Yesterday I was in Edinburgh for a UCISA Executive meeting. As part of our mission to extend our working relationships with other similar bodies, we invited the chair of the British Universities Finance Directors Group (BUFDG) to join us. We had lots of things to discuss, and when we compared notes very similar agendas.
We know the government and funding councils are encouraging shared services, and one of the things we wanted to explore was whether the Finance Directors believe that the use of common finance systems by groups of Universities are achievable. As IT directors, we think the technical issues could be overcome, but the resistance has in the past come from the end users of such systems. Other items we talked about included difficulties of costing services, and how we can use our finance systems to best effect to do this, which might mean changes to the structure of accounts. We all agreed that this was a prerequisite to looking at changes to models of service delivery, whether that involved shared services or outsourcing, as it would be difficult to demonstrate cost benefits when you don't know what the service is costing in the first place.
Funding of IT and in particular capital vs recurrent funding was an area we touched on, with an agreement that we do need to understand each other's language better. A joint workshop between finance and IT was suggested - a sort of IT for dummies for the finance people, and vice versa for us!
A very useful discussion with the potential for some joint projects, and some joint funding bids to produce best practice case studies.
On a lighter note, it amused me that BUFDG is apparently pronounced Buffdog, and I can't get the image of a small dog out of my head now. And then today I found this which amused me even more.