A group of staff walking on a hiking trail.

(first published March 2022, last updated February 2023)

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. More information about these efforts can be seen on the FMS Change Roadmap. 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.

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

The FSC is continuing to work on staffing as a top priority. The team has recently hired one FSC specialist position and is focused on filling the open requisition for a support analyst.

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. 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. 

The FSC has instituted Ticket Focus Fridays, scheduled as needed, to solely work on resolving support tickets. This ensures that the FSC  keeps  up to date on open support requests. On a typical Friday the FSC can resolve 2-3 days worth of support requests. 

In summary, with the established metrics to monitor these enhancements - the new roles, the additional hires, and the Ticket Focus Fridays - 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.

The FSC has started to attend information sessions and office hours presented by business partners to reiterate information shared in department training/meetings as well as to see the questions being asked by campus clients to further the team's understanding and ability to provide consistent responses to questions asked. 

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 highlighted key areas for improvement for invoice payments. Following the feedback through the 2021 FMS Client Satisfaction Survey FMS has put in motion improvements that address these key areas. 

Survey Feedback Action Plans 
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 embarked on a new project in 2022 to improve the invoice payment process. It includes 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 includes increased efficiency in managing AP invoices on hold and the invoice payment process. The project is currently underway.

In October 3, 2022, FMS 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.
Updated Resources

A table of the updated invoice hold notifications and actions required is available in Topic Overview: Purchase Order Invoice Processing. Language in How To: Release Invoice Holds has also been updated.

Process for invoice holds needs better visibility All seven updated Accounts Payable (AP) invoice hold notifications, which interfaced with campus, now have a link to the SU Pending Transactions tool to promote its use and provide better visibility for campus. The SU Pending Transactions tool is a relatively new Oracle Financials Inquiry Tool to improve system efficiency and awareness of transactions requiring pending actions.     
In addition, FMS is in the works of tracking the efficacy of all links provided within the AP hold notifications that interface with campus to track utilization rates of the new information and see where improvements can be made. 
Training for invoice processes The Accounts Payable team has joined other Procurement teams to host virtual events to share best practices and answer questions from users. In addition this is a great opportunity to solicit feedback on future changes. This will be an ongoing occurrence to keep with the pulse of campus and its needs.  See Procurement Services events for recordings and upcoming events. 

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 published:
  • Developed new supplier-facing resources, such as the new documentation table which provides the requirements for major categories of supplier and payee records and a consolidated Do Business With Stanford page.

Status tracking for pending supplier or payee requests


In January 2023, FMS launched new and updated status labels that are now available in the Supplier Query and Request tool for pending supplier or visitor payee requests. This technology enhancement, along with recently updated Fingate guidance, streamlines and clarifies the supplier setup process, end-to-end. Refer to the new Resource: Supplier or Visitor Payee Request Statuses Fingate page to learn about each of the new or updated status labels.

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 7 to 9 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.
  • The team hosted a successful Information Session: Overview of the Supplier Setup and Onboarding Process at Stanford where the Vendor Services team referenced and summarized Fingate guidance and policy. See Procurement Services Events for recordings and upcoming events.

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 series of updates to guidance in early 2022 and is launching a new course for purchasers in early 2023. 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. In addition, FIN-0420 : Preferred Purchasing Methods is coming on February 20th, 2023 to help members of the Stanford community select the most appropriate purchasing methods.

FMS also recognizes the need for “just in time” training that iProcurement users can leverage when they need it most, during their everyday work. To support successful user engagement with Oracle iProcurement, the Financial Learning Solutions team has been piloting, with a limited number of participants, a new software called WalkMe which adds a “layer” on top of iProcurement to guide users through daily tasks and functions. This effort helps participants navigate more efficiently as well as provides quick access to relevant tips and resources directly from within iProcurement.

In the coming months, the Financial Learning Solutions team will build solutions for additional Oracle Financials systems including the SmartMart Contracts system, the Supplier Query and Request tool, and the Requisition and Purchase Order Query tool. The team will also be using the results of the pilot to develop plans to gain approval for expanding WalkMe solutions to all financial system users. As the Financial Learning Solutions team grows the WalkMe content we encourage participants to share their feedback by continuing to submit questions and suggestions through the customized Stanford Services and Support form, enabling the Financial Learning Solutions team to make improvements in real-time.

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 was 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 all 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, as well as help FMS continually improve the web content to meet their needs.

