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There's always room to improve: Continuous Improvement in UVAFinance

Probably nobody would argue with the idea that we can always strive to become better, and that focusing on improvement is a positive thing to do. What we don't always think about is how, if we really want to see tangible improvement results, we have to have a strategy.

That's where a culture of Continuous Improvement comes in. 
 

What is Continuous Improvement?

It's a way of life, a mindset that we all must adopt -- a commitment to positive change. In our respective roles, we are in the best position to identify what improvements need to be made to the processes we work with. 

 

The basics of Continuous Improvement

Start at the top and the bottom: Leadership reinforces and models the approach and assists by supplying resources and removing barriers. Everyone in the organization seesthe identification of opportunities for improvement as their job.

Identify Standard Work: You can't identify what should be improved and measure the impact of the improvement if you don't know what the process is. Define the process best practice first, then look for improvement opportunities.

Control the Process of Change: Make changes in a gradual, systemic way to avoid chaos and "change for the sake of change."

Document the Change: Document the results and impact of the change, as well as the process used to achieve it. This speeds the pace of improvement at the organization because we can build upon our successes.

Recognize Engagement: Recognizing and rewarding employees who are engaged in improvement efforts is vital if a culture of improvement is to thrive. Suggestions and ideas for improvement are to be welcomed!

The 1099 Process: An example of Continuous Improvement

During the process of preparing for the implementation of Total Supplier Management in Procurement and Supplier Diversity Services, the project team realized that the process for handling 1099s could use some improvement.

Because of confusion in the schools and units about the types of vendors and services the University pays, Accounts Payable was spending a lot of time, reviewing every payment request in certain categories line by line, to make sure everything was coded correctly in accordance with IRS rules about 1099-MISCs.

One of the problems is with the expenditure types, which are not intuitive nor obvious to those in the field. With some dedicated work and feedback from schools and units over three months, Linda Mayo and Brenda Nalley, partnering with Tanya Rahman and Shelly Winston Bowers, clarified and presented instructions on choosing the correct expenditure type and the 1099-MISC process.

Now expenditure types are easier to understand: stakeholders have a greater understanding of how 1099-MISC information links to the overall procurement process and can more easily choose the correct type. This will streamline the review required by the AP team and getting 1099-MISC forms out to vendors.

In the light of continuous improvement, the material has been made an online class both on the PSDS website and in the employee self-service learning (OLM). Additionally, more work is being done so the expenditure type information such as the best way to process payments through PSDS, if an expenditure type must first be addressed with the Fixed Asset Accounting group or if the type will produce a 1099-MISC for the vendor will be available in one central location.

It was a small, incremental change that made work easier for everyone and improved a process in which it was easy to make mistakes. 
 

Pioneers of Continuous Improvement

Judy DiVita, the Senior for Finance and Administration and leader of the ASG team, says the team felt it was especially important to model Continuous Improvement because of their work to support all of UVAFinancel, with a goal of seamless behind-the-scenes service. 

The Kanban board is not only a way to track their processes, identify improvements, and measure their outcomes, but it's also a transparent look into their processes that anyone can view.
 

Find out more

The Finance Online Community is a great place to learn more about Continuous Improvement and get engaged in the process. A good place to start is this post by DiVita: https://ubicommunity.virginia.edu/community/uva-finance-transformation/blog/2018/08/27/what-is-fcic

You can also check out these episodes of the UVAFinance Podcast, Finance Matters: 

Improving the Way We Work https://everydaygrace.podbean.com/e/improving-the-way-we-work-finance-matters/

Lean Concepts: https://everydaygrace.podbean.com/e/lean-concepts-finance-matters/

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Finance Strategic Transformation Phase 1: Assessment & Planning Milestones

Summer/Fall 2018

Current State Review/Future State Vision
- Looking at our processes and determining how effectively we do them relative to industry standards
- Identifying what systems and “shadow systems” we are currently using to get our work done
- Determining what we want to accomplish with our processes and systems
- Determining which systems could help us do our work better in the future

Functional Gap Analysis
- Comparing our processes today to where we’d like to be in the future
- Determining how different the future is from today

Implementation Roadmap
- What will be changing
- How long we expect the changes to take
- What activities will take place, and in what sequence
- Who needs to be involved; what system(s) we will need to buy; how much we expect it to cost

Business Case
- Determining the cost of purchasing and implementing new systems and processes, plus the cost of operating the ongoing state
- Detailing the financial and non-financial benefits of implementing the future state, and how long it will take to realize those
benefits

Change Management
- A plan for implementing successful, sustainable change for the organization
- How big the change is
- Who is impacted by the change; what's in it for them; what sort of resistance might occur
- Making sure key people are "on board" with the changes we need to make, and that they understand what will be involved

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Carruthers Hall Improvements

Carruthers Hall has not necessarily been known for its beauty. 

Traditionally, it looks its best in early spring, when a flood of daffodils bloom near the main entrance. At most other times of the year, the grounds around it are leafy or muddy or otherwise fairly bare, and sprinkled with worn-down spots where people have beaten their own paths to cross Emmet Street.  Yet Carruthers serves many visitors from across Grounds including students and parents. For some time, some improvements have been needed. 

Besides ongoing renovation work within the building, a steady stream of activity has been taking place with the aim of improving both the appearance and safety of Carruthers’ exterior spaces. Those projects have been the result of much-appreciated collaboration with many departments and funding from diverse sources. 

Over the course of three years, parking and walkways have been improved, and outdoor seating and spaces have been added. And, says Disha Venkatesan of UVAFinance, there is still more to come.  Read More>>