for management of resources lie?

According to Becker, the hybrid budget model encourages entrepreneurial activities and achieves a better alignment of resource allocation and provides resources for strategic investment. "While we all strive to implement rational, planning-linked budget processes," said Becker, "the reality is we mostly use incremental hybrids to allocate resources."

Goldstein opened the session and closed it with a few comments about the role of budgeting, comparing it to a map expressed in financial terms, guiding an institution on a journey as it carries out its mission. Ultimately the budget is not a plan; it is a product of the planning process. In terms of resource allocation, he said, "Plans determine what will be done, while budgets dictate the level of resources to be deployed in executing the plans."

The Road to Strategic Plan Implementation

The pathway to implementing a strategic plan can be a rough one. Margaret Plympton and Hannah Stewart-Gambino, though, have discovered a way to make for a smooth journey. In their session, "Where the Rubber Meets the Road: Potholes on the Road to Implementation of a Strategic Plan," Plympton, vice president for finance and administration at Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and Stewart-Gambino, dean of the college, Lafayette College, Easton, Pennsylvania, reviewed several impediments that administrators may face when taking an institutional plan from theory to action.

One tool that can often quickly turn into an obstacle is data. "Just because we have data and numbers doesn't always make it useful for strategic planning," explained Stewart-Gambino. Business officers frequently are faced with the problem of too much data, or even worse, the wrong data, she continued.

Now, more than ever, campuses are faced with limited resources, including funds, time, and people. Unrealistic goals and wishful thinking can sometimes make their way into the planning process, and can damage it from the moment they are introduced.

Proper communications can help an institution pass over these "potholes," regardless of the size of the institution, argued Plympton and Stewart-Gambino. The goal with communication should be to find the proper balance: the fine line between too much information and not enough.

Attendees walked away with a better understanding of the process of implementing a strategic plan—and left with ideas, tools, and timelines to use on their home campuses.

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