UC Davis

Founded in 1905, UC Davis is one of ten campuses in the University of California system. As of 2013, UC Davis has an expanding budget of $3.4B to assist the 33,300 students spread across four colleges and six professional schools. In the fall of 2009, the Organizational Excellence Initiative was started. The goal of this initiative was to improve efficiency and effectiveness of administrators, making them ”lean, effective, transparent, service-oriented, and innovative.” This initiative also had a hand in establishing the UC Davis Vision of Excellence, cultivating a culture of organizational excellence, effectiveness, and stewardship. Transactional areas, such as Human Resources, Payroll, Purchasing, Accounts Receivable, IET, and Travel and Entertainment, would be moved to a new Shared Service Center (SSC). The go-live date for this initiative was in February 2013 and the deadline was met through internal resources.

In August 2013, Robert Towle and team were brought on to assist in fixing these problems. As he recalls, the SSC carried out a “design, build, shove-it-in,” instead of a “design, build, implement.” As a result, the organization’s reputation was tainted and trust between consumers was at an all time low.

Six components were developed as part of the Stakeholder Engagement Model:

  • Discuss and confirm definition
  • Is the critical component in place?
  • What is working well?
  • What is not working well?
  • Recommendations for improvement?
  • Prioritization and discussion on timelines?
  • What will success look like?
  • Assign ownership

The team analyzed the key findings from the study and developed solutions. When it comes to the customer, it was found that there was no effective stakeholder engagement model and a poor client experience. As a solution, the implementation of the Six Components and the creation of a better channel for communication was called for. The people lose faith in Shared Services and there was a low attendance of the Governance Committee hearings. The solution was to re-engage and re-communicate merits, while applying a visible and effective governance. Overall, the team called for a relevant, clear, and long-term plan. One that would dedicate resources to improvement, management, and communication.


The review conducted for these critical success factors served as a framework for four separate workshops. During these workshops, it was clear the original business case had failed them.

Thus, a new Implementation Plan was proposed. The purpose behind this plan was to provide details on deliverables (Financial Review, Stakeholder Analysis, Process Design Workshops, review of Engagement Model, review of Organizational Design, and High-Level Technology Assessment) and activities. This would give insight into their timelines, management, and resources.

A Change Management Plan was also needed. Prior to the original go-live date, administrative departments claimed they were not well informed of the original plan. There was simply not enough staff to provide all the service an SSC would provide. Moving forward, to avoid further confusion, this plan would include detailed roles and responsibilities for each position, as pictured below in the Project Governance hierarchy.

Although a strong plan existed, the initial go-live date in February 2013 was rushed and many mistakes were made as a result. The new Shared Services Center quickly had a tainted reputation and a slew of unhappy clients. In August 2013, Robert and team were called in to conduct a review. The first step was to make sure clients and employees felt heard. As a second set of eyes, the team helped formulate a roadmap to mending those issues. Fortunately, as of 2022, the Implementation Plan is still in effect and both clients and employees alike are much more satisfied with the results. However, due to initially rushing the implementation, there was significant time lost in the process. The team also worked hard on core operations, such as measures and metrics and performance levels. This has allowed the center to rebuild customer confidence and grow over time.