Posted on Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Shared Services Center — What You Need to Know: An Interview with Donna Van Cleave

As Virginia’s Community Colleges move into an era of shared services, and with the Shared Services Center opening over the summer in Botetourt County, we reached out to Donna Van Cleave, VCCS vice chancellor for Administrative Services, to answers VCCS employees’ most pressing questions.


First and foremost, I want people to know that the Shared Services Center is not about the System Office, nor is it about a handful of people managing it. Rather, it is a group effort comprised of hundreds of employees who are focused on modernizing the way we do business. As a large community college system whose administrative processes* haven’t been updated in decades, the SSC will move our administrative functions into the 21st century by recognizing and identifying the untapped talents of our people, rectifying the underutilization of our technologies, reaping unrealized benefits from leveraging the size of our system, and embracing creative ways in which we can work better together across functional and college lines.

We’ve adopted a tagline for the Shared Services Center: “Shared Ownership. Shared Governance, Shared Value.” It represents exactly what the SSC is, does and stands for. Although that may not be evident to you during the hectic parts of the roll out, we’re confident it will be as implementation continues.

What is the Shared Services Center (SSC)?

Virginia’s Community Colleges have established a Shared Services Center to process common administrative transactions that will allow us to:

  • Better focus our resources on our students – helping them start their educational journeys, persist and succeed;
  • Streamline our approach to typical transaction-based functions that occur at all 23 colleges and the System Office;
  • Save money by providing greater efficiencies and reducing manual efforts;
  • Leverage technology to enhance both efficiency and accuracy;
  • Modernize our administrative processes;
  • Ensure our colleges offer consistent quality services and expertise, regardless of campus size;
  • Improved compliance with state and federal requirements; and
  • Better focus resources on our students.

Lance Billard, the SSC Program Director, recently gave a presentation on the SSC to the VCCA conference. He shared some great background and information on how the process has been unfolding. His PowerPoint can be found here: (

Why is the SSC necessary?

As you know, slightly more than a year ago the VCCS adopted Complete 2021, a six-year strategic plan to triple the number of credentials that our students earn annually by the year 2021. To accomplish this goal, we must make every dollar count. But sometimes, what we have to do gets in the way of what we should do. The SSC is meant to correct that, so we can focus on the students we serve.

The SSC is an innovative solution that will allow our 23 colleges and System Office to be more efficient, lower the administrative burden on our Community College System, and allow more resources to support the educational and training needs of our communities. In other words, the SSC helps free us to become more mission focused.

What services will be managed out of the SSC?

Several processes have been selected and prioritized to be delivered by the Shared Services Center, such as:

  • Reimbursing employees for travel;
  • Posting job advertisements;
  • Collecting and managing job applications;
  • Managing employee information in various state systems;
  • Conducting background and reference checks;
  • Managing past due collections;
  • Purchasing/procurement;
  • Paying vendors; and
  • Processing paperwork for payroll.

The SSC has its own website that includes a roll-out calendar of functions and timing, which is regularly updated. Please visit the following link.

How will the SCC help me do my job better?

As a VCCS employee, you are a customer of the SSC, which will deliver tangible benefits, including:

  • Available When You Are: With cross-trained resources and consistent procedures, the staff in the SSC will be available to provide support when you need it.
  • Focus on People, Not Paper: The SSC will allow colleges and the System Office to spend more time on mission-critical services—helping educate individuals.
  • Service that Excels: Every campus will have access to expert advice and consistent high-quality services.
  • Data-Driven Decisions: Standard processes will provide consistent data used to capture insights, leading to better decisions.
  • More Efficient Technology: Tasks, such as employee travel reimbursements, will have faster turnaround times and the ability to be tracked.
  • Do More Together: The SSC will leverage technology and processes that encourage and promote collaboration, allowing us to succeed together.
  • Continuous Improvement: The SSC will help all of us find ways to become more efficient, reduce costs, and deliver improved services to our students.

All colleges, departments and employees are customers of the SSC. As an employee who requests reimbursement for travel, a hiring manager who needs to advertise an open position, or a college who needs to collect on a past due account, the SSC will be there to assist you.

How is the SSC governed?

In August, the Chancellor announced the SSC’s Executive Council, whose panel members include the following five VCCS presidents and two VCCS vice chancellors:

  • Dr. Ted Raspiller (JTCC), chair;
  • Dr. Bobby Sandel (VWCC) vice chair;
  • Dr. Linda Glover (ESCC);
  • Dr. Dean Sprinkle (WCC);
  • Dr. Scott Ralls (NVCC)
  • Donna Van Cleave, (Administration); and
  • James Davis, (Information Technology).

The SSC Executive Council is staffed by Kathy Metts, the center’s executive director. The group will meet at least quarterly, largely through conference calls, beginning this fall.

The Executive Council exists to oversee SSC operations. Their key responsibilities include setting strategy, approving major program expansions, approving funding formulas, and recommending policy changes to the Chancellor’s office.

“I am grateful to the panel members for their willingness to serve,” DuBois said in announcing the SSC Executive Council. “Further, I believe these individuals represent a diversity of community college experience, both inside and outside Virginia, as well as a good mix of both larger and smaller colleges.”

