PRASE Program executive sponsors release quarterly report

"engage sustain transform" poster

The following is a January 2013 Update on the Process Re-engineering & Service Enhancement Project (PRASE) from PRASE Executive Co-Sponsors Rhonda Lenton, vice-president academic & provost, and Gary Brewer, vice-president finance & administration.

We are pleased to provide the community with the first update of 2013 on the PRASE Program.

As a reminder, PRASE is an institutional initiative, sponsored by the president, focused on improving the services being provided to students, faculty and staff. A review was conducted which built the case for change at York. Following a period of community consultation, it was clear from the feedback received that the need for change was supported by the community, and that the change had to be led by and supported by the York community. To that end, in late 2011, the PRASE program was started – sponsored jointly by the vice-president academic & provost and the vice-president, finance & administration, and for the most part, the project is staffed by York personnel.

Key to the success of the PRASE program is the community involvement in the program. PRASE Project Directors are working with their counterparts in both the administrative and academic/research areas to develop solutions that will reflect and respect the needs of the York community.

The focus of the program is to engage, transform and sustain change. PRASE will engage the community to understand what changes may need to be made, will work with the community to enable the transformation (through changes in processes, addition of technology etc.) and will support the community in sustaining the change through effective integration of the changes into functional areas as well as training and communication. Sustainable change, which improves service to students, faculty and staff and maximizes resource utilization, is the ultimate objective of the PRASE Program.

PRASE Phase 2 has been underway for approximately 18 months and many activities are continuing with strong support from the community.

PRASE, working with the community, has implemented the following (additional details can be found in the Appendix):

  • Sm@rtBuy – An electronic tool has automated purchasing and payment activities for faculty and staff.
  • Automated Employee Transaction Forms (ETFs) –for common employee record transactions to remove the manual development and submission of forms.
  • ARM – CUPE Integration – changes to workflow and system integration to enable timely processing of data for part-time /contract academic staff.
  • Time Reporting Tool – enables electronic reporting and tracking of staff attendance.
  • Services for Researchers – implementing various initiatives to decrease the administrative burden and better support the post award processes for researchers.

PRASE continues to work with the community on the following initiatives:

  • Employee Engagement Survey – to better understand employee concerns and to enable the University to take action on the feedback provided.
  • Working Group on Budget Modeling – a new budget model that the University may adopt based on a modified version of activity based budgeting.
  • OSAP process enhancements – to enable students to have access OSAP funds in a more timely manner.
  • Advising process enhancements – to enhance the timeliness and quality of advice given to students.
  • Travel and Expense – an automated tool to support the creation, submission and approval of expenses.
  • Point of Service Reconciliation/Shared Services Pilot – this initiative is focused on simplifying the process the recruitment and conversion processes and reducing duplication to enable York staff to focus on the value added services that they can provide to students.

There is a great deal of activity underway in the PRASE program, and many of the above initiatives are transformative in nature. We are excited by the progress to date and the support of the community that has made this possible. We remain committed to providing the community with updates on program status on a regular basis. Additional detail on the PRASE program can be found on the PRASE website.

Rhonda Lenton,
Gary Brewer.


To date a number of initiatives have been implemented and are now being measured and monitored for the impact on service, quality and cost to provide the service. Other initiatives are progressing with the working groups providing data and identifying possible solutions to support the service improvement imperatives.

The following is a status of specific initiatives underway in Phase 2.

PRASE implemented in the community

The following initiatives have been implemented already and the University is beginning to see the benefits of these initiatives.


  • Electronic tool that automates a number of purchasing and payment activities implemented in August 2012.
  • Use of the system is increasing as community members are trained and are exposed to the simplified process to buy and pay for frequently purchased products.
  • Savings of approximately $1 million are expected by September 2013 as York leverages the data from the system to maximize institutional buying power.
  • Additional system functionality will be enabled to further improve the process and services provided.

Employee Transaction Forms (ETFs):

  • The existing multipurpose paper form resulted in significant time to complete as employee data was not easily available and there was confusion about what forms/fields needed to be filled out.
  • The form was automated for select employee groups in the summer of 2012 – data is presented based on the type of transaction (for example, new hire data is presented differently than an employee transfer) with select employee information populated and additional fields presented.
  • This reduced the time to complete a form by 75 per cent while improving the quality of the employee data kept.
  • Further process improvements contemplated include extending the functionality to all employee groups and automating the approval workflow.

Academic Resource Management (ARM) – CUPE Integration:

  • In 2011, there were significant challenges associated with getting the paperwork done, resulting in a significant number of our contract sessional, graduate assistant (GA) and research assistant (RA) staff not being properly paid in the September 2011 pay cycle.
  • September 2012 saw over 95 per cent of the contract sessional, GA and RA staff paid properly and on time.
  • Led by the ARM Steering group, this success was the result of significant process and technology changes made throughout 2012 – not only ensuring that staff were properly paid – this initiative enabled a significant reduction to complete the necessary work as well as an improvement in the quality of staff data. Processes were put in place to investigate and resolve issues before the completion of the September pay cycle.

