Last January, the annual National Radio Astronomy Observatory Business Managers’ Meeting (BMM) took place in Santiago, Chile, the first time this event has been held outside the United States. As always, this meeting encouraged extensive discussion of the latest NRAO business issues, including budgets, personnel, and site updates. It was also the first major opportunity for many of our business managers to acquire a direct appreciation of what is involved in operating in Chile. This BMM was also an occasion to strengthen the NRAO professional bonds across the equator in the spirit of “One Observatory”.
The primary focus for this year’s meeting was the ALMA Construction Project and ALMA Operations. The BMM gave each attendee the perfect chance to see on-site the results of their hard work and also to become more aware of the project’s complexities. Most of the business and administrative staff had their first opportunity to visit Chile, including the Joint ALMA Observatory (JAO), European Southern Observatory (ESO), and the ALMA sites. Topics covered at this BMM included: Administration; Fiscal; Management Information Systems; Environment, Safety and Security; Human Resources; Procurement; and Contracts. Also, after visiting the ALMA site, attendees were briefed regarding local issues including ALMA Operations, NRAO/AUI Executive support, hiring, human resources, payroll support, and roles and responsibilities within ALMA. The attending staff gained a much improved understanding of ALMA Construction and Operations, especially with regard to infrastructure and logistics, as well as the complexities associated with running a multi-national Executive team with geographically dispersed office locations. The BMM attendees also gained an improved perspective on the role of the NRAO Chile business office’s duties and responsibilities for ALMA Construction and ALMA Operations.
The meeting outlined the “shared” business process approach of providing support in Fiscal, Procurement, Contracts, Accounts Payable, and other areas. These shared systems provide services in a cost-effective, efficient manner. Overall, the impression the NRAO participants brought home was that the Chile Business Office is doing a very good job and displays a strong, customer-focused approach. Finally, but no less importantly, this meeting was a great opportunity for the complete NRAO U.S. business team to become local promoters of the ALMA Project and to experience directly the living conditions future expatriates will experience when moving to Chile, and in particular to Santiago, a modern town with high cosmopolitan living standards, including access to excellent educational, medical, and IT services.
G. H. Clark and S. Cabezón