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Human Resources

Background of the BCAT Initiative

Print friendly Modified April 30, 2009

During 2001, in support of its ambitious long-range strategic plan, the University System of Georgia (USG) Central Office began an initiative to streamline and modernize its policies and practices. The goals included improving its Policy and Business Procedure manuals, supporting institutional autonomy as appropriate, and doing away with non-value-added processes that had grown up over time.

The USG solicited feedback from campus presidents, chief business and chief academic officers, and other campus constituents about policies or procedures that created obstacles to institutional effectiveness.

One of the most-frequently-cited HR issues was the University System’s job-title structure, known as B-Codes. For more than thirty years, all 34 institutions of the USG used this single, prescribed set of coded job titles for faculty and staff positions, as mandated in Board of Regents policy.

There were many frustrations with the B-Codes. The titles initially had been borrowed from a system already in use at the University of Georgia in the 1960s. Although there were thousands of job titles, many were obsolete, and many titles desired by campuses did not exist. Creating any new job title required approval at the University System level, but there was reluctance to add new titles to a structure already bursting at the seams. In practice, many titles were not interpreted or utilized consistently across the institutions. The campuses – which range from small 2-year colleges to complex Research I universities – were stymied by the antiquated one-size-fits-all inflexibility of the system to meet their specific institutional needs. The larger schools, in particular, had developed informal “shadow” systems to work around the limitations of the existing structure.

Beyond that, each B-Code carried designations that dictated how positions were to be assigned for various external reporting purposes. Unfortunately, the original designations had long failed to reflect evolving reporting requirements. Consequences included, for example, federal data submissions that were not fully consistent with IPEDS instructions, resulting in over-reporting of some job categories.

Design

Sponsorship

Prompted in part by pending changes in federal IPEDS reporting categories, individuals from several University System institutions volunteered to meet as a Project Team and discuss the institutions’ methods of tracking and reporting of faculty and staff positions.

The USG’s senior vice chancellor for Support Services and the associate vice chancellor for Human Resources supported the Project Team’s efforts, served as project sponsors and champions throughout the process, promoted the initiative to other senior System leaders and Board members, and ensured that the project was introduced on the agenda for formal approval by the Board of Regents.

Participation

Project Team participants included Human Resource and Institutional Research professionals from a broad cross-section of System institutions, including:

  • Georgia State University
  • The University of Georgia
  • Medical College of Georgia
  • Georgia Southern University
  • Georgia College & State University

The first meeting was held in March 2002. The working group recognized that retrofitting a new structure onto existing institutional assumptions, historical practices, and active titles would be a challenge, regardless of when an overhaul was undertaken. However, given the discontent and frustration that had been mounting for years among campus academic and administrative leaders with the aged B-Code system, the time seemed right to suggest a proposal. The committee believed the campuses would be willing to absorb the temporary discomforts of adjusting to a new model – in order to achieve the longer-term strategic advantages of a more streamlined approach.

The Proposed Architecture

The group decided to base its conceptual design on basic federal IPEDS job classifications, using IPEDS guidelines and examples for assignment of titles within those classifications. The second step was to develop supplemental, University System-specific guidelines and examples for positions not fully described by IPEDS definitions alone.

For example, executives & administrators were assigned to the “100” series of the new BCAT classification structure. Within the series, positions were then grouped as:

  • Senior executive officers
  • Institutional & chief functional officers
  • Department heads, chairs, & directors

“Other Professionals” were grouped in the “400” series by functional area:

  • Academic affairs professionals
  • Student affairs professionals
  • Institutional affairs professionals
  • Fiscal affairs professionals
  • External affairs professionals
  • Facilities professionals
  • IT professionals
  • Research & public service professionals
  • Health science professionals
  • Agriculture, forestry, marine, aeronautics professionals
  • Athletics professionals

Within each area, major functional emphases were assigned to categories. So, for example, the Fiscal Affairs professional group contains the following categories:

  • 430 – Accounting Professionals
  • 431 – Audit Professionals
  • 432 – Finance/Budget Professionals
  • 433 – Materials Management Professionals
  • 434 – Business Operations Professionals

Henceforth, positions will be tracked and reported System-wide largely by these category names. Individualized titling will be the purview of each campus. The decision to use “Senior Accountant” or “Accountant IV,” for example, will be at campus discretion, based on institutional needs.