System enhancements

FMS continuously improves and streamlines navigation settings in Oracle Financials so it is more clear for new or infrequent users, allowing further efficiencies to ensure correct completion of financial transactions. The Shopping preference setting from iProcurement Preferences settings were recently removed since all shopping functionality is currently done directly through Amazon Business, SmartMart Catalog Suppliers, or a Non-Catalog purchase requisition. Learn more

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.

FMS and UIT continue to monitor and improve the nightly reporting builds as data volumes increase over time. Additionally, FMS and UIT have resolved high priority performance issues for specific dashboards such as Payroll and Labor Management (PLM) and BI Publisher reports to mitigate time-outs and improve user experience. Performance improvement for frequently used reports (i.e., Revenue and Fund Management (RFM), Consolidated Expenditure Reporting (CER)) will continue to be an area of focus with potential redesign to simplify the report interface.

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.

FMS has completed the discovery and prototype for a new reporting directory, including a searchable index of the most commonly used OBI Financial reports with an interface similar to the Fingate Buying and Paying Guide. Please see the Searchable OBI Financial Reporting Directory released in January 2023 and provide your feedback.

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 that have been delivered include:

  • Salary, Fringe, and Indirect Cost by Employee, which merges actuals and commitments to provide fiscal year projections of total cost by employee.
  • Purchase Order and Related AP Invoices Report, which shows details of POs and invoices in the same report.
  • A new ad hoc subject area, Fund and Expenditure Management Reporting (FEM), that combines key data from CER, like expenditures and commitments and from RFM, like balances, receipts, and transfers, along with budgets for both. This supports the creation of high-level financial management reporting directly in the OBI FEM subject area without needing to export CER and RFM data to merge in external spreadsheets.
  • FMS and UIT are working on additional reporting for the next enhancement release cycles including a new Asset Transfer Report targeted for release in March/April 2023. FMS is also working on the design of a new Budget Variance report with visualizations.

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:

In alignment with continuous efforts to improve the contracts process,  two updates to the SmartMart Contracts system were completed in 2023, which include:

  • To better clarify the date range of when the contract is effective, the End Date field has been updated on the Questions tab of the contract request form.
  • The contract request status label, “Completed”, was updated to “Accepted”, clarifying that the Contracts Intake Team has accepted the contract request, but the entire contracts process may still be incomplete. 

Learn more about these two improvements on the Purchasing and Contracts Updates and Hot Topics page. 

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: 

The FMS Client Satisfaction Survey was conducted in October 2021, just as university-sponsored travel was starting to resume after the COVID pandemic brought most travel to a halt in March 2020. 

The action plan below addresses feedback from travelers regarding the program, even those who had not yet tried Stanford Travel who expressed perceptions that weren’t factual.

Survey Feedback Action Plan
Many respondents  were not aware of the Stanford Travel program or the multiple booking channels

Stanford Travel conducts extensive campus outreach including: 

  • Bi-annual Travel Forum, most recently held in June 2022
  • Quarterly virtual  information sessions - See event calendar for recordings and upcoming information sessions 
  • Quarterly travel newsletter, distributed to over 20,000 Stanford travelers and arrangers
  • Customized department training (submit training request).
  • Timely updates on the #FMS- stanford-travel Slack channel. Join here #fms-stanford-travel
  • Popular travel desk guide clarifying the changes to the Travel Booking Policy (codified by Global Risk) and promoting the benefits of the various booking channels
General perception is that travelers can find cheaper airfare elsewhere. 

A key consideration when comparing fares is to note that Stanford Travel doesn’t display highly restrictive airfares such as Basic Economy or consolidator fares which are highly restrictive and not recommended for university-sponsored travel. Stanford Travel already has many measures in place  to offer competitive rates through the designated booking channels including: 

  • Stanford-negotiated airfares offering up to 25% discount on economy and business class fares
  • Stanford-negotiated discounts on local properties in the Palo Alto vicinity, as well as, access to additional inventory and discounted rates through Egencia’s partnership with Expedia and AmexGBT 
  • Direct access to United.com via United Corporate Direct; additional airline(s) to be added in 2023
  • Fare re-shopping technology that re-books reservations if lower fares become available 
  • Egencia offers a flight price guarantee program called Egencia Promise
  • StudentUniverse offers student discounts for students under the age of 26 
  • Added new booking channel - Key Travel - with flexible academic airfares
  • Added additional corporate benefits such as loyalty status matches and quarterly promotions. 
Respondents indicated that they don’t want to pay high fees to contact a travel agent for assistance. Agent Assist fees have been waived for Egencia and reduced for FCM agent assistance per the Fingate Hot Topics article published on July 6. 


