Initiative targets redundancies and inefficiencies in staff work


Pitt’s Administrative Services Design Project is aimed at reducing redundancies and creating efficiencies among staff jobs, but not at eliminating current staff, according to Victoria Lancaster, assistant vice chancellor for operational excellence in the Office of Business and Operations who is heading up the initiative.

The project grew out of a survey last fall by the Office of the Chief Financial Officer that looked at administrative functions and activities in the areas of finance, human resources, marketing and communications, procurement and purchasing, research and general administration services. 

Around 4,700 staff members responded to the survey. Some of the findings:

  • The duplication of administrative activities across the institution was attributed to current organizational structures.

  • Various services are fragmented across the organization, making it difficult to know whom to reach out to for functional support.

  • There is a perception that many units and departments operate in silos, and in some cases, lack sufficient support. 

  • Many feel that they spend a lot of time doing administrative activities that fall outside of their job descriptions, placing a focus on transactional work as opposed to high impact contributions that better align with and advance the University’s mission.

“We know there is more than enough work to go around, resulting in some jobs exceeding normal workloads,” Lancaster said in response to emailed questions. “ASDP aims to understand how we can help to make staff members’ work more productive and efficient, as well as improve the experience of those University members who rely on their work.”

As an example, the ASDP might identify that many people are doing tasks such as procuring supplies but without any connection to each other. Or the project might consider ways to remove silos, such as Pitt IT did to integrate their services more effectively and consistently throughout the University through the One IT at Pitt initiative. 

The project is now in Phase I: Discovery and Concept Development. The teams working on ASDP include a steering committee, led by Chief Financial Officer Hari Sastry and David DeJong, senior vice chancellor for Business & Operation; a core team, led by Lancaster and supported by project coordinators; and functional work teams, with staff from throughout the University, looking at the six areas being studied.

Angie Coldren, the new president of Staff Council and director of administrative support in the Office of Research Protection, is on the general administration working group. She said the questions being asked are very relevant, and she feels the points being made by committee members are being heard. Right now, she said, they are just trying to understand what each staff position involves. Coldren is hopeful that the process will eventually help staff at Pitt.

Compensation modernization

The ASDP work is being conducted in coordination with the Office of Human Resources’ Compensation Modernization initiative, which is part of the Shaping the Workplace initiative. HR has been working on this initiative since fall 2019. The project will create new job families, such as grouping all accountants together, based on the scope of the work and level of qualifications needed. These will make it easier to compare Pitt jobs with those outside and within the University. The reclassification also will include salary structures and a career guide that will show how an employee can move up.

Mark Burdsall, deputy vice chancellor for Human Resources, said the compensation project was delayed some because of the pandemic, but is now back on track. Job grouping recommendations were presented to the Shaping the Workplace steering committee this spring, with plans to present recommendations to senior leadership and proceed with rollout by year-end, he said.

Job creep

One “pain point” that the ASDP plans to address is job creep caused by early retirement programs and positions that had to rapidly adapt to meet the University’s needs during the pandemic. Lancaster said they are trying to identify new service delivery solutions, processes and efficiency improvements in administrative support functions.

“We expect solutions brought forward through the ASDP to be customized and outcomes are not pre-determined. The first phase of the project engages stakeholders — like deans and unit heads — from across the University to invite them to be part of the process, provide feedback and partner on solutions,” Lancaster said. “Core and functional work teams, with valuable input and assistance from faculty and staff, will be charged with addressing common administrative function pain points and advancing new ideas to solve them, supporting the University’s mission.”

The Design phase will begin in August and will be a gradual process, Lancaster said.

“The ASDP team is not looking for a ‘one size fits all’ model, but rather seeks to understand specific area needs and help identify solutions that serve the staff and the university,” she said. “Implementation timing will be customized based on each solution.”

Employees can offer feedback on the project through the ASDP website.

Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at or 724-244-4042.


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