I posted yesterday about the investment by HEFCE in shared services and cloud computing. Today UCISA is running a managers forum on Shared Services which I'm sad to be missing, but following a lot of the proceedings on twitter (#ucshare). Various themes running through proceedings so far - can we afford not to, being one, and why are there so few really shared services in HE (with the exception of the national ones such as JANET, UCAS etc). I'm glad to hear that the VAT barrier to shared services, (although Universities are classed as VAT exempt, they have to pay VAT on services they buy - even shared ones - which is non recoverable), is recognised by the government, and there may be a solution on the way.
I was also pleased to see business process improvement mentioned as a key driver for shared services. Those of you who've heard me speak on the topic recently will know that I believe one of the barriers to sharing services across institutions its that sometimes we can't even share them within our own institution - we need to get that sorted first.
We've just established a project to review and improve key business processes by developing a framework based on LEAN. Originally developed by Toyota for the manufacturing industry, LEAN attempts to identify and eliminate “waste” in any process, and therefore reduce complexity and time. It concentrates on the value of the process to the end customer, has been used successfully by many Universities and organisations, and is a simple and common sense approach. It also promotes local ownership of processes and the culture of continuous improvement, as well as being relatively quick to identify areas to change, as it uses process mapping workshops which can identify “as is” and “to be” maps in two days.
Had a good discussion yesterday with one of our project managers who is going to help me take this forward. The intention is for a Steering Group to prioritise which processes need review and improvement, and to have a group of trained LEAN facilitators drawn from a number of different departments to take it forward. With the current financial climate it's essential that no resource is wasted, and that we deliver the most value to our customers.
Several processes have already been identified, including regulation/module and programme approval and change, computer account registration and uCard production, staff recruitment and postgraduate admissions and we'll be canvassing for more soon.
Finally, there's obviously been a lot of discussion at the forum on the potential for shared services to reduce our carbon emissions. A tweet from the fantastically informative @ajaybb says "ICT in HE: 1.47m computers and £116m electricity - surely we can find some scope for sharing resources amongst that lot?" One would hope so!