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There has to be room for development

Can we develop the administration during a period of difficult financial conditions? This is one of the questions I discussed with the administration’s managers at a meeting last week.

2016.05.13 | Arnold Boon

During my first four months in the position of university director, I have done a lot of thinking about how the administration needs to develop in coming years. It is a condition that the administration’s budget will gradually be reduced. We need to handle this condition sensibly so as to allow continued room for development.

And so last week, I invited all of the division managers in the central administration and the administrative centres to an after-work meeting to discuss and agree on what strategic milestones to set for the administration in the coming years. In my opinion, we need to maintain special focus on the following issues, in addition to healthy finances:

  • Digitisation
  • Process optimisation
  • Improving employee competencies

We have to step up digitisation

At the meeting, we discussed the necessity of stepping up the university’s efforts in the area of digitisation. Digitisation is not just about IT support. To a high degree, it’s also a question of how we organise our work processes. For this reason, I have initiated the process of developing a shared framework for the university’s digitisation efforts. There are many indications that we will have to invest significantly more resources in digitisation than we do today. This is a prerequisite for the success of many of other projects. Read more about AU’s digitisation initiatives

An area where we need to increase our efficiency is the number of procedures and systems we use to perform our work tasks. The more of a bird’s eye view you take on the organisation, the more irregular the administrative landscape appears. We perform the same administrative tasks in very different ways and using different systems depending on what part of the university you look at.

At the meeting last week, one of the division managers asked me what indicators we should be looking at in order to figure out whether we are working in a coherent and holistic way. There are several answers to this question. One answer has to do with IT support. If we and our systems don’t speak the same language, I believe that this can become a barrier to our day-to-day cooperation. At the same time, it requires a lot of resources to maintain three systems if we can actually get by with just one. I believe that we can use those resources better in other ways. We have to prioritise narrowly, so that we can free up the necessary resources to invest in educational IT and the administrative support we so obviously lack today, for example.

In future, we have to work to ensure that identical tasks are performed according to a set of common procedures and systems. And when we make exceptions, they need to be justified. I and the rest of the administration’s management team will explore how we can learn from each other across the university, and how we can simplify our work processes. These considerations will inform the process of developing a shared framework for the university’s digitisation efforts.

Process optimisation creates coherence

Another central theme at the meeting was process optimisation in the administration. This is an issue I’ve written about before, and that I will return to, because we must continually ask ourselves whether we are working in the way that creates the best results for the university.

At the meeting, one of the division managers raised an issue I would like to address. The units that invest time and money in improving their processes do not always reap the greatest benefits from their efforts. And so where do we find the motivation to get started?

Here it’s important that we maintain a holistic perspective. In addition to delivering high-quality administrative service, we must also contribute to freeing up resources for the university’s academic activities. So if we can contribute to simplifying the work processes at the departments and schools, we must do just that. This demands that we work to develop more uniform and cohesive cross-university administrative service – not just across administrative units, but also in collaboration with the departments and schools.

Administrative competencies must be improved

When administrative tasks develop, the competencies of administrative staff must keep pace. At the meeting, I explained that we have to start approaching the issue of what competencies we expect to need in five years in a more systematic way. In this way, we can make a targeted effort to develop our employees’ competencies and a strategic plan for what competencies we should emphasise when recruiting new staff. We will begin this work in the autumn.

From my point of view, I think that this first general meeting was productive, and I intend to schedule such meetings regularly, and to include the heads of the department/school secretariats. I am also making a round of visits to the administrative divisions and administrative centres, which will give you as employees an opportunity to share your input with me. If you already have input related to the issues I’ve described here and ideas about how we can improve the administration, I encourage you to send them to me, either as a comment here on the blog or in a mail to director@au.dk.

Fællesadministration
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