Common Solutions is a collaborative and consultative initiative to support academic units and to improve their ability to work efficiently. The idea for this initiative first surfaced 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 last couple academic years, the Common Solutions Team has consulted with 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 is comprised 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 have set up a robust governance and coordination structure for the initiative. See Common Solutions Structure. Specifically, this year, we have established two project teams, each of which focuses on a specific tool or on a category of tools to be featured in the online inventory over time:
Academic Personnel Tools Project Team
Manager 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 FY 2017-19, in addition to supporting the project teams (including the Academic Personnel and Finance Inventory Tools Teams, as well as the Commitments Database Project Team), the following objectives will guide the work of the Oversight Group:
1. Publicize the Common Solutions Initiative and Inventory
Develop a plan to communicate the existence and purpose of Common Solutions as well as the tools in the online inventory; ensure all appropriate parties are engaged, including campus and academic leadership as well as functional owners, and analysts and managers in academic units.
Encourage academic units to contribute tools and templates they’ve developed to meet a local need, and determine whether there are additional unmet operational needs for which a solution might exist on campus.
2. Extend the Multi-year Roadmap for Common Solutions
In collaboration with the project teams, functional owners, and campus leadership, further develop the multi-year roadmap that identifies potential future areas of focus for Common Solutions, including specific target projects and estimated timeframes.
Publish the roadmap on the Common Solutions website and publicize it to all interested parties.
At the end of each academic year, the work of the project teams and oversight group will culminates in three major milestones: 1) the release of a common solutions roadmap, 2) the release of a report documenting accomplishments and recommendations, and 3) a refresh of the Common Solutions roadmap and updates to the Common Solutions Online Inventory.