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The IT Center Picture Puzzle: Finance, Personnel & Organisational Support Department

April 6th, 2022 | by
Interview with FPO Department

Source: Own illustration

#MeetMeMittwoch: Recently, we started our series “The IT Center Picture Puzzle” and you were asked to form a word from four pictures that stand for a department of the IT Center.

The word we were looking for, “administration”, has already been uncovered, but you can read and discover about the corresponding interview, the introduction to the Finance, Personnel & Organisational Support (FPO) department as well as exciting insights from the head of department Sarina Franzen and the deputy head of department Axel Taraschewski in this blog post! 🙂

 

Who is behind FPO? How many teams or groups does the department have?

Axel Taraschewski: The classic division into groups, as found in other departments of the IT Center, does not exist here. Instead, we have set three focal points in which topic-related responsibilities are divided. My focus is the area of financial management, which in turn can be subdivided into three sub-areas. First of all, there is order management. This refers to all administrative processes that ultimately lead to a procurement. There are many different rules that apply in particular to public clients and must be integrated into the university processes. “Procurement” sounds banal in the first instance – “I go into a shop, put an item on the counter and pay.” – Unfortunately, it is not that simple with us. There are numerous procedures that have to be carried out if you exceed certain value limits. As a public contracting authority, the market must be served in such a way that no potential market participant is disadvantaged. For example, there is usually no free selection of a supplier, but clear specifications are defined and price comparisons are made based on them. In the case of larger procurements, we also launch complex award procedures, sometimes even at the European level. As you can see, a procurement can be a thoroughly complex process that can take half a year or longer. Buying a few ballpoint pens is actually relatively simple – but is nothing compared to procuring and commissioning a high-performance computer for several million euros.

The next sub-area of financial management is financial controlling. This is how we ensure that the IT Center has sufficient financial resources and that the funds are spent as planned. With an annual financial plan, we determine which expenditures and investments will be made in the coming year. Based on this, we also ensure, among other things, that the funds are provided by the university. In addition, we also invoice services that have been provided for other higher education institutions or external customers.

Last but not least, the area of third-party funding is worth mentioning. The IT Center is active in many different third-party funding projects. Every year, the departments diligently apply for funding, which is usually positively assessed and decided upon. Thus, for example, we receive funds from third-party funding sources for a research project or for a necessary major procurement, which are made available for a specific purpose. These funds are used in part to pay for material resources such as the HPC system already mentioned, but also for personnel. This topic area is also extremely diverse and quite complex, as the various funding and third-party donors define their own and specific rules for spending the money.

For the sake of completeness, I would also like to mention that we at the IT Center also manage third-party funding projects in which we act as consortium leader and are responsible for distributing the funds within a consortium. This brings with it additional challenges.

Sarina Franzen: Our second focus, and therefore one of my main areas of activity, is human resources management. We look after the personnel processes within the IT Center from A-Z. For example, we take care of the entire recruitment process: from the job advertisement, which we coordinate together with the specialist department, to looking after applicants as the first point of contact, organising interviews, attending these interviews and then hiring them until they are handed over to the Central University Administration. In addition to the Central University Administration, we work closely with the university’s committees. Beyond recruitment, we look after our colleagues throughout their period of employment and are also always on hand to offer advice and support to managers. Perspective discussions are also part of our work, we organise these and also take care of career planning discussions, some of which also take place with Mr Bündgens in his role as managing director. These offers are gladly taken up by our colleagues. Furthermore, we take care of the entire leave application and administration as well as the area of personnel controlling.

Besides finance and human resources management, our third area I take care of is organisational support. Within the FPO department, the management assistants also work for Prof. Müller, our Director and Professor of High Performance Computing, Mr Bündgens, our Managing Director, and Prof. Kuhlen, Professor of Virtual Reality and Immersive Visualisation. The management assistants are the first points of contact and take on administrative tasks, such as organising appointments and preparing and recording them. In addition, the chair organisation falls within this area of activity: from setting up events, adding participants, entering grades to issuing certificates and organising appointments. Many of these activities are carried out via RWTHmoodle and the campus management system RWTHonline.

The IT Center Picture Puzzle: Solution of the 1st Puzzle!

Source: Freepik, Pixabay, Freepik, Freepik

The infoPoint as the central contact point for visitors and our colleagues within the IT Center also falls under the remit of FPO. The colleagues at the infoPoint take care of mail processing, the provision of work materials, the issuing of parking permits and room management at the IT Center.

In addition, the organisational area also includes business travel management. We support our staff in applying for business trips, in accounting and in all kinds of questions. The PDSL department has programmed an application for us that simplifies the handling of business trips. We are also the interface to the central university administration for business travel management.

The FPO department is also responsible for the IT Center Project Office. The project office is our central point of contact for all projects carried out in the IT Center, from small internal departmental projects to huge projects such as the university-wide network renewal. The Networks Department has developed a project tool for us, which we use to record and prepare our projects. The IT Center project office regularly informs the IT Center management round about the status of our projects.

Can you tell me what makes the FPO department so special? Why is the department indispensable at the IT Center?

Axel Taraschewski: Our core task is to give structure to the IT Center. This structure, in turn, results in processes that ensure the smooth running of the areas of finance, personnel and organisation. Structure, processes, rules and support – these are the keywords that make up the department.

Can you tell me something else about your current projects and developments?

Axel Taraschewski: We are currently in the middle of an extensive restructuring and modernisation. The expansion of process orientation in combination with digitalisation is our top priority.

Sarina Franzen: I took over as head of department in 2018. At that time, invoice processing, for example, was still paper-based. Many digitisation projects, some of them very large, have been initiated across the university and we have initiated a lot of digitisation and modernisation internally. Administration in particular is an area that has been neglected in the past with regard to digitalisation. However, we have been pushing this forward at full speed for quite some time.

How do you see the general future of the department?

Sarina Franzen: In addition to the digitisation and modernisation measures described earlier, the renaming of the department, which took place on March 1, 2022, was an important step for us. It was very important for us that all employees with their main activities are reflected in the department and also in the department name. For this reason, we developed our new name “Finance, Personnel & Organisational Support” (FPO) together in a departmental workshop.

Axel Taraschewski: We also consider the even closer integration of the individual sub-areas within the department and the associated increase in our efficiency to be an important goal. The coupling and joint consideration of the project office, contract management, third-party funding management and personnel management is a good example of this. A large contracting procedure is usually a project, is usually financed by third-party funds, from which personnel is also paid. Therefore, it is important to further sharpen the interfaces of these sub-areas and to further optimise the cooperation.

Thank you both very much for the interview!

We hope you have now gained a good impression of the activities and developments of the FPO department. You can look forward to the next riddle…? 🙂

Responsible for the content of this article are Sarina Franzen, Axel Taraschewski and Lina-Louise Kaulbach.

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