A group of staff walking on a hiking trail.

In fall 2021, Stanford Financial Management Services (FMS) reached out to its users across the university and asked for feedback on its financial tools, systems and services. Below is a summary of the key findings and recommendations that surfaced from the survey and how that feedback is turning into action.

How is this survey used?

The Client Satisfaction Survey is an ongoing conversation with the Stanford community to learn about their experiences with the financial systems, programs and services that FMS provides. The results of the survey are used  to inform strategic initiatives and continuous improvements. The survey is administered every two to three years and asks all Stanford faculty and staff about their experiences with specific financial tools, systems and services. In addition to measuring satisfaction with existing programs and services, the survey also asked about specific changes that stemmed from previous feedback to validate and assess further needs in those areas.

Who responded to the survey?

Approximately 2,200 faculty and staff responded to the survey, yielding hundreds of comments and suggestions across FMS, including payroll services, purchasing and payment methods, supplier setup, expense requests, and financial transaction approval.

What happens next?

In winter 2022, detailed results were presented to FMS leadership, including program and service owners to incorporate into their strategic planning process. Action plans are already underway; including system enhancements, updated processes, improvements to support resources and analyses of financial policies and workflows.

Below is more detail about specific actions that have come out of the survey, updates that have occurred over the past months, and related information and resources we think could be helpful to our users. We hope that you continue to check back to see our progress and stay engaged with us as we support the campus in their financial activities.
Check back with this article often as progress is updated and new action plans are added.

If you have questions about this article, please contact @email.

The Financial Support Center (FSC) is the primary method of getting individualized support for all types of financial tasks included within the scope of Fingate, the Gateway to Financial Activities website. The FSC provides a single point of friendly and professional support for faculty, staff, students, visitors and suppliers. The team is continuously making improvements to their service to the university, which are fueled by data analysis, trends and ongoing feedback from the university community. Below are some of the key action plans that surfaced through this most recent survey.

Survey Feedback
Action Plans
Time to resolution

Respondents shared experiences with wait and ticket resolution times.

The FSC has developed a multifaceted plan to improve overall service levels, including wait times and ticket resolution times. The plan includes expansion of the FSC team, and the addition of two new key roles.

Team Expansion to Provide Increased Support

In November 2021, the FSC expanded its staff with the addition of two more FSC Specialists. As of March 2022, the FSC has also hired two temporary staff members to assist during FSC’s peak volume seasons.

New Roles and Processes to Optimize the Team

In fall of 2021, the FSC created a new Operator role and implemented a new support request ticket distribution process.  This new role along with the more efficient ticket distribution process has reduced the time to first response, increased work process efficiencies and improved team productivity by effectively balancing staff workloads.

In addition, the FSC has created a new Support Analyst role expected to begin in spring 2022. This new role will focus on daily FSC support requests with an emphasis on areas where there is opportunity to apply data analysis to provide more effective support in complex areas. 

In summary, with the established metrics to monitor the efficacy of this new model, the new roles, and the additional hires, the FSC will continue to monitor their impact on client satisfaction levels.

Inconsistency of answers

Survey respondents expressed frustration with receiving incorrect or conflicting answers to their questions.


The FSC is implementing some changes to foster an environment of consistent training and continuous improvement.

The team has established a new Training Lead role, focused on enhancing FSC’s training program by implementing a more holistic, data-driven training plan that includes both proactive and reactive strategies. 

First, the Training Lead will work closely with the FMS Knowledge Manager to identify opportunities to expand the FMS knowledge base by creating knowledge articles for FSC staff as well as campus clients as systems and processes are updated. The Training Lead is responsible for training new hires and providing continuous learning and refreshers to existing FSC staff.

Also, this plan prioritizes training opportunities based on data trends in ServiceNow (the tool that powers the Stanford Services & Support portal) such as areas with low customer satisfaction levels, lagging resolution rates and opportunities identified through post-support audits for quality assurance. These proactive strategies and data-driven analyses conducted after support will help to ensure that FSC specialists are providing top quality customer service that is timely, consistent, and accurate.

Since the redesigned Fingate site launched in summer 2020, FMS has been continuously working to optimize the site to meet users' needs. The main focus of this round of improvements is on search and navigation. In addition, content is being updated on a frequent basis, refined and improved to better meet your needs. Learn more about these efforts in the Continuous Improvements to Fingate news article

Survey respondents indicated that they have experienced challenges with the invoice payment process that include confusion about the workflow notifications and required actions to take, causing delays in the payment process and increased inquiries into the status of the invoice payment as well as business interruption. 

