By Linda Powell, Director of OSU Shared Services
I hope you enjoyed the premier Spring issue of our new employee newsletter. Our first order of business in this issue is naming it ... We received some great entries in the Newsletter Naming Contest, so it was a tough decision! I appreciate all the participation.
Congratulations to Janna Whippo (Accountant 1, AMBC) for submitting the winning idea: BC CONNECTOR! (Janna is pictured at right with her AMBC colleagues) The BC Communication Coordinating Committee narrowed the list to three and asked me to choose the winner. BC Connector stood out to me for two reasons: It highlights Business Centers—who we are—right in the title; and it emphasizes the connections between us. One of the key strategies of OSU Shared Services is to “nurture inclusive partnerships by sharing information and communicating effectively.” This applies just as much to our internal colleagues as it does to our work with customers and central office partners. BC Connector also refers to the goal of the newsletter—to connect all Business Center employees, share the best practices and creative ideas our colleagues have developed, and plug us in to the whole community. And, watch for “BC Connector” in the masthead of our next issue.
In the interest of widely sharing information, I also want to touch on the Human Resources Best Practices Review that is occurring during July and early August. Even if you aren’t on an HR team, you may have heard about this and wonder what it’s all about. As occurs from time to time across the University, OSU has hired a consultant to review overall Human Resources work processes. This is especially important now, as OSU responds to unprecedented growth over the last few years, and we have transformed into an independently-governed institution. President Ray has expressed the goal for OSU to be considered one of the top ten land-grant universities in the nation, and for that to happen, we need to have the most effective programs and practices possible.
In the meantime, I know everyone has been very busy, and we are just about to tie a bow on another successful fiscal year. In appreciation of your hard work, I’m encouraging you all to take a break on Friday, July 22 (3:15-4:30 pm) and visit the Shared Services Community Open House. Stop by and grab a cold beverage and a treat, and catch up with your work friends from across the business centers! I’m always interested to know how things are going for you, and I hope we have a chance to chat.
All the best,
Take a Break from Year End
OSU Shared Services
Community Open House
Friday, July 22
Memorial Union 213
Cool treats | Informal networking
By Jack Breen, AMBC Manager and member of the Grants Lean Team
Leaning Forward at OSU is an initiative that is based on using long-established principles and practices (collectively known as “Lean” methods) to streamline the steps involved in complex processes. OSU’s program was started in 2014 by Division of Finance and Administration (DFA), and it is expanding to include other offices and departments across the University. This newsletter will continue to offer updates about process improvement and Lean projects.
In 2014, President Ray asked University administrators to improve the grants process to better support researchers across OSU. The first step was to move the Office of Post-Award Administration from the DFA to the Research Office to create the new Office of Sponsored Research and Award Administration (OSRAA). In January 2015, Ron Adams, now interim Provost for OSU, and former VPFA Glenn Ford invited a cross-section of university employees to serve on a Grants Lean Team, focused on improving overall processes and procedures. The team, led by Pat Hawk, includes staff and faculty from OSRAA, colleges, and Business Centers.
To start, the team mapped the entire pre-award and post-award process in detail (as shown in photo), identified root causes, and evaluated 28 value-added solutions, in consultation with faculty and the sponsors. In May 2015, the team made recommendations to sponsors, categorizing solutions into several key areas of focus:
The Grants Lean Team moved on to implementing solutions in the key areas starting in Summer 2015. High-level roles and responsibilities for people across the University were defined, and this effort continues in more detail to increase clarity, reduce gaps in service, and standardize procedures. Additionally, people involved received additional training opportunities, and the team created an “investigator’s toolbox,” which includes a variety of tools, templates and links to essential information.
The Lean Team streamlined processes around Personnel Activity Reports, in preparation for developing an electronic effort reporting system. This remains a manual process, pending the release of an updated Banner platform. After the electronic system is implemented, OSRAA and Shared Services employees can look forward to much less time spent on tracking, reviewing and correcting PAR forms.
Modeled after shipping systems where you always know where your package is, the Grants Team created an online tracking system that allows investigators to check the status of their grant proposal or award online. The tracking system greatly improves transparency and communication between administrators and investigators. The momentum around this effort also led to the development of expedited set-up of pending awards.
In order to facilitate and monitor progress on the remaining Grant Lean Team solutions, the group is working to establish an advisory committee. It is also putting into place an assessment tool to collect ongoing feedback that can be used for continuous future improvement.
“I realize the additional effort employees have expended on this team and I am grateful for their work,” reflected Linda Powell, Director of OSU Shared Services. “This investment is yielding results and demonstrates the importance of collaborating with our strategic partners to improve service to the University community.”
If you have thoughts or recommendations regarding these activities, please contact one of the Shared Services employees working on the team (Jack Breen, Shaun Bromagem, Sarah Child, Penny Pinard, Aviva Rivera and Lisa Silbernagel). They would be glad to hear your ideas and incorporate them in the team’s work.
