What is the Budget Center?
The Budget Center is a service organization within the central Finance division that provides financial information and analysis to Tufts decision makers, enabling them to align program priorities with resources. The Budget Center is staffed with full-time finance professionals who work directly with schools and central units to streamline budgeting, reporting and forecasting procedures.
Schools and divisions retain authority over their budgets. The Budget Center serves as a partner that provides budgeting expertise and analysis to support sound financial decisions.
The Budget Center does:
Provide a unified approach to department, school and university budgeting, inclusive of all funding sources, to simplify the budgeting process
Establish standard approaches for major budget categories to streamline university-wide analysis
Increase transparency, accuracy and confidence in budgets and forecasts to enable stakeholders to use resources efficiently and effectively
Expand the breadth and depth of analysis provided to schools and divisions for strategic financial planning
Improve access to reporting tools and information to enable responsible stewardship of resources and enhance transparency
Reduce the effort involved in budgeting, so schools and divisions can focus staff effort on program development and support
The Budget Center does not:
Conduct strategic planning
Have authority to make financial decisions for schools or divisions
Why did we implement the Budget Center?
The Tufts Effectiveness in Administrative Management (TEAM) initiative conducted an assessment of opportunities across the university to improve administrative services and reduce costs. The assessment identified numerous issues with the way budgets are handled at Tufts. Budget processes involved hundreds of staff using numerous spreadsheets and shadow systems that are prone to transcription errors and disparate reporting practices. All of these factors undermined the university’s financial well-being by making any attempt to understand Tufts’ overall spending practices unnecessarily time consuming.
One of several recommendations that emerged from the TEAM assessment was to establish a new comprehensive budgeting system to substantially eliminate shadow systems and reduce the effort that goes into budgeting across the university.
The Budget Center does not alter the authority of Tufts department and program leaders to define what their budgets should be and how to execute them. The Budget Center introduces consistent processes and best practices that support budget development and management, accuracy, and transparency throughout the university. It will also reduce the collective effort involved in transactional budget and finance work so schools and divisions can devote more time to their core missions.
How is the Budget Center structured?
The Budget Center has a senior director who reports directly to the Vice President of Finance, Tom McGurty. The senior director leads the implementation and operation of the Budget Center.
A team of Budget Center directors, reporting to the senior director, maintain partnerships with schools and divisions to provide budgeting support, analysis and guidance. A team of senior budget analysts and budget analysts support the directors and provide hands-on budgeting services to departments.
What was the process to decide on this structure?
We considered several organizational and reporting structures to determine which would best support the Budget Center’s mission and vision. The chosen structure fosters a consistent approach to budgeting across departments and schools, with the Budget Center reporting directly to the VP of finance. Partnerships between Budget Center staff and Tufts schools and departments preserve vice presidents’, deans’, and executive associate deans’ authority over budgeting decisions, while introducing budgeting best practices that will reduce the time and effort required. Further, the selected structure encourages career growth and development of Budget Center employees.
What was the process for recruiting/selecting candidates to staff the Budget Center?
Since early this year, the implementation team worked closely with Human Resources to staff the Budget Center, taking particular care to recruit as many qualified internal candidates as possible. The position of a senior director for the Budget Center was posted in early January 2015 and David Woodward was selected to fill that position. David has been a member of the Tufts Finance division since 2011.
We posted director positions in March and more than 20 senior budget analyst and budget analyst positions in April. Because a large number of analyst positions needed to be filled, we posted the positions both internally and externally. However, we remained committed to retaining highly skilled people who are well versed in Tufts culture, policies and procedures, and gave preference to qualified Tufts employees wherever possible during the hiring process. About half of the staff in the Budget Center are internal hires.
How does this impact the work currently done in central Finance? Will any current positions be eliminated? The central Business Financial Officer (BFO) position migrated to the Budget Center. The Budget Center provides detailed budgeting and forecasting that were previously coordinated by the Budget Office in Finance and Planning. The Finance and Planning office reorganized to provide university-wide financial analysis and long-range financial planning.
Did the Budget Center launch all at once or will it happen in phases?
The Budget Center launched for all schools and divisions in early August 2015. We are planning to introduce processes and services in phases over the summer and throughout the year, beginning with analyzing actuals to budget; followed by forecasting services; followed by operating budget build. Throughout this time, Budget Center directors and analysts will be reaching out to schools and divisions to develop a detailed understanding of their budget needs.
A summer launch date was selected for several reasons. In order to avoid interfering with end-of-the-year budgeting processes, we decided to launch the Budget Center at the start of the 2015-2016 fiscal year. Further, by opening during a quieter time for the university, the Budget Center will have the opportunity to refine its services with minimal disruption to the groups it will serve.
How long did the implementation process take and what did it involve?
Planning for the Budget Center began in November 2014. The official implementation began in January 2015. Among other things, the implementation process involved making design decisions about the structure of the organization, services, policies and procedures and key performance indicators.
The implementation team selected a budget software system, Axiom EPM (enterprise performance management software), and worked with groups around the university to integrate it with existing systems that store relevant financial data. These include RAS, PeopleSoft and Data Warehouse.
How should schools and divisions work with the Budget Center to manage their budgets?
Each school or division will have an assigned Budget Center director who will serve as a budgeting partner. Budget Center directors and analysts will take the time to understand the nuances of their assigned schools and divisions and provide strategic guidance on funding risks, opportunities and assumptions to these groups.
Do schools and divisions have access to their budgets at all times? How is access offered?
Yes. Schools and divisions can continue to access their budgets using PeopleSoft and Data Warehouse software. We also plan to develop new report formats that simplify the delivery of financial information to those responsible for managing budgets at the university.
Where is the Budget Center be located? Can I talk to someone in person without traveling to another campus?
Yes, you can to talk with Budget Center staff in person without traveling to another campus. The Budget Center’s primary location is in the Tufts Administration Building (TAB) at 169 Holland Street on the Medford/Somerville campus and two staff members are based in Grafton. In the fall, there will be Budget Center staff located on the 6th floor of the 75 Kneeland St building on the Boston Campus. Additionally, most directors and senior analysts will have office hours at the schools to which they are assigned. This is to ensure Budget Center staff can form strong relationships with the groups they serve and provide in-person budgeting support.
Do I have to learn new software in order to work with the Budget Center?
No. Staff of schools and divisions do not have to learn new software. Budget Center directors and analysts use the budgeting system, Axiom EPM, to build budgets and forecasts and generate reports for schools and divisions. You can also access reports through the existing systems, PeopleSoft and Data Warehouse.