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Transforming Our Professional Services

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The emerging ideas for the future of professional services (TOPS emerging ideas) cover all professional services staff, whether in departments, institutes, faculties or professional directorates, that contribute towards core funded professional services and processes or support the delivery of core infrastructure. This therefore excludes research or workshop technicians, staff that support clinical trials and research grant funded professional services staff directly engaged by research projects.

Q. Why do we need to transform our professional services?

UCL is an academic success story. Its growth - brought about through both mergers and organic expansion - has created a powerhouse of academic strengths which has become one of the world's foremost universities.

The scale, speed and complexity of UCL's growth and successes however, have had knock-on effects on how professional services support the academic mission,

We now need to simplify the way that we do things, collaborate more and invest in people, processes, technology and spaces to become more effective. Professional services have an equal stake in UCL's continued success and must be empowered to enable and support excellence. 

Q. Is TOPS just about cost cutting?

No. TOPS is not about cost cutting but is about simplifying processes and becoming more efficient, creating opportunities for collaboration and partnership and empowering staff to make things better.  

Q. Does ‘becoming more efficient’ mean we will be expected to do more for less?

No. It doesn’t mean doing more, but it does mean doing things differently. For example, if we can simplify high volume transactional processes then the time and effort that we have saved can be redirected into other value-adding professional service activities. To achieve this, UCL will need to invest in its people, processes and systems.

Q. Is the aim of TOPS to centralise all professional services? Will we lose our local services?

No. The proposal is not to centralise or decentralise all services, or to have a one size fits all, but to consider how best to deliver services to meet the aims of the programme. TOPS aims to make it much, much clearer where, when and why professional services activities are done. 

TOPS is also about connections. Rather than thinking about services as either being local or central, it is about services being connected and everyone understanding how things get done.

Q. Does TOPS apply to all professional services staff?

However, it is our intention that a wider pool of professional services staff will participate in the communities of practice strand of the Programme. Communities of practice encourage collaboration by bringing together colleagues who work in similar roles, but who are based in different parts of UCL, to share knowledge, develop good practice and enhance career pathways.

Finally, through working at UCL nearly all staff interact with and use administrative systems and business processes and will see the benefits of the TOPS Programme including more effective and efficient services.

Yes. All professional services staff whether in departments, institutes, faculties or professional directorates contribute to core organisation support processes. However, TOPS does not apply to research and teaching.

Q. Will TOPS impact grant-funded or research-funded professional services staff?

The scope of TOPS covers activities across all professional services areas and core organisation support processes. The impact on grant-funded and research-funded professional services staff will be dependent on the extent to which they undertake, or are involved in, core organisation support processes and the terms of their funding arrangements.

Q. What is the UniForum survey and how is it linked to TOPS?

UniForum is a sector leading survey, benchmarking HEI professional services costs and user satisfaction. 

The survey is a tool that signposts areas for further consideration and presents an initial evidence base for planning for improvements. The survey results are not the answer, but they do help us to identify areas where we are doing well. Where levels of satisfaction are low, the survey results indicate areas for further investigation. 

Q. Will TOPS impact my job?

The work to determine how service quality can be improved, and satisfaction with our services increased, is still underway. Until we have more detail on the shape of the programme, the extent and scale of change is unknowable. But, in simplifying processes and becoming more efficient, creating opportunities for collaboration and partnership, empowering staff to make things better, we can expect that the way we do our work will change.  

Rumours that UCL’s Council has agreed to 280 redundancies arising from the first phase of implementing the Transforming our Professional Services Programme, are not true.  As we have said consistently, no such decisions have been made.

Q. How will the change be managed?

If jobs change, we will follow UCL’s organisational change procedure, consult and attempt to avoid staff redundancies through assimilation and by seeking opportunities for redeployment. The intention is to avoid compulsory redundancy, although this may be required as a last resort, especially if there is an adverse change in the external funding environment.  Rumours that UCL’s Council has agreed to 280 redundancies arising from the first phase of implementing the Transforming our Professional Services Programme, are not true.  As we have said consistently, no such decisions have been made.

Q. What are communities of practice and how do they fit in with the TOPS programme?

Communities of Practice is an early initiative within the TOPS programme that aligns to the second aim of delivering 'more fulfilling careers for staff'. We have started a pilot to establish Communities of Practice, bringing together colleagues who work in similar professional areas to share knowledge, best practice and expand opportunities for career development. 
You can find out more here.

Q. Why did the TOPS programme start communications and engagement from summer 2016, when the programme was in the early stages?

The TOPS programme communications and engagement is underpinned by a number of key principles, including being open and transparent to keep the UCL community up-to-date and engaged with the programme progress. 

Starting communications and engagement from summer 2016 has enabled the UCL community to:

From January - July 2017, we attended more than 160 group or team meetings across faculties, departments and professional services to talk about the TOPS programme, take questions and hear your thoughts on how we could improve professional services. 

We also heard from over 1,700 UCL colleagues and students - via workshops, world café events, surveys, drop-in sessions and focus groups - about your ideas on the changes we could make to deliver our professional services in a more effective and efficient way.

To hear more about the emerging ideas for the future of professional services, see our 'emerging ideas' webpage. The conversation is still ongoing and you can find out how to get involved and share your ideas here.

Q. Have any decisions been made about the changes to be implemented as part of TOPS?

No, these decisions have not been made yet.

We have gathered lots of feedback on the key issues you face and your ideas for improving professional services. Throughout the autumn term we will continue talking and listening to you all to check that what we have heard is accurate, to understand if there are any further issues and to start to frame these ideas into a coherent direction of travel and options for implementation.

Find out how to get involved and share your thoughts here

Q. What are the timeframes for change?

Throughout the autumn term of 2017, we will be discussing the ideas for the future of professional services and sharing the feedback we have heard with the UCL Senior Management Team. We will also be working through some of the ideas and options for possible implementation.

The current plan is that we would adopt a phased approach to change and would commence more detailed planning in 2018. We will be able to provide more information on likely timings towards the end of the year.