Q&A with Sam Bakane, executive director of OneMontclair

Sam Bakane joined the OneMontclair team in August with his sleeves rolled up and ready to take on his role as the project’s executive director. With a track record of more than 15 years of success with large-scale projects, he knows what it will take to oversee this complex and essential implementation.

Sam joins the University from pharmaceutical multinational, Eisai Inc., where he served as director of the Technology Program Management Office and director of Product Creation and Medical Systems. He was also instrumental in the successful implementation of pivotal programs for several worldwide companies including Schering-Plough, Bristol-Myers Squibb, RCA and the United States Department of Defense.

Sam will oversee the management of the OneMontclair program as the University moves forward in improving its business operations throughout the campus.

Q: What is the overarching goal of OneMontclair?

A:  Our broad objective is taking a systematic approach to re-engineer the processes and replace obsolete technologies for our core administrative areas so we can be a more operationally efficient and effective organization.

The areas in scope for this effort include Budgeting and Planning, Finance, Human Resources, Student and Campus Services, University Advancement and Institutional Reporting.  From an administrative process perspective, this includes all our operations, running the gamut from hiring, firing and payroll, to financial, grants and procurement management to student admissions, academic advising, and registration, as well as everything in between.

Q: Is this project simply a matter of replacing old systems with new technology?

A: That’s certainly one of the expected outcomes. The age of the current computing systems is a driving factor as they have not grown with the University’s business needs, nor are they capable of being modified to meet current or any future needs. 

As a consequence of these platforms having limited functionality, information that is not readily easy, and the availability of personnel with skillsets to support increasingly obsolete technologies, the organization has had make a number of concessions.  These limitations have led to labor-intensive workarounds, duplicated efforts and manual processes to perform daily activities and obtain management information to run our operations efficiently.

To make the most of this opportunity and be judicious in our investments, we are in the process of re-evaluating and optimizing our business processes for each of the key administrative areas from an outcomes perspective as a first step.  We’ll use the results of this exercise to formulate our requirements and perform market analysis as necessary to define the best services, technologies and processes to support our operational and strategic needs.

Making a sea change such as this gives us the opportunity to transform our organization, which means change for a lot of stakeholders and customers. Having a methodical approach to our organizational change management becomes very important. 

We will have to clearly define the future state so all impacted parties fully understand and are prepared for who does what, how to do it, and what tools and technologies are available to meet the University’s objectives.

Finally, having the right support structures and administrative processes for the care and feeding of new platforms and capabilities will be important from an operational management perspective.                                      

Q: You mentioned the University’s inner workings. How is that being examined?

A: A team has been formed to systematically inventory and evaluate business objectives and optimize the supporting processes.  This team has been working closely with staff from various areas to look at current processes and engage process owners and internal and external business customers to get feedback about what works and what doesn’t. These forums are essential in identifying needs and seeing where the potential lies for positive change.

One of the big benefits that will come out of this process is that we will be tactically positioned to make strategic use of the vast informational assets across the campus. 

Q: It has been said that you take a team approach to project management. Is that the case here?

A:  My experience has been that getting results in any large-scale initiative is a result of people having clear goals, knowing the right things to do and knowing how to do things the right way.  OneMontclair is a large and complex initiative that will take several years of hard work and dedication from many individuals.  Only by working together with shared understanding of program objectives; clearly defined responsibilities; and having the right folks with the time, empowerment and resources to work on the team; will we be able to deliver useful and high-quality products that are of benefit to the organization.

Q: What is your educational background?

A: Learning is a life-long process, and while most of the learning comes from ‘on the job’ and life experiences, academic history has a significant foundational role.  Initially, a family history and interest in the medical industry drove me to obtaining a BA in biology from Purdue University.  However, early in my professional career, it became clear that that having a solid foundation in financial management and strategy would be a key component in making good business decisions, leading to earning an MBA in finance from Indiana University.   My personal developmental path has also steered me to obtain professional certifications in project, portfolio and service management as a matter of continuous improvement and increased personal effectiveness.