Roadmap to the Top: VC-CFO Units Launch Benchmarking Project

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By BreAnda Northcutt

If you want to be the best, you’ve got to measure against the best. That’s something the 13 units that make up the Office of the Vice Chancellor and Chief Financial Officer know. They recently launched an effort to measure key unit functions against peers, some inside and many outside higher education.

"The best organizations in the world are never content with where they are,” said Dave Lawlor, UC Davis’ Chief Financial Officer. "They’re continuously searching for process improvement, ways to get to the next level.”

The Benchmarking Project is rooted in the VC-CFO organization’s guiding principle of resource stewardship, meaning everything we do is guided by the understanding that we are responsible for the care, safety and growth of the UC Davis Community. Resources go beyond financial to include our stewardship of human resources, physical assets, capital space and grounds.

The project seeks to evaluate three key elements:

  1. How do we compare cost wise for the services provided?
  2. Where on the technology and process dimension are we?
  3. How do we compare from a quality of service standpoint?

Once we have a fair assessment of where we are ranked, we can then evaluate what is needed in order to close the gap and make progress at a faster clip than others in the space.

Lawlor added, "And where UC Davis is the best in class, we will create an aspirational roadmap.” 

The effort is intended to help develop a roadmap for investment in technology and process improvements that will help migrate us toward providing the highest value (highest quality service yielding the greatest return on investment).

Lawlor has encouraged senior managers to look outside of higher education for other companies and organizations that set a high bar for services similar to those we provide to the UC Davis Community.

"We want to unleash an entrepreneurial culture among our employees to reimagine the way we do business, to deploy technology solutions that improve our level of service,” said Lawlor.

"There’s a tendency to shy away from this type of exercise because people think ‘process improvement’ is code for budget cuts and layoffs. But that’s not what this is about. Instead, we want to make the case for investing in ourselves, based on credible data and metrics. As UC Davis continues to grow in impressive ways we will need the best support organization possible.  We’re committed to being that organization,” explained Lawlor.


BreAnda Northcutt is Communications Director for the Office of the Vice Chancellor and Chief Financial Officer.

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