Reflections from Laura Hubbard, Vice President Finance and Administration

Strategic Goals and Objectives

Administrative Services, under the leadership of Laura Hubbard, is engaged in managing goals for our unit as well as our role in UB 2020. These goals fall into five thematic areas:  

Operational Excellence

Strategies to Achieve Operational Effectiveness

• Embrace a culture of continuous service improvement

• Balance effectiveness and efficiency in delivery of services

• Engage with customers, empowering them with authoritative and relevant information and service

• Build customer satisfaction and brand loyalty  by exercising best practices in customer service delivery

• Promote strategic and responsible stewardship of resources

“Stewardship is more than just protecting the university’s financial resources.”
Laura Hubbard, Vice President for Finance and Administration

We talk about efficiency increasingly in universities, including UB and are being asked whether we are being cost effective. This includes the way we engage with our customers differently than we have in the past and is more about a mindset of how they feel about their experience with UB.

“Stewardship includes more than protecting the University’s financial resources. To me that is the essence of good stewardship. It is recognizing that it’s not my money, it’s not my office. The employees and colleagues I work with are not mine and to me I think that creates a level of respect and a way of thinking about things that puts things in perspective”. A broad definition of resources includes finances, time and space. A manager can help employees develop to be as effective as possible.  

“I want to install a more formal program around continuous improvement or operational excellence.” This includes starting a university-wide committee where we would work to improve major processes. Many people in our division have started this by obtaining formal training in lean accounting or Six Sigma.

“A fundamental aspect of operational excellence is do we know where we are going, and what it takes to get there, and how I need to help us get there?” Everyone needs to understand that on an individual level and being able to take pride in this effort. Leadership should be working towards accomplishing this excellence for the organization through their ability to plan for their units.

A customer-oriented environment is one where the employees find joy in the work they are doing and helps them understand that what they do is creating an environment that is UB.  Employees will feel connected to the university by helping students have a positive experience.

Communities of Interest

Strategies to Support Communities of Interest

• Identify and nurture communities of interest

• Build partnerships through networking and collaboration

• Develop services collaboratively

• Deliver services that meet or exceed customer needs

• Provide layered access to information and services

• Deepen relationships within UB through operational excellence

"We need to customize our interaction with different communities in ways that are meaningful to them."
Laura Hubbard, Vice President for Finance and Administration

Hubbard believes it is important to identify who we interact with, who we do business with and the fact that different stakeholders have different needs, considerations and concerns. We need to orient services in a way that is meaningful to each constituent. “We have a lot of masters to serve in the business areas and what gets lost in that process is connecting with our customers on a regular basis. The website is one way of communicating, but also just getting out and talking with people and asking what can we be doing?”

Minority and Women Owned Business Enterprise (MWBE) is a major priority for UB and one which we have made great progress, although we still have a lot of work to reach our goals. Essentially there is a 20% goal.  In the capital realm it is a little more complex, but it is at that same basic level.

Business leaders and individuals in the community expect to be able to participate with UB. UB 2020 highlights the need to involve the surrounding community, in particular the area around downtown. It is desired that the medical community provide a positive impact to the area. The Community Advisory Group was established in 2010 to look at specific issues around UB 2020 and advise the university on how we might do things differently and how people view the university, including how we communicate.

Unit Success

Strategies to Achieve Unit Success

• Build and communicate a cohesive vision of VPFA

• Establish guiding principles that inform our actions

• Build and nurture partnerships

• Facilitate VPFA employee success

• Empower customers at every point of service

“If we are not developing our most important and our biggest resource, we aren't really doing our job as managers...”
Laura Hubbard, Vice President for Finance and Administration

“Something that is a big deal to me is to make sure we are developing our employees.” Hubbard believes there are two drivers for our future; the pace of innovation, and the aging demographics of our students and work force. This underscores the need to be a learning organization. We want to help employees succeed and get the development they need not only for today but for five years from now.

“I see a lot of universities, as we have all gone through budget cuts, learning and development seems to be the first place we cut and to me that should be one of the last places we cut. Yes I think a lot of people have in their minds that conferences and junkets and training is just something we do for fun and my perspective is no, it’s really part of your job. We need to infuse that philosophy into our division”

 “If we are not developing our most important and our biggest resource, we aren’t really doing our job as managers at the university.” Employees are investing their time, but that time provides returns for the university.

