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Guide The

Hints & tips by and for Administrators

– First Edition, 2012 –



3 Introduction 4 Working together 6 Communication 8 Documents 13 Meetings 14 Problem solving 16 Index


dress Email ad ress Web add Stop Start Continue

Introduction People working in the University of St Andrews have identified lots of ways to make work life simpler, easier, and more effective every day. We at Passport Control have compiled this list of suggestions for some of the most frequent ideas that we have come across. We have identified a number of central themes, Working together, Communication, Documents, Meetings and Problem Solving. For each of these we have categorised suggestions as either Stop   Start   or Continue   . Without a doubt we have probably missed some things, and will add more to this list over time. If there’s something else we could put in here or a change we can make to improve this, we would love to hear from you. There are lots of major change programmes being undertaken, but by working together and making many small changes we can also make a big difference.

Passport Control May 2012


Working together Using HR’s Self Service If you haven’t already done so, update your personal details on HR’s self service system. When these are right, the correct details will filter through all of the other databases the University holds, and prevent you having to make repeated corrections elsewhere.

Using Janitorial Staff Each part of the University has assigned Janitorial staff, to assist with maintenance, room layout, transporting items, and a whole host of things. Senior janitors


Trusting the internal mail The staff that run the internal mail service take what they do seriously. Mailroom/ The cost to the University of photocopying countless invoices and other pieces of paper before being posted internally is far greater than the cost of the papers that are actually lost each year. If something does go missing, let the Mail Room know. Don’t forget to use their Priority service for mail to HR and Finance.

Taking time to get to know the administrative tools you use Are you too busy to get proper training in using administrative tools? Often a short training course now will save many times that in the future.

View and book training: w pdms/ Really can’t get time in the office? See if you can borrow a laptop and work from a different location, or use a computer in a PC cluster to avoid the distractions.

For Microsoft applications often training is available online, and for in-house applications (like APTOS) often University staff will be very willing to help, just ask. Using colleagues with relevant experience Don’t forget we are a small University; there will be someone able to help pretty close by. Budget monitoring on local spreadsheets The Advice & Support department in Finance are there to provide you with the information you need in the format you need it. w money/Reporting/

Duplication of Staff contact details Staff contact details are already available on the University website, in the staff diary, and most of the time on the homepages of each School or Unit. Duplication of Student contact details The student contact details should be right on the central system you access (SITS, MMS, Data Warehouse etc).  Check out the data warehouse: datawarehouse/ If they aren’t right, don’t duplicate the list, find out why it’s wrong in the first place and make sure it gets fixed. It probably won’t take longer than making another list, and will solve the problem for everyone else.

You shouldn’t have to spend any time reformatting the Universities financial information, for example into a spreadsheet. Don’t do Management Accounts’ job for them.


Communication Creating template e-mail responses Outlook can use template e-mail responses to enquiries that you get frequently. You can always amend the template before you send it.

Managing contact points Where is it that people normally get in touch with your School or Unit? Most of the enquiries probably come to the most relevant place. However where you refer significant number of enquiries are straight on to someone else; often there is a simple system for enabling people to refer themselves. Could you use signage or another method?


For information on how: type “create email template� in the search box of Outlook help Phoning before emailing E-mail is good for one way communication, however where an issue is complicated often it takes less time, and causes less confusion, to discuss it over the telephone than to have an extended e-mail correspondence. If needs be, a summary of any agreed outcomes can then be emailed.

Reading your own web-pages Often web-pages can get out of date quickly, meaning that students or staff receive mixed messages. Create a generic e-mail Using an e-mail that isn’t associated with one individual makes it easier to manage accounts where there is a large number of enquiries, where someone is on leave, and makes one clear contact point for the customer. This could be a small reaserch group, or a key student contact point.

Treating e-mail as an instantaneous communication medium Remember that it can quite reasonably take someone 24 hours, sometimes more, to respond to an e-mail. If your communication needs an urgent response, pick up the phone.