By Kayla Campbell, Accountant, BEBC
Did you know that you can stamp documents directly in Adobe Acrobat? In this digital age, many vendors are sending their invoices and documents via email. Business Centers use ink-based stamps to mark their invoices requiring us to print out those electronic invoices, stamp them, write in the accounting and contact information, then scan them for upload into Nolij. I’m sure we have all spent many hours every week stamping then writing in the same information on countless invoices again and again. Couldn’t we save a lot of time, and paper, by stamping those same invoices and filling them out in Adobe Acrobat instead? Yes, we can in fact do this! You can even include static information like your name and contact information so you’ll never have to fill out those fields again.
It’s easy to set up and use stamps in Adobe Acrobat! When invoices are received via email, convert them to the .pdf format, stamp them with your new digital stamp, then enter the accounting information via the text tool. You can now enter the invoice in Banner, and scan directly into Nolij without using any paper.
Instructions for creating a stamp in Adobe Acrobat
Template for Banner accounting block stamp
If you have any questions please contact Kayla Campbell.
By Kelsey Herman, Accountant 1, FOBC and Scott Lommers, Buyer, AABC
Is it possible to earn a degree while working full-time? Whether you’re aware of it or not, there are likely multiple workers in your business center that are doing just that. In fact, the AABC alone has seven employees working on master’s degrees right now! Whether you’re looking for your first degree or an advanced degree, you can find your inspiration right here with your OSU Shared Services colleagues.
The Work-Life Balance
Many people consider starting on a degree while employed full-time, but often dismiss it quickly after contemplating the potential hurdles. Jonathan Rosa at the AABC, who is pursuing a Master of Business Administration degree, said it’s not always easy, but it can be done. “This [the work-life balance] is the most difficult part of taking classes,” said Rosa. “As a rule of thumb, I use the weekdays to attend class and focus on work. Then I do my course work, reading and studying on the weekend. I will do school work first thing in the mornings and reserve the second part of my day for family, house work, or leisure time.”
Rosa, who is married and has three sons, aged 17, 12 and 9, stressed starting small. Once you’re sure it can work, then take on bigger challenges. “I would encourage anyone who is considering a degree while working to try one class to see how it goes,” Rosa said. “Then you will know if it’s something you can see yourself doing for some period of time. I recommend taking one class at a time if you aren’t in a hurry so you can enjoy each of the classes and take away more insights. Being both a student and a staff member also gives you better perspective on what our business is all about at OSU.”
Other BC employees, like Rob Schellenger, an Accountant I in HSBC, have taken advantage of the tuition reduction privilege to move their way up to an advanced position. Rob completed his Associate degree in Accounting Technology and is currently working on Bachelor’s degrees from OSU in both Business Information Systems and Accountancy. “Completing my Associate degree in Accounting Technology definitely aided me in my role here in the Business Center, but moving forward, I think my work experience has been very beneficial in regards to my coursework…working in the Business Center has helped me connect the dots.”
Rob has learned to take advantage of the resources available to him such as Austin Hall’s computer lab and study rooms, being able to work a flexible schedule to fit better with his classes, and using his colleagues in HSBC to bounce questions off of when struggling with a certain topic. He stresses the importance of time management and organization when balancing career and advanced education and has learned to be more disciplined. He’s also learned that sleep is overrated!
If you are thinking about advancing your education while working full time and would like more insights, Rob has graciously made himself available to answer questions and share his experiences.
Online courses are currently excluded from the Tuition Reduction Privilege at OSU, but not necessarily at other Oregon universities, where the staff fee privilege extends. Portland State University, for example, offers OSU staff members the tuition reduction privilege on its online courses.
So if you’re interested in continuing your education, consider the examples of your colleagues. It’s challenging, but it can be done—especially with the support of family, the University community, and the benefit of reduced tuition.
Information about OSU's staff Tuition Reduction Benefit
How to use the tuition benefit program at Portland State
By Mark Johnson, Manager, ASBC
On May 9, OSU Shared Services sponsored an all-day training event featuring Excel and Outlook training by Tommy Stephens from K2 Enterprises. Tommy has conducted Excel trainings at OSU several times in the past, and has become a familiar face to many of us.
This year, Tommy provided advanced-level training on Excel 2016’s new features, ways to analyze data more efficiently, how to use Power BI and other Pivot analysis tools, and demonstrated new Excel charting improvements. He also shared some great tips on working with Outlook 2016.
Interest in this topic was broad: 115 people attended this full day training; 94 from business centers, and 21 from other units in Finance and Administration. Continuing Professional Education (CPE) credits were awarded to 35 people, which applies toward their ongoing education requirements for CPA and other professional licenses. Attendees provided very positive feedback about the speaker and the overall presentation. All input, including some concerns received about the room and lunch, will be taken into account by event planners in the future.
