Head shot of Matthew Stee

The University of Iowa’s new Shared Services structure is helping departments fill open positions more quickly, train new employees, and more easily fill gaps during prolonged staffing absences.

TIER@Iowa’s OneFinance@Iowa initiative created University Shared Services (USS) to streamline and improve financial services across campus using new technology and best practices. In addition to transitioning campus units to the shared services model, the new organization has been aiding non-transitioned units with staffing and training.

“We can be a staffing resource for departments or units that haven’t yet transitioned,” says Deborah Zumbach, project leader for USS and assistant vice president for finance and operations, as well as director of purchasing and business services. “This flexibility is one of the many advantages of the shared services model.”

Zumbach says that accountants at the College of Dentistry and the athletics department—both of which transitioned in August—are cross trained and able to fill in for each other during sick days, vacation, or leaves of absence.

Weston Marling is a USS accountant assigned to the College of Dentistry, but when a UI Parking and Transportation employee went on leave, he volunteered to fill in. When a replacement was found after a few weeks, Marling helped train the new employee. And, because Marling was able to fill in during the interim period, the new employee didn’t begin with a backlog of transactions.

“Shared Services employees have similar training, so we are able to fill in for each other and coordinate to make sure the work is completed,” Marling says.

UI Housing and Dining experienced similar success by partnering with USS.

Brian Kennedy, a supply chain associate, was hired under similar circumstances when an employee retired earlier this year. USS assisted in hiring Kennedy and trained him, even though UI Housing and Dining is not yet scheduled to join USS.

“I felt I was very prepared for the work I would end up doing,” says Kennedy.

Six months before the Tippie School of Management was scheduled to transition to USS, a member of its staff who processed financial transactions left. Faced with this staffing dilemma, the school contacted Zumbach. USS was able to fill the staffing gap and reduce costly delays in financial processing.

In the case of the Tippie School of Management, Matthew Stee, then an auditor in Accounts Payable, volunteered to fill the open position until Tippie transitioned into its USS partnership. In addition to ensuring the continuation of work, Stee says he helped the school successfully make the transition.

“Where I believe the college (of business) benefited most from my transition was that they got a more inside look at Shared Services prior to the official start of the department,” says Stee. “Change can be a very difficult time for any company and this took a lot of that stress out of the change.”

Seven more campus units will transition to USS by the end of December. Zumbach says she’s looking forward to watching the new organization’s continued growth.