Information on setting up w accounts/Email/ I T Services can help advice on setting up and using generic emails.


Documents Going Paper Light It is unlikely that in the near future it will be appropriate for us to get rid of paper from our Admin processes. That said, more often than not documents are printed out and filed “just in case”. Before printing, ask “do I need to print this?”. Often after a document has been used it can be stored in multiple places. Is there anything new and unique on the paper that would mean it needs to be filed, or can be it recycled? If it is the original copy of the document, how long does it need to be kept for? In order to make this happen, you may need to establish a clear document management process. Initial enquires about this should go to:


Printing double sided It’s just a simple case of changing your settings if your printer can print double sided, but across the University can make a significant cost saving.

Using Central File Storage If you store your documents routinely on the university’s central file servers, it can make life much easier. It means that you don’t have to worry about backing up your own documents (IT Services saves a daily copy of your files for six weeks), your documents are availaible from any computer that can connect to the internet (even at home) and so should there be a

problem with your main computer you can use another one to work on without losing any information. accounts/Computeraccounts/ centralfilespace/ If the documents are personal for yourself you already have space on the file servers for personal information, which only you have access to. If the documents are to be shared with a group of people, typically within a School or Unit, there are file servers that can be used for this. Sharing documents on a server makes version control easier, as you don’t have to track who has edited what by emailing repeatedly.

You will probably have a shared drive in your school or unit already, or perhaps a solution like Microsoft Sharepoint. The University is currently developing better solutions to share documentation.

Securing passwords Often it seems like sharing passwords is the easiest way to deal with issues when you might be out of the office, but this constitutes a major risk to the University. accounts/Computeraccounts/ Passwords/ You should never have to share your password. No-one should ever ask you for your password. If you find out that someone else does know your password, you should change it at the earliest opportunity.

Note; this is not the case for shared accounts, which have a generic username, rather than one tied to an individual.


Laminating Laminating papers might make them look good, but is often used when there is not a genuine need for durability (e.g. the paper will be re-used more than three times, or it will be used outside). Send stuff of historical interest to Muniments You don’t need to keep anything of historical interest; the University has a central service for this. If you have no longer a need to be accessing a document readily you can send it to Muniments. Once the document is with them they will assess it, categorise it, and store it appropriately. Of course, should you require reference to something you have already sent to Muniments they can retrieve it for you. specialcollections/muniments/ If you have any questions about what you should send to them, speak to Rachel Hart, the Universities Muniments Archivist.


Is there really a need to encase it in plastic for the next millennium?

Repeated checking Important documentation needs to be checked, but repeated checking often indicates something else is wrong. Where there are multiple checks, we’ve learnt in the Lean team to ask why. Often there is some underlying problem that can be solved, and then take away the need for multiple checks. Once a process is under control, you can then think about reducing the number of checks in proportion to the number of errors found, as often checking a sample is enough to satisfy requirements.


Meetings Using Outlook to pick meetings You can use Outlook to see when colleagues are available in the appointment selection, of course for staff that put appointment details in their Unimail calendar. Training in Outlook: accounts/Email/unimail/ To enable colleagues to judge when best to schedule a meeting avoid blocking out time in your diary unless strictly necessary.

Forwarding meeting requests in Outlook Think that someone else should come to that meeting? You can forward meeting requests in Outlook to delegate someone else to go on your behalf, or to attend in addition. You may want to check this with the meeting organiser.

Using Doodle to pick meetings Ideally meetings can be scheduled through outlook, but where there are a number of participants with busy diaries (or people who don’t use Outlook calendar), consider using an online scheduling tool like Doodle, to save calling or emailing backwards and forwards to establish the best time.


