The State of Finance & Business


Finance & Business is a vibrant, productive, and integral part of Penn State. The men and women that form the F&B team help to ensure that the day-to-day work of the University is accomplished in an effective, efficient, and successful manner. As we have discussed among ourselves, "F&B doesn’t do the teaching, research, and outreach…we help make the teaching, research, and outreach better."

F&B is a complex business unit with significant service and stewardship responsibilities. Some dimensions include:

  • An organization of units, which includes an array of areas ranging from finance to safety, compensation to investment, food service to real estate, construction to parking, and more. F&B directly or indirectly oversees administrative operations at all Penn State locations.

F&B has a full-time staff of 2,800 people at all locations. Currently, our profile consists of:

  • 19 executives and administrators
  • 1,110 staff
  • 1,697 technical service employees
  • 11 – the average years of service
  • 24 campus locations
  • An operating budget of $550 million annually
  • $200 million – the average annual cost of construction

Through clearly written and carefully structured past strategic plans, F&B has made noteworthy progress and is arguably one of the most successful support organizations—from service, delivery, and cost perspectives—in higher education. This progress underscores the importance that the present strategic plan, carrying our organization through 2013, will have in supporting our continued forward movement and in addressing areas that historically have been challenging.

Our Strengths and Challenges

General Strengths
Notable Challenges
Environmental Issues Considered

General Strengths

Our key organizational strengths, that we hope to foster and leverage through the timeframe of this plan, are as follows:

  • A dedicated workforce that is deeply committed to Penn State and proud to be part of an internationally regarded and highly successful institution.
  • An organization that embraces teamwork and accomplishes its goals. Our employees have a genuine desire to be successful and to help our colleagues succeed as well.
  • F&B's focus on key initiatives has been extremely successful on many levels within F&B and the entire University. The process of identifying critical strategic issues, organizing cross-functional teams to address the issues, appointing strong leaders to guide the teams, and providing resources for achieving desired outcomes has made a significant difference.
  • Leadership is valued, has been fostered, and has been the central skill focus in filling key managerial positions. Succession planning is also a very important issue that has been embraced within F&B, minimizing transitional issues when key positions are vacated.
  • F&B values the use of data and information as an integral basis for decision making. Units are adept at creating and publishing information, and incorporating it into F&B's strategic planning. This ensures that decisions are based on fact in addition to intuition.
  • F&B units "get more done with less." Our ability to operate efficiently has enabled the development of a highly effective operation, but with fewer resources relative to our peer institutions. We continue to search for ways to do things in a less costly way, so that resources can be channeled to the University's teaching and research activities.
  • F&B has developed a deep and effective culture of customer service. Our focus on service for the past several years has taken root and is seen throughout every part of the organization. Our people understand that service is the reason why we exist as an organization and they try hard to satisfy every customer.
  • Our employees possess a strong work ethic. F&B staff work hard and are not satisfied until the job is complete in a quality way. Because of its dedicated and focused team, F&B provides exceptional service and can exceed customer expectations.
  • F&B is committed to providing access to training and development opportunities for all members of the organization.

Notable Challenges

While F&B is fortunate to have great people, depth of skill, and organizational strength, there are challenges that we face that are important to consider in the development of our next set of strategies and goals. The most notable of these challenges are listed below.

  • F&B continues to seek greater diversity of all kinds. We understand that a diverse and talented team is a key ingredient to long-term success and achievement of our vision because each individual brings a skill set and experiences that strengthen our entire organization. Our Fostering Diversity Key Initiative has been instrumental in helping the organization make progress over a number of years. However, we must continue to find new and re-energized ways to bring more people of all backgrounds, experiences, and capabilities to F&B.
  • Because F&B is so large, complex, and dispersed, it is a challenge to keep everyone informed on important issues. While significant improvements have been made to the F&B website (along with unit level websites) and the F&B eNewsletter, there is still evidence that key information is not always reaching all members of the F&B team. We need to develop a broader array of communication tools and channels to ensure that everyone in the organization is on the same page. We also need to recognize that our geographic dispersion throughout the commonwealth adds an additional layer of complexity to our communication and leadership processes.
  • F&B provides leadership to the Penn State community in the area of emergency management and in being prepared for unforeseen events. In spite of substantial progress in many areas over the past several years, new concerns over risks for potentially negative events seem to regularly emerge. We need to continue to improve our prevention and response in order to keep pace with the evolution of identified concerns. Additionally, we need to ensure that all of our operations have effective and regularly tested business continuity plans. Such planning will help to ensure that the University can weather an unexpected event and resume full operation as quickly as possible.
  • The Diversity Climate Survey, completed in August 2007, identified that over half of the respondents had concerns about raising issues or problems with their managers for fear that negative consequences would result. This type of anxiety counteracts the environment that F&B leadership promotes and supports.
  • Our focus on efficiency through many years of budget recycling have spread us thin in some areas. While F&B's efficient operations are noted earlier as a strength, there are concerns that this efficiency may have put the organization at a tipping point. Alternatives to an across the board application of recycling may allow F&B to continue to function effectively without impairing our basic abilities to provide all of the quality services demanded by the University community.
  • Our model for delivering support and service to campuses outside of University Park is uneven, and at times, shows signs of strain. By better understanding campus needs and necessities, F&B can eliminate the pressure this strain places on campus business officers and provide equal and effective service.

Environmental Issues that we Considered in Developing this Plan

As we leverage our strengths, and work toward meeting our challenges, a number of factors will impact our ability to successfully progress toward achievement of our vision. The environmental forces that we expect will exert the most influence on F&B are as follows:

  • As our workforce ages, and a significant number of our experienced employees retire, we will be faced with a highly competitive labor market that will require us to recruit outside of our traditional geographic boundaries.
  • The government and the general public will require increased levels of accountability from higher education institutions. This will be especially evident in respect to tuition levels, sponsored research disclosures, and financial aid policies, among many other issues.
  • As key elections are held, changes will likely be forthcoming in the funding environment for higher education at both a federal and state level.
  • The competition for the best students, top faculty and staff, and the wide-ranging variety of resources will continue to pose challenges. F&B will need to identify strategies to enable Penn State to compete effectively in these markets.
  • Technology changes and developments will inevitably influence the organization as it looks to keep its computing resources viable.
  • Cost pressures, brought about by constrained revenue growth and the need to meet market demands, will challenge our ability to resource adequately and provide desired service levels.
  • The focus on safety and security on university campuses, highlighted by unfortunate events that have occurred elsewhere over the past few years, will continue to be on the minds of students, their families, faculty, and staff.
  • The overall push to be "green" in everything that we do—sustainability and environmental responsibility—will grow and force us to accelerate our efforts on this front, in spite of the tremendous progress that F&B has been able to make over the past decade.