One of the things I gave up when I shifted from the “CIO, hands-on” world to the “talk about being a CIO, hands-off” world was having an administrative assistant (AA). A recent piece in the Wall Street Journal reminded me of that (WSJ 6/17/10 p. D1). Do I miss having an admin? Yes. and No.
The piece focused on the future of the admin career, and their dwindling numbers (especially for middle managers). I sometimes wonder if that makes sense. From a pure resource utilization point of view, having a $x per hour person do travel arrangements (even if online), versus an $x/5 per hour person (at least), just doesn’t add up. Especially if they are kept busy.
AAs (the good ones) are worth their weight in gold, literally (what that adds up to, exactly, in another blog post). It is marriage like (even if same gender), and some AA-boss relationships last longer than their marriages (mine almost did).
I will never forget one admin I had. She was a veritable Radar O’Reilly and could almost complete my sentences. Sure, she was doing it for the money, but there was something else at play, and during the course our our employment I found out what that was – just before I hired her she was diagnosed with brain cancer, had the tumor removed, and to her every day was a blessing. That attitude made her a blessing to me.
My long experience working with AAs led me to create a checklist that I would use in the interview process: skills, attitudes, and habits. It also formed a basis for the admin’s job description.
But whether or not to have AAs is not unlike a decision spectrum that we in IT management have to deal with constantly – whether to do it yourself, delegate it, (to someone you do know, or share an admin managed by someone else) or have someone you don’t know do it (outsource). The decision process isn’t all that different.
Gartner analyst Craig Roth talked about the article in an earlier post– especially on ways to manage the information onslaught through enterprise attention management approaches. I suppose someone might even call this a :cloud based” approach – even if managed internally. Analyst Richard Jones (in our Data Center Strategies group) is formulating a position/best practice on how to make outsourcing decisions – which I am peer reviewing. Expect to see that piece of research in the third quarter. You may even be able to use it to decide whether an admin is necessary. Or not.
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