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Optimize Operations

Environmental Scan

Optimizing the finance, administration and business operations is essential to creating an effective and sustainable organization. The current decentralized and fragmented operating environment at the University overemphasizes individual and historic preferences and makes decision-making based on a whole-university perspective difficult. The University’s current administrative operating environment is outdated, not scalable and has limited funding for strategic priorities. The combination of these factors limits the university’s ability to be nimble in times of crisis. This current environment hinders our ability to do the work of the University in a productive, efficient and effective manner. Meanwhile, the UNC System Board of Governors and UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees are asking for — and expecting — greater financial and operational transparency and accountability.

COVID-19 will have a lasting impact on the business and finances of higher education. For example, Moody’s downgraded its outlook for the higher education sector from stable to negative citing widespread instability as a result of the Coronavirus. The university must reevaluate its financial commitments as uncertainty around future enrollments and the potential loss of patient revenues, research funding and investment income will severely challenge campus operations for years to come.

As universities nationwide struggle with the same finance, administration and business operation challenges, pursuit of achieving operational excellence can be a differentiating factor for Carolina. In 2018, the University launched Operational Excellence, a multifaceted initiative that seeks to transform the University’s administrative functions and business processes. The Operational Excellence initiative creates opportunities for the campus not only to catch up, but to surpass its peers and work at the forefront of operational change in higher education. At Carolina, we must continue to develop high-functioning collaborative administrative operations that empower individuals to drive change in support of the university’s key mission of teaching, learning and research. We must be innovative and transformative in how we operate, with an ability to pivot at any time to meet current needs and challenges.

Strategic Objectives and Opportunities

Objective 8.1

Design, implement, execute, assess, and continuously improve the administrative operations that support the University’s mission of teaching, research and public service.

Strategic Opportunities
  • Implement a new budget model.
  • Create an Office of Institutional Integrity and Risk Management.
  • Continue to support the Campus Safety Commission.
  • Advance and expand the Operational Excellence initiative.
  • Create a Lean Management culture through the development and implementation of a Lean Management training program.
  • Realign spend authority policies.
  • Reduce costs and increase research flexibility by adopting a multi-cloud systems and services strategy.
  • Create a nimble approach, inclusive of distributed technology units, in planning and executing institutional technology projects.
  • Develop a teleworking program that improves employee engagement.
  • Enhance “compliance-readiness” by aligning routine operations with suitable routine process and procedures.
  • Leverage automation of student support services, freeing staff for critical face-to-face interactions.

Objective 8.2

Implement a robust data governance structure and process to inform decision-making and drive change.

Strategic Opportunities
  • Re-engineer the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment to become the Office of Institutional Research, Planning, and Assessment, furthering its role in planning, program evaluation and university metrics
  • Modernize administrative data governance workflow and tracking to expedite internal and external acceptable use agreements.

Objective 8.3

Create and maintain world-class physical facilities and infrastructure in support of our institutional mission.

Strategic Opportunities
  • Create a working Master Plan from the existing 2019 Campus Master Plan.
  • Identify and prioritize facilities to be renovated or replaced.
  • Secure funding to renovate or replace prioritized facilities.


Rick Wernoski, MPA
Sr. Vice Provost for Business Operations

Rick Wernoski, MPA is the Senior Vice Provost for Business Operations at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Wernoski is responsible for the design, implementation, execution, assessment and continuous improvement of the administrative activities within the Provost Office, as well as University-wide initiatives directed by the Provost, including the Operational Excellence initiative.