This month, Finance Insight speaks with Karen Schinsky, Domestic Vendor Coordinator for the Accounts Payable and Vendor Services department. Karen talks about her curiosity for all things operational and how that played into her role in the development of the new Supplier Portal.
Tell us a little about the Supplier Portal project you are working on and its mission.
The supplier portal is a secure platform in development by the accounts payable department and ITS. The goal is to require UNC-CH suppliers to manage and maintain their data – for instance, address, bank account information, and tax identification numbers — in PeopleSoft, and minimize the need for UNC-CH staff involvement. In addition, our mission is always to maximize our abilities to mitigate procurement fraud at the disbursement level.
What is a typical day like in your job?
The accounts payable office is responsible for paying the bills for the University. The vendor management team’s function ensures that not only the correct entities are paid, but that we have accurate and up-to-date reporting information for each vendor to report to the IRS. Along with this, our team investigates possible threats to the University regarding conflicts of interest or potential fraud risks.
On any given day, I primarily do three things: analyze, audit, and inform. I run queries and searches as well as receive numerous documents, spread sheets, and correspondence from various sources. It is the team’s responsibility to determine if the information is correct and look for opportunities to improve the flow of this information, or to fix something along the route. It is important that I effectively convey what we are doing and why.
When I first started in this position more than two years ago, it was suggested that I would be tied to my desk, staring at documents, or answering the same questions over and over. While I do oversee a lot of documents, I won’t answer the same questions over and over. My objective is to not live with the same problems, but instead find working solutions. If I must repeatedly explain procedures or processes, something is wrong with either our message or my delivery of it and I will strive to pinpoint how to resolve the situation.
I also appreciate opportunities to consider whether or not to implement a new system. In our department, the more work the team puts in on the front end, the less time we spend putting out fires on the back end. The supplier portal project was the result of our team stepping back and considering what we can do to improve the vendor management processes.
What do you like most about your work?
This may seem cliché, but I could never be happy professionally if I did not enjoy the people I work with. My position intersects with almost every other department at the University. Pre-COVID, my favorite thing to do was walk around the Administrative Office Building (AOB), knock on doors, and ask questions on a variety of topics. Janet Rupert, our Director of Accounts Payable and Vendor Services, insists we can learn something every day from the people around us, and I loved wandering the payroll office, accounting services, the purchasing department and Office of Sponsored Research (OSR), discussing what everyone does in Finance, and how it connects with my job. I am also the rarest of birds who loves meetings. It is not the same over Zoom, but I still manage to glean all sorts of tidbits to help me do my job more efficiently. I also like to “steal” the great ideas of other people. We are all interdependent and the more we collaborate and share, the more efficiently the University will run.
What are you most proud of in your contribution to the project?
We have worked on the supplier portal project for over a year, and in that time, I have learned more about platforms, interfacing, customization, and integration, than I ever imagined I would in a lifetime. From the start I said that I was going into this with one goal: to make the system usable for those of us who are not technology wizards. I do not care how great a program is, if the players are unable to navigate through it. The portal must be user-friendly, or we will not have buy-in by campus or with our suppliers. This can only be achieved with input from all relevant players. Again, I am happy to work and talk to anyone who has something to contribute. I am so thankful to UNC Change Management and the Service Center of Excellence and Information and Technology Services for partnering with us. Also, we recently began discussing successes and roadblocks in our implementations of the portal with the University of Michigan Vendor Services Department. In my humble opinion, I think we have really given them some fabulous ideas.
What is something people probably wouldn’t know about you, or another fun item you’d like to share?
My maiden name is Facciano, and I grew up listening to stories my Italian grandfather would tell about where his family came from: a tiny hamlet in Northern Italy very close to the Swiss Alps. Although no one from my family had visited or communicated with anyone in more than 75 years, in 2019, I thought it was time to cross the pond and introduce myself. Rodallo, Italy has 880 residents, one church, two bodegas and a bar — and very little communication with the outside world. I do not speak Italian, and it was too late to find a translator, but as I’ve said, I’m always ready to connect with and learn from other people. I walked into the little bar and used many hand gestures and said “Me, Facciano” over and over. Word got out that a very animated American was searching for her famillia and soon the bar was full of people that looked and gestured just like me that shared the name Facciano. Unfortunately, my visit was not long enough to tell them about the supplier portal. Maybe next time.