As part of the ongoing Franklin Works Phase I: Business Services model re-alignment, the Town Hall and Advisory Committee meetings have been very helpful and informative for the entire process. In a continuation of efforts to share information, the project team asked the Department Head of Statistics, TN Sriram to share some perspective about their experience with the Franklin Business Services Office, and specifically the department's transition to a more-centralized approach. With Dr. Sriram's permission, we share his perspective in the Q & A below, in service of helping other colleagues in the college better-understand the process and the benefits to their individual units, as well as to the college and university:
How did the department of statistics begin working with the FBSO?
Our Business Manager suddenly left UGA in August 2020. Since all the staff positions making over $40,000 in salary were frozen, Dean Dorsey wanted us to work with Stephanie Rosso and her team members for all our business service needs. I reluctantly agreed at first. But I can confidently say that I prefer working with FBSO than hire a Business Manager in the department. In fact, from the summer of 2020, we had started working with REST in Franklin led by Jane Worley.
Did you recognize opportunities right away, or did you have any concerns about the change to FBSO support?
As I mentioned, I was skeptical at first, mainly because I was used to dealing with a Business Manager for all our needs. It was mostly fear of the unknown. Since we had a pleasant experience working with REST members, especially Jane Worley, and I had also received immense help from Stephanie Rosso and Ginger Parker cleaning up after the Business Manager left, I did recognize the opportunities. Since FBSO was at the experimental stage, Stephanie et al. helped make the transition as smooth as possible. Some of our faculty members still have some concerns, and they have expressed it in a survey I conducted based on questions I received from a colleague in microbiology. While I did not recognize the full benefits right away and had some concerns, I am completely sold on this idea now since our accounts are now handled by highly trained professionals, and they are just an email away.
What are your experiences working with the FBSO?
My experience working with the FBSO so far has been very positive. They have compartmentalized the tasks in such a way, I know exactly whom to contact. Of course, some Statistics faculty still feel that we should have an in-house manager even though they only deal with them once in a while. But they are also beginning to see the benefits. Just the other day, I came to know that the College has designated a specific individual who will handle our accounts. I have already had a meeting with this individual and provided a list of my needs. I have no issues with this new arrangement. In fact, I like this arrangement as it avoids departmental politics in which the Business Managers used to get entangled.
How has this new working relationship changed or improved outcomes for the department?
Working with FBSO has made the budget operations more efficient and without errors. The team members either have ready answers or they can find the answers quickly. All I am looking for is efficiency. So, there is a tremendous improvement overall. This is a new norm and everyone has to get used to it.
What are some lessons the Statistics department learned from this experience?
I/We learned that there are some things that should be only done in a centralized way. I place efficiency on top of everything else. So, for me, I simply cherish this help. The people I have dealt with so far have been courteous, knowledgeable, efficient, and more importantly, not entangled in our departmental gossip. I can't get this combination in one Business Manager. In fact, we were the first ones to let go of in-house IT professionals and seek centralized IT help from Franklin. We benefitted immensely from it.
Any recommendations or words of advice you might share with other department heads?
Get on board. Yes, you have fear of the unknown. I have been there and I get it. But the benefits outweigh everything else. The sooner we get on board, the better hires Franklin College would be able to make and formalize the whole operation. I simply cannot understand the debate.
When I bought the first iPhone and iPad, the store clerk patiently configured the two gadgets and synced them. When I went for an upgrade of the two gadgets, they referred me to Apple Customer Service. I was mad, threw a tantrum at the store, even wanted to return my gadgets. But when I reluctantly contacted the Apple Customer Service professional, he walked me through the steps, and then I realized that I could get the same, efficient help without stepping out of my office. That's efficiency!
To the other heads who are not on board yet: Please wake up and smell the coffee! This is 2021 and all of us know how to use Zoom! We don't need to be physically in our Business Manger's office to get things done!
Image: Brooks Hall, home for the Department of Statistics.