PEAK Assessment Phase

Prepared by Huron Consulting and KPMG

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On July 7, 2021, Huron and KPMG presented an update on the assessment phase of the PEAK Initiative to the Board of Regents of the University of Minnesota. Both firms worked on respective functional areas and are aligned on critical foundations such as guiding principles, interpretation of insights, service management frameworks, and identification of a broad approach going forward. This document provides an overview of the context for the project, an overview of the current state, the related change management approach, high-level identification of opportunities, and discussion of next steps.

Like other institutions of higher education, the University of Minnesota is responding to an unprecedented confluence of pressures, some of which were exacerbated by COVID-19. Shifting enrollments, uncertainty of public revenue, technology change, and increasing expectations of the University to provide leadership in social and environmental responsibility add strain to financial and human resources. Moreover, the speed and uncertainty of change require new levels of institutional agility and flexibility.

Prior to the PEAK Initiative, the University has undertaken many small and large projects to improve efficiency, service, and effectiveness. Over time, the institution has demonstrated the ability to shift resources towards the mission. The ability to sustain incremental improvements, though, has been limited by organizational barriers and the bandwidth of resources.

The PEAK Initiative foundationally asked: Can the University achieve greater efficiency, effectiveness, and service through more systemic change?


To evaluate this hypothesis, both firms took a holistic approach to gathering information. The PEAK initiative reviewed 12 primary administrative and support functions: auxiliary activities, development, finance, facilities management, general administration, global programs, IT, marketing and communications, procurement, research administration, student services, and human resources. (KPMG focused on the HR function while Huron assessed the remaining 11 functions.) The assessment included both qualitative and quantitative data and insights from all five campuses.

The project also established common guiding principles which applied across all the PEAK in-scope functions. The project sought to develop solutions that are or reflect:

  • Equitable and Inclusive
  • Integrated
  • Agile
  • Operating Efficiency
  • Digitally Enabled
  • Consistent

Both firms led and managed extensive interviews and focus groups providing perspectives on current challenges and barriers to improvement. In addition, administrative activity studies were deployed to better understand the scale, distribution, fragmentation and consistency of staff and faculty support systemwide:

  • The Huron Administrative Activity Study (HAAS) was deployed to more than 7,000 employees. A subsequent custom faculty administrative effort survey was deployed to a sample of more than 1,000 faculty members.
  • Huron drew from more than 200 institutional data sources to complement select analyses. Huron also received approximately 200 messages from the PEAK website Google form.
  • The KPMG HR activity study was deployed to more than 900 employees to identify what HR activities are being performed at the University, by whom and the associated FTE costs.
  • Because improving the employee experience is a pivotal outcome of an optimized HR organization, KPMG initiatives were identified using University personas, moments that matter, and journey maps as a framework of success.
  • Interviews and focus groups with faculty, staff, and employees across functions were completed to understand the service experiences that are most impactful to their work and supportive of their careers.

Throughout the project, change management was a primary area of focus. In addition to the initial interviews and focus groups, the project teams supported numerous ongoing interactions to validate analyses, solicit feedback, and develop common understanding of the emerging opportunities. Results of data analyses were shared extensively to promote transparency. These interactions were planned based on an overall approach to cultivate sponsorship at all levels of the organization. Going forward, specific change strategies will build on the approach to date and address known barriers to change.


Analysis of the qualitative and quantitative data provided a rich picture of the institution's current operating model. Organic organizational growth and change over time has resulted in significant distribution, fragmentation, and inconsistency of resources supporting the in-scope functions. In many cases, supervisors have few direct reports and/or do not share the same primary function as the employees they supervise. The University's responsibility center management budget model has contributed to this variation by emphasizing the resource planning and management independence of individual Responsibility Centers. While many functional areas have moved to define and improve services, they have done so using different frameworks and tools. Frustrations with technology persist, and many units have implemented their own systems or data repositories. Much of the improvement over time has been achieved through relationship building and influence as opposed to mandate. The emphasis on consensus is consistent with institutional culture and does build some support for change, but also requires significant investments of time and effort.