In order to address the issue, FMS is embarking on a new project in 2022 to improve the invoice payment process. It will include enhancements to the existing AP hold workflow functionality and system notifications and updated AP hold types and AP hold names. The expected benefits of this project include increased efficiency in managing AP invoices on hold and the invoice payment process. The project is currently underway.

As of October 3 , FMS has updated notifications about the seven most common Accounts Payable (AP) invoice holds to clarify the hold’s purpose and the actions required to release the hold. The changes include two new hold notifications: one for an invoice whose purchase order is permanently closed, and one for an invoice with an invalid PTA and insufficient funds in the purchase order. Most of these hold notifications will go to both the preparer and the financial approver.

These improved notifications, along with several process improvements to how holds are generated and tracked, make it easier for departments to review and take appropriate action so that AP can release common invoice holds without requiring support from the Financial Support Center, and speed up processing and payment of invoices. For more information, visit the Purchasing and Contracts Updates and Hot Topics page.

When it comes to supplier set up, survey respondents highlighted key opportunities for improvement. FMS is actively working to address the following feedback through the action plans listed in the table below. Vendor Services has started to integrate many of  these items into its ongoing process improvement cycle. Key updates to Fingate and other resources are nearing completion, with planning underway for information sessions and other events later this year. All of these efforts are a part of the Vendor Management Transformation project, which aims to improve the services and processes related to doing business with suppliers while maintaining the highest standards of compliance for the university.

Survey Feedback
Action Plans

Faster processing times for setting up a new supplier or payee record

  • Streamline the setup process for standard supplier or payee record requests
  • Develop clearer communications and Fingate guidance (including embedded diagrams, matrices and tables) that explain and support the supplier set up process, end-to-end. In April 2022, FMS will publish:

Status tracking for pending supplier or payee requests


Explore technology tool enhancements to support supplier engagements.

Respondents shared confusion around the notification process To review the supplier process workflow, visit the recently-updated Setting Up a Supplier or Payee Topic Overview page on Fingate, which features more detail around the setup process.
  • Once a supplier request has been submitted, it is routed to the Supplier Enablement Team for review.
  • The supplier team reviews the request within 5 to 7 business days. If required, a secure portal link is sent to the supplier or the authorized agent to obtain/collect any confidential data. An email update notification is sent to the requestor and the supplier/authorized agent.  
  • Upon completion of the secure portal or supplier set-up, a notification is sent to the requestor that the set-up has been completed.

Clearer guidance and education for the supplier lifecycle

  • Increase client outreach, including “get-to-know-you” meetings to understand client needs, user experience and supplier types that are being onboarded.
  • Host upcoming information sessions and other events where the Vendor Services team references and summarize Fingate guidance and policy.

Survey respondents shared that they have experienced challenges with iProcurement to navigate through purchasing activities. The system was described as complex, and for those who are new or may not be regular users, it can be particularly difficult. In response to this, and recognizing the important role that purchasers play in stewarding the university’s resources to advance its mission, FMS has embarked on a new initiative focused on helping purchasers select and correctly use the best purchasing method for their needs.

Updated content and resources 

After receiving feedback asking for improved guidance on how to make purchases at Stanford, FMS completed a new package of resources for purchasers in early 2022. These updated and new resources clarify why and when certain purchasing methods are preferable. When purchasers make more informed and thoughtful choices about which method to use, they directly impact collective efforts to ensure financial stewardship excellence. 

Updated learning materials and just in time training 

In order to provide purchasers with the knowledge and skills they need to fulfill their responsibilities, follow policies and procedures, and utilize new or updated technology and tools, FMS is currently developing new and updating existing courses related to purchasing and iProcurement. A new STARS course, FIN-0421: An Introduction to Contracts and SmartMart Contracts Learning Supplements were created to support the implementation of SmartMart Contracts. A new Preferred Purchasing Methods course is planned for release summer 2022 to provide guidance on the best methods for purchasing goods and services at Stanford.

FMS also recognizes the need for “just in time” training that purchasers can encounter right when they need it most. To that end, the Financial Learning Solutions team will pilot a new software over the summer to a limited number of purchasers. This new in-application learning solution will add a “layer” on top of Oracle iProcurement to guide users through tasks and functions. This effort is expected to help purchasers navigate more efficiently as well as provide quick access to relevant tips and resources directly within iProcurement.

Information sessions and other virtual events 

FMS recognizes that clients appreciate opportunities for live demos, presentations and opportunities to ask questions of the experts. To that end, a new Purchasing Primer events series has been launched in early 2022 to provide guidance on choosing the best purchasing method for specific purchasing needs. Sessions include topics such as How to Purchase in Amazon Business and SmartMart Catalog Suppliers and Reviewing the Purchase Order Process at Stanford. 

