Delegating to a Virtual Assistanton 6 July 2017
Once upon a time, your secretary or PA would be sitting just outside your office, ready to run errands, get your tea, collect your dry cleaning etc. She (and it was usually a ‘she’) would manage your diary, do your filing and a million and one different little tasks to free you to do the ‘big stuff’, like strategy and meeting important customers.
Then technology came along and many tasks became automated. We became virtual nomads, as wherever we lay our laptop became our home (office). Many of us have become masters of this technology, but it still takes time away from the stuff we really get paid to do.
More recently, a new breed of help has emerged. They have many of the same skills as our old PA’s did, but with excellent technology skills and more besides. I’m talking, of course, about the Virtual Assistant. But to get the best value from them, we need a different approach.
1. Decide what to delegate
Many people are uncomfortable about delegating tasks. Delegating to someone who is not in the same office can make you feel even more uncertain. However, some things are more easily delegated than others, for example repetitive tasks, admin and non-customer critical activities. Ideally, these will be activities that can be clearly defined in terms of outcomes and timescales. Bear in mind that you don’t necessarily have to use just one Virtual Assistant.
These are some of the activities you can delegate to a Virtual Assistant.
- Buying stuff. Where you have a clear specification of a purchase, goods are repeat purchases e.g. stationery or non-critical goods. It is surprising how much of your time purchasing can take.
- Research. Where the scope, depth and information output can be clearly defined. This has the advantage in helping you define more clearly, what you want to know. You could also use a specialist Virtual Assistant to research in a particular area.
- Back Office stuff. For example, this could include your diary, drafting reports, answering the phone for queries, taking messages, business card information database entry, expenses etc. This will free you to do the important customer facing activities.
2. Share online
It may seem obvious, but make sure you have put any data your Virtual Assistant needs to see online, where they can access it. Make sure it is current, and that you don’t have the latest copy hidden inside your company firewall, where they don’t have access because they are not staff. Make sure it is well protected by a secure collaboration tool.
A good information sharing system will also allow you and your Virtual Assistant to comment asynchronously e.g. by comments etc, thus making communications easier.
3. Have clear outcomes and expectations
Rather like outsourcing, you can’t just delegate to a Virtual Assistant without some up front preparation. Mismatched expectations are one the main reasons for failure with using Virtual Assistants. They are likely to ask you about these, but make sure you are as clear as you can be about anything you expect. Don’t make assumptions!
Confirm things like:
- How, and how often, they will communicate with you
- Format, size and level of detail of any reports etc.
- Agree what you mean by ‘done’
- What they are, and are not, authorized to do
- Any tools you prefer e.g. MS Word versions
- Any version control or access management you have implemented
4. Stay private
If you are intending to share any sensitive information, or to give your Virtual Assistant access to databases etc. you will almost certainly need to give them access to password-protected data. You don’t want to risk compromising the security of your business, so you’ll need some way to give them safe, controlled, partial access.
Fortunately, you no longer have to tell them your passwords!
There are now a number of tools that manage your passwords, without actually showing people what they are. They have the added advantage of helping you use better passwords too. There are a number on the market, but one of the more popular free options is LastPass. Your Virtual Assistant creates an account, which gives them access to whatever you’ve agreed they can have access to. They won’t see your passwords, and you can stop access anytime.
5. Start Small
Starting small will allow you to test your processes work properly and make any changes before scaling up. It will also identify your mutual understanding and expectations are realistic.
6. Manage progress
Finally, to help you retain control over the activities you have delegated, implement a good task or project management system. Most good secure collaboration tool sets like Glasscubes have this as an integrated tool.
Your Personal PA use Glasscubes to deliver their Virtual Assistant service.
"We are a highly efficient team of personal assistants who provide custom solutions for both home and business challenges. Glasscubes is crucial element of our service. It allows us to communicate with our clients in a transparent environment that keeps us accountable and gives our clients immediate access to their VA and their progress."
SIAN LANCASTER - Managing Director, YPA
Glasscubes is a cost effective, easy to use, and secure collaboration tool set for any organisation. Find out more about how it could help you take control of your knowledge +44 (0)20 3274 2310.
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