Implementation

One major operational challenge was the technical mapping and conversion of existing titles to the proposed new categories. Thirty institutions share a collaborative PeopleSoft integrated data system; the other four institutions have either custom legacy data systems or stand-alone versions of PeopleSoft.

The work group mapped each of the existing 1,700 B-Code titles to a proposed “default” category, creating data tables to simplify the anticipated programming demands. This was intended to enable a relatively straightforward technical conversion and implementation.

The following timetable was followed:

Mar-Oct, 2002
Design developed by working committee
Nov, 2002
Draft/concept presented to USG human resource officers for feedback
Dec, 2002
Technical conversion needs determined
Jan, 2003
Structure design “finalized”
Feb-Apr, 2003

Presentations & meetings held to gain formal institutional support from affected stakeholders System-wide, including:

  • Chief human resource officers
  • Chief administrative/business officers
  • Chief academic officers
  • Institutional research officers
  • IT officers and technical staff
  • University System senior leadership
April 16, 2003
BCAT proposal presented to, and approved by, USG Board of Regents
April-Aug, 2003
IT design & crosswalk from old B-Codes to new “BCATS”
June-Aug, 2003
Communicated new model for campus rollouts & trained frontline users at day-long sessions offered around the State.
Aug 27, 2003
New BCAT System went live; B-Codes inactivated except for historical purposes
Aug-Oct, 2003
Campus-level “clean-up” to review default assignments & correct as necessary, to make campus changes based on new guidelines, and to create campus-specific subcategories and titles as needed.
Nov, 2003
Effective “capture” date of data for 2003 IPEDS report
Feb, 2004
Reporting deadline for 2003 IPEDS “Fall Staff” and “Employees by Assigned Position” data to NCES

Observations

Job titles seem like a simple thing. But they have tentacles that reach into virtually every aspect of University System operations. They have obvious impact on activities like budget development and payroll administration, but they also serve as key markers for decision-making at all levels, from strategic planning to detailed operational activities. They are built into systems that determine benefits eligibility; they support academic course load assignment and tracking; they serve as the basis for EEO/affirmative action analysis; they impact research development and administration; they even affect the bane of every campus’s existence: they can be used to determine parking privileges. Changing a system of job titles – even when most stakeholders hated the existing system – was like “changing the transmission while driving the car down I-75.”

Throughout the process, therefore, efforts were made by the Project Team to keep communication open and flowing among the many stakeholders – at both the central University System offices and at the campuses – whose work would be impacted by this conversion. Various constituents suggested thoughtful design changes and improvements, which were considered and often incorporated by the Project Team.

Benefits

The BCAT structure for the University System of Georgia offers

  • Time savings and operational efficiencies
  • Elimination of campus-based shadow tracking systems
  • Enhanced compliance with external reporting requirements
  • Streamlined internal tracking for planning purposes
  • Improved consistency across campuses
  • Flexibility for campuses to meet their unique institutional needs

Examples:

Because the previous B-Code system was so complex and used so inconsistently, the University System previously had been unable to utilize a number of PeopleSoft-delivered reports. Now, campuses that had often spent weeks manually evaluating and compiling employee data for annual IPEDS and VETS-100 reporting are able to generate those reports much more efficiently.

The BCAT system allows institutions to “customize” their campus working titles and to build compensation programs appropriate to their own competitive job markets – all within the PeopleSoft integrated data management system, rather than in separate shadow systems that had to be independently maintained.

The BCATs use a logic that assembles similar types of positions by function. As a result, it can be used to streamline the analysis of job groups and career-path positions for such purposes as Affirmative Action Plan development and reporting.

Academic positions in particular have been grouped into a single series, to which special qualifiers may be attached without creating separate codes. So the ‘core’ title Professor is 200. Adjunct Professor is 200B; Visiting Professor is 200W; Research Professor is 200T and Professor Emeritus is 200H. In the past each such title had a separate code, and they were scattered around a master list that was commonly used in alphabetical order

Conclusion

To reference Deming, “Every solution creates a new problem,” so it is inevitable that new issues will emerge. The hope and intent of the project team members and sponsors, however, is that the BCAT model will serve the interests of the University System of Georgia and its campuses well for the foreseeable future.

CORE PROJECT TEAM – Sept. 30, 2003

Barbara Carroll
Assistant Vice President, Human Resources Georgia State University

Susan Norton
Human Resources Director
Medical College of Georgia

Andy Brantley
Associate Vice President, Human Resources
University of Georgia

Bonnie Sims
Director, Human Resources & Payroll
Georgia College & State University