Vice-President, Professional Services, Nicole Gower provides an update on the University’s ongoing work to improve systems and processes following the implementation of new service models.
Over the past three years, we have engaged in a major redesign of professional services delivery models, particularly for students and in faculties. We don’t embark on change of this magnitude lightly, so, for me, a core priority for the next two years is to closely monitor implementation and ensure that the new models are working as they were designed to.
We also know that there is more work to do in the areas of process improvement, digital transformation and professional development to realise the benefits of these new models. And with new models in place from late last year, it is timely to give an update on this work, across four key areas:
1. MONITORING NEW SERVICE DELIVERY MODELS
With any significant change, it is essential to closely monitor and review implementation. We have an evaluation framework for our new service delivery models, including formal post-implementation reviews. This includes considering feedback from staff, students (where applicable) and stakeholders, as well as metrics and data analysis. This ongoing monitoring and evaluation data is then shared with key stakeholders across the University to ensure transparency and to discuss and action any adjustments that need to be made in response.
It is inevitable that there will be challenges and issues with any new service delivery model and how we respond to these issues is key. I am particularly grateful to those of you who have shared your feedback, concerns and issues during implementation. This allows us to take action to address the issue where possible. The next two years are crucial to embedding our new ways of working and I would encourage you to keep the feedback flowing, and we would welcome any ideas you have for solutions during this time.
2. PROCESS AND SYSTEMS IMPROVEMENT
There were several key drivers for our service re-design work, including our aim of putting students at the centre of our service delivery, as well as making better use of technology. There were also significant financial pressures, so our new service models now have fewer people which creates some real challenges.
For these new models to operate optimally, process and systems improvements are required, and this is a core focus for the next few years. I am often asked why we didn’t do this process and system redesign work first. The urgency of the COVID-19 pandemic created limited options in this regard, and we needed to respond quickly to the financial challenges we faced. There are also some benefits in moving to new ways of working first: it has allowed us to create a new working environment and mindset while commencing continuous improvement initiatives. These initiatives also give us the opportunity to test new approaches, learn and inform the digital roadmap.
There have already been some process and system improvements this year, with some key highlights shared below. We have been collating feedback from staff across the University to prioritise future process improvement work. A cross-University group is working to coordinate activity and ensure that we combine efforts (see more below under ‘Service Governance Board’).
PROCESS IMPROVEMENT WINS
|Student communications automation||For new students, timely and relevant communications about their enrolment, orientation and commencement (EOC) are essential to a great start at university. The process for communicating with new students had previously been manual, with staff retrieving data from core systems, then cleaning and uploading that data before finally sending updates to students – a process that ran daily for a four-month period. Through the combined efforts of teams across the University we now use technology and improved processes to automate these communications, with teams saving 45 mins each day through the EOC period. The dual benefit is increased productivity for our people and a better experience for our students.|
|Introducing logged-in chat||One bugbear for the Service Connect team getting close to resolving a student query through live chat and then realising that the solution required the student to pass security clearance, which is not allowed using the chat function. This meant that students needed to be redirected to phone or face-to-face service channels to resolve their query, frustrating our students and increasing wait times. Through collaboration between Service Connect and IT, we have introduced logged-in chat, which has resolved this issue.|
|Special consideration||Post-COVID-19, the volume of special consideration requests has significantly increased. Through collaboration between faculties and Service Connect teams, we are bringing greater consistency to special consideration remedies. The new model provides a University-wide view of special consideration queries and requests through dashboards that provide insight into service effectiveness and student behaviour. Using this view, systematic and digitally enabled improvements will be possible.|
3. SERVICE CULTURE AND PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
Many of you will be aware of the work to develop a Service Charter for professional staff during the past six months, which builds on the strong service culture that already exists at Macquarie. Many thanks to those of you who provided feedback on the draft charter. We have incorporated your feedback into the final version of the Service Charter, which will be launched in June – more to come in future editions of This Week.
We have also been focused on professional development for our professional staff, which was a key goal of the PST program. This includes enabling communities of practice to learn from each other, development opportunities, new training programs and the introduction of an annual Professional Staff Leadership Conference. Further work will occur in 2023, led by the Service Governance Board (see below).
4. SHARED SERVICES
Introducing shared services was a big change for both staff and students, particularly consolidating student services in a single location (Service Connect). Given the size of this change and the importance of getting it right for our students, we have been paying particularly close attention to how our shared services model is tracking.
There have been some early benefits, as well as some learnings and areas of focus moving forward:
|Highlights||Areas of focus|
|Opening new service centre in 18WW (have a look, if you haven’t already)||Further work is underway to clarify roles, responsibilities and connection points.|
|An improved ability to measure our service delivery and effectiveness through consolidation of queries in one place||Clearer processes and information are being developed for students so they know what they need to do and how they are tracking.|
|Introducing new technologies – a new bot to resolve simple queries and QR code resolution to help manage peak volumes||We are improving feedback channels for students to give them a greater voice in their service experience.|
|Establishing course guidance and support in Service Connect||Better technology is being developed to support our service experience (included in the Digital Transformation roadmap).|
|Working together with faculty teams||Support and development for staff is ongoing.|
SERVICE GOVERNANCE BOARD
To be successful at improving service delivery, it is important that these activities involve key stakeholders across the whole University. We recently established a Service Governance Board whose remit is to oversee the four activities outlined above. All four faculties are represented on the Service Governance Board, as well as functional leads from central portfolios and shared services.
For those interested in hearing more about our current progress and work, I will be holding a webinar on Monday 22 May at 10am. Register now.
I close with my personal thanks and appreciation to both professional and academic staff for your support during this time of transition. Any change of this magnitude is challenging and can be disruptive. As ever, the Macquarie community has come together to support each other while we adapt to these new ways of working.
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