Back in 2013 HAAGA-HELIA University of Applied Sciences in Helsinki, Finland released the Management Assistant 2020 report, which detailed how the role of an Assistant will change by 2020. It is a fascinating document and many of the suggestions are coming into fruition four years on. One of the predictions centred around the idea that Assistants would become information managers in their organisations. I think this is absolutely happening within the role today and will become ever more important as the years go by and more and more organisations move to the dream of a paperless office and cloud based technology. In fact, I am going to dedicate a whole session at next year’s Future Assistant conference to this very topic.
So what do we mean by Assistants as information managers?
This is what the report says about Assistants as information managers
Apart from her task to work together closely with her manager, the executive assistant will more and more become part of the whole team, because she develops tasks together with her manager. One of her main tasks is information management; he or she is essential for the team, but at the same time part of it.
In 2013, many assistants still sat in silos in their office. Kinda part of a team, but also removed from it, especially if the assistant worked for a CEO, COO or other C-suite type Executive. I would say that assistants are much more part of a team these days. Most work with more than one Director and also support teams and sometimes whole departments. Also, there is the move to PAs working in teams supporting departments and separating the work between them. So we are definitely becoming much more involved in the day to day work of many different people within the organisation. Assistants have always been good at retaining information, but as we become more integral to our businesses, we will find this skill becomes an essential part of what we offer.
Think about all of the information that flows through your office on a daily basis, and then think about how often you are asked where something is, how you file a document, what is happening with a project, where one of your colleagues is travelling this week, what you are supposed to do with the new software. We are our office information managers!
The day to day tasks of an information manager
There are a whole number of day to day tasks we find ourselves doing as part of the information manager role. These include, managing the internal filing system, administrative tasks such as holiday requests, travel management, sick leave etc. We also look after CRM systems, communication tools such as Slack and productivity tools like Trello. We organise board papers, we literally take files from one department to another, we still print, photocopy and bind documents on a daily basis.
In 2017 and beyond our task as information managers is to keep that flow of information moving, not just retain what we know for when people ask but to help our teams and the overall business connect the dots, make connections and lead colleagues to make the right decisions for the business. We also have to be on top of new ways of working, new technology and other ideas that can help with the flow of information. As everyone knows, a bottleneck can cause a whole load of issues, and we are well placed to keep everything moving.
It’s not just documents
Assistants have always been the centre of their department and team, even if they work solely for an Executive they will find themselves the carrier of information, the keeper of secrets and the fountain of all knowledge. This is true today and it will be the same in five years. So, our information management skills are not just required for document management or an advance knowledge of the internal systems we use. Our skills will also keep our teams happy, healthy and motivated. As information managers, but also as assistants who are trusted throughout the organisation we are in a key position to help with the office culture and wellbeing of its employees.
The Future Assistant
The information management aspect of our role is multifaceted and if executed well can lead to many exciting developments within our careers. During the Future Assistant we will be talking a lot about how assistants are integral to their organisations and how they can help with the flow of information, keep teams working productively and managing and overseeing office systems. If you would like to attend the Future Assistant Conference, head over to our event page. Here you will find more information on the event and how you can book your place.