Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Monday, October 12, 2009

Administrative services benchmarking study under way

As part of an ongoing effort to improve the way it conducts business, the university has launched a benchmarking study at its Ann Arbor campus to examine a number of its administrative functions, including finance, human resources/payroll, procurement, information technology, student services, development, communications and sponsored research administration.

The study, which is jointly sponsored by the offices of the Vice Provost for Academic and Budgetary Affairs and Associate Vice President for Finance, involves collecting data in a number of key areas ranging from technology allocation to staff mixes for the administrative functions included in the study. Data is being collected through a Web-based survey tool, interviews with executives across the institution, and a stakeholder (internal customer) survey.

“A key goal of the benchmarking study is to help the university become, or remain, a high-performing organization in the administrative functions that are part of the study,” says Philip Hanlon, vice provost for academic and budgetary affairs. “The study may identify areas where the university can be more efficient and improve service levels with existing resources. A number of strategies can be deployed to achieve this goal, ranging from implementing new technologies to redesigning processes for a specific administrative function.”

All major schools, colleges, research units and administrative departments from across the Ann Arbor campus, including the health system, are participating in the study. The study currently does not include the Flint and Dearborn campuses. Preparations for the study began in September when individuals from across the institution were identified to participate in the survey. In late September, those individuals attended a training session that included an overview of the project and instructions on how to use the Web-based survey tool. The executive interviews and stakeholder surveys will be completed later in the study, which is slated to wrap up by the end of the year.

“Once we conclude the data gathering and analysis, we’ll take a close look at the results to pinpoint where we can improve,” says Rowan Miranda, associate vice president for finance. “We’ll also compare our results with similar institutions as well as with high-performing organizations as we look for ways to enhance our performance and better serve our customers. In addition, we’ll be able to use our own data to compare our individual areas so units can learn from each other.”

Miranda described high-performing organizations as those that focus relentlessly on driving higher quality and lower cost service levels. He added that high-performing organizations are typically in the top quartile of performance of their peer groups.

The Hackett Group is assisting the university and brings extensive experience in benchmarking and comparative data from more than 3,400 organizations around the world. Hackett’s approach helps organizations compare themselves against a broad range of industries and to ultimately implement best practices. Hackett has worked with leading private sector companies, many state governments and, in higher education, with the University of North Carolina, the University of Virginia and Yale University on similar projects.

For more information about the university’s administrative benchmarking study, go to