Q and A: Increasing Administrative Efficiency After COVID-19
What a year it's been! What are the biggest changes you've seen on campus?
First of all, we've all been so creative and flexible! Everyone was forced out of their comfort zone. Faculty who never taught online before made the transition in a matter of weeks. Students who never attended a virtual class suddenly had all their courses online! And administrative staff suddenly did their entire jobs from home. In short, we all had to learn the most important parts of our jobs and how to do them, no matter the circumstance.
As the nearly retired CBO at KU, what ended up being the most important part of YOUR job during COVID-19?
I needed to think about our budget in a whole new way, and even though I'm now fully retired (and a NACUBO consultant), I'm passionate about greater budget flexibility.
Many of us have an incremental budget model, so everyone grows or shrinks together. In this new world, I don’t believe that will sustain us. Not only is there no incentive to collaborate or be efficient, an incremental model also doesn’t adapt to change. For example, it’s nearly impossible to move resources to a fast-growing school in an intelligent and fair way, among other problems.
If you’ve only seen one budget model, you only have one perspective. Remember that everyone has a DIFFERENT budget model, and I promise there is a budget model out there that will meet the needs of your institution. But you have to find it: ask questions, reach out to your peers at other institutions, and get curious.
With ever-changing enrollments, many institutions are looking to consolidate services. What’s been your experience?
When I hear shared services, the first thing that comes to mind for me is the need for data, change managers, and patience. First, gather data to understand the proposed impact. Then, realize that you need to pay just as much attention to the staff that isn't moving into shared services—their job is affected, too! Lastly, and most importantly, patience. Take the time to do it right: there are no shortcuts when it comes to switching to shared services.
Lastly, what surprised you the most this year?
I have to admit, before the pandemic, I was one of those managers who couldn't wrap my head around working from home. So I was so surprised by how productive people were working remotely! I hope we allow for more remote work going forward. If for no other reason, think of the parking problems it would solve! (I'm only partly joking.)
Vice President, Consulting and Business Development