The Common Solutions initiative is the outcome of a collaborative and consultative process. The idea behind the initiative -- to improve the ability of academic units to work efficiently -- was first discussed a few years ago in the context of general frustration with workload issues in academic units, lack of resources and tools to handle routine tasks, and major gaps between enterprise systems’  functionality and local needs. These concerns have been further exacerbated by budgetary constraints, when staff are asked to do so much more with so much less.

Over the course of the 2015-16 academic year, the Common Solutions Team (CS 1.0) consulted a number of campus groups, tool developers, finance and academic personnel analysts, functional and enterprise system owners, as well as managers and staff in the schools and colleges. We heard that staff are eager for tools that can handle the most routine, labor-intensive, and time–consuming tasks. And many welcome the idea of borrowing, or adapting to their own circumstances, tools that have proven efficient and successful for their peers on campus. In particular, the initiative was enthusiastically endorsed by the Chief Administrative Officers (CAOs) and department managers as a way to ensure they and their staff would have reliable access to useful tools tailored to our campus environment. The owners of the tools also have endorsed the idea of working with us to ensure proper coordination mechanisms are in place as they expand use of their solutions to other campus units. See Background slide.

Structure: Oversight Group and Project Teams

The Oversight Group for the second phase of Common Solutions (CS 2.0) was established in Fall 2016 with the goal of helping address these concerns. Our sponsor is Tsu-Jae King Liu, Vice Provost for Academic and Space Planning.

We are a group of staff and managers, representatives from both academic departments and central administrative units. Our main charge is to locate tools on campus to meet the support and administrative needs of academic units. We function fundamentally as a coordination mechanism. We facilitate conversations between local units and the owners of enterprise or local tools, all with the goal of providing the community with a simple and reliable set of proven solutions to common business problems. See the Oversight Group charge letter.

To fulfill our charge,  we focused initially on setting up a robust governance and coordination structure for the initiative. See Common Solutions Structure. Specifically, this year, we have established four project teams, based on recommendations from last year’s Common Solutions Team, each of which focuses on a specific tool or on a category of tools to be featured in the online inventory over time:

  • Commitments Database Project Team 

  • Monthly Management Reports Project Team

  • Academic Personnel Project Team 

  • Finance Tools Project Team

Once the needs of academic units are identified and potential solutions are located, the  subject matter experts on the project teams work with the owners of the solutions to map out a path for offering the tools to other units. Together we develop implementation plans, adoption processes and mechanisms by which we can extend use of the tools to interested parties. For example, in 2016, we coordinated a demo of an endowment calculator tool developed by the Haas School of Business. That demo led to further conversations with University Development and Alumni Relations. We were delighted to find out that UDAR was developing a similar tool for internal use. With input from members of the Common Solutions Team, UDAR has now extended use of the tool to other interested parties on campus. See Endowment Payment Calculator Success Story.   

Objectives & Timeline

For 2016-17, we have established four main objectives:

  1. Develop a framework for the pilot year (2016-17), with a governance structure, objectives and assessment measures.
  2. Establish and facilitate the work of the project teams.
  3. Produce and release the first instance of the Common Solutions Inventory, with guidelines for maintaining, using and growing the inventory over time.
  4. Develop a multi-year roadmap to guide the work of the teams over the next few years.

At the end of the 2016-17 academic year, the work of the project teams and oversight group will culminate in two major milestones: the release of a common solutions roadmap, and the first instance of the Common Solutions Online Inventory (link to page). The inventory will be the first of its kind at Berkeley!

A multi-phase, peer-driven communication campaign will then follow to encourage on a voluntary basis campus adoption of existing tools and to grow the inventory of solutions over time.  See the 2016-17 Timeline.