Profile any company and there’s a common theme – teamwork is the new norm. Teams often have cross-functional members who are on-the-go and work both in the office and remotely – all with a need to constantly be connected no matter where they are. With this evolution, organizations are revisiting the toolsets they provide workers, with a focus on opening lines of collaboration and communication across departments and groups.
Modern tools like Microsoft Teams and Slack are built to shift from a document and email-centric workstyle to one that fosters fast-paced, open communication and sharing between workers, no matter where they’re located. It’s also important to recognize that communication styles vary among workers, with chat being so important among newer workers for team engagement (see The Future of Teamwork study conducted by Microsoft). My day job is to plan and implement these tools for Dell Technologies’ customers and I’ve seen first-hand the common challenges workers face with their existing tools.
Microsoft Teams and Slack can eliminate the disjointed team engagement of legacy tools. That’s not to say tools like email, file shares and content repositories don’t have their place; they’re still very relevant. The difference is that Microsoft Teams and Slack are a new generation of collaboration workspaces that help workers stay informed on the conversation and context – not just where to find the latest documents. Read on for insights into what I’ve found during these projects.
Common Challenges with Traditional Tools
Tools like Microsoft Teams and Slack can be used to improve nearly any business process, including project execution, department collaboration, process improvement programs, or event planning. The focus of this blog will walk through an example of managing a weekly project team meeting to highlight some common challenges with legacy tools.
Dispersed applications – Completing the process often requires navigating the use of many different tools, including the following:
- To prepare for the meeting, you’ll need to invite people using Outlook
- Attend the meeting and record any chat via Skype
- Take notes in OneNote or Word (or maybe even paper)
- Identify a place to store and share files from the discussion (OneDrive, SharePoint, file shares, email attachments, etc.)
- Manage any action items or follow-ups via something like Excel, Project, or Planner (not to mention any additional tools needed for the discussion itself)
Each of these tools have their own intricacies and the information is spread all over the place, which doesn’t provide the workers with a seamless experience for group communication and collaboration.
Limited cross-functional collaboration – After the meeting has concluded, the participants may not see each other until the next meeting – and this often means that nothing is done until they are together again the next week. Discussion points are lost in notes/email, and documents are lost somewhere in a mess of folders and email attachments. Follow-ups are sitting in an Excel workbook or paper that nobody refers to. If conversations do continue outside the meeting, they’re done through emails, which are often ignored due to email overload, and they may not include the entire team.
Inaccessible tools and information – Getting to legacy tools often requires the corporate network and a PC/laptop. Let’s say that a small group of the meeting participants decide to get together for lunch and discuss some of the follow-ups from a previous meeting. They want to share the discussion points, but don’t have their computers and can’t get their phones or tablets connected to the corporate network. So, instead they decide to send themselves information through their personal email, notes on their phone, or some other unapproved document sharing application. This information is now outside of the control of the organization (non-compliant) and is likely to be lost or not shared with the entire group.
The Appeal of Tools Like Microsoft Teams and Slack
When work involved collaborating primarily with people sitting beside you, a tap on the shoulder or quick office conversation was sufficient. However, with the shift to cross-functional work and team members who are remote and on-the-go, you need tools that can provide consolidated access to all this information from anywhere.
Some of the benefits of these types of tools applied to our example of managing a weekly meeting are:
Consolidated communications and collaboration – All the tools to plan and deliver the meeting are in the same place, including the invite, chat, notes, referential materials, and action items. Outside of the meeting, conversations can continue remotely. Action items and follow-ups are available through a shared task management tool. Because all of this is happening in a shared space, you can be sure that all team members can view and participate in any discussions (previous or current), even if they’re a new addition or if they missed a meeting.
Shared information – The information/content stored in Teams or Slack (documents, notes, conversations, follow-ups, etc.) is automatically accessible to all the members in a single location that’s easy to navigate and search. Even the meetings themselves can be recorded, which makes them automatically available to the entire team for replay.
Persistent communication – All of the communication (chat, conversations, calls) between the group can continue even when members are offline or traveling. Once back online, the personalized activity feed can be used to get up-to-speed on everything that happened while away – or even just the priority items by reviewing conversations where they were @ mentioned or were marked as important. This way, you can be sure that participants won’t miss a thing and can have the full context of a conversation, even if they were offline.
Adaptable to the needs of the team – The items above are referring to their use in meetings, but these tools can be adapted to meet any need. Some groups or initiatives may only need documents and conversations, while others may want additional tools like task management, video, and reports. Other groups may need to work with external tools for digital signatures, marketing, development, or even fun. Lastly, you may want to create integrations with your on-premises tools and apps or even provide automated assistance through features like bots and connectors. All of these are possible within the context of a single Teams or Slack environment.
Why Is Adoption and Change Management So Important For Achieve Desired Results?
As I am sure you know, people often don’t like change and can sometimes be resistant to adopt new tools. Beth from HR loves her birds’ nest of folders in her file share, and Steve from accounting is adamant on using paper for his notes and action items. Both may say, “it’s worked well like this for years…” That may be true, but the way we work is changing, and the ability to collaborate outside of ones’ department or group is becoming more and more important. It’s going to be difficult for Mary from marketing to accomplish anything with the group if she doesn’t know how to navigate the never-ending mess of file share folders.
On top of this, I’ve found that Microsoft Teams and Slack can initially be confusing and difficult for business workers to grasp. The best approach for introducing these new tools is to identify some initial use cases to help them understand how these tools can be used and the benefits of doing so. Once they improve a process or two, they are typically hungry for more and actually will want to use the tools even more.
When embarking on any Microsoft Teams or Slack project, it’s wise to include plans for driving adoption and managing change. This can’t be an afterthought if you really want to reap the benefits. The key to successfully transitioning from the old way of working to the new way of working is by developing a formal persona-centric approach to adoption and change management (ACM).
This is especially true for Microsoft Teams and Slack due to how dramatically they impact worker experiences. Change is a personal experience and each individual responds to change differently. A persona-centric ACM program helps organizations focus on finding key scenarios/journeys/use cases for each audience.
The goal of any ACM program is to help workers through the transition period so that they can begin realizing the benefits of these modern productivity tools. An ACM program should prepare workers for the coming change with frequent communications and educational resources for them to leverage. Recruit change champions to help evangelize and promote adoption – this is a case where many hands make light work. Resistance is bound to happen, so be sure your change team is prepared to respond and to help workers move along. Establish a way to gather feedback to gage worker sentiment and address concerns.
How do you know if your project has been successful? At the start of your project, identify what success looks like and measure it – frequently. Gone are the days where you roll out a project, measure once and you’re done. Cloud services like Microsoft Teams and Slack are constantly rolling out new capabilities, which means your ACM program should establish a process for continuous communication and measurement.
Don’t Go at It Alone – Dell Technologies Consulting Services Can Help
Dell Technologies has consulting services to help you achieve your workforce transformation initiatives for the Microsoft Office 365 ecosystem including Microsoft Teams. Contact your Dell Technologies representative to learn how we can help or download our Worker Experiences eBook to learn more about our perspective on creating productive digital workspaces. If you prefer, leave a comment here and I’ll be happy to respond.