Bringing someone like Tommy to the OSU campus is a great way to provide high quality, relevant, professional development in a very cost effective manner. We will share other upcoming professional development opportunities in the future.
By Melanie Rose, DFA Communications and Mark Johnson, Manager, ASBC
We sat down with Lissa Perrone, the Interim Director of Business Affairs, to talk about projects and collaborations with Business Centers.
What is most important in Business Affairs right now?
We are working on so many projects! Over and above all of that is managing the leadership transitions that came up when Mike Green took on the Interim Vice President for Finance & Administration role. And, we’re very fortunate to now have Jan Lewis as our Interim AVP of Finance. Along with Mike an Jan, I get to work closely with Mark Fryman (Assistant Director of Financial Accounting and Analysis) and Kelly Kozisek (Chief Procurement Officer). We are responsible for separate areas of Business Affairs, but our work overlaps, so it is helpful that we have open communication and complementary skill sets.
As unit leaders, the three of us have been involved in division-level strategic planning conversations, and this will lead us to work together more to coordinate and prioritize projects. The strategic plan discussions have also helped us better understand how Business Affairs’ work fits together with other units, such as Shared Services. We are looking more at how to develop consistent processes, better coordinate with other groups, and identify shared goals and projects.
When we look at our responsibilities from a wider perspective, we can see the ways we affect and interact with other units. It’s important to collaborate with other groups, particularly the Business Centers, to develop standard processes together so they work well for all of us. By taking advantage of our different areas of expertise, we create better ways of working. And as we build personal relationships, we support each other in doing our best.
What has your team been focused on lately?
Well, year-end close has been major area of focus for all of us over the last couple of months. Alex Sims, Manager of Vendor Payment Operations, has taken a different approach the last couple of years in helping our partners prepare. Rather than a formal training presentation, he’s having conversations with small groups that allow them to talk about specific issues and develop trouble-shooting methods.
The Payroll team has been working with Business Centers to respond to new federal regulations about sick leave, which provides some students and temporary employees with a new benefit. Business Affairs and Business Center staff have worked together closely on developing, testing, and implementing the new policies. We are going through a similar process for minimum wage changes that started on July 1.
Another important area of change is related to financial awards for undergrad research experiences, because there are a lot of different programs across Oregon State with different rules and payment types. It’s confusing for everyone, which increases the risk that a mistake can be made. In order to better serve the students and make sure we comply with various regulations, Business Affairs and Business Centers are working closely to modernize things. We developed a good process for one program that will serve as a model for the others. Now we are making sure we have identified all student experiential learning programs that involve awards or payments. The new standardized processes will be in place by Fall term.
We are working on a number of other projects as well, trying to streamline things to make it easier for all groups. We hired a third-party security assessor who is helping us with annual audits for Payment Card Compliance, which affects everyone on campus who accepts credit card payments (known as “merchants”). Merchants, supported by their Business Centers, have complicated reporting requirements every year, and the assistance from the security assessor is helping us make it easier for them to comply. The Cashier’s Office is streamlining cash handling procedures and developing new processes to make it easier for everyone to process incoming wires and ACH (automatic transfer) payments. This is connected to an effort with Business Centers to standardize non-student billing procedures across campus, and better support departments who deal with invoicing and payments from outside parties.
You have a lot going on! Do you have time to tackle anything else?
Yes, and those were just a few examples of all the specific projects we are working on. At the same time, we are using Lean Process Improvement techniques to improve more systemic processes. Because OSU is now an independent institution, we have the opportunity to look at our larger policies and make sure they are really working for the people of Oregon State. There is a Lean Team looking at our Financial Information System (FIS) policies now, in an effort to develop a larger model for developing, monitoring and updating OSU policies in a way that includes the input of stakeholders. At this point the team, facilitated by Steve Hoelscher (UHDS Associate Director of Finance and Information Services) with support from Project Lead Mark Fryman, presented to sponsors the issues the group identified with our current policy development processes, and they made recommendations for a concrete course of action. Another Lean Team, with representatives from Business Affairs and Business Centers, is recommending ways to streamline payroll processing using EmpCenter and other technological tools we already have. That group has gotten approval for their recommendations and is now working on priorities and full implementation plans.
Any final thoughts for Business Center staff before we let you go?
We are in the process of working with the Cascades campus as they set up a business administration office, which will be similar in function to the Business Centers. In the process, the Cascades team visited Business Affairs to talk about how to better support each other’s needs. And, members of the Business Affairs team are doing in-person training sessions in Bend, too. It was great to meet face to face and get to know each other as people. I would like to create opportunities for us to do this with the Business Center teams here in Corvallis. The personal connections that develop really help to foster open and supportive working relationships – something everyone will benefit from.
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