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UW Finance Transformation

The UWFT Operating Model: navigating where and how we’ll do our work

By: 
Chief of Staff and Chief Administrative Officer, Executive Office of the President & Provost; Program Sponsor, UW Finance Transformation

July 20, 2022

Four months ago, my husband and I decided to move our family onto our 42’ sailboat, Frances. After two years of pandemic “house arrest,” I wanted to breathe fresh air and fix a daily gaze on the horizon. When we finally let our families and work colleagues know about our plans, everyone had a similar version of the same question — “Wow, what a change! How are you going to manage two kids in such a small space?” Our response was usually some version of, “We’ll figure it out! Luckily, we like each other a lot.” We have, and we still do. 

My work as the business transformation owner (BTO) for UWFT’s operating model has felt a lot like my move onto Frances. A little over a year ago, when I was asked to serve as BTO, our work was dominated by discussions of technology and business process design (and redesign). As the UWFT program started to move out of design and into testing, we felt like our operating model work needed a breath of fresh air and a gaze at the horizon.  So, we made some changes. We consolidated work on the operating model (where and how work gets done) and the support model (where to go to get help) into a single process transformation team (PTT). There were a few weeks of bumping into elbows and stepping on toes to get work organized, but I’m happy to report we’ve made some great progress (and we still like each other a lot). I’m pleased to share an update on our journey to date and the adventure ahead.      

What is an operating model? 
An operating model tells us where and how work gets done. At the UW, many financial business processes are performed at the local level. While every unit1 functions a little differently, currently around 70% of finance, procurement and supply chain processes are performed at the “local” level and 30% of financial business functions are performed at a “central” or institutional level. Sometime that works well, sometimes it’s too many cooks in a galley-sized kitchen. Our goal is an operating model that will:

  • Achieve greater efficiency and productivity through creation of consistent and standardized policies and processes while ensuring critical business requirements are met 
  • Free up and build capacity for administrators, faculty and staff to support higher-value activities that drive the University’s mission
  • Ensure standardization, which will result in better data integrity and ultimately reporting
  • Increase compliance with Federal, State and University-wide policies and procedures 
  • Provide high-quality, consistent customer service across units

Early in the UWFT operating model design process, the program explored creating new, “regional hubs” to perform finance and procurement activities designated for the Shared Environment (SE). Then, in fall 2020 — after additional peer research and stakeholder feedback — the Executive Office determined that developing more robust shared environments within our existing units could meet our business needs, culture and operational goals.

‘Sharing’ is the operative word
In our new UWFT operating model, there are four different “levels of shared” categories to define where work is done. They are: 

  • Enterprise-wide – processes that are shared across the entire UW, including UW Academy (UWA) and UW Medicine (UWM)
  • Organization-wide – processes that are done on behalf of either UWA or UWM, but not across both organizations
  • Shared Environment – processes that can be done more efficiently, consistently and accurately in a shared environment by having a pooled set of resources performing on behalf of one or more local units 
    • Central Shared Environment (CSE) – located in central UW Finance Shared Services under Finance Director Vincent Lau, the CSE is available to support units that require ‘outsourcing’ SE transactions due to small unit size, low transaction volumes or limited resources
  • Unit Level – processes that are unique or specific to an individual unit

The most significant change to our current model is that more finance, procurement and supply chain work will occur within a unit SE or higher (e.g., enterprise or organization-wide) across the University.To support work in the unit SEs, the Operating Model team has been working with Human Resources in the creation of three new classified job roles. While units are not required to use these roles, the roles were created in recognition that different staff expertise is needed to support the work that will be done in unit SEs. As the new roles become available for use, local HR consultants will be available to help units determine what roles may work best to meet their financial management and business process needs.

What is a support model?
A good customer support model is an essential component of a complete operating model. It tells us where to go to get help. As a first step to designing the support model, our new Operating Model PTT determined that, generally, unit SEs will be the first contact for those in their units who have financial questions about all nine end-to-end business process areas (some additional work is ongoing to understand exactly how this will work for the UWM clinical enterprise). This will allow unit SEs full transparency on financial questions generated within their unit, give units SEs agency to appropriately route questions for leadership review and decision-making, and improve coordination between unit leadership and organizational/enterprise partners (read: central support). We’ve also decided that:

  • UW Connect [Service Now] will be used for case management (ticketing and routing) where SEs enter, track, escalate and communicate issues to Central Administration / Finance orgs and the ISC (additional work is ongoing to understand how this may be used for the UWM clinical enterprise); SEs, UW Finance and the ISC will be UW Connect licensed users. 
  • Units will get to determine what case management tool they use as they track work within their unit and up through their SE.   
  • There will be one common landing page for Workday help on UW Connect.

Now that we’ve made these decisions, our PTT and associated user task groups (UTGs) are getting to work on designing the rest of the support model. 

Are we having fun yet?!
No question, we’ve got a lot of detailed work ahead of us. But, while much focus and attention are being given to “go-live,” one of the most gratifying elements of helping to lead the operating model work is the potential for positive impact beyond go-live. As someone who lives and breathes operations on a daily basis, I’m consistently in awe of what it takes to operate this University, and the incredible people who help make it happen every day. Please know, I approach our work in service to our University community and our shared goal to maximize our University’s impact. None of this work can be accomplished by myself or the UWFT program alone. Thank you for your ongoing partnership — even when we occasionally step on toes or bump elbows.

Onward!

1Unit refers, in the case of UWA, to each major school or area, and in the case of UWM, to each major shared service area or medical entity. The list can be found on the Change Management page.

If you have any questions, please send a note to uwftask@uw.edu with Operating Model or Customer Support in the subject line to be routed to the appropriate subject matter expert.

Additional Resources:
UWFT Operating Model Fact Sheet
UWFT Operating Model FAQs
UWFT Operating Model Key Messages
Operating Model Webpage 
Operating Model Process Transformation Team
UW Connect  

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