Professional Services across Heriot-Watt University have recently been participating in a benchmarking exercise run by Cubane Consulting.

The Secretary of the University, Ann Marie Dalton-Pillay explains why the exercise is being run, and when the results will be available:

Why are we benchmarking?

We’re all aware our University has evolved into a highly complex structure with more than 2,300 staff across multiple sites in different countries. We are using the Building our Commonality programme to simplify this structure, with the objective of developing Professional Families to support our Schools and students. As the University continues to grow, I believe this benchmarking exercise is essential to enable us to better understand the full range of activities our staff are engaged in across Scotland, Dubai and Malaysia.

Why use Cubane?

One of the main reasons we chose Cubane Consulting is because it has undertaken similar benchmarking exercises with other UK, Australian and New Zealand universities for more than a decade. That gives us confidence they are a good fit for Heriot-Watt and we are benchmarking the right things which are relevant to our sector. 

What does the benchmarking entail?

Over the years, Cubane has used its experience working with organisations like ours to develop its UniForum benchmarking process, which uses standardised job roles across a range of activities that are relevant to the Higher Education sector. Aspects of each of our jobs may be unique, but broadly speaking most of the activities we perform are similar to those undertaken in other institutions. The benchmarking exercise recognises our unique circumstances and captures the range of activities and the amount of time we spend on them across our professional services at all University locations.

What will you do with the information?

I want to develop a culture of service excellence at Heriot-Watt – particularly for our Schools and students. We should all be proud of what we are delivering at present, but we should always be aiming to get even better. I have used benchmarking in previous roles in my career and previously in Heriot-Watt University so I know the benefits it can bring, particularly now it is becoming established as standard practice within Higher Education. People may think we spend too much time doing some things, and too little doing others and this exercise will give us the evidence we need to better understand our organisation.  I am confident we will receive a helpful benchmark report which will enable us to make effective decisions as we progress the Building our Commonality programme.

How much is this exercise costing?

The University has allocated £140,000 to run the benchmarking exercise for an initial period of one year, pending a review by the Executive when we receive the report from Cubane.  The Executive is fully behind this approach to help ensure our professional services can properly support the overall delivery of Strategy 2025.  We see this as an investment which is in proportion with our staffing costs and the money we spend on our systems and processes. It will help us avoid wasting money in future and direct our resources where they are most needed. It also gives us the opportunity to learn from other universities metrics and experience – and for them to learn from us.

When we will hear the outcome?

I expect the results to be available in spring 2020. In the meantime, anyone with questions regarding UniForum should email them to uniforum@hw.ac.uk.