Solving Problems: Pam Gabel and the Shared Services Center

pam-gabel“There’s no such thing as a typical day,” laughs Pam Gabel, executive director of the U-M Shared Services Center (SSC). “On the drive in to work I plan out everything I want to accomplish for the day. If I get one of those things done by the end of the day, I count it a success!”

Gabel isn’t complaining. A born problem-solver, she relishes the opportunity to work with the SSC’s key customers and pursue the SSC’s goal of being a leader in service every day. The SSC works closely with Finance, ITS, and UHR to provide financial and human resource transaction services to the university as well as a contact center for faculty and staff questions about benefits and finance. Gabel is proud of how swiftly her staff, now numbering close to 250, moved from the implementation phase of the project to the current stabilization phase since the SSC opened last August. “We want to provide what we call a ‘ridiculously awesome’ level of service. My job is to remove barriers for my staff to make that happen,” she says.

Their work often makes a difference on an individual level. Recently, a graduate student whose benefits were not yet finalized called the SSC Contact Center from the hospital with a sick child. A faculty member traveling abroad needed assistance after some funds were delayed. A unit needed a way to complete key tasks when all of its HR representatives were struck by illness at the same time.

Gabel describes the SSC as a place where problems like these are solved. She loves the “aha!” moment when her team sees the answer they need come out of the mix. The SSC is intentionally designed to provide collaborative space and an environment where staff can work creatively to come up with solutions for their customers, which include almost everyone at the university.

It hasn’t been all shared services for Gabel, who got her start in the working world at a baseball manufacturer and was later ordained as a Lutheran minister. (“I do even more counseling and listening now than I did working as a pastor,” she jokes.) Although U-M is Gabel’s first experience working in higher education, she brings a wealth of experience to her role, having implemented shared services models in the publishing, financial services, construction, and manufacturing industries.

“Universities have a lot to teach the corporate sector about shared services,” Gabel says, pointing to flexibility and stakeholder engagement as key strengths of the higher education environment. While she describes the SSC’s immediate focus as “taking what we have now and really making it hum,” in five years she envisions the SSC as a national leader in what can be accomplished effectively by shared services in a university.

“The SSC could not have been implemented and cannot be successful without the continuous support of our partners and customers at every level,” Gabel says. “I give heartfelt thanks for the efforts of so many people who produced an awesome place to work that is only beginning to show its possibilities.”