Managing a Virtual Assistant With Workflow Management Software
The Internet has changed the way people work, constantly creating new opportunities to improve efficiency and streamline business processes.
However, constant change comes with its own challenges, and making the most of the
opportunities of the digital era often isn’t a simple task.
Take virtual assistants.
Virtual assistants are to businesses what Uber is to the taxi industry. Entrepreneurs and
small businesses are able to hire assistants in remote locations on flexible, affordable rates and have them take on various tasks required for the smooth operation of their business.
This solution has a number of advantages:
- Employers pay only for the work they need done.
- Virtual assistant contracts are favorable to business owners.
- Virtual assistants allow employers to plug skills gaps in their businesses as and when these arise without going through the labors of hiring a full time employee.
- If a virtual assistant is unable to deliver on a specific brief it is relatively easy to find a replacement who can get the job done.
Sounds like a great deal, right?
It is, but the deal can quickly feel like it’s going sour if you don’t prepare adequately for the change in mind-set that will be involved in onboarding and managing a virtual assistant.
Managing virtual assistants requires structured processes
Bringing new employees into a company is never easy, and every new hire, no matter how experienced, will go through a low productivity learning curve while they adapt to your processes and business culture.
When it comes to virtual assistants, this problem is amplified, as you may potentially need to assist several individuals to become productive members of your team within a short period. They will need to:
- Learn how to use your tools and project systems.
- Get answers to questions about topics ranging from how your systems work to specific tasks that have been delegated to them.
- Provide prompt feedback on task status and completion when required.
- Handle the challenges of communicating with you using digital mediums over a large distance.
In order for this process to function smoothly it is critical that you have systems in place to handle the requirements that come with virtual assistants.
However, it is even more important that any tasks or processes you require them to work on are clearly defined and structured.
If this is not the case, managing your virtual assistant will rapidly become more time
consuming than doing their tasks yourself.
That’s because you’re likely to be inundated with questions about the tasks, procedures and systems that confront the virtual assistant.
In fact, one experience like this is probably going to turn you off the idea of using virtual
assistants at all. And this could significantly hamper the agility, productivity and cost-
effectiveness of your business.
The importance of workflows
Whether or not you’re aware of it, your company already has workflows in place.
These are stable, routine task sets that are used to handle various elements of your
business, ranging from internal management to the steps followed to deliver the end
product or service delivered to your clients.
While parts of your workflows may be structured in training manuals or using online tools, it is not unusual for a significant amount of process information to reside exclusively in the heads of employees, who simply ‘know’ what is required to get the job done.
In cases such as this, where workflows are not clearly defined and mapped out, businesses can experience significant decreases in productivity and revenue, caused by:
- Loss of IP when employees depart, taking their workflows with them.
- Operational inefficiencies resulting from inability to clearly define workflows and identify ways in which they can be improved.
- Difficulty onboarding new hires, causing productivity dips.
- Uncertainty and lack of productivity among employees who are uncertain how to proceed with tasks.
- Inability to identify, store and easily retrieve workflows that produce improvements in efficiency, productivity and the final product or service delivered to the client.
- Inefficient communication.
Needless to say, these risks are all going to come to the fore when working with virtual
assistants who come into your organization ‘cold’ and are expected to hit the ground
So how should you handle workflows?
While failure to manage workflows appropriately can cause complex problems, the solution to these problems is straightforward.
The simple task list is the most powerful tool you can use to start managing your workflows.
The task list enables you to identify a process and systematically describe each step in that process, leading to a final result.
Task lists on SOPHY demonstrate how straightforward this process can be. You simply list the individual tasks that comprise a process, then drag them into the correct order.
Once you’re done with structuring your process, and feel that you have a series of steps that represent the most efficient way to get the process done, you can assign tasks to individual team members. Add due dates and you’re done.
It’s that simple, and unbelievably effective. By creating a structure set of steps, employees know what they need to do, in what order and when it needs to be done by.
Once your workflow has been structured, it can be stored, ready for re-use or adaptation in the future.
Taking workflow management to the next level
While establishing clear processes through task lists is a great way to put structures in place to boost the productivity of your virtual assistants, you can’t afford to forget about the importance of communication.
Ineffective communication can slow down or stall any process. If your virtual assistants start working in silos, fail to communicate important information to you, or send you a constant stream of emails with questions, you’re going to waste time and money.
This means that any workflows you set up should have mechanisms in place to allow for prompt, meaningful communication that allows you to identify and resolve real problems as quickly as possible, while reducing ‘noise’ around tasks or projects.
In practice this means you will need three things:
- A centralized platform for communication, where all communication around projects or tasks can be recorded and easily viewed by relevant team members.
- A smart notification system that makes it easy to alert team members when relevant information is posted on one of their tasks or projects.
- The ability to filter to communication so that team members only receive information that is relevant to them.
What you’ll want to avoid is communicating excessively through email, creating long email chains with multiple recipients, making it difficult, frustrating and distracting to keep track of tasks in your projects.
SOPHY demonstrates how an effective communication can improve transparency around processes while reducing friction and time wastage around projects and tasks.
For example, SOPHY’s smart notification system ensures that team members only receive notifications that are relevant to their specific tasks.
The app also allows users to leave comments on tasks and assets, establishing a centralized resource and ‘paper trail’ for communication around specific issues encountered in workflows.
An email notification provides a layer of redundancy, as team members will receive notifications whenever changes relevant to them are made to tasks or assets within the app.
To avoid having to switch between email clients and the app, SOPHY even allows users to mark tasks notifications sent by email as completed directly from their email client.
Bringing it all together
Managing virtual assistants doesn’t need to be an intimidating or frustrating experience.
Establishing systematic workflows to guide them, and putting in place centralized communication management systems will allow you to get the most out of your virtual
And there’s no easier way to do this than by using SOPHY.
Our app interface is uncluttered and very easy to use, which means you can start putting structured workflows in place within minutes of registering.
With SOPHY you can:
- Easily invite new members to a team
- Set up tasks as task lists, and tag tasks to make them easy to search and track
- Tag team members to send them notifications from tasks and assets
- Leave comments on any app or asset to create a transparent record of communication around any issue
- Integrate asset management into any workflow or process
- Mark tasks as done by email.