One-size-fits-all or tailor-made solutions? We must dare to ask that question!
By finding common solutions to administrative challenges, not only can we improve the administration’s performance and work environment, we can also provide better support for our academic colleagues. But we can only find the best solutions by questioning our current work processes.
Our most important task as administrative employees is to provide competent support to Aarhus University’s research and teaching programmes. Our task is to help our academic colleagues find the best solutions to the administrative challenges they face. And we must include them in every stage of administrative projects. As I’ve argued before, we find the best solutions through involving the university’s research and teaching programmes in their development.
And just as involving and collaborating with the academic organisation is important, it is equally important that we bring our own expertise as administrative staff members into play. We must dare to argue in favour of the best solutions on the background of a professional assessment of how to ensure efficiency, quality and coherence.
In this connection, it’s important to ask whether we should select solutions which can be employed across the university, or solutions which are tailored to local needs. For example, does it make sense for the whole university to use the same email system? Yes. Does it make sense to standardise our IT systems for travel expense reporting and invoicing? Yes. Does it make sense to offer all researchers at AU the same type of administrative support? No, of course not. There has to be room for exceptions which add value for our academic colleagues.
The choice between standardised and tailored solutions is one of the greatest dilemmas we face as an administration: On the one hand, we must respect the specific needs and cultures of the academic organisation, and on the other hand we must insist on finding the most efficient solutions which will ultimately allow us to do more with less. I recognise that this is a delicate balance.
I’ve come across a lot of good examples of how it’s possible to achieve such balance in my visits to the administrative centres. By combining your competencies, experiences and understanding of local needs, you have developed common solutions that benefit all.
One good example of this comes from studies administration at Arts. From May to October last year, both personnel and managers here reviewed and questioned their exam administration processes. Their point of departure was that there were major differences in the approach to exam administration at the faculty’s schools and degree programmes. This made it difficult for personnel to substitute for one another and assist one another in busy periods. The board of studies also wanted studies administration to announce the dates for exams earlier in order to make it easier to plan the semester.
At Arts, studies administration worked closely with the academic organisation (directors of studies, heads of department and the vice-dean) to introduce standardised solutions which involve harmonising work processes, faculty-wide deadlines and weekly whiteboard meetings. In short, studies administration at Arts is well on the way to achieving their goal of optimising their work processes and creating a framework which enables personnel to assist one another. This will contribute to a better work environment and better support for the academic organisation.
This example from studies administration is no exception. The entire administration is focussed on working smarter and optimising its processes, both large and small – while at the same time ensuring that daily operations run smoothly. It’s an impressive and valuable effort which is helping to prepare us for the future which lies ahead. But we don’t have to wait to harvest the fruits of our work – we are already benefiting from them now. Thanks to you! I’m looking forward to following the continued development of the administration’s work routines.