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As the University moved toward implementation of the human resources and finance components of ConnectCarolina a few years ago, the College of Arts and Sciences recognized the need to help its 70 departments adapt to operational changes the new enterprise resource planning system would bring.

In 2014, the College established a Business Center that could centralize and streamline many of the newly consolidated human resources and finance operations while staff in the departments focused on specific issues for their units.

In November, members of the Service Center of Excellence (SCE) Team visited the College’s Business Center to learn how its operations could inform the creation of the Division of Finance and Administration’s new SCE.

Meredith Weiss, senior associate vice chancellor for finance and administration, said the center’s focus on efficiency and effectiveness in operations and staff members’ can-do attitude were impressive.

“The Business Center is an excellent example of how a large campus entity can be creative in meeting its needs through sharing services,” she said. “While some of the center’s processes are not necessarily applicable to our division’s needs, the opportunity to see those services in action was beneficial for our team as we determine the best approach for our service model.”

Because of the variations in size and focus among the College’s departments, administrators built flexibility into how the services of the Business Center are used.

“We developed a different approach to centralizing human resources functions than we did for finance because the needs are very different. Our goal was to create the most efficient, effective way to deliver those core services for our units,” said Collette Wilshire, assistant dean for the Business Center. (In February, Wilshire will join Finance and Administration as the director of business innovation and continuous improvement to help the division implement its service delivery center and other campus-wide business innovation projects.)

All but the five largest units rely on the center for human resources (HR) operations. Because those departments (biology, psychology, exercise and sport science, chemistry, and physics and astronomy) need dedicated HR specialists, their HR operations are based in the departments, while the Business Center staff handle HR operations for the remaining 65 departments.

The model for finance, on the other hand, relies more on voluntary participation. The College required that the six undergraduate education units use the Business Center for finance operations, and the remaining departments can choose to opt in. So far, nine of the smaller units and eight mid-size units have chosen to participate, Wilshire said.

The Institute for the Arts and Humanities (IAH) relies on guidance and support from the Business Center for both HR and finance operations. Not only does the center’s staff provide advice about University policies and procedures, staff members serve as extra hands in processing day-to-day transactions, said Tommie Watson, IAH business officer.

“The ability to speak with people who work in a team environment about our specific situations and issues, from hiring new staff to processing financial transactions and meeting our budget goals, is invaluable,” Watson said. “Working with the Business Center has helped us develop best practices and keep pace with changing business processes as ConnectCarolina has been implemented. This partnership has brought consistency to the way we handle human resources and finance transactions throughout all institute programs.”

The Business Center is housed off campus in the Europa Center, but staff members have regular office hours on campus for their customers who prefer to meet face to face.

Whether an entire transaction is conducted through InfoPorte, or customers discuss details with staff members over the phone or in person, Wilshire said, collaboration and a culture of service are the cornerstones for doing business. All staff members sign a service pledge that emphasizes transparency, accessibility, communication and a willingness to listen, and everyone pitches in to get the job done.

“One of the most impressive things our team saw was the determination to get to ‘yes’ in serving the customer,” Weiss said.

Creating the Business Center was the result of months-long research into best practices at other universities, participation in webinars and conferences, surveys within the College and meetings with people at various levels in each department.

“We truly appreciate the Business Center leaders sharing their knowledge with us,” Weiss said. “Every model for service delivery looks a little different, and we continue to build our knowledge base for best practices as we examine what other areas do. Everything we are learning is instructive in creating our own Service Center for Excellence.”

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