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Virtual Assistants for Govies

First off, yes, I have a virtual assistant. Maybe you’ll ask me “What the heck do I need a virtual assistant for?” Well, I need one because I want one. It’s convenience. I only have so much time in the world. It’s like when a small business hires its first employee — its Sterling, Inc. plus one now.

Anyways, I’ve been testing out a company called FancyHands for my personal needs. 15 tasks per month cost $45 (unlimited tasks for $65 per month). The first task I asked the virtual assistant was a common list of items delegated. It ranges from the complex to the simple.

This being said, I think this is an extraordinary opportunity for government. Let’s be clear — I’m not advocating eliminating in-person administrative assistants. There are some things that must be done in-person.

The possibilities are almost limitless, but the two biggest ones I see right now are this:

1) Making your people productive. This is like having a team of people available at all times. Do I need market research or average pricing for a product, but don’t have the time? I could outsource it to my VA.

2) Cheaply identifying and training future managers. So you want to train managers but don’t have a lot of money? Well, this works great. Emailing VAs requires clear, crisp goals and instructions. That is a lot of management right now. Better yet, if your employee works with a person right away.

Yes, there are some possible issues (wage determinations, etc.) But the advantages of decreased cost and increased productivity are too great to ignore.

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Jeff Ribeira

So do you ever meet this virtual assistant? Did you have to go through a hiring process to choose who you wanted? Overall, seems like a really interesting concept.

There are plenty of small/mid-sized businesses that use virtual offices, complete with a live receptionist, and plenty more take advantage of shared office spaces which an individual, group, or business can rent on an hourly, weekly, or monthly basis as their business needs dictate. There are some definite advantages in running this kind of strategy. As for the government, I can’t really see it happening so much on department or agency level, but perhaps among smaller teams and groups to assist them in getting a particular project done.

Sterling Whitehead

@Jeff. Exactly, virtual assistants for small teams, possibly on an ad hoc basis, are what I’m aiming for. They provide as-needed support as acquisition teams form, storm, norm, and perform. See http://www.fancyhands.com for what I’m talking about.

Eva Mims

Just visited http://www.fancyhands.com. This great for for personal use, but soooo many other issues besides wage deterninations to consider before this could be ready for prime time government use: confidentiality, non-disclosure agreements, classified material handling, and privacy, to name a few. Then there’s the problem of what happens to the actual assistants who may lose their jobs in favor of the virtual..

Sterling Whitehead

It’s definitely not ready for prime time use, and I don’t believe it is either. However, it should be used for selected pilot projects with certain civilian agencies dealing with non-sensitive research matters where security is not an issue. We can’t let perfect be the enemy of good.

Eva Mims

Agreed! I expect some long-term contractors may already be thinking likewise, despite the downturn in global opportunities. Still can’t see how it bodes well for my gov administrators, though, many of whom are already at the bottom of the totem pole but still doing yeoman’s work. Would love to participate if/when u decide to take this to the next level.

Jack Shipley

Eva — Good comment. I could see contractors (and me being one) offering this in future contracts. It will never replace the human element ‘tho.