Public Affairs, The California State University

CSU, UC Hold First Conference on Shared Services

by Elizabeth Chapin

Shared services, or merging similar services like finance, legal and human resources within an organization, is common practice in the private sector and gaining ground throughout public agencies as they aim to maximize efficiency and innovation.

Both the California State University and the University of California are leading the way in public higher education shared services practices, and for the first time, the two systems met to discuss their innovative approaches.

Employees from throughout the 23 CSU and 10 UC campuses gathered at the first-ever UC-CSU Shared Services Conference at UC Irvine July 11 to discuss best practices, proposals, pilot projects and ways to improve current projects.

Although they were varied based on the service, the stage, and the system, the conference’s presentations and discussions illustrated the most meaningful result to come from sharing services in higher education–the cost savings go back to students.

“We want to make sure our resources are going to support the mission of the CSU and the university well into the future,” said Chancellor’s Office Budget and Special Initiatives Senior Director Michael Redmond.

The CSU’s Synergy and the UC’s Working Smarter initiatives outline a number of individual shared services efforts that work toward that goal.

They include UCPath, which will deploy a single payroll and HR system across UC’s ten campuses and five medical centers, and the CSU’s Procure to Pay, which aims to streamline procurement, resulting in spending reductions, reduced labor processing time, and better cash management.

Additional CSU cost-reducing efforts include the CSU’s Common Financial System. The system, launched last year, is maintained and operated at a single point–and that has saved millions of dollars in systems installation, upgrade and maintenance costs.

A common misperception is that such savings are generated from downsizing the workforce. But, as the projects are proving, they come from eliminating redundancies and making the best use of each employee’s unique talents.

CSU Chief Technology Officer Mark Crase discussed the CSU’s Virtual Network Operations Center pilot project, which aims to reduce costs by eliminating redundant network management systems. The pilot utilizes a “virtual team” of IT experts to optimize the extensive amount of talent available in the CSU.

“Because technology and the way we do things in the workplace is always changing, people’s jobs also change over time,” Crase said. “We’re not only finding solutions to streamline services, we are preparing our workforce for the future.”