Hit the ground running through timely establishment of corporate and administrative requirements.
- Underestimating the administrative workload and time it takes to set up and wind down taskforces
- Not having a dedicated administrative support person from the beginning, resulting in SES and EL staff spending time on administrative tasks instead of core work
- Not implementing recordkeeping and documentation practices and processes from day one, resulting in difficulty responding to enquiries, information requests and audits
- Not having protocols and overall coordination procedures in place early, resulting in oversights and compliance breaches.
Tips for success
- Have a dedicated administrative support person from the beginning – this should ideally be someone from the host agency who knows how ‘things are done’ and can navigate processes quickly and smoothly
- Document internal administration arrangements
- Escalate issues at SES level if helpdesk responses are not fast enough.
Have a dedicated administrative support person from the beginning
The administrative workload involved in setting up and winding down taskforces is often underestimated. These activities are also time-consuming and not the core expertise of the taskforce team. It is therefore recommended that you have a dedicated administrative support person from the outset to help you get up and running. Otherwise, delays with enabling services (e.g. IT, HR, Finance, Security, etc) can impact a taskforce’s ability to respond to the issue they’ve been tasked with, and delays with getting an administrative support person on the team can mean that SES and EL staff have to undertake administrative tasks, detracting from their ability to do their core work.
For longer term taskforces you should ideally have a dedicated Executive Assistant (EA). For shorter term taskforces it is recommended that you request the host agency to provide support through an existing EA (this could be temporary full time support or intermittent support), or that you allocate responsibility for corporate and administrative duties to an appropriate member of your taskforce team. Either way, it is recommended that your administrative support person come from within the taskforce’s host agency as they will know the way that ‘things are done’ and can navigate processes quickly and smoothly.
Your administrative support person will need to work closely with your host agency’s corporate enabling services to get your taskforce up and running. Depending on the agency this may involve:
- Contacting the host agency’s taskforce support unit or business partner (if either exist) in enabling services to explain the taskforce’s requirements and seek their assistance to liaise with other corporate areas to streamline onboarding and troubleshooting.
- Engaging early with the relevant corporate services areas to ensure prompt integrated support – having an early meeting to map out and flag your requirements can help promote integration, given responsibility for different corporate functions is often split across teams.
- Embed a business support person from the host agency into the taskforce – depending on your needs this could be just during the set up and wind down phases, or for the duration of the taskforce.
The administration checklist will help your support person tick off on the tasks required to get taskforces up and running, including on-boarding, building access, IT and accommodation, financial management and record keeping.
Ensure smooth administrative processes
HR and onboarding
To ensure a smooth start for any secondees, you should have a dedicated contact for the employee's first day and arrange work space, building and IT access, as well as guidance on ways of working and expectations. Arranging a single point of contact in HR for the taskforce will also support the smooth onboarding and integration of new staff into the taskforce team.
Building access, IT and accommodation
Building access, IT and accommodation should be arranged before taskforce commencement. IT and systems access can be particularly problematic and time-consuming, particularly if staff are working across different IT systems which do not support the same capabilities, which can result in issues such as restrictions on information sharing.
Identify early the systems which your taskforce may require access to (refer to the checklist). Importantly, all Cabinet matters have a minimum classification of "Protected: Cabinet"; if you believe you will be working on Cabinet systems and/or documents, your taskforce will need access to your host agency's Protected network and work spaces.
Finally, some systems cannot be accessed before prerequisite mandatory training has been completed. You should therefore prioritise ensuring staff complete such training as soon as practicable (ideally within the first few days of the taskforce's operation) to enable their systems access to be set up.
Finance and procurement
All taskforces accrue costs across their lifecycle, and ensuring your financial management processes are in place early is essential (refer to the checklist). For cross-agency taskforces, consider putting in place formal agreements outlining who is responsible for covering costs and how they will be paid; without this clarity, areas may find themselves receiving unexpected invoices.
Public sector procurement is a complex area governed by strict compliance requirements, and is regularly the subject of media interest and parliamentary oversight. If your taskforce is going to need to procure services, it is strongly advised that you engage your host agency's procurement area as early as possible.
Records and information
Record keeping and handling is a common stumbling block for taskforces. With the fast paced nature of taskforce work, it is easy for filing to become disorganised and for staff to handle information in a way that unintentionally breaches privacy, security, and records management obligations. This can make the process of responding to enquiries, requests for information and audits highly stressful.
To avoid these issues, establish a compliant records management system and protocols within the first few days (refer to the checklist), and designate an individual with the task of documenting events and decisions from day one.