Major organizational review: The RFP

As noted in our previous post,  the University of Wisconsin-Madison has put out a request for proposals (RFP) for “Organizational Consulting Services for Benchmarking, Effectiveness, Efficiency and Flexibility Study at  UW-Madison.”  The RFP issue date is August 20, 2010; the due date is September 23, a mere 35 days later.

To our surprise,  the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s requests for proposals (RFPs) are  not public documents that can be readily found via a routine foray into Business Services’ website.   Apparently, prospective vendors must either be sent the RFP by the University or else it must be found via a subscription to a commercial information service.

Of course, in this particular case, the Administration could have reasonably chosen to let the campus community know what it was contemplating, at least in outline form, especially since the budget envisaged for this effort undoubtedly runs into the millions of dollars if similar exercises at Berkeley and Cornell are any indication.  That the Administration did not publicly announce their intent to conduct an organizational review of this scope and likely cost suggests that they preferred to fly “under the radar”, much as they tried to do last year with the plan to restructure the Graduate School.

Notwithstanding that preference,  a copy of the complete RFP dropped into our lap yesterday.  Roughly 40 pages of it seems to be boilerplate.   Only about one page contains what the University is actually soliciting bids for.  Here is the relevant excerpt in its entirety:

3.3 Project Scope

I. Phase One: Diagnostic/Solutions Development

A. Diagnostic

  • As an early deliverable, prepare a data-rich benchmarked assessment of UW Madison’s current operating environment as compared to the environment of best-in-class peer organizations (defined as top quintile among relevant higher education, government, foundation and large scale not-for-profit organizations).  This assessment should be in areas where changes at UW-Madison could reasonably be shown to deliver significant cost savings/material benefit to the University. This benchmarked assessment should include the performance metrics of large decentralized private and public sector organizations so that UW – Madison can benefit from understanding the range of possible options.
  • Identify  a set of high-potential opportunities for (a) cost-savings and (b) revenue enhancement consistent with the University’s public service and research mission. The opportunities should take into account efforts already underway on campus and within the UW System to reduce costs and improve services, as outlined in Section 3.4.

B. Solutions Development

  • Develop a roadmap of strategies and detailed plans for how to deliver sustainable financial savings, cost avoidance, revenue enhancement, quality improvements, and risk mitigation with attention to the operational environment of UW Madison.
  • Provide recommendations to address regulatory restrictions which keep UW-Madison from currently achieving the strategies.

II. Phase Two: Implementation (optional by UW – Madison)

A.       The University may enter into an agreement with the service provider for implementation services to complete this Phase.

B.       Develop a detailed schedule of services that could be provided in the six to twelve month period following Phase I to assist the University in the work of achieving the solutions identified in Phase I and which University leadership elects to pursue.

C.       Provide recommendations for how opportunities could be prioritized and sequenced.

III. Phase Three: Sustaining Changes – (optional by UW – Madison)

A.       The University may enter into an agreement with the service provider for implementation services to complete this Phase.

B.       Develop a strategy for UW-Madison to adopt to sustain the changes implemented in Phase II.

As was the case for the Graduate School restructuring proposal, we have grave concerns about this Administration’s habit of trying to make end runs around UW-Madison’s shared governance structures.

There will undoubtedly be more to tell of this story. We invite comments, especially from those readers who might be in a position to add an informed perspective.

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