Meeting for the right amount of time Often meetings are scheduled for an hour because that is a convenient slot of time available. However, when booking a meeting consider first whether this really requires a face to face meeting, a phone call may suffice, or indeed whether an hour of time will be enough to really do what is required. Where a meeting does not allow enough time, it is inefficient to have to schedule another session, as all the issues from the first meeting may well be discussed again at the second one.

note” minute is more appropriate, detailing each decision made, any action required as a result of that decision, who is responsible for that action and when. Every action plan should have one named individual responsible for taking it forward (who may delegate the task) and a date for the task to be completed by. Some action minutes also would include someone responsible for checking that this task had been completed. These can often be completed during meetings and agreed by all present meaning the minimum time is taken after the meeting has ended.

If more time that is required has been set aside, you’ll probably be grateful for releasing that time by finishing early.

Taking “action-style” minutes Historically the University has taken “discussion-style” minutes, longhand notes detailing the different points of view expressed, and the arguments made by each side before a conclusion has been reached.

Late arrival to scheduled meetings Often staff are able to use time waiting for meeting participants to arrive constructively, but where they can’t that down time adds up to be an enormous cost to the University.

In the vast majority of business that we conduct, this is more effort than is required. Often an “action

Is the problem you have to solve worth more than the collective time of the people you will delay? 13

Problem solving Constructively challenging things that seem odd Often we behave politely when something in the workplace seems to be done in a way that doesn’t make sense, and accept unusual ways of working as the norm. However, it can be that things are done for historical reasons that no longer apply.

By asking for more information about why something is undertaken the way that it is it may enable the work to become simpler, or alternatively allow greater understanding.


Escalating problems as a last resort Problems and issues wil always occur, if only because of the weather! The recommended approach is to try and solve each problem at the level closest to where the issue occurs. This tends to be quickest, cheapest, and often by the person with the most relevant information.

Pushing decision making to the lowest possible level Chances are your School or Unit is already actively enabling frontline staff to make relevant decisions. Ask yourself whether you can make the decision without escalating it, even if that means notifying up the chain. Where each problem is solved at the level closest to where the issue occurs the solution tends to be quickest, cheapest, and often by the person with the most relevant information. Where frequent requests are made, check that you can use a standard response.

Interruptions to your work Often the biggest barrier to working optimally is interruptions. Interruptions can prevent you from completing the task you are understanding, while giving the impression to the person in touch with you that their request is not important. When working on a critical task can you get someone else to take your phone calls (you can always return the favour)? Turn off the e-mail? Even leave the office and do the task elsewhere, perhaps in one of the University’s public spaces like the Library, or in a bookable room if one is available.

Chances are, the staff member you would have passed the enquiry to will appreciate your answering it directly.

If people know you, and would interrupt you, try wearing a pair of comfortable headphones (even without any music playing), which makes people much less likely to interrupt you.


Index A

Action plan



Budget Monitoring



Central File Storage Challenging Checking

6 10 7

Data Warehouse Decision making Demand Management Diary Document Disposal Managment Storage Doodle

4 10 5, 10 8



E-mail Generic Response time Template Escalating problems

5 5 5 5 10

Face to face meeting Filing Finance

8 6 4

Historical Interest



Internal Mail Interruptions

3 10






7 6 6 8




Laminating Late arrival

7 9

Management Accounts Meeting requests Microsoft Minutes “action style” “discussion style” Muniments

4 8 3 9 9 9 7



Paper Light Password Printing

6 6 6

Quality control


Reviewing Right amount of time

7 8

Scheduling tool Self Service Shared Drive Staff contact details Student contact details

8 3 6 4 4

Telephone 5 Template e-mail responses 5 Training 3 Web-pages


Passport Control, CAPOD Hebdomadars Block St Salvators Quad 75 North Street St Andrews Fife KY16 9TS

T +44 (0)1334 462141 E

Designed by Print & Design, University of St Andrews, May 2012 The University of St Andrews is a charity registered in Scotland. No: SC013532

The Guide  

Hints & tips by and for Administrators in the University of St Andrews

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