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March 1999

F&A today: Reorganization is just the start

If you interact with Finance and Administration--and virtually everyone in UCAR does--you may have already noticed some changes afoot. On 1 January, a new organizational structure became effective in F&A, with some employees in new positions and some major regroupings (see chart).

Katy Schmoll.

More change is forthcoming, says Katy Schmoll, vice president for F&A. Katy wants to automate a growing number of functions and make F&A more customer-oriented. "I think we'll be making some major changes in the way we do business."

About 12% of the total staff at UCAR/NCAR/UOP assist the entire organization as members of F&A. These folks labor to keep our work spaces safe, our accounts in order, and our technology up to date. "The caliber of people in F&A is very impressive," says Katy, who came to UCAR in 1997 after serving as comptroller of the Environmental Protection Agency. "I would match the talent and dedication [here] with that of any other administrative organization I've been involved with."

However, Katy notes, F&A sometimes finds itself having to play the role of naysayer--for instance, sending back a travel voucher for corrections or denying a facilities request. "All too often, we have to say no, but we don't always explain why the answer is no," says Katy. "We need to explain."

A road map for F&A

Below is the new organization chart that F&A into seven major groupings, along with an overview of the functions in each group and the person in charge.

Human Resources and Employee Relations
(Edna Comedy)

Compensation and benefits, housing, staff development, corporate policy, SOARS program

Health, Environment, Safety, and Security
(Steve Sadler)

Workers' compensation, toxics removal/disposal, front desk operations

Budget and Finance
(Melissa Miller)

Payroll, accounts payable, travel, budget monitoring, contract support

Information Technology
(Rebecca Oliva)

Software development/support, Bi-Tech, multimedia, telecommunications

Business Services
(Jeff Reaves)

Procurement, funding negotiations, risk management, intellectual property

Physical Plant
(John Pereira,
acting head)

Engineering, space management, maintenance, construction, custodial services

Support Services
(Steve Dickson,
acting head)

Transportation, warehouse, shipping/receiving, conference support, food services

To help guide their efforts toward a more efficient, user-friendly system, F&A will sample the opinions of users throughout NCAR divisions and UOP programs over the next few weeks. Each of the seven managers in the new F&A structure will develop her or his own methods of getting feedback: "It very much depends on the service that's being offered." The surveys will be coordinated so that no single user gets inundated with requests for feedback.

Automating processes

It's already clear that information technology will become an ever-bigger part of F&A. "If you look at the statistics," says Katy, "the F&A staffing has remained relatively stable while the rest of the organization has skyrocketed. We're not going to be able to contain this much longer unless we can get some of our time-consuming but necessary functions automated."

For example:

  • Since March 1997, much of the billing for Federal Express has been handled through the Web-based FedEx InterNetShip. This has eliminated "an incredibly tedious process" of reconciling thousands of statements by hand each month, says Katy. Shipments can now be carried out for a fraction of their previous administrative costs. A happy side effect is that the costs of personal FedExes can be withdrawn automatically from staff members' paychecks.

  • A voluminous summary of finances for each program and division, the Quarterly Management Information Report, is being moved to the Web. The first partially Web-based report appeared on 1 January.

  • Travel forms can now be downloaded via the Web. However, paperwork for the thousands of travel orders each year is still submitted and input from hard copies. F&A is working on Web-based forms with "auto-audit" capabilities that could hunt for numerical errors, along with smart software that could provide, for instance, the correct per diem for any destination entered.

  • Even time cards are destined to go electronic once the technology is worked out, says Katy. "When you add up the time that everyone spends on [filling out and/or reconciling] time cards, it's not insignificant." With automation, "you wouldn't have to worry about time cards getting lost in the mail."

    The Holy Grail of automating F&A tasks is authentication: making sure that unauthorized people aren't making changes to your timecard or your travel orders. "It's a problem the government has been dealing with for years. They have yet to come up with a standard," Katy notes. It's unlikely we will be engineering an in-house solution. Instead, UCAR will examine a number of commercial authentication packages, perhaps in consultation with NSF, with an eye toward a consistent, institution-wide solution.

    The new groupings

    Much of the change on 1 January occurred in functions that had belonged to the former Facilities Support Services group. Katy asked Melissa Miller and Steve Dickson to lead an internal F&A team that examined FSS and the rest of F&A and determined which tasks best fit with each other. This "affinity analysis" resulted in a matrix showing the closeness of the relationships among 64 functions performed by F&A. From this, the new set of seven groups was developed. Among the major changes:

  • Information Technology was spun out of Business Services to become a higher-profile entity. (Watch Staff Notes Monthly for more on this group and on UCAR's overall IT strategy.)

  • Health, Environment, Safety, and Security was also brought up the organizational ladder, taking on several security-related tasks formerly housed elsewhere.

  • The new Physical Plant group includes some of the former FSS tasks, such as building maintenance and the contract for custodial services.

  • Support Services was created to hold a number of the FSS tasks that didn't belong elsewhere. "They don't necessarily fit together," says Katy, "they just don't fit anywhere else." Steve will be acting head of this group for six months while its structure is reviewed.

    Steve and Melissa "did a wonderful job" on the regroupings, according to Katy. "It was a very analytical process, which frankly doesn't happen much with reorganizations." She adds that she's "been through more reorganizations than I want to think about. Each one has been traumatic. By and large, at the 95th percentile, I think most people have been pleased at this one."

    When Katy worked at NASA, which has "a very strong mission-oriented culture," she noticed that each project made a special effort to recognize administrators as "being part of what made that mission happened." As F&A evolves, Katy hopes that people will recognize the importance of administrative staff to NCAR and UOP science. •BH

    The new HESS team

    From left: Carol Manteuffel, Milenda Powers, and Steve Sadler. (Photo by Carlye Calvin.)

    The acronym is the same, but HESS--the name and the office--have undergone some transitions. HESS now stands for Health, Environment, Safety, and Security. The last word alludes to the new placement of front-desk and security functions under the office headed by Steve Sadler (center?). Combining the functions makes sense, Steve points out, because the front desk becomes "a central communication point in the event of fire, medical emergencies, or building evacuations. Hopefully we'll have few emergencies, but if and when they occur, we hope to have a more efficient and better coordinated response."

    Pictured with Steve are Milenda Powers (center) and Carol Manteuffel (right). Milenda, an industrial hygienist, has been at UCAR part time since early 1998. She's responsible for training and handling protocols to make sure the institution properly handles toxic materials and disposes of hazardous waste. Carol is the newest arrival at HESS. She brings an academic background in nursing and public health and extensive experience in workers' compensation. HESS wants to provide improved, streamlined services for employees injured on the job. Toward that goal, Carol will work with employees, supervisors, doctors, and insurance carriers to update our workers'-comp procedures and ensure that injured staff get the best possible care. She'll also administer the ergonomics injury-prevention program. •

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    Edited by Bob Henson, bhenson@ucar.edu

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