York University launches a major review of its processes

Patrick Monahan, vice-president academic & provost, and Gary Brewer, vice-president finance & administration, have issued the following letter to the York community:

We are pleased to advise the community of the launch of a Process Re-engineering & Service Enhancement (PRASE) review under our joint sponsorship. This exercise was initially referred to as a budget resources review, but the new name much better captures the scope of the project.

Fundamentally, PRASE is intended to assist the University in developing more effective services and use of resources in support of its core mission in teaching, learning and public service. In the context of significant budget pressures facing the University, improved services and more efficient uses of resources are especially critical to the University’s ability to achieve its strategic planning objectives developed through the White Paper, University Academic Plan and Faculty and divisional plans.

PRASE will have three phases, which we expect will extend over a two-and-one-half to three-and-one-half year period:

  • Phase 1, which will begin today (Nov. 15), will consist of a high-level review of current processes and the resources supporting them with a view to recommending major areas of opportunity to improve service delivery and achieve more effective uses of resources. Phase 1 is expected to last from eight to 12 weeks.
  • Phase 2 will comprise the identification of the key changes with which the University will move forward, based on the recommendations and information provided by Phase 1, and the detailed planning necessary for their implementation. This phase is expected to take four to eight months to complete.
  • Phase 3 will consist of the implementation of the key changes identified in Phase 2 and can be expected to occur over a period of 18 to 36 months.

PricewaterhouseCoopers Canada (PwC) has been engaged to assist in the Phase 1 exercise. PwC staff will be meeting with members of the community starting in the next week or two in order to gather information about current processes and to elicit feedback from community members. PwC will advise and work closely with a Process Re-engineering & Service Enhancement steering committee, which we are co-chairing.

On the conclusion of Phase 1, PwC will prepare a report summarizing the findings and recommendations from this initial phase, and the report will be made available to the community.

In order to provide additional information about this initiative and to address questions many of you may have, please see the questions and answers that follow this letter. In addition, there will be community information sessions held on Nov. 22 and 23, which will be open to faculty, staff and students.

We are committed to a transparent process and will take the following steps through the initiative to update the community and invite community member input:

  • Active involvement of a large segment of the community in the exercise through each of its phases.
  • Regular reports to Senate and the larger community on the progress of the initiative.
  • The establishment of an e-mail account for comments and suggestions from community members.
  • The development of a dedicated website which will provide updates and other communications as the initiative proceeds.

Details about the e-mail account and website and further information about the Process Re-engineering and Service Enhancement review will be provided in two to three weeks. An announcement with further details about the community information sessions will be made shortly.

We would like to take the opportunity to thank the community in advance for your participation in and support for this important initiative and very much hope to see you at the community information sessions.

PRASE questions and answers: 

PRASE overview and background
  • In the summer, York President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri charged the VP academic & provost and the VP finance & administration to conduct a comprehensive budget resources review.
  • The VPs will co-chair a PRASE steering committee to examine institutional and divisional level processes and practices.
  • PricewaterhouseCoopers Canada (PwC) has been retained to facilitate the review.
  • The steering committee will make recommendations to the president for potential changes to processes and practices, organizational structures and resource allocation based on this institutional review.
Have other universities engaged in this type of review?
  • Yes. Many Canadian universities (e.g. the University of Calgary, University of Manitoba and the University of Ottawa) and American universities (e.g. the University of California, Berkeley, Cornell University, the University of North Carolina, the University of Maryland, the University of Michigan, Clemson University, New York University and Illinois State University) have engaged in this type of review. Through their processes, significant service improvement and cost-saving opportunities were identified.
Why is York University engaging in PRASE?
  • Need to preserve core activities of the University (teaching, research and public service) and align resources and processes effectively.
  • University financial situation remains extremely challenging.
  • Current processes and structures may not be sustainable in the longer term.
  • Through the Integrated Resource Planning (IRP) process, organizational effectiveness and/or efficiencies were noted as priorities for all divisions, faculties and units in their IR plans.
When will PRASE begin?
  • The launch of Phase 1 begins today (Nov. 15).
What is the scope of PRASE?
  • Institution wide.
  • Focus is on administrative structures and processes.
  • Does not include teaching, research and public service.
Who will be involved/engaged in PRASE?

All York community members:

  • Students, faculty, staff and alumni are encouraged to provide feedback/input into PRASE.
  • Many community members can provide input to or engage in the PRASE through the dedicated e-mail, surveys, workshops, meetings, and community information sessions.
  • Staff in administrative/service roles will be actively engaged in one or more of the phases of the PRASE.
How will PRASE roll out?

In phases:

  • Phase 1 – High-level review of current processes and the resources supporting them with a view to recommending major areas of opportunity for improvement to service delivery and more effective use of resources. PwC staff will meet with community members to gather information and community member input.
  • Phase 2 – Identification of key changes with which the University will move ahead and detailed planning for their implementation.
  • Phase 3 – Implementation of the key changes identified in Phase 2.

During all three phases, regular updates will be provided to the community through meetings of Senate, open information sessions and a dedicated website. Opportunity will also be provided for input from the community.

Who or what body has oversight over PRASE?
  • PRASE steering committee (co-chaired by the VP academic & provost and the VP finance & administration).
  • PRASE project director Sarah Cantrell.
How did York University retain PwC?
  • Through an open competitive bid process (RFP).
What is PwC’s experience with this type of review?
  • PwC has done similar reviews at the University of Calgary, the University of Manitoba, Queen’s University, the University of Ottawa and Simon Fraser University.
What are the intended outcomes of PRASE?
  • Enhanced services
  • More effective processes and streamlined operations;
  • Sustainable organization and structures;
  • Greater ability to support York University’s core activities (teaching, research and public service)
  • More effective use of resources.
How long will PRASE take?

The initial time estimate for the entire project is two-and-a-half to three-and-a-half years.

  • Phase 1: eight to 12 weeks
  • Phase 2: four to eight months
  • Phase 3: 18 to 36 months
Will PRASE have an impact on compensation, pensions or benefits?
  • PRASE will not be examining compensation, pension or benefit programs.
How does PRASE fit with multiple competing priorities of other pan-University initiatives?
  • This review is critical to the ongoing success of the University, particularly in view of the challenging fiscal environment.