Focus on quality

Earlier this year, we launched Professional Services Together: a framework to support professional services in a systematic way across the University so we can make things easier and better for everyone.  

Focus on quality  

Professional Services Together focuses on the three core areas of People, Quality and Collaboration – and today I would like to focus on Quality.  

There are numerous examples of our professional services teams doing things to an incredibly high standard around Oxford – and academics regularly tell me about the incredible dedication and professionalism of their support staff. 

Professional Services Together builds on existing activities and achievements – helping all parts of the University improve both the effectiveness and efficiency of their administration. 

Service Reviews 

A key way that we aim to achieve this is through Service Reviews. This is a rolling programme of reviews that will allow us, for example, to identify and remove duplication or unnecessary process. They will help us refresh and reform our services so that they meet the needs of staff and students across the University and hopefully free up staff to turn to their many other priorities. The largest Service Reviews will be supported by Focus. 

We have recently completed our first pilot review of communications in the University Administration Services (UAS).  

The review, managed by the Focus team, gathered insights from more than 100 colleagues across the University and colleges to find out where things were working well, and how they could be improved. A series of recommendations have been agreed, which are aimed at improving coordination across UAS, ensuring communications are as effective and useful as possible, and supporting our communications colleagues.  

I am sure that the review will not only lead to better communications for staff and students, but will also support the professional and career development of our people – which is at the heart of Professional Services Together. 

With a proven method for future Service Reviews, Focus is now carrying out a Service Review of the HR grading service (prioritised after consulting with HAFs). You may have seen a recent call in the University Bulletin to share your views on the process for grading new and vacant posts – so do share your thoughts if you can.  

This will then be followed by a third review, this time on IT provision; it is currently in the scoping phase and you will hear more about it over the summer, with more HR functions to be tackled after that. We will keep you updated on these and other Service Reviews as they start and deliver recommendations in the months ahead. 

Continuous improvement 

While Service Reviews are essential for driving up quality, it is also important that we give staff the tools to improve things themselves – and that they feel empowered to do so. A key way of achieving this is through Continuous Improvement, or CI.  There are already practitioners in various parts of the University with more being trained. 

The Focus team has developed a range of resources.   

For example, you could take the Continuous Improvement e-learning modules, to develop your skills and confidence in this area.   

Or you could join the Continuous Improvement Community of Practice, a learning community open to all University staff (look out for more communities of practice in the future, as they are another key element of Professional Services Together).  

And on Wednesday 6 July you can join the Focus team at the Discovering Continuous Improvement conference at the Maths Institute and online, to hear from your colleagues and explore practical tools that can make positive changes in our daily working lives. 

A range of approaches 

I am pleased that we can drive the Quality agenda through a real mix of approaches; from Focus-led larger Service Reviews across entire services or specific functions to locally led improvement projects supported by grass roots resources that anyone can use. We know that many great projects already take place every year and intend that these will be easier through CI training and tools. 

In this way, I am confident that we can shape a culture where we can keep on improving professional services and breaking down barriers to collaboration, all to better support the University’s core mission of education and research. 

I look forward to telling you about other strands of Professional Services Together in the months ahead. In the meantime, please do read more about the programme on the Staff Gateway