Other Procurement Services groups, such as the Business Expense and Stanford Travel teams also continue to offer a robust slate of events to explain new or updated policies and answer frequently asked questions. The event formats vary to meet the needs of users, including multi-topic information sessions, interactive Q&A-focused office hours and single-topic ad hoc meetings. Visit the Procurement Services Events page to register for upcoming events or to view past recordings. 

These popular events also reference and summarize Fingate content (e.g. topic overviews, how tos, etc.) in an easy-to-understand format using outlines, tables, diagrams and screenshots. As a result, they provide another opportunity to raise awareness about resources and tools for the attendees. 

FMS conducted two surveys in this area in 2021: an OBI Financial Reporting Survey which took a deep dive into product functionality and the user experience, and the FMS Client Satisfaction Survey which focused primarily on training and support. These resulted in highlighting two main areas for opportunity which have associated action plans described in the table below. 

With the overarching goal of enhancing the user experience, these changes will be accompanied by timely change management and communication to the OBI Financial Reporting user community. Please stay tuned to the OBI Newsletter and FMS Slack channel and look for direct email communication to specific user groups for updates.

Survey Feedback
Action Plans

Improve performance of the OBI platform, reducing run times for key dashboards and reports and ensuring timely availability of data

In response to the survey feedback, FMS and UIT have partnered on a focused effort to address multiple components of OBI performance. This started with extensive work to improve the nightly reporting builds, which take large volumes of financial data from Oracle Financials and populate the university’s Enterprise Data Warehouse, where it is available for reporting. This effort has yielded significant improvements in ensuring data is consistently available by the start of business each morning. 

Additionally, FMS and UIT are working on improving dashboard report performance, focusing on the most frequently used reports (i.e., Revenue and Fund Management (RFM), Consolidated Expenditure Reporting (CER), Payroll and Labor Management (PLM)) and those with the slowest performance. This will be a continued area of focus throughout 2022.  

Ease of use in navigating the suite of OBI Financial Reports, including locating the appropriate report among the many available options and understanding and navigating report content.  

To address concerns regarding ease of use with the OBI platform, there is a related initiative to redesign and streamline reports. This includes optimizing the prompts, views and columns for key reports. It also includes providing guided navigation to identify reports that best fit the business need, as well as make it more efficient to navigate report content.  

New reports, capabilities and functionality

Lastly, there will be initiatives to deliver new report capabilities and functionality. This includes dashboard reports that combine key data to reduce report preparation time and provide new insights. New reports identified in survey feedback include:

  • Expenditure and budget variance with visualizations
  • Salary, burden and commitment by person
  • Procure to pay with combined POs and invoices
  • A subject area that brings together key data from CER and RFM including expenditures, revenues, transfers and commitments for projections

On March 15, 2022, FMS officially launched SmartMart Contracts, the new and enhanced system for managing procurement contracts. Although some contract preparers and approvers were already using SmartMart Contracts through a pilot stage, the launch was a significant milestone for the Contract Lifecycle Management (CLM) project. This new system is helping Procurement Services process contract requests more efficiently, more reliably, while providing better visibility into the entire process. It also provides easy access to a copy of the signed contract.

This new feature is available in SmartMart, along with the existing Catalog Suppliers shopping feature. The SmartMart tile will remain accessible through the iProcurement system, users will just notice a new Contracts icon in SmartMart when they log in.

To support use of the new system, FMS:

Feedback from the 2018 and 2021 Client Satisfaction Surveys surfaced the need for system enhancements to the Labor Distribution Adjustments (LDA) system. The LDA Enhancement Project started in May 2021 and completed with the launch of the new application in February 2022. This project was a partnership with UIT to create a custom front-end for the LDA system, which sits within Oracle Financials. The goal of this project was to significantly improve the user experience, provide more robust functionality and streamline processes to save time. 

To support the use of the new system, FMS: 

Year in Review Infographic

Financial Management Services (FMS) has been sharing updates to action plans stemming from the 2018 Client Satisfaction Survey. Progress has continued on many of the plans; and has been aligned to the organization's mission, vision and guiding themes.

Year in Review, Action Plan Updates and Next Steps

FMS summarized just some of the highlights of the 2019-2020 year in the Year in Review infographic. From streamlining the financial ecosystem, maintaining and enhancing the financial infrastructure and taking big, bold steps together, the graphic represents some of the results driven by feedback from the faculty and staff who use our programs and services.


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