The calls (for accountability) are coming from inside the house. And outside, too. From legislators to students, parents to faculty, more and more people are putting higher education’s ledgers under the microscope. They demand proof that resources are used wisely. They want to know how these decisions get made.
What is needed is more than another round of budget cycles. It’s aligning resources—funds, time, space, technology, and more—to the university or college strategic plan. It’s allocating resources to advance the institution as it shapes and defines its future. What is needed is resource planning.
Resource planning is the process for determining and allocating resources in a higher education institution.
Resource planning involves both short- and long-term plans. It includes annual budget processes, human resources, and capital planning functions. These processes culminate in the creation of allocations for the budgets of all units of an institution.
Resource planning aligns available and future financial, human, and physical resources with the needs and goals of an institution.
Successfully completing this process allows an institution to continue necessary current efforts and successfully implement new initiatives. Further, if done in a transparent way, stakeholders will understand why and how decisions are made.
Every institution will develop its own process to best fit its needs. Needs may be informed by specific business cycles and by state appropriations processes for public colleges and universities.
Generally, institutions should prioritize initiatives in line with strategic priorities and create a balance of expenditures with ongoing commitments with which it feels comfortable. Often the finance office will take the lead in crafting proposals after receiving requests from departments and units, though the process may be more or less centralized at different institutions.
While senior leaders of an organization are ultimately responsible, involvement from throughout an organization is important to achieving success.
Much of the detailed budget planning is completed by the finance office in conjunction with nearly every program and department across the organization.
Often, the provost’s office or another senior administrator takes the lead in developing new plans related to budget and resource allocation, including the prioritization of programs and initiatives.
Resource planning is an ongoing process. There is variation across institutions, but monthly, quarterly, and annual checks of the status of funds can be good times to adjust projections and most accurately plan for institutional needs.
Resource planning is also triggered by events, such as:
A plan cannot be implemented without resources. When resource planning is aligned with institutional plans, like the strategic plan or academic plan, future-critical initiatives have what they need to succeed. Further, integrated planning ensures that resource planning is transparent and cross-boundary so institutional stakeholders understand why and how decisions are made.