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What is administration?

Got a question on what administration is. Tried to google, found no comprehensible answer. As usual, when you need a definition, there is none to find. Did it myself. Here is the result.

Administration in the nutshell
The key to understanding of what administration means lies in the following picture:

Fig. 1: Functioning of organization from the process perspective

It represents functioning of an organization as “People running processes based on rules using tools

A process (aka business process) is a set of activities (operations, tasks) aimed at creating a desirable outcome. Typical examples of processes are sales (convincing a potential customer to buy one of our product/services), service delivery (e.g., fixing a customer problem), purchasing (choosing, buying and paying for things we need), product development, etc.

Fig. 2: Processes connect people

Some activities completed in the frame of a process belong to the category of doing something in the real world, like going to a customer site and fixing some technical problem during service delivery. Others, like getting instructions on where to go, and reporting back on amount of time spent for fixing the problem, belong to administration. They are needed to ensure the processes producing desirable outcomes. For example, back reporting is needed for the finance department being able to send an invoice and ultimately get paid.

The goal of administration (more exactly administrative activities) is to ensure smooth running of the organization’s processes by coordinating people participating in the processes, and providing them with information needed for completing their assignments.

Administration deals with gathering, processing, and communicating information. Practically, everybody working for an organization participates in the administrative activities. Even those who do not hold any managerial position participate when receiving written or oral instructions and reporting back on the outcome of their work. Those who have managerial positions complete much more administrative activities, for example, they are engaged in planning of various processes, and assigning resources to various do it in the real world activities.

The administration is regulated by rules (operational instructions, or procedures) that prescribe or recommend who should be doing what and in what order in each type of the processes. Rules can exist in a written form or as a tradition. They can even be incorporated in computerized tools.

To carry out administrative activities people employ tools. Typical tools here are communication channels, e.g. mail, email, telephone, chats, and information storage means, e.g., paper folders, shelves, boxes, computer servers, information systems etc.

How do we know that our administration works properly? Read the next blog entry on administration quality.

Note, here, we understand rules not as something formal given by a higher authority, like God, government, big boss etc., but as a mutually accepted agreement on how people coordinate their efforts when working towards a common goal. It does not exclude, of course, that this agreement should not take into account the existing legal regulations (e.g., Sarbanes Oxeley).

Want to know more on my view on administration, see:
Evaluating and improving quality of administration (7 pages) Dr. Ilia Bider


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