By Miranda Llewellyn, Programme Manager and Executive Assistant

Meetings are an important part of my work as they ensure communication across the team; however, I find an increasingly large amount of my time is spent finding a suitable date, a venue and administering the paperwork. I spoke with the Groupware Project team to discuss the steps involved in setting up a meeting and how the Groupware service will simplify these steps…

Old system: Arranging the average meeting begins with finding a suitable date. I email the prospective attendees with suggested dates or use an online system system such as 'Meetomatic' where attendees indicate they are free by filling in a form of dates. In both instances I rely on the attendees to respond in a timely fashion before any further progress can be made. Once a sufficient number have responded a decision on the date can be taken (assuming no further counter-clashes have occurred in the meantime and that a suitable date can be found). When I know the number of people attending and the date, I can begin to search for a suitable venue. Once these details are set I email all attendees the date, time and place for the meeting. The next step is to circulate the meeting papers. These are often emailed to all participants and uploaded to a website. If there is a change to any paper, or additional papers, then a further email needs to be sent and the website updated. If there are consultation/discussion documents which need amending, the original is circulated and then amendments merged back in using track changes.

Starting in summer 2009, Nexus was rolled out to departments, colleges and students. The Groupware Project team explained how the new email and calendaring tools available will simplify the task of arranging a meeting.

New system provided by the Groupware service First I set up a contact list of all the meeting attendees. The Groupware service uses this list to search the relevant calendars and suggest suitable times for the meeting. Meeting rooms are included to ensure that a space is available at the suggested times. I then select the most suitable date and an email is automatically sent to everyone on the list detailing the date, time and venue of the meeting. Attendees can accept these details straight into their own calendar (or they may reject the details and an email will be automatically sent back to me). A space is also created in the document store, where papers can be published for the meeting. Access to this documentation is set by the initial contact list, so I can restrict non-attendees from viewing the documents. For discussion documents the list is used to allow attendees to edit the documents. Each time a change is made to the documents an email may be sent to all on the list alerting them to the storage of a new version.

I believe the new Groupware service will save me a considerable amount of time when setting up meetings. As this is something which the majority of University members will need to do, from time to time, I can see how the service will benefit everyone within the University.