Transforming Our Professional Services


TOPS Finance Transformer: Co-designing the future of our finance services

30 January 2019

We have been collaborating with colleagues across UCL through a process of ‘human centred design’ to find out what works, and what doesn’t in finance services.

Photo of people using post its at a brainstorming session

Progress so far

We kicked off the Finance Transformer Project with an aim to transform the way in which finance services are delivered across UCL.

We’re currently in the design phase, after which we will agree and plan the changes that will be implemented. Within finance, three key services have been identified for the project to focus on:

  1. Income generation – how the university sells goods and services in order to generate income
  2. Purchasing activity – how the university buys goods and services
  3. Financial reporting – how the university reports, monitors and manages its financial performance 

Over the last few weeks we’ve been working with colleagues right across the UCL community to analyse how the university currently generates income and to identify potential changes for the future. For example, we’ve spent time understanding how UCL supplies cancer diagnostics to NHS Trusts (such as UCLH), and identified ways in which current finance systems, processes and support can be transformed to better enable the work of academic departments. 

Human centred design

We are using a design method known as ‘human centred design’ to rethink how services are delivered. This involves collaborating with staff to design services which meet their needs, improve their experience and enable them to achieve their goals.

Central to our approach is a user group of academic and professional services staff from a broad range of faculties, departments and central teams. 

This user group is formed of volunteers from across the UCL community and includes staff with all kinds of skills, knowledge and experiences. We’ve been pleasantly surprised by how many volunteers we have had and the user group has continued to grow, currently standing at over 70 members.

To date, we have engaged the community through a variety of activities including:

  • Interviews and workshops to understand the current experiences of finance services. We used the findings from these activities to identify what problems and opportunities existed within the current service.
  • Collaborative design sessions to generate ideas of how to solve key problems raised by the community. These interactive sessions provided us with a series of great ideas which could help solve some of the main challenges identified.

The project is taking a holistic, end-to-end view of key finance services over the course of the initial design phase. Our approach is more extensive than simply changing processes or updating systems, it involves understanding how all of the people, processes, systems and environments interact in order to support the UCL community. 

The insight we’ve gained from the groups so far has been invaluable in progressing the design and we look forward to working with them on the remaining service areas within Finance. 

Next steps

We have concluded our review of income generation and have worked with the user group to identify a number of transformative changes which could be made. These will be evaluated alongside the findings from the remaining two service areas and used to develop a target operating model for Finance as well as the roadmap of changes required to get there.

We haven’t yet agreed on the precise changes which will be delivered but we’re keen to share what we’ve found so far. We will soon be showcasing some of the emerging ideas around income generation which we will film and share with the UCL community, so watch this space.   

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