All of higher education is going through a transformational process. One of the challenges is to look down the road and envision what the university needs to be doing in the next two to five years.

Two programs that would focus on unit success include developing a Financial Stewardship training program, as well as Academic Leadership Academy.  Hubbard is interested in incorporating these peer based programs for both finance and academic managers. This would give the participants the big picture on budgeting, strategic planning and financial planning, and provide the tools necessary to be effective in their roles at the university.

Strategic Communication

Strategies to Promote Strategic Communication

Provide a superior level of communication through:

• Transparency

• Ease of access

• Multi-channel touch points

• Commit to continuous improvement through feedback and measurement

• Facilitate responsive bi-directional communication

“Each employee needs to understand to whom you make a difference, how you make a difference and how do you know if you make a difference.”
Laura Hubbard, Vice President for Finance and Administration

“I think transparency is something that is increasingly expected at universities so that we all understand what is going on at the university and how we can work together.”  Hubbard’s Chief of Staff will be working on communication initiatives from a divisional point of view. Each functional area will be responsible for customer and staff communication as we work on our divisional and university goals.

What makes a job difficult from a business perspective can be stated as:

  • Do I understand who my customers are?
  • Do I understand my role?
  • Do I have my performance metrics to help me understand if I’ve done a good job?
  • Do I see how it connects to the goals of the university?

“I think most people are more motivated if they understand how their job connects to the bigger picture.”  

“Are we communicating with our customers and encouraging them to communicate with us?”  Hubbard believes that sitting down face-to-face and having a conversation is a rich and effective way of giving customer service. 

UB 2020

Having one university with three campuses means we have three areas of presence here in the region and therefore we must evaluate how we provide our services.  “I think the expansion downtown and the shift of activity from north campus to south campus is a reason to take a fresh look at what we are doing and how we are doing it.”

The Office of Vice President for Finance and Administration (VPFA) supports the goals of realizing UB 2020 by looking at the initiatives that came out of the infrastructure taskforce. Those covered capital planning, how we make decisions around capital investments, how we communicate those decisions and how we connect those to our academic and university goals.  In the area of human resources we would look into professional development programs and robust evaluation systems.  As we expand downtown, shared services will help to provide operational effectiveness and efficiencies.

Hubbard expects her units to support the UB 2020 initiative in four different ways:

Campus Environment

We need to look at how we use space and are we using these resources to their full effect.  We look to allocate or develop space to align them with our institutional priorities and goals. Are we utilizing space efficiently? Space is an expensive resource, so before we build new space we want to make sure we are utilizing what we have. The Capital Planning Committee will ensure that we are aligning what we are doing with capital dollars and space allocation with our goals and priorities. 

Employee Development

Hubbard wants to create a culture that values continuous learning. Our own employees will need to be lifelong learners and we need to value that, we need to support it and enable it and promote it.” It is important that each employee understands their goals for the year and the way their performance is evaluated. They need to understand that what they do for the university makes a difference.

Information Technology (IT)

It is important that we develop our learning spaces with new and emerging technology including mobile technologies, as well as, making sure we have the right infrastructure to support all of the developments we will be involved with. “Kind of like building a house, if the foundation is cracking it doesn’t matter how pretty the walls and windows look, the house isn’t going to stand for too long.” A shared service opportunity is being considered when working with other SUNY organizations in order to share IT infrastructure costs.

Data Governance and Data Management

We need to look at what reports people are trying to produce and what data informs those reports. This effort may impact Strategic Information Reporting Initiative (SIRI) by adding new reports to SIRI or addressing requirements in other ways that SIRI currently isn’t able to produce. Also a governance group that looks at requests and provides priorities would define what development projects would take precedence.

There is a recommendation to create and implement a university-wide continuous improvement initiative. “I am going to get a group to advise us as we manage a number of key business processes that are highly impactful.” There will continue to be increased pressure on our costs and we need to be more effective with the resources that we have. Our vision will result from determining what a successful outcome will look like. We can look at what is happening and find out if we aren’t accomplishing what a successful model looks like.  Even if we evaluate the entire process and never change anything about it, the education, the communication and the conversation that happens is both part of exploring and improving the process.