On June 25 and 26, almost 50 people filled a room in Cramer Hall for a work session on Strategic Enrollment Management Planning and Performance-Based Budgeting (SEM/PBB). On a beautiful Thursday and Friday, PSU deans, associate deans, fiscal officers, the chair and co-chair of the Faculty Senate Budget Committee, associate vice presidents, vice provosts, and a few vice presidents spent a day and a half sharing ideas for improving the SEM/PBB process.
Why the work session?
The primary objective was to enhance the effectiveness of our SEM and Budget processes by using a business process analysis approach to identify best practices, overcome organizational silos, and streamline our processes.
The session was facilitated by Kari Blinn from Strata Information Group. She has helped PSU reimagine processes and workflow for other projects. Kari’s experience in higher education, her facilitative skills and her sense of humor made it possible for us to cut through some dense material in a rapid, collegial, and effective manner.
Shifting the paradigm
FY 15 was our first year of PBB. We made the decision to move from our existing, incremental-based budget model to PBB after years of discussion and study. Although we did not have it all figured out, we had enough information to create several tools to feel confident to take the plunge. We did a deeper integration of SEM/PBB planning when setting the FY 16 performance requirements (revenue requirement and expenditure budgets) for schools and colleges.
A win: Colleges now have greater flexibility in planning and how they use their resources, and for the first time in years, we were able to fund new revenue growth. However, with any new process comes new bumps.
What we found
The work session was a chance to take a critical look at what was under the hood. We covered the principles and benefits of Business Process Analysis (BPA) and constructed a process map. While some may think “BPA” is too corporate a term for higher education, it is well suited to assess processes in any type of organization with the goal of seeking internal solutions to complex processes.
It took us the better part of the first day to map the current SEM/PBB process and see it from the various perspectives. The map took up the entire front of the room! We not only saw how effective some parts of the process were, but it also confirmed our heavy reliance on duct tape, chewing gum and a few squirrels to hold the process together. While we knew we had made the right decision in implementing SEM/PBB, we still needed to take an honest and critical look at what we could do to make it better.
After analyzing the process map, we:
- Discussed strengths and weaknesses of the process
- Talked about the bottlenecks, failure points, choke points, layers, shadow systems and excessive use of paper.
- Identified those parts of our process built around exceptions and those that were not scalable.
- Saw how the horizontal process of connecting enrollment management and budget planning was complicated by the vertical structure of the many units of our university.
- Examined the challenges, lost opportunities and benefits of the current and desired process.
- Talked about the tools we had, the ones we did not have, the ones we no longer wanted, and if we had too many or not enough.
During the work session, I could feel the tug of the giant hairball I blogged about last year. It was hard to keep from getting tangled in the past. I also needed to remind myself and others that complexity is not a bad thing and that PSU is a complex system. The SEM/PBB workshop provided ample evidence that “interdependent organisms can come together to cooperate on solving problems that affect the survival as a whole.”
We spent time mapping out what an ideal process might include. We did not leave the two-part work session with a new or perfect SEM/PBB process. But, we did gain insight on how to improve the process (both short and long term), and to be more comfortable with the ambiguity that comes in creating new processes. In the next few weeks, the Provost Office will post a work plan on next steps on the Academic Affairs website.
The end goal is to create an environment for student success; one where faculty and staff thrive, gives PSU a competitive advantage, and provides the resources needed to accomplish our goals and aspirations.