OE News Archive - CalPlanning Fuels Strategic Financial Planning at UC Berkeley

Oct. 2, 2012

UC Berkeley publishes its first comprehensive budget plan

In August, the UC Berkeley campus community got its first look at the campus’ first comprehensive Budget Plan – an all-funds, all-units operating budget that comprehensively describes revenues and expenses in every control unit.  This budget plan is the result of an unprecedented effort by individuals across campus to reinvent the campus budget process, shifting from a focus on incremental central funds, to a more strategic process that presents a full view of all funding sources.  The new budget process allows UC Berkeley unit leaders to prioritize efforts more strategically and better weigh trade-offs between competing priorities.  Supporting this new budget process is CalPlanning, an Operational Excellence-funded system that enhances analysis and streamlines the budget and planning processes.


The development of UC Berkeley’s Budget Plan was the result of extensive collaboration across campus.  The process began with the introduction of CalPlanning, the university’s new budgeting system of record.  When CalPlanning was launched, a series of campus budget process improvements were also implemented.  To fully realize the benefits of these improvements, the Financial Planning & Analysis Outreach initiative was created to assist UC Berkeley’s leadership and financial staff through this significant transition. Using CalPlanning and the new budget processes, finance staff across campus were able to submit their 2012-13 divisional budgets.

Campus financial staff have been challenged to adopt new processes and technologies, and many have embraced the changes and see their potential in building financial sustainability for the university.

“What’s the end goal? It’s to serve the students. It’s really good that we’re doing this,” said Melanie Brey, Financial Services Analyst at the College of Environmental Design.  “It’s a change that’s needed and it’s about time it’s happening.  It’s a big mindset shift, because people get so used to thinking they’re in a vacuum in a university environment, but the economy is affecting us.”


In Fall 2009, Chancellor Birgeneau launched Operational Excellence to investigate ways to strategically respond to state budget cuts and invest in new processes to work more efficiently, supporting efforts to protect and invest in teaching, research, and the student experience.  At that time, UC Berkeley had limited management reporting and many shadow systems that further inhibited a consistent view of campus finances.  To address this barrier to the campus’ long-term financial sustainability, CalPlanning was approved as one of the first Operational Excellence investments, and is considered a key enabler to the rest of the OE initiatives.

Based on Oracle’s Hyperion Planning platform, CalPlanning shifts financial professionals’ efforts from manual work to analysis and decision-making support.  It allows financial staff to develop, annotate, and submit financial forecasts and budgets; and offers reporting capabilities for analyzing and understanding the budget.  Other CalPlanning benefits to UC Berkeley include standardization and improvement of financial data and analysis; streamlined budget and planning processes; and increased transparency to campus operations, including financial risks and opportunities at all levels.

As a result of CalPlanning, campus leaders are able to make more strategic financial decisions that are helping pave the way to a more sustainable financial future for UC Berkeley.

Campus Budget Office Director Laurent Heller commented on the immediate impact of the CalPlanning implementation and budget process changes, stating, “In past years, the Campus Budget Office had one analyst who was dedicated, full-time, to transacting staff merit and benefit funding over a period of 4 months.  This year, in CalPlanning, this same analyst took only 4 hours to complete this task; leaving almost 4 more months for this analyst to work on other, more strategic projects.”


The introduction of this powerful financial planning tool gave the Campus Budget Office an opportunity to re-engineer the budget process at UC Berkeley in 2011-12.  Key changes included:

  • A shift from an incremental review of a portion of state funds to an all funds, strategic review of unit operations.
  • The retirement of the historical “temporary budget” ledger for most operating funds as of July 1, 2012.  Now, operating fund transfers between campus units (“operating transfers”) and between operating funds and other fund groups (“changes in fund balance”) are recorded in the actuals ledger.
  • Moving to a common, industry-standard financial statement view at both campus and division levels, which allows a standard framework for reviewing the fiscal state of units.
  • Creating a budget narrative in each unit that set forth its major goals and priorities using a common format and language.
  • Summarizing major issues to present at the recent chancellor’s cabinet retreat.


The CalPlanning steering committee, made up of finance staff from across campus, recognized early on the magnitude of the upcoming CalPlanning implementation and Budget Process changes. The committee members requested additional assistance from the CalPlanning project team and sponsors to prepare the finance workforce for these changes.  As a result of this request, the innovative Financial Planning and Analysis Outreach (“Outreach”) initiative was launched to support campus finance staff in drawing on their current skills and building new financial analysis and management skills necessary for the campus’ new financial model.

The Outreach initiative, led by Jon Bain-Chekal, is staffed by a dedicated team of highly skilled UC Berkeley professionals and national experts who pair up with campus divisional finance teams in a set of peer workshops and consulting sessions.  The sessions, which employ an action-learning approach, began in February 2012 and will continue through June 2013.  The Outreach initiative is also preparing finance leaders (Deans, Directors, CAOs, etc.) across the campus for the strategic financial planning environment of the future.  To date 87 staff members, representing 21 of 32 divisions, have graduated from the Outreach process.

Outreach session participants report that the experience has provided them with both valuable financial management skills, and an opportunity to work alongside other finance staff across campus to enact a more strategic way of looking at their unit finances.

Alice Kubler, an Outreach participant and Assistant Dean, Budget and Operations at the Haas School of Business, commented, “We were able to focus on and realize substantial improvements in our process that will help not only Haas, but the entire campus.”

Judy Okawa, an Outreach participant and Budget Officer for the Division of Biological Sciences, noted a feeling of achievement in the Outreach process as she and her colleagues realized their own internal capacity, commenting, “I think that a light bulb went on: we can do this, and we want everybody in the same room.”

Several participants voiced appreciation for the process of learning alongside their finance colleagues from across campus.  Tessie Aczon, Budget Officer, Division of Mathematical and Physical Sciences, said, “We were all on the same page at the same time.  We can all do this and do this for the college.”

Katherine Hanway, an Outreach participant and Senior Fund Analyst, University Relations, also complimented the leader of her Outreach session for his collaborative approach, noting, “It’s such a great experience to work in collaboration with someone on a campus-wide project instead of having dictates imposed.”


Additional improvements are underway for the campus’ financial systems and processes in the next budget cycle.  For the first time, departments will be able to plan for employee costs across all fund types through the introduction of Employee-Position Detail Planning.  In addition, CalPlanning will expand available reports and implement data entry enhancements to refine the budget at the department level.

Associate Vice Chancellor and Chief Financial Officer Erin Gore commented on the importance of these changes, stating, “Having the ability for departments to better integrate their positions, which represent 70% of our budget spend, will enable us to better manage our resources.”

Financial professionals, campus leaders, and project team members agree that it takes time and effort to adjust to the changes in our financial systems and processes.  However, the investment we are making is already paying off and will set our institution in the right path to a sustainable financial future, so we can reach our university’s goals of Access and Excellence.

To learn more about what’s new with financial planning and analysis at UC Berkeley, including CalPlanning and Outreach, please visit the Campus Budget Office website at http://budget.berkeley.edu/.