We recently launched our functional maturity diagnostics, which are a new complimentary service offering for Business Affairs Forum members. This service consists of unit-specific diagnostics that identify and define, on a standardized scale, maturity levels for the 25-30 hallmarks of high-functioning, strategically focused units.
We are currently offering this service for three administrative functions: Information Technology (IT) Human Resources (HR), and Procurement, with plans to add diagnostics for additional 1-2 functions per year.
Why our functional diagnostic is different from other benchmarking efforts
While there are no shortage of maturity benchmarking surveys, Forum members noted that past efforts have fallen short in three critical ways:
Non-industry-specific maturity diagnostics fail to consider the complexities of higher education.
Previous surveys too often focused on basic categories, leaving out major considerations for campus functions. For these diagnostics, EAB worked with CBOs and campus unit leaders and their teams to identify key competencies of a high-performing IT, HR, and Procurement functions in higher education.
Administrative Functional Reviews (AFRS) are time- and labor-intensive.
A full AFR cycle of all units can take 3-5 years, which hinders prioritization efforts and resource allocation decisions. AFRs also provide broad, high-level information rather than actionable detail or prescriptive next steps. Comparatively, EAB’s short diagnostics represent a quick evaluation method and prescribe clear next steps for improvement.
Input benchmarks do not provide guidance on how to improve unit performance.
Staffing levels and department budgets are highly dependent on institutional idiosyncrasies. For example, if more unit tasks are completed by decentralized support staff, there may be fewer staff in the central admin units, creating “apples-to-oranges” comparisons. Moreover, while quantifiable benchmarks such as staffing, unit budget, or spend numbers may help CBOs make a political case to defend against further cuts, they do not provide direction on how to best use or redeploy resources. EAB’s diagnostics provide clear insight into administrative unit performance gaps, which allows leaders to target improvements in high-priority areas.
Developing the diagnostic
EAB researchers worked with CBOs and unit leaders at close to 50 institutions to develop the diagnostics. CBOs provided insight into which units to focus on first, and how to frame and structure the diagnostics. EAB then worked intensively with unit leaders to identify the 25-30 key functional capabilities that distinguish high performance for each unit, and to develop the 4 maturity levels for each of those capabilities. The diagnostics are also informed by an extensive literature review as well as EAB’s library of best-practice studies for each unit.
How CBOs and their team can use diagnostic results
There are a number of ways members can use the results from the diagnostics:
- Quick unit evaluation:
Help leaders quickly evaluate administrative units without an exhausting review process.
- Resource allocation guide:
Identify the underdeveloped, mission-critical capabilities within your units to guide resource allocation decisions.
- Improvement roadmap:
Illustrate the evolution of each capability and prescribe clear next steps for improvement.
- Political resource:
Provide a neutral third-party assessment to help defend areas of strength.
- Accreditation tool:
Help fulfill external administrative review requirements mandated by regional accreditors.
Administrative units face continued pressure to become leaner and more efficient. At the same time, many institutional priorities—such as attracting top talent or building business intelligence—depend on the expertise and resources found in administrative units. These larger strategic aims can be hampered if institutions focus just on making administration leaner. The goal of the diagnostics is to change the dialogue on campuses from a sole focus on unit efficiency and towards a more comprehensive understanding of unit effectiveness.
Who should complete the survey?
Members have two options for who may complete the diagnostics:
- CBO: CBOs, or someone in the CBO’s office, can take the diagnostics to understand first-hand if unit performance is meeting their expectations or standards.
- Unit leader:
Unit leaders can potentially complete the diagnostics more quickly, as they possess the operational familiarity needed to accurately assess the unit’s capabilities.
Regardless of who takes the assessment, CBOs should plan to review results with unit leaders to discuss findings and decide on next steps.
Benefits of completing the survey
You will receive a customized report benchmarking results from your institution against other members of the Business Affairs Forum and like units across North America.
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