Quality and Productivity Database

Descriptive Title of Proposal: Distinguished Budget Presentation Award
Year Submitted 2018
Awarded Honourable Mention Ex-aequo
Person(s) Responsible for the Idea
Name / Nom Title / Titre
Élaine Godbout Assistant Vice-President
Name of Institution Université de Sherbrooke
Office Address 2500 Université Blvd
Sherbrooke, Quebec J1K 2R1
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Telephone: 819-821-8281
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Name (Senior Administrative Office of the Institution) Elaine Godbout
Title (Senior Administrative Office of the Institution) Assistant Vice-President, Administration and Sustainable Development
Office Address 2500 Université Blvd.
Sherbrooke, Quebec J1K 2R1
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Telephone: 819-821-8281
Email Address: Email hidden; Javascript is required.
Abstract

For the third consecutive year, Université de Sherbrooke has received a Distinguished Budget Presentation Award from the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA). This highly prestigious designation recognizes the university’s budget and financial approach, which draws on the best practices inventoried and implemented in over 1,612 Canadian and US public organizations. This third yearly recognition shores up our implementation of this rigorous method, which will come to fruition just as we undertake the extensive project of renewing the university’s strategic planning process.

As applied to the university context in Quebec and Canada, this approach comprises 27 criteria that illustrate the interrelation between strategic planning and yearly budget planning. The budget document thus extends far beyond the traditional columns of revenues and expenditures. For instance, it describes the organization’s financial structure and presents its main policies and administrative processes. The document is written in accessible language and incorporates the results of the major strategic planning and budgeting exercises. It is widely distributed so it can be used as an action guide, a reference guide, and a strategic internal and external communications tool.

Recognition from the GFOA is a great source of motivation and pride for everyone involved in preparing and monitoring the budget. This approach fosters an understanding of budget and strategic processes and greases the wheels of collaboration between internal and external stakeholders. The budget document is prepared over several months, mobilizing a vast team made up of the university’s financial officers and administrative units, as well as copywriters, editors, a graphic designer and a project manager.

Criteria Please submit one paragraph describing how the proposal fulfills each of the evaluation criteria.
Transferability

Adopting the GFOA approach involves a colossal amount of work. To achieve our goal, the Université de Sherbrooke teams split the task into three phases, in order to facilitate the integration into our internal processes. This method, spread out over three fiscal years, is easily transferable to other university institutions.
 
The first year, the budget incorporated those criteria that were simplest or that already existed in other formats: organizational chart, budget process, overview of staff and student numbers, etc.
 
The more demanding second phase addressed criteria requiring more writing or more work: description of methods used to establish the budget, budgeting for funds in non-operating areas, changes to the budget document’s structure and presentation, more intricate graphic design, etc.
 
And finally, in the third year of the process, we completed the incorporation of the other criteria, improved some elements already included, added indicators, improved the link with strategic planning and with the risk-management program, etc.
 
The support of the university’s management team and Board of Administration has been an essential component in the successful adoption of the GFOA method.
 
The preparation of the budget document mobilizes many resource persons, not only in the finance department but also in the administrative units and at the university management level. It is now a collective exercise that involves a great deal of writing, editing and verification. The production calendar must be strictly adhered to. However, everyone involved is happy with the result.
 
The work accomplished to obtain this certification will facilitate our efforts in the future.

Quality Impact

The GFOA certification highlights the transparency and rigour of university management. It not only stimulates best practices and internal cohesiveness, it also helps establish new dialogues with society and with the government, after years of criticism and budget cutbacks. It therefore not only provides positive reinforcement internally for the excellence of our processes, it is also a testament externally to our quality.
 
The commitment of all the internal authorities also adds value and strengthens the collegial nature of this budget process.
 
The approach also enables benchmarking relative to other universities and organizations. Recognition from a prestigious international and independent organization provides an additional source of credibility.

Productivity Impact

The investment in terms of human resources and time to implement the GFOA approach has had a noticeable impact on productivity in general and on the budget process more specifically.

Thanks to the leadership of the management team and the Board of Administration, collaboration was quickly obtained from all units. There has been a vast improvement in the understanding of the process, and especially, of the integration of large-scale planning and management exercises. The budget document is often consulted and serves as a reference guide and an action guide. Some of its content is disseminated on other university communications platforms.
 
The Université de Sherbrooke teams, who are currently involved in renewing the strategic action plan, also see a major long-term gain with the mutual reinforcement of budget and strategic planning processes, since comprehension of why it is necessary to integrate these two exercises has become so widespread.

Innovation

Beyond integrating the major organizational planning and management exercises into a single document, this process involves a remarkable innovation at the budget level.
 
The document includes a budget for each fund (operating, restricted and capital) and a description of the broad categories of revenues and expenditures. In addition, it presents the methods for long-term financial forecasts and resource estimates, as well as budgetary assumptions, performance indicators, the debt management policy, etc.
 
The budget document is now wholly available on the university website, for transparency and outreach purposes.

Supporting Documents