In my previous blog posts, I used insights from the International Association of Administrative Professionals' 2013 Benchmarking Survey to examine the shifting focus to technical and managerial skills for administrative staff and the need for more training opportunities for office support professionals. This post focuses on the technology tools these professionals need to have on hand, plus some advice on how to meet those needs. It really comes down to being proactive and making the case for new technology.
In case there’s any doubt, technology is a very important issue and concern for office professionals. In the survey, "keeping up with changing technology” was identified as the most significant challenge that will face administrative professionals over the next five years. They certainly recognize why it’s critical to stay relevant. The question is: do their employers have the same understanding?
Much like the data on training, the survey presents a mixed picture when it comes to office technology for administrative professionals. People in this field generally seem to have access to adequate tools, but a divide appears to be forming between those who support business and the kinds of cutting-edge technology that could make them even more effective and efficient.
On the plus side, nearly 90 percent of the approximately 3,400 survey respondents say their employers are somewhat or highly innovative. That’s a slight increase from the previous survey in 2011.
The problem is that all that innovation isn’t necessarily trickling down to the office professionals who actually make business work every day. Relatively few of them are provided mobile tools like cellphones, smartphones or tablets by their employers. Only a third of the survey respondents have the tools to manage office calendars on external, mobile devices. Tablets and smartphones are both among the top five technology tools that they say they need but don’t have access to in the office.
Given the proliferation and increasing importance of mobile technology in the modern economy, I’m concerned that administrative professionals are being left behind. They’re expected to do things like coordinate remote teams, run virtual meetings, plan travel, track calendars and manage projects. At the same time, many businesses have become less dependent on traditional offices, and working virtually is starting to become more common. Administrative professionals need mobile tools to do their jobs.
In my opinion, a big part of this challenge is that many employers simply don’t see the need. The good news is that this situation can be fixed with education. That’s where you come in. Administrative professionals need to actively lobby on their own behalf to their bosses when it comes to the importance of technology.
Knowing how to make the case for new office technology doesn’t have to be overly complicated, but it does take some research. Here are some basic questions you can answer to help get that iPad or Android purchase order approved:
1. How will it make you a more valuable employee? Take the time to create a rundown of how this piece of new technology will make you more effective and efficient. The more specific you can be, the better. Focus on how this will benefit your employer.
2. How can we afford this? Crunch the numbers, take a look at your department budget and figure out how to pay for this purchase. Administrative professionals are individually responsible for an average of $20,000 in corporate spending each year in the U.S. and many of them work on budgets, so this shouldn’t be difficult.
3. What does it cost to use our current technology? Remember, your employer pays a price for using outdated equipment. But the cost of things like maintenance, energy efficiency and downtime due to broken machines aren’t always considered. Shine some light on these hidden expenses.
4. Who else will benefit? As with any investment, your boss is more likely to approve a purchase if it will have a positive impact on multiple employees. Figure out how to leverage this technology so it helps the entire office.
5. Is this the right time? Good timing is just one of those universal factors in life. Handing a purchase proposal to your boss during a tough financial period might not end so well. Keep your ear to the ground so you can judge when it’s the right time to ask.
As a professional, you need and deserve to have the right tools to do your job. That’s why you should be proactive about asking for new technology that will help. Do your homework, pick your moment and make your case.
- Today’s Administrative Professional: Tech-Savvy Manager
- 5 Ways to Get the Administrative Salary You Deserve
- 3 Shocking Stats About Training for Administrative Professionals