Chancellor update on shared services decision

by Cathy Sandeen, UAA Chancellor  |   

Dear UAA Community,

Thank you for your feedback on the proposal to create a shared services unit for fiscal management at UAA’s Anchorage campus. I am writing to inform you I have decided to move forward with the implementation of a single, campuswide shared services unit. This decision is consistent with the recommendation of UAA’s Shared Services Task Force and includes university-level human resources, purchasing, and finance and accounting-related activities.

UAA’s fiscal reality
From fiscal year '14 through '21 , UAA experienced a $34 million reduction to its state funding, and we face another $7.2 million cut next year due to the university system’s compact with the governor. The compact reduced the system’s state funding by $70 million over fiscal years ’20, ’21 and ’22 requiring UAA to implement nearly $30 million in reductions.

Although two of our academic colleges have settled into a high-functioning shared services model for fiscal management, many units have not. The enormity of our state budget cuts means we cannot afford multiple shared services units, nor can we afford to restore the number of fiscal management employee positions in place prior to the cuts. I also have received feedback from employees that our processes are antiquated and time consuming. This must change.

With participation from staff within the newly created shared services unit, we will be able to choose the most efficient processes and workflows, adopt best practices from existing units on campus and standardize these. Fiscal management staff will have professional development, career tracks and coverage when they are out of the office.

Next steps
Within the next week, I will form a Shared Services Implementation Task Force to do this work with an initial focus on the current state of fiscally related jobs and existing policies and procedures. Fiscal management staff’s reporting lines will shift from academic units to the shared services unit. We will seek to achieve the right staffing levels through attrition.

I anticipate these changes to be made by the end of this calendar year. We will work closely with UA Human Resources on a fair and thoughtful process in addition to following Board of Regents’ policies and university regulations. While a longer timeline for implementation would be ideal, our current fiscal management needs and budget realities necessitate a sense of urgency.

I would like to acknowledge and thank the Shared Services Task Force for completing their analysis and providing recommendations. This task force will be discontinued as we transition to implementation. We will launch a website soon with information and progress reports on this effort.

Benefits of the new shared services unit

  • Timely and accurate data and reports
  • Advising for unit heads on the unit’s financial state (unit heads such as directors, deans, etc. are responsible for all financial decisions in their units)
  • Focus on customer service with service-level agreements (e.g., response times) between the shared services unit and the campus units it serves
  • Shared long-term savings with the units based on an agreed upon formula

We must continue to support existing operations while we are fully converting to a shared services framework. During the first transition year, we must maintain enough staff to do this. It is my intention that fiscal management for community campuses will eventually be provided by the shared services unit as well.

Smaller, more focused, still excellent
During my time at UAA, I have been required to make many difficult decisions. My goal is always to be transparent with you to minimize anxiety and frustration. I am relying on my professional experience, the expertise of my leadership team, along with your input to make the best judgments possible within a very difficult financial context — nearly $42 million in total cuts by fiscal year ’22.

We are in a continual era of challenge and change. This is difficult for us all. Taking the long view of the entire organization, UAA will be smaller, more focused, but still excellent. We will be stable and sustainable. We will accomplish our mission better than ever through a high-functioning, collaborative and positive work environment. Our spirit will improve.

While I have established the creation of a single shared services unit for fiscal management, accomplishing this and other initiatives will require us all to work together and support our important teaching, research and service mission.

Cathy Sandeen
UAA Chancellor

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