August 28, 2000
Volume 53, No. 1
Network Communications division debuts
By Eric Rangus
The telecommunications departments from the University, the hospitals and the clinic and the University and Emory Healthcare network operations departments are history. In their place is a streamlined new division christened Network Communications.
In the planning stages since 1998, the new division officially came together on June 1. "The 'What Do We Do?' phase went from February 1998 to April 1999," said Don Corcoran, associate vice president for Network Communications. He was hired to head the division when it was still in its planning stages in April 1999.
"From April 1999 to June of this year, it was 'How Do We Do It?'" Corcoran continued. "And now we're in the 'Do It' phase."
In all, five formerly separate networking departments (Uni-versity Telecommunications, Hospital Telecommunications, Clinic Telecommunications, University Network Operations and Healthcare Network Services) have been consolidated into one entity with the goals of improving service, containing costs and positioning the network to meet Emory's current and future needs.
"We're now fine-tuning our organization," Corcoran said. "We've eliminated the barriers between [Emory] Healthcare and the University and how we're dealing with network issues."
With so many separate departments prior to consolidation, duplication of work was inevitable, and this played a big part in the division's creation. "The issues came about when we started serving the same customer group," said Rhonda Fuss, director of operations. "For example, you have a physician at the clinic who also wears a hat at the University on the academic side. He had to go to two different telecommunications departments for service."
The division has been moving for much of the summer, and many boxes remain packed. More than 50 people moved into the Materiel Center last month. Cox Hall is the home for administration and finances and the division also has a significant staff presence at Crawford Long and the clinic.
The moving isn't done, however. The next step is to relocate the division's four healthcare coordinators, currently spread out at the clinic and at Emory Hospital. They will probably go to Cox Hall. Then the University and clinic telephone operators will be moved in together. The timetable for that move has not yet been set.
Much of the division's creation has been low key, and that was by design. Corcoran was concerned about reaction across Emory about a change in network offerings-something often viewed with fear and skepticism, he said.
"Now we want everyone to know what we are doing," Corcoran said. "The world did not end when we merged, and we're going to do make things quicker, better, faster, cheaper."
"We haven't really marketed to people that we are a new entity because we are redesigning the way we want to do business, and we want to roll it out as a totally new package to our customers," Fuss added.
"We're Network Commu-nications, these are the numbers you call and these are the services we provide.'"
The scope of Network Communications' telephone and data network responsibilities includes voice mail, paging, directories, connectivity, Internet and Internet2, remote access and other similar services.
The division will support 24 sites in addition to the main Atlanta campus, process 11,000 work orders and 5,000 repairs a year, and be responsible for maintaining 25,000 telephones and 22,000 data ports; the division estimates it could process 161 million phone calls a year.
Customers shouldn't notice a thing-except perhaps faster service. All the numbers to request service, repairs or project work will remain the same for now. Only now, one organization of 150 people will handle everybody.
"From a troubleshooting point of view, customers won't notice a change," Morris said. Whenever network service is needed, the same people will answer the call, only their division has changed. Work required from the wall to the desktop, as well as on servers, remains the responsibility of ITD, Healthcare IS or the unit IT department. Network Commun-ications provides the network connectivity.
Despite the separation, the working relationship between ITD and Network Communications will remain close.
"We still maintain these working relationships-planning, operations, problem solving. We will often work together to determine if certain problems are network, server or desktop," Morris said.
As far as customer feedback goes, there hasn't been much and that, Corcoran said, is a good sign.
"We have gone through merging the groups organizationally, relocating at least half the staff, and our customers have not seen an adverse impact that we are aware of," Corcoran said. "Usually they make us aware really quickly, so we think that's good."
The consolidation of Network Communications eliminated five other departments, and that shuffled the positions and job responsibilities of many people, often for the better.
For instance, prior to the division's creation, Fuss was director of telecommuniations for the hospitals. Now she is director of operations, overseeing all voice and data for the combined group.
"It's not so much that we eliminated positions as it is shifted the duties," Fuss said. "It's going to be a growing experience for almost everyone."
The teamwork began early. In late June, while the new offices in the Materiel Center were being built, several members of the engineering and installation staff volunteered to install telephone and data cabling (not an easy task, especially in an nonairconditioned building during an Atlanta summer).
Close to 30 people worked four nights to get the job done, and some had no experience pulling cable. "We had everyone from network engineers to communications technicians to project managers and coordinators," Fuss said.
The new relationships among the formerly disparate members of the division are already beginning to bear fruit. Corcoran said the Woodruff Library has been suffering intermittent network problems, something that Network Communications is teaming up on.
"The University data experts who have worked on that before are, of course, checking that out," Corcoran said. "We also have the folks we brought in from health care, some very talented IT professionals, helping out too. So we're getting a lot of new ideas and a lot of information sharing."
"Putting us together has fostered the relationship building and
the sharing of information," Fuss added. "It's great to not have
the geographical distance between certain groups. You can walk down the
hall and know someone's here, versus having to track them down with a pager
or by telephone. It's fascinating to watch the work that's starting to flow
between the groups."