Six Questions for Facilities Leadership on the Shared Services Transition

The Operational Excellence team sat down with Facilities leader Philip Jabour to talk the shared services transition, challenges and priorities. 

Where is your organization in the Shared Services transition process?

A: I would say that we are complete in our transition. Our process was very straightforward in that we took a group of about 16 people and they all became facilities managers, so they all had the same functions, titles and responsibilities for their respective areas. Now we are in the process of refining it, improving it, learning from what was expected of us, what is to be expected of us. The facilities managers are also beginning to get intimately involved in the new facility agreement that we are negotiating with Aramark, because they are ultimately going to be the day-to-day administrators of that contract.

What has been the biggest surprise you have encountered during the transition?

A: The biggest surprise and reward that has come from the Shared Services transition in Facilities is that we got a group of people who are so passionate and driven and focused and really wanting to do a good job. Even though they recognize they still have areas where they need to learn more technically, or more about the department or the position, they are all so driven and they really want to be here. That’s what has been so nice. I have not heard a complaint from anybody saying, you know, “Why did you do this? I don’t get this.” Some of them even said, “You know, I am so happy to be here. I feel honored that I was chosen or picked to be here.” So I think that is a real success story, especially since we anticipated that there might be negativity about Shared Services. I think we are fortunate that we got a group of people who have embraced their new roles, and they are taking off. This group has a wonderful director of facilities management, Alison Day. She has done a great job in bringing them together, keeping them focused and being their champion.

What has been the most challenging aspect of the transition?

A: The most challenging aspect of the transition has been the pace at which the individual units have embraced the Shared Services changes and getting buy-in from everyone. Ultimately, we are all working toward the same result, and our goal in Facilities is to free up the time of other areas by focusing on our specialization and letting them focus on their core business. When we celebrate the anniversary of Shared Services in August, I think we will have successfully navigated this aspect of the transition. We will be in a position to manage our areas of expertise so we can all come together to make a better product as a University.

What are the top priorities for your organization right now?

A: We are in the midst of renegotiating the new Aramark agreement, which was a part of the OE2C Facilities initiative. This is a very large recurring contract for the University, and we are still tracking for a June 1 execution. Once the contract has been negotiated, it will be important to train the facilities managers to understand the agreement in order to best administer the services Aramark will provide under the new agreement. . Another priority for me is to continue working to be one single cohesive collaborative Facilities group, and this is the first time we have ever had that opportunity. Now we are responsible for building, maintenance, operations, grounds and more, so we must take what traditionally has been very disjointed on our campus and bring it all together. Creating a cohesive department is very important to me and to SMU.

How has your organization changed with the addition of the new team members?

A: We now have 16 facilities managers that are spread out across the entire University because they office and work in their respective buildings. So, part of the challenge is making sure that everybody feels a part of the department. That is always a challenge. We have resolved that with Alison really taking an active role in making sure she is being seen and traveling to their respective areas. I think it is making them feel a part of a department when they are not sitting as a department in the same building. We also encourage them to remain connected to the people and the culture of the areas in which they continue to work. But now that our department has a larger scope, we work to be on the same page and ensure that we eliminate redundancies and maximize efficiencies.

What key improvements have you seen so far?

A: To me, the biggest improvement we have seen is in the careers of the individuals who have embraced their new roles. Some of our facilities managers have been at SMU for two years and others have been here for almost 20, but it is amazing to me that no matter how long they have been here, or how long they were associated with the same school or department, they are pleased with their career prospects as a result of this change. Everyone seems to understand that they serve all areas of campus in order to improve the University as a whole. And their positivity is opening doors for their growth as they leverage themselves and share information in ways that have not been explored before. Now we have a consolidated group of individuals committed to being effective and efficient, who are passionate about what they do and looking out for the interests of the University by making sure that our facilities are being take care of.

By Nick Rallo