Stakeholders identified persistent challenges with the level or reliability of service provided. The University's current service delivery model is resulting in varied or unmanaged levels of service quality, and are characterized by inefficient processes, inconsistent procedures, minimal career pathing, a lack of strategic programs and higher operational costs. Many times, units or departments invest in local resources to fill the "last mile of service" or to develop strategic programs resulting in duplication of spend and effort. Perhaps most importantly, employees face variation in work distribution and barriers to developing and advancing in their careers.


Drawing upon the analysis, Huron and KPMG identified 75 opportunities to change the University's operating model to achieve the goals of the PEAK Initiative. Many of the opportunities cross categories, but they broadly reflect all the major components of the University system's operating model:

Organizational Design and Capability

Clarifying accountability at all levels of the organization and developing new, consistent roles for delivering service that reinforce centers of expertise, service partner roles, and consolidated transactional/service support; providing mechanisms for more flexible deployment of resources; using consistent frameworks to define, manage, measure, and calibrate services; ensuring the right people with the right skills are positioned to execute effectively and efficiently with operational standards.

Talent, Culture, Change Management, and Training

Creating mechanisms to identify, deploy, grow, and manage talent across the institution and developing a common vocabulary around effectiveness; assessing the change impacts and developing a change strategy; upskilling for HR and other specialized functions; developing a system-wide approach to communicating the value and impact of the effort to stakeholders.

Technology, Data, and Metrics

Enhancing technology to automate or streamline work and using common platforms to facilitate the delivery of services in more consistent, user-centered ways; limiting customization and building on delivered functionality in current applications; eliminating duplicative systems.

Management Processes

Adjusting the mechanisms to allocate and coordinate resources to ensure alignment with needs; developing regular mechanisms to analyze and adjust spend; enforcing select standards to reduce variation, improve service delivery, enhance employee experience, and advance talent strategy.

Many of these opportunities cross the in-scope functions. This does not mean that all functions will be designed and organized in the same manner. It does require, though, that services are designed, resourced, and aligned so that end-users of the service can easily find and receive the support that they need. The assessment phase does not put forward specific changes to reporting relationships, physical location, or alignment of staff. These details would be developed in the next phase of the process.

Notably, the HR function was identified as a critical enabler of the broader PEAK goals. Organizational design, talent, and culture change require the support of an adequately resourced and well positioned HR function. At the same time, the approaches, tools, and frameworks developed in HR provide a model for other functions and their implementation will set a precedent for service delivery in other functions.

Next Steps

The opportunities will be vetted by University leadership and socialized across consultative groups and interested parties between July and October 2021. In this next phase of the project, additional vetting with stakeholders and subject matter experts will be used to confirm the viability and priority of opportunities. The complexities of many of the options challenge us to identify, with the community, the interdependencies that will impact the timing and order of the work.

There are many suggestions outlined in the reports below, and they reflect the unique circumstances at the University of Minnesota in 2021. They were developed based on thousands of points of feedback from faculty, staff, and students and we continue to rely on our community to inform this work. All are encouraged to review the reports and opportunities and attend a Town Hall in August or September to understand the development of the roadmap which will be presented to the Board of Regents in October.

The PEAK effort is a reflection of where we are, and also a beacon for where we will go. The vendor reports are tools that will inform our decision making, and during the next two months, we ask for strong engagement from the community as we build the roadmap that will guide the steps we take beginning in October.

Assessment Phase Reports

  • PEAK Integrated Narrative This document, developed by KPMG and Huron together, provides an integrated overview of the context for the project, an overview of the current state, the related change management approach, identification of several opportunities, and discussion of next steps.
  • PEAK Huron Final Report Executive Summary This document provides context for the assessment of 11 administrative functions (excluding HR), an overview of the current state, the related change management approach, identification of several opportunities, additional analysis, and discussion of next steps.
  • PEAK Huron Final Report This document provides detailed information about the opportunities identified within the executive summary.
  • PEAK KPMG Final Report Executive Summary This document provides context for the HR assessment including an overview of the HR current state findings, detailed listing of improvement opportunities and supporting analysis.
  • PEAK KPMG Final HR Report  This document provides detailed information about the opportunities identified within the executive summary.
  • Presentation at the Board of Regents meeting  (YouTube, begins at 2:45:45, ends 3:52:48)