Transforming Our Professional Services


Tom Rowson (TOPS Programme Director): Plans for the year ahead

25 September 2019

With the start of the new academic year, it’s a good time to share some of our exciting plans for the year ahead.

Tom Rowson speaking at the June 2019 PS Conference

The TOPS team is working hard with colleagues across UCL to deliver 16 projects at the moment – and we plan to launch more during the year. And although we have been making some great progress (which you can read more about on our News page), there is still a lot more we need to do.

I thought the best way to share some highlights for the year ahead would be in the context of how we are working to meet each of the three TOPS objectives:

1. More effective professional services 

All of our projects are working towards improving our services to students, staff and the wider UCL community. I’m really passionate about the difference we can make with these projects! Here are a few highlights:

  • Digital Services: This project is set to make some exciting and innovative changes to how we get things done at UCL, as we build our first apps on a new digital platform. The idea is that, over time, we all have access to a range of digital services in the same way as we would in our life outside work – think Amazon or Netflix apps for UCL.
  • Faculty TOPS: In the autumn term we will be working with a number of the Faculties to understand how to build on the self-assessment phase and move into designing and implementing improvements.
  • Transformers: The transformer projects are – in keeping with the long traditions of UCL – truly ambitious! Through these projects we take a comprehensive view of a service, starting with a thorough investigation of what the UCL community wants and needs and then looking at how people, processes and systems can interact to deliver a great service. So far, we have launched the Finance and Research Support Transformer projects, and will be launching the Estates Transformer later in 2019/20. We’ve just started the implementation phase of the Finance Transformer and we will be able to share more news soon about how we’re making basic financial processes simpler, faster and more user-friendly. 
  • The Professional Services Hub: We’ve seen some great improvements from the PS Hub since it launched in March. The team has done a fantastic job! This is a new and exciting way of working for UCL – and we are leading the way in the UK Higher Education sector with (as far as we know!) the largest cross-functional professional services hub in the UK. We will continue to build upon the early successes and are looking forward to welcoming five new teams to the PS Hub in the autumn term.

2. More fulfilling careers

I’m really proud of the progress in this area! It’s been great to see the UCL community coming together to work on our common goal of improving careers at UCL for professional services colleagues.

  • Communities of Practice: This initiative continues to be a fantastic way to bring colleagues together from across the university to share best practice and improve our services. We are working towards the vision of every professional services colleague being a member of a Community of Practice. Over the next year, we will continue to launch more Communities – we currently have three more in development – and to support the 15 that we already have. 
  • Career Pathways: Over the next year, we will continue to develop and publish more Career Pathways to help colleagues to plan their careers. The Career Pathways really bring to life the wealth of opportunities there are to develop within UCL! We are currently developing Career Pathways for HR, Student Registry, Project and Programme Management, IT, Operational Management, Technicians and Research Support. 
  • Ways of Working: Another great initiative! We all have access to the Ways of Working framework now – I used it for the first time in appraisals this summer – and this year we will be working to embed this new behavioural framework into appraisals, promotions, career development etc.

3. Improve value for money and enable greater investment in the academic mission

We’ve made the commitment to invest the savings we make through TOPS back into the academic mission. 

  • Procurement: We have been analysing the £600m that UCL spends on goods and services each year and have identified 34 opportunities that we estimate will deliver £9m of savings. We have already delivered 6 of these with around £1.9m of savings and have another 12 projects in train. 
  • Staff Recruitment: We will be replacing ROME with a new staff recruitment system next July (allowing time for MyHR to bed-in after its go live in February). If we get it right, it’ll be a huge step forward in how we recruit 3,500 staff each year. We are also exploring how we can work smarter with recruitment agencies to improve value for money – more on that in due course.

I’ve not been able to cover all projects here, so please do take 5 minutes to browse our website. 

We are absolutely committed to keeping you up to date on our progress through the year and to hearing your thoughts. By drawing on your expertise, as the people who manage and use our services on a daily basis, we will develop and embed improved services for UCL. 

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