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Advisory Committee Report

Alan Flurry

The Franklin Works Advisory Committee conducted an email survey of Franklin College Department Heads and Institute Directors to identify strengths, concerns, and recommendations regarding Franklin Works implementation (4/2-25/2021). Department Heads and Directors developed responses in consultation with faculty and staff. Below is a summary of 32 responses and the Advisory Committee discussion of 4/28/2021.

Overview. In most departmental offices right now, the business manager has two defined roles: business manager and office manager. The business manager role involves financial services that are mostly captured in the Franklin Works Phase I description. However, the office manager role is also absolutely essential for most departments to function, supervising other department staff, but also serving as (i) a single point of contact for faculty –especially new faculty –to help route requests; (ii) an invaluable source of knowledge about precedent and procedure in the department; (iii) a person who follows up on requests to figure out if they have been overlooked or declined; (iv) a backstop who ensures that occasional, seasonal, emergency, and department-specific, mission-critical tasks  are carried out. Several departments recognized the transition to Franklin Works as an opportunity to reduce the burden on many business managers but also have a broad concern that the vital necessity for an experienced departmental office manager is not explicitly recognized in Franklin Works materials.

A second broad issue has to do with staff satisfaction and the nature of their allegiance. In terms of satisfaction, many staff members pride themselves in playing key roles in their department’s mission. A successful concert, balanced grant budgets, the maintenance of vital inventories – staff participation in such efforts ensures their department’s success. Many staff members appreciate contact with students, an inspirational feature of university life that often compensates for the higher salaries available in the private sector. It is not clear whether and how these drivers of satisfaction will be available with centralized business activities. In terms of allegiance, staff who are employed by Franklin College may have different priorities than those whose primary affiliation is to an individual department. Will Franklin Works be able to accommodate last-minute requests? There are urgent tasks for which there is never much lead time, such as moving personnel to a different funding source. If a requestor has to wait his/her turn, then a student may not be paid, grant funding may lapse, or the marching band may lack transportation.

Advisory Committee discussions converged on several recommendations:

1. With regard to implementation, we recommend most strongly that units retain an experienced staff member with the role of office manager. That person will be a single point of contact for Department Heads, faculty, postdocs, students, and other staff with Franklin Works teams. 

2. A second recommendation related to implementation is to extend the time frame for centralization, adopting a step-wise approach that can develop functioning workflows with simpler units before taking on departments or units that have complex needs. For units with more complex or specialized needs, centralization could occur at a later time after we have some experience with this transition.

3. With regard to communication about Franklin Works, the committee recommends an appraisal of effectiveness and an adjustment of approach. We appreciate that a lot of effort has gone into providing information through several approaches, but responses and discussions indicate remaining misunderstandings about what services will be covered by Franklin Works Phase I. Some specific suggestions include (i) making Franklin Works updates from the Project Leadership Team a standing agenda item for Department Head/Director meetings this fall, and (ii) developing a portrait of our office staff and roles “before” and “after” implementation, to clarify who will do what.

4. A second recommendation related to communication is to develop and publicize specific implementation plans as soon as possible. Input from our group and many others will be central to developing implementation plans, but the short time line makes uncertainty loom large. It will be important to provide specifics as soon as they are available.

The department meetings (beginning next week) will be an opportunity for the project team and departments to work together to address the recommendations from this report. The Project Team be presenting a proposed structure and timeline for each department for consideration. The proposals are intended as a starting point for discussion, not the final plan. Developed in response to Advisory Committee feedback, it serves as a “before and after” example to assist department heads and directors in visualizing what a new structure might look like, how it might function, and when we could reasonably implement changes.

Thanks to all staff for their efforts and patience during this process. We are confident that with everyone's participation, Franklin Works will ensure the continued successful work – and work environment – of the Franklin College.

Image: still image from hand-drawn rotoscope video bumper, Franklin College.


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