In addition to the Executive Council, the SSC will include a Management Council comprised of senior leadership from all 23 colleges and the System Office and will provide operational guidance. Process Councils in which Subject Matter Experts will recommend and approve process changes and policy recommendations to the Management Council. These councils will ensure that good ideas and effective practices that occur at our campuses today are part of the conversation and perhaps the solution to operating more effectively and efficiently.

Who will manage the daily operations of the SSC?

Kathy Metts is the SSC’s executive director. Kathy has personally been involved in the start-up or expansion of three Shared Service Centers for large corporations around the country. In 2000, she served on a three-member team to start a Shared Services Center for North America for Solectron (currently Flex), a $30B electronic manufacturer. She served from 2003-2008 as director of the center that included payroll, travel & expense, timekeeping, accounts payable and general ledger. In January 2008, she was hired by Performance Food Group (PFG), a $10B food distributor, to start up a center in Columbia, SC. Her most recent position has been with Howden North America, a Colfax company, as the Corporate Controller. Along with her financial duties, she oversaw the Shared Services Center.

Kathy earned a bachelor of science in Business Administration from Presbyterian College and a master of business administration from the University of South Carolina. She is also a Lean Six Sigma green belt.

Kathy has already raised our awareness of world-class efficiencies that exist and which are not currently broadly implemented in state agencies. We are grateful that she is bringing her expertise to our SSC.

Based on recent news reports that the SSC will eventually employ 190 people, how many VCCS jobs will be eliminated because of the SSC?

We cannot say exactly how many people will be laid off because of the SSC. Some positions will be reduced through attrition. Other employees will simply be able to focus more of their time on forward-planning activities they were unable to do previously. And still others will be offered retraining, such as through the Workforce Credentials Grant program, to re-tool for a new career or task. At each step along the way, any affected employees will receive professional resources to help guide them.

The question of workforce management is at the college level, and it’s important to remember that transitioning roles to the SSC is not a 1:1 equation: one new position at the SSC is not a lost position at one of the colleges. Leadership at each of the institutions (including colleges and the System Office) will evaluate positions affected by the administrative transactions that transfer to the SSC, identify the needs, and determine how to utilize employees in the best way possible to minimize the negative impact on people and maximize student success goals.

As transactions move to the SSC, position requirements and duties of individuals at the colleges/System Office will change. In some cases, certain activities of an individual’s role will transition to the SSC, but not others. The activities that transfer to the SSC will no longer be done at the colleges/System Office, and there will be no “shadow positions” because the SSC will be handling that function for them. However, other functions of the individual’s role may remain, or new functions may be needed, and the leadership team at each individual college has the responsibility for determining what this means for those in affected roles. 

Are you recruiting for SSC positions from within the 23 colleges and System Office?

We welcome applications from current VCCS employees at the VCCS. Job descriptions for open positions are available at

How much will the colleges have to pay for the services provided by the SSC?

The Services Payment Model for the SSC is being developed and is regularly updated as staffing needs are determined. Specific information about cost of services to the colleges is not available right now; however, cost estimates will be provided to college presidents in December. What is important to keep in mind is that the System Office will absorb all the costs for the SSC during FY 2017. Options for how to distribute costs during FY 2018 are currently being analyzed.

If the SSC is a cost-saving measure, how much will it save our colleges?

One of the primary tenets and goals of the SSC is to reduce overall costs, but cost is only one aspect of the benefits the SSC will bring to the VCCS. The SSC will provide great service, more efficient and standardized processes, consistent data that will be used to capture insights that lead to better decisions, and improved compliance, among other benefits.

How much is the SSC costing the VCCS overall? What’s the return on investment?

While an upfront investment is needed to start up the SSC, costs are lower than originally projected due to use of existing systems and software-as-a-service. An initial business case projected an annual savings from process consolidation of around $3 million. Once the SSC is fully up and running, that number could change. In addition, the SSC will allow us to better use technology, streamline processes, and leverage our statewide presence to save money.

What does the SSC mean for me personally? How will it impact my daily work life and/or the lives of my colleagues? What can we expect to be different?

Some ways of doing business at the colleges/System Office will be different with the SSC, and many of the impacts will be positive. For example, the way you submit travel expenses and purchase goods and services may be different than how they’re currently done. However, many of the processes transitioning to the SSC are common administrative functions that will likely not impact your day-to-day work. The way your payroll paperwork is processed, the way your HR posts jobs for open positions and conducts background and reference checks on new employees, and the way your college manages debt collections may be different, but these services should not have an impact on most employees.

How will the SSC impact my particular college?

Many specific impacts remain to be seen. The processes will be standardized across the colleges/System Office, but the roll out and degree of change may differ from place to place, meaning that for some colleges there will be a significant change to the way they currently do things, whereas other colleges are already serving as the standard for best practices, so the change will be less noticeable. Tidewater Community College, for example, has a terrific email notification system for approving time cards and leave. We adopted its use for the SSC.

Final Thoughts

In summary, the Shared Services Center is an innovative solution that will allow the VCCS to be more efficient and lower the administrative burden on our Community College System and allow more resources to support the educational and training needs of our students and communities. We encourage you to view the SSC web site to keep up to date on the latest information.

* Editor’s Note: A correction was made on Oct. 4 to clarify that Ms. Van Cleave was discussing the VCCS’s investment in administrative processes rather than technologies. We regret the error.'

Laura Osberger

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