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UC, CSU join forces for operational efficiencies

Leaders of the Working Smarter initiative, which already has saved the University of California more than $289 million, took a big step forward recently when they and counterparts from California State University’s Synergy program hosted a conference to discuss ways the two universities can share services and improve operational effectiveness.

The first annual UC-CSU Shared Services Conference, held in July at UC Irvine, drew staff and faculty from across both systems to compare notes on shared services projects and share ideas on how they can work together to boost efficiency. The conference, part of an expanded UC-CSU collaboration effort, was meant to set the stage for future cooperation between the two university systems as they seek new, more effective ways to manage services and operations.

“This is such a hot topic, and in a conference setting we could very efficiently learn a lot about what our colleagues are doing right now, and open doors to future collaboration,” said Cathy O’Sullivan, director of UC’s Working Smarter program. “We have a great deal of expertise on this subject within our two institutions and I saw a lot of productive networking happen.”

The idea behind shared services is to gain operational efficiency by consolidating, or sharing, services that are needed throughout an organization. UC and CSU have a successful track record of collaboration, including an online student-transfer information system and shared approaches in sustainability and information technology, O’Sullivan said.

While most shared service projects start out as a way to save money, participants at the conference agreed that they often result in quality improvements, more staffing for the service and needed technology upgrades.

The focus on shared services is an important part of the Working Smarter initiative, the three-year-old program overseen by the UC Office of the President that aims to generate $500 million in administrative efficiencies over five years and redirect those savings to research and academics.

So far most of UC’s shared services efforts have been focused internally on UC campuses and the Office of the President. The planned single payroll and human resources system UCPath is one significant example.

Shared services also are emerging as a key part of CSU’s Synergy program, which has goals similar to those of Working Smarter.

“We can, and should collaborate more with our colleagues across California public higher education. Every dollar we save in our administrative costs can be put to use supporting UC’s and CSU’s core missions,” O’Sullivan said.

Planning already has started for next year’s Shared Services Conference, expected to be held at one of CSU’s campuses.

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