Technology to Assist EAs
Technology is an absolute must-use tool to assist our Executives. Our job as an Assistant is to find ways to make our Executive’s job easier. In day-to-day work, technology helps us do that. We all use standard technology such as email, electronic calendars, and texting to communicate with our Executive and manage his schedule. Most Executives today are mobile and away from their desks more than they are sitting at them. You will find them on-site in a conference room or boardroom; off-site in a colleague’s meeting room; attending or speaking at a local board meeting or community organization; or traveling to a domestic or international location for a meeting or conference. How then, can we best continue to make things easier for them and keep them informed and functioning with the information they need at their fingertips while they are away from their desk and office?
The answer to this question is technology. I start with assessing the needs prior to determining the technology solution. I have found that sometimes the solution is to use existing technology in a different way. Sometimes the solution is to implement a new technology. Either way, our goal is to make our Executive’s job easier.
Let’s consider calendaring. As Assistants, we live in our Executive’s calendars eight hours per day or more! They do too. They use it as a guide all day long to determine what is next. We need to spell that out for them. Use the technology that already exists in Outlook. Setting 15-minute reminders for meetings is a helpful way to keep them moving throughout the day. We can also set “descriptive” reminders over and above the default reminder that delivers an additional reminder about the action that needs to be taken and when. An example: set a 10-minute or 5-minute reminder that states “leave Boardroom by 9:50a and travel to Airside A to arrive by 10a”. The Executive has now been cued to depart swiftly to arrive on time at his next meeting.
Calendar appointments can also include reminders in the Subject, so at a quick glance, the Executive will see the next meeting title and the action they need to take. For example, instead of the meeting subject stating “Ribbon Cutting” – it could also include a mini-schedule to keep your Executive on-track – Ribbon Cutting | 10a arrive | 10:15a Remarks | 10:30p end.
My Executive is out of the office most of the time for local area commitments or travel. I learned that emailing documents to him and placing word documents in his calendar were cumbersome for him. Our Executives want to have the information they need available to them immediately.
The solution? For me, it is DatAnywhere. This program enables someone to access files securely from anywhere, while allowing your company’s IT to keep data safely stored on the corporate file server without the risk or cost of moving data to a third-party cloud platform. Documents in pdf format, including meeting agendas, reports, letters and briefings for review, photos, e-tickets, etc., can all be stored in one place for easy access from my Executive’s desktop and multiple devices (iPhone or iPad) via an app. In addition, this solution saves the need to print (eco-friendly) and carry paper documentation to each meeting or event. Your company’s IT can likely recommend a similar solution for you and your Executive.
Another example of technology that makes things easier for my Executive is a password program called Keeper. Remembering passwords is a challenge for most of us, including Executives who have a lot on their minds. This program securely logs and encrypts passwords and stores them in Keepers Cloud Security Vault for easy access from my Executive’s desktop and multiple devices (via an app) using a Master Password. I organize the passwords by category, e.g. airline, board websites, credit cards, etc. making the password my Executive needs easy to find. Using this system eliminates the need to memorize multiple passwords, handwrite and hide lists of passwords, or store them in contacts where they could be at risk for discovery by others. Your company’s IT can likely recommend a similar solution for you and your Executive.
In addition to using calendar reminders and these programs, text messaging your Executive can be a tool to prompt action throughout the day or as an alert to schedule changes, guest arrivals, or status updates.
As an Assistant, implementing and using the appropriate technology for each circumstance becomes a valued skill. Do your own research, seek help from your IT, or ask co-workers and Assistants in your network who are tech-savvy for technology solutions for your needs. Our job as an Assistant is to find ways to make our Executive’s job easier. Technology can be one of those ways.