Survey Feedback Action Plans
Provide more guidance regarding the Expense Request creation and submission process

Business Expense has been endeavoring over the last year to refine and clarify existing policies to reduce  “the grey areas” that cause confusion and drive increased administrative burden. To do so, FMS has analyzed  questions and feedback about policy and identified areas for improvement. This has led to numerous policy updates, for example those for ground transportation, hotel and lodging and meal reimbursement. To support the rollout of these improvements, we have provided regular virtual events and ongoing communication to ensure these updates get to the individuals who need to know.  Along with making policies easier to interpret, FMS also recognizes there are opportunities to make the Business Expense process itself less of an administrative burden for departments. Below are active initiatives in Business Expense to address this:

  • The Introduction to Expense Requests training course will be updated in the first half of 2023.
    • Incorporate changes to process: including beneficiary section, booking method requirements, etc
    • Update links and references to additional guidance
    • Streamline the course to provide trainees only what they need
    • Update training style to something more current that better incorporates how people learn
  • The team continues to refine a new Oracle tool that allows Business Expense auditors to proactively identify and fix  “stuck” transactions.
    • Removes the need for campus to reach out to check on status of a transaction
    • Greatly accelerates the payment process on those transactions
  • The Walk Me tool  has been identified as a possible solution to the campus need for additional guidance on the Reimbursement Process 
    • Requirements gathering in PY23/24
    • implementation in PY24 
The beneficiary field adds administrative burden while providing limited value to campus Compliance with tax reporting is essential In order to maintain Stanford’s tax exempt status. To support the university’s ability to meet this requirement, FMS has rolled out new resources to help departments appropriately utilize the beneficiary field. In addition, the Business Expense team has begun a full review of the beneficiary process and functionality to:
  • Identify pain points for preparers
  • Limit circumstances in which Beneficiary information is required
  • Improve the intuitiveness of the beneficiary data entry process
  • Discovery to identify potential improvements in PY23
  • Implementation in PY24


The client satisfaction survey responses as it relates to PCards and TCards captured the need for process and system improvements. Many of the key improvements have been addressed through enhancements, OBI report enhancements, training updates, and Fingate updates.

Survey Feedback Action Plan
Respondents found delivery of the cards difficult during COVID; unclear of what addresses were linked to cards  In September of 2022, FMS completed an enhancement in the Card Application and the Change Request tool to add a Business Address and Alternate Address fields, which are visible to users and give them the ability to make any necessary changes. These new features help streamline where the cards are being sent, make any changes with a self-service tool that includes financial approval authority workflow, reducing the need to contact FSC.
Obtaining receipts, Expensing TCard transactions (training), Card (spending) Limits
  • eReceipts was developed which allows faculty and staff (travelers or purchasers) to take pictures of their receipts and easily share with their verifier/preparer electronically.
  • For verifiers/preparers, the FIN-0402 Expense Reports with Travel Card Transactions was revamped onto a new platform and provides more demos for users to easily follow.
  • Also completed an enhancement, in addition to requesting monthly limit changes (increases or reductions), a new temporary monthly limit with start and end dates was introduced in the Credit Card Profiles Change Request tool that enables users to request increases during peak seasons.
Clearer instructions on how to view cards, transactions, roles, submit change requests
  • Fingate content has been updated
  • OBI reporting updates:
    • Credit Card Custodian report updates:
      • Card status - can now display active, closed, suspended cards
      • SUNet IDs for cardholder/custodians and verifiers
      • Job status of cardholder/custodians and verifiers - shows which employees are active or inactive and can help determine the course of action for those impacted cards.
    • Credit Card Aging reports - updated with an Expanded-Action Needed view identifies whether a verifier or card custodian is no longer active, shown by the relevant Employment Status Indicator column; the Verifier and Card supervisor names are also now available
  • Provide campus PCard/TCard overview, content, Q&A at Office Hours and Info Sessions, along with providing presentation slides as resources.


In 2022, FMS rolled out a new package of refreshed resources for approvers, including a redesigned course, new checklists and updated reporting tools. The enhanced training includes a recertification process for all active financial approvers. Previously, the course was required for new approvers with requisition and expense journal privileges. The course is now required for all existing requisition, expense journal, and labor distribution approvers. Fingate content updated with details.

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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