Driven by Data

Five Considerations When Determining Centralization of Operations Functions

We all know how complicated it can be to run a single school, but growing organizations face even greater complexity. Through our work with expanding schools, we’ve found some useful questions to keep in mind when determining which roles and responsibilities should remain at individual schools and which should be centralized.

  1. Do clear roles and responsibilities already exist?

Before you get started, consider the state of your current operations. It’s difficult to undergo a complete organizational overhaul (or even a minor adjustment) if staff are not clear about their current roles and responsibilities. Staff must have a shared understanding of who is supposed to be doing what, and who is responsible for each decision. No amount of process documentation, cross-training, development or communication can make up for lack of clarity surrounding staff roles.

  1. Are campuses serving the same grades?

An important determinant in deciding what to centralize or not should include how similar the sister schools are to one another. Just as academic requirements differ greatly between elementary and high schools, so too do operational processes and compliance requirements. When schools are serving the same grades, it makes sense to centralize because core supports can easily jump in and complete both roles. 

  1. Historically, how much staff turnover has there been?

We all know the adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”. Schools with low staff turnover, where presumably operations functions are running smoothly, are less likely candidates for centralization. However, school operations teams typically see significant turnover. Adding an extra, unified layer will help alleviate the burden of staffing vacancies, allowing content-experts at the central office to fill-in as needed.

  1. How large is your organization?

Deciding what functions to centralize depends on the size of an organization. An organization with only two or three schools may be able to run a more decentralized operation. As organizations grow, there is an increased need to centralize roles as economies of scale become of ever-increasing importance.

  1. Are you considering the parent and general staff perspective?

Be sure to consider how the school is perceived by stakeholders outside of the operations team, especially from a marketing and branding perspective. Is there a great deal of mobility amongst students enrolling in the sister schools? Are the schools in close proximity to one another or serving students of the same demographics? Do staff at each campus have shared professional development sessions? Is there collaboration between campuses? Consider what the experience looks like from school to school. Centralization will aid in developing a cohesive brand for your schools, with similar procedures creating a consistent experience for students and staff. If there is less collaboration and shifting back-and-forth amongst campuses, the need for a central, unified experience is less important. 

[This post contributed by Kim Swenson, Finance Lead.]