Trends and Issues in Higher Ed

Transforming Administration with Shared Services

Shared Services  | October 2017

work colleagues
As provost, I spend a good deal of time thinking about how to support the UW’s research, teaching and service mission with limited resources. The challenge is substantial, as we are facing demands for new programs and activities even though revenues are not growing rapidly. Still, new spending is required: We must address much-needed improvements in a wide variety of management systems (such as human resources, finance, and student data) and pay for important compliance work (such as the safety of minors on our campuses).

So how can we move ahead? How do we address the need to do more, but with limited resources? As I read through the most recent budget plans from the UW deans and chancellors, I was struck by how many mentioned shared services as something they were already doing, or something that they hoped to do soon. So I asked for specific examples from those already well under way — examples featured in this report — to show how these units have shifted from a very decentralized mode of operation to a shared service model. Those who have made the shift report that they’ve saved time, some money and improved service.

From these examples, we learn that a bottom-up, collaborative approach works best. The people involved most closely in the work are the key: they must be involved in creating common goals, in developing and communicating service expectations, and figuring out what works best. Shared services are not top down centralization; instead, Shared Services reflect the individuality, culture and expertise of participating units. One thing is clear: there are many ways to create shared services.

The groups featured here chose tools and platforms carefully, and continue to gather feedback to ensure improvement. They also measure impact. They approach this work as a process, knowing that it takes time and requires regular check-ins to be sure that the shared service team is meeting the needs of all units that have chosen to participate — and who rely on the quality of the team’s service.

Most importantly, the groups featured here asked for help and looked to colleagues as a resource, sharing ideas and experiences. I hope that their example will inspire others to do just that — to contact colleagues, and learn from their experiences, asking them for ideas and assistance in rethinking how best to provide service to our faculty, students and staff.

Baldasty signature
Gerald J. Baldasty
Provost and Executive Vice President
Professor of Communication

Report Sections


Many thanks to the UW colleagues featured here who contributed their stories, to their deans for recommending teams for inclusion and to the UW subject matter experts who lent their advice to this report, including Mary Lidstrom of the Office of Research; LuAnn Stokke and Emily Drevecky of UW Finance & Administration’s Strategic Consulting; Shelley Prosise of the School of Medicine’s Administrative Business Center; Kendra Yoshimoto and Jenny Albrecht of UW Bothell Fiscal and Audit Services; Heidi Tilghman of the College of Arts & Sciences Shared Services Center; Bob Ennes, David Anderson and Kelly Johnson of Health Sciences Administration; Andrew Krueger of the Foster School of Business; Joe Eastham and Terrie Klinger of the College of the Environment; Judy Mahoney and Anne Fitzmaurice Adams of the College of Engineering; and Tomitha Blake, Denzil Suite and Phil Reid of Academic & Student Affairs.

Series Editors
Gerald J. Baldasty, provost and executive vice president
Marisa Nickle, senior director, strategy & academic initiatives, Office of the Provost

Writing and Editing
Editorial Director and Writer: Liz Janssen, graduate student assistant, Office of the Provost
Copy editing: Ignacio Lobos, communications manager, UW-IT; Elizabeth Lowry, senior director, communication and marketing, Office of the Provost

Feature Contributors
Candice Douglass, managing director, marketing & communications, College of Arts & Sciences
Elizabeth Lowry, senior director, communication and marketing, Office of the Provost
Molly McCarthy, managing director, marketing & communications, College of the Environment
Eric Nobis, managing director, marketing & communications, Foster School of Business
Chelsea Yates, assistant director of publications, UW College of Engineering

Design and Photography
Katie Kirkland, project manager, strategy & academic initiatives, Office of the Provost
Elizabeth Lowry, senior director, communication and marketing, Office of the Provost