Services for Researchers:

  • Working with the research community, the initial phase of the work focused on the post award grant administrative services and processes. More than 50 individual recommendations for change were identified and spanned process changes related to procurement, expense claim reimbursement and research accounting processes.
  • Changes made include streamlining the expense claim reimbursement process, creating an eligible expense chart by funding agency and institutional requirements, and addition of catalogs to Sm@rtBuy for standard research supplies.
  • Over 75 per cent of the 50 recommendations have been implemented to date. Meetings with Faculty Councils and other forums are underway to provide additional information/status on these changes.

Time Reporting Tool (TRT):

  • TRT was implemented in August 2012. It enables staff to report time (vacation, absences etc.) and enable managers to better manage their functional areas with increased visibility to staff availability.
  • The system is intended to reduce the administrative effort associated with the management of vacation and sick time balances and accrual. Prior to TRT implementation this work was largely a manual, paper-based process.
  • It is anticipated that the implementation of this system will enable the University to save approximately $1 million in process costs and be positioned to manage its human resources more effectively.

PRASE Working Groups Underway

The following initiatives are underway with the support of the York community in the various working groups.  Processes are being reviewed, data is being gathered and future state designs are being developed.  Implementation time frames will vary depending on the initiative.

Working Group on the Budget Model (WGBM)

  • Last summer, after significant amount of research  and internal and external consultations, the WGBM recommended that York University adopt a new budget model, the Shared Accountability and Resource Planning (SHARP) model, which is a predominately activity-based budget model.
  • After community consultation, the president endorsed further exploration of the proposed model and moving into Stage 2. The key deliverable for Stage 2 is to develop a conceptual financial model and shadow budget for SHARP.
  • To undertake the work required to complete Stage 2 expeditiously, the WGBM created four sub-groups; revenue, costs, ancillary operations and inter-Faculty. Several community members are engaged in the process to explore ideas, considering options, conducting analysis, and developing elements of the budget model. Membership of the sub-groups ensures that multiple perspectives are considered and the guiding principles are adhered to when developing the conceptual financial model.
  • Each sub-group will present recommendations (guided by principles) to the WGBM. WGBM is responsible for bringing together all the elements that will create the new budget model. Once the work is completed the feasibility for moving forward with SHARP will be determined.
  • Sub-groups are completing analysis and preparing recommendations for the WGBM (Jan. to Feb.).
  • WGBM is on track to deliver a Stage 2 report to the executive sponsors by March/April 2013.

Employee Engagement Survey

  • Employee Engagement Survey was launched to the community in November 2012 and responses were accepted until Dec. 19, 2012.
  • The community responded – response rates exceeded the targeted rate of 30 per cent.
  • Results are being analyzed and will be communicated broadly.
  • Action plans will be developed at the University level as well as at the functional/unit level.
  • The University will continue to track our performance to ensure steps needed to improve the University based on the community feedback are being taken.

Travel and Expense Automation

  • Vendor selection underway to implement an automated system to create and track expense reports to replace York’s largely paper based, manual process for expense reports.
  • With over 15,000 expense claims processed per year, this approach will:
    • Reduce the administrative burden on faculty and staff  through time savings on report creation.
    • Enable faster payment of expenses as the revised process will route reports electronically for approvals as opposed to using inter-office mail.
    • Reduce York’s environmental footprint as an electronic expense report will reduce the need to copy expense reports multiple times.
    • The proposed tool has been demonstrated to key community members
      • The PRASE team is gathering input to ensure that the tool will reflect the needs of the community.
      • The tool demonstrations have been enthusiastically received by the community.

Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) Process Improvements

  • Students have identified that getting OSAP funding in a timely manner is essential in letting them focus on the semester ahead as opposed worrying about how to pay for their school year.
  • A focus on the process throughout 2012 with some technology changes have reduced the amount of time it takes to process OSAP documents from an average of 35 days to approximately 27 days.
  • Additional process and technology enhancements are being explored by the working group to further reduce this document processing time with plans to implement these changes in 2013.

Point of Service Reconciliation/Shared Service Pilot

  • A review of the services provided to students including but not limited to OSAP processing, Advising, Recruitment and Conversion identified a number of areas where services are duplicated (between the Faculties and the Division of Students) as well as processes that were extremely complex.  This initiative is focused on simplifying the process and reducing duplication enable York staff to focus on the value added services that they can provide to students
  • After an extensive review, including reviews of how other organizations deliver service, a Shared Service Model was proposed – this model focuses on how services should be delivered at the University – where does it make the most sense and greatest value add for these services to be provided.
  • Recruiting and Conversion was selected to test this model at York – it is key enabler for York to meet its student enrollment targets.
  • The team that supports this function across the University is in the process of designing the potential solution.


  • Students have identified that Advising is challenging for them – the access to advisers in a timely fashion and the quality of the advice given are areas that students would like to see process improvements made.
  • The Advising initiative is focus on improving the access to advising (either in person or through technology), the training of advisers and the underlying technologies that are needed by students and advisors to enable a better advising experience.
  • The team is developing a number of short/medium/long term recommendations to improve the student advising experience.

Other noteworthy items

The feedback from the initial community consultations regarding PRASE was very clear – to be successful, this program needs to be York led – consultants do not have a vested interest in the outcomes – York does. At the same time, the community indicated that they have many other important initiatives that they need to attend to. The PRASE Program office was created as a result – to provide the support and capacity to the University to advance the PRASE initiatives.  Hiring to staff this office with York personnel is almost complete. For those positions that have not yet been filled, we encourage members of the community to apply for these positions.

Comments are closed.