What are the goals and outcomes of Operational Excellence?
  • As defined in The Next 150 strategic plan, the goal of Operational Excellence is to streamline, innovate, reduce costs, improve services, and coordinate administrative processes at all levels.
  • To achieve these objectives, we began efforts in May 2021 to reimagine how administrative services in seven functional areas (Budget, Procurement, IT, Data, Human Resources, Space, and Marketing & Communications) can most effectively support university missions, hiring Huron Consulting Group to support our work. 


Are structural changes of the new operating model going to be implemented at the same time?
  • Implementation process details will be identified towards the end of the Detailed Design phase.
  • We will look at implementation by function and by college/unit. We may implement certain functions and colleges/units before others.
How long has this project been in progress and when will it finish?
  • The Imagine, Decide, and Bridge phases lasted from May 2021 to June 2022. Detailed Design for IT and HR began in June 2022, and have concluded in early 2023, with the Implementation phase to follow. Work in other functional areas is ongoing. For more detail, see the Process page.
  • Operational Excellence is not a one-and-done initiative, but rather a continuous improvement effort. Even as the new operating model takes effect, we will continue to strive toward operational excellence in our administrative services and adjust as needed on an ongoing basis. 
Why are there multiple phases to the project?
  • A phased approach is being used due to the large scope of the project.
  • By handling the project in phases, it helps us manage our resources efficiently to complete the work needed in each phase and ultimately ensure that the new operating structure is set up well from inception to implementation.
  • The initiative is focused on implementing an effective model rather than speeding through the process.
Why are IT, HR, and Marcom functions currently working with Huron, while others are not, during Detailed Design and/or Implementation?
  • Based on Work Team efforts during previous phases, HR and IT were identified as the two areas most in need of immediate support to strengthen the foundation for Operational Excellence in other functional areas. As a result, HR and IT have moved into the Detailed Design phase with direct involvement and support from Huron working on service delivery design.
  • The HR and IT Service Delivery Design initiatives are the most comprehensive of ongoing Op. Excellence initiatives, impacting the entirety of each functional area through organizational design work, structural changes, and/or other enhancements to their service delivery models.
  • Marcom has been identified as another area for Huron support to help accelerate achievement of Op. Excellence goals.
  • Other initiatives requiring less direct support have progressed forward as well, utilizing Huron’s previous recommendations and involvement with HR and IT as guidance.

New Operating Model

What is a Center of Expertise?
  • A Center of Expertise is an organization of the top experts in a specific functional area that provide skills and support to campus for their functional area or specialty.
What is a Service Catalog?
  • Service catalogs provide a comprehensive list of all services that are, or might need to be, available to the Illinois community.
  • Service catalog development is highly focused on the needs of Illinois IT, HR, and Marcom users. The catalogs are designed to organize services in a clear, intuitive way that allows users to readily identify the type of support they need and how to access it. 
  • Ongoing cataloging efforts will serve as the foundation for continuous service improvements in IT, HR, and Marcom. For example, the catalogs help clarify services that are frequently requested by the campus community, facilitate mapping these services to quality standards and metrics, and support process and protocol development to ensure service consistency. 
Is this an effort to centralize services?
  • This model does not centralize the day-to-day unit functions nor the strategic functions specific to certain disciplines and areas of research. Units will have full oversight of specialized, discipline-specific operations.
  • Operational Excellence @ Illinois seeks to designate teams on campus as Centers of Expertise that can provide skills in specific functional areas. These changes will help staff work across university teams while allowing units to focus their time and effort on their specific missions, disciplines, and priorities. 
Will positions be eliminated?
  • Reduction in force is not an expectation of this initiative
  • In fact, one goal is to define roles so individuals will have clearer career paths and opportunities for professional growth, advancement, and specialization. 
  • Some job responsibilities may change for certain positions, but these details have not yet been defined. Following definition, individuals directly impacted will work with their direct supervisors and HR to discuss and consider the specifics of change. 
Will my reporting line change?
  • At this point, detailed reporting lines have not been determined.
  • As Centers of Expertise and unit-level Functional Support Teams are formed and details are developed, positionality of roles will be made clear depending on school, college, and centrally budgeted unit needs.
Will I have opportunities for professional growth and/or advancement?
  • It is a goal that each functional area (HR, IT, Data, Space, Budget, Procurement, and Marketing & Communications) will have a new structure of defined roles that will provide an opportunity for individuals to prepare and move into new and potentially specialized roles.
  • As part of this initiative, we will also be looking at titles, classification of positions impacted, and compensation with a goal of improving equity of similar functional positions across the university.

Project Governance

What is the Strategic Project Management Office (SPMO)?
  • The SPMO is a newly created unit within the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Administration and Operations. The SPMO is charged with providing project management excellence and leadership expertise in the execution of university-wide strategic initiatives, including Operational Excellence.
  • For more details, visit the SPMO website.
What is the Operational Excellence Office (OEO)?
  • The Operational Excellence Office is the SPMO’s Operational Excellence oversight structure. The initiative is comprised of executive leadership, functional area leads, functional area representation, cross-functional enablement teams, and unit-specific transition teams.
  • The SPMO leads OEO by providing sponsorship, acting as the public-facing owner of the initiative, and fostering active collaboration and communication.
  • For more details, see the Project Governance page.

Learning More

What opportunities exist for employees not involved in the current work to talk to someone on the project? Who do we contact with questions?
  • For comments, questions, or feedback about Operational Excellence @ Illinois, please email operationalexcellence@illinois.edu. The team will ensure that your message is routed to the right initiative leader or representative so that they may follow up with you. For a complete list of those involved in the initiative, see the Project Governance page.    
If I am a supervisor, should my team and I be talking about Operational Excellence?
  • Please encourage your team members to participate in learning more about the Operational Excellence initiative and why it’s important. This FAQ addresses many of the most frequently asked questions.
  • Additional questions can be submitted to us at operationalexcellence@illinois.edu. There will be opportunities for the university community to ask questions and engage with the initiative. When they are announced, it is very helpful if supervisors encourage employees to attend.
How can I get involved with Operational Excellence?
  • University leadership will share opportunities for individuals to get involved with the initiative as they arise.
  • Continue to visit the website for real-time updates on the project’s progress.

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