With the need for social distancing, the number of people working from home is increasing by the thousands across the globe as the digital workplace becomes more of a requirement than a luxury. For those in departments where collaboration is a key component of their job duties, like in DevOps, the COVID-19 crisis presented a whole new challenge: rather than being able to verbally discuss challenges and work on solutions together, a chasm of silence formed. With teams geographically spread apart, there is a need for increased collaborative support, rather than traditional methods like tracking progress on a white board or verbal updates.
This push for collaborative support will extend beyond the “new normal” and can propel your team to new heights.
Why Collaboration Matters
One of the major benefits of an office environment is the ability to work closely and collaborate on projects or ideas. The physical environment naturally lends itself to brainstorming sessions and continual communication throughout the workday. However, these benefits of a collaborative environment are not contained by the walls of an office.
Rather, a culture of collaboration creates open communication that can lead to creative solutions in any project and, as a bonus, help to improve employee confidence. Further, collaboration leads to a more consistent and streamlined experience for customers and agents, as the information being shared and used is refined and updated.
Collaboration can have a positive impact on the employee experience as well, especially when it comes to combating feelings of isolation that those working from home may experience. Teams may feel disconnected, and it can seem that a lack of shared knowledge becomes a barrier to success. When employees are able to collaborate on projects with a clear vision of their role and how they can contribute to solving a problem while simultaneously having access to shared knowledge, their levels of job satisfaction may increase.
Creating a culture of collaboration goes beyond video chat meetings and emails encouraging sharing. It requires tools and a strategy to implement them. Below are three ways to create an environment of collaboration and three major advantages of each type of collaborative support.
1. Utilize Collaborative Tools for Increased Efficiency
Software such as Microsoft Teams, Slack, or even simply email can be useful tools to encourage sharing and teamwork. Video-chat software, such as Skype, is also a helpful tool to keep teams engaged even in remote environments. However, collaborative support tools should not be limited to these.
For example, collaborative tools can include an IT service management software. This software can increase collaborative efforts by giving IT teams (and teams outside the IT department) the ability to create notes on tickets, escalate tickets to peers or supervisors, and share information about specific incidents or problems.
Another collaborative tool that can increase efficiency is in the form of a knowledge management database and self-service solution. By curating and compiling knowledge articles which can be accessed from virtually anywhere, you create a culture of collaboration and support.
ITSM tools and knowledge management databases can lend increased visibility and collaboration between DevOps teams and others in the IT environment. This ultimately results in better coordination for all members of each respective team, rather than tracking progress individually or through a typical email update or shared word document system.
2. Implement Automation that Powers Collaboration for Maximum Benefit
Automation is a key component that is often left out when considering collaborative tools. This is because you might think that collaboration only applies in a person-to-person context. However, it can also apply in the sense of person-to-technology.
Automation can be a means to power meaningful interactions and collaboration. For example, automated workflows can power more streamlined touchpoints for collaboration while providing more knowledge and guidance in areas that should be handled independently. If a ticket needs to be escalated, automation can route it to the proper party or parties while updating everyone who needs a status update. In this instance, the collaboration is between human and machine first, then human to human, without ever needing lengthy stand-up meetings to touch base on project status reports.
Another way automation empowers collaboration is by ensuring that everyone is being provided the same information at the same time via self-service, especially with an easy to access interface like a chatbot. If you are working on a project with an outside team, for example, it is important that you all can access each other’s shared knowledge.Automation makes it possible to do that with minimal effort.
Automation, be it automating the storage and sharing of knowledge or workflows between teams, can increase productivity and cut down on lengthy meetings, without compromising the culture of collaboration and creating isolation.
3. Focus on People First, Despite the Digital-First Era
To create a culture of collaboration, you must focus on the wellbeing of your human assets. This may look different for each organization and department, but to foster a culture of collaboration – especially in possibly remote environments – you must ensure that your team members feel seen and that their opinions and input on project matters. This might take the form of weekly video chats to check in, or it might mean including your teams in initiatives to build and refine stored knowledge together. It also may look like giving team members time to rest, pursue their passions, or take courses to better their job skills.
Another way to promote a collaborative environment by putting people first is to allow employees time to contribute to projects that interest them. For example, if you have an IT support desk agent who typically handles lower-level tickets, but who has an interest in learning the ropes to handle more complex problems or wants to contribute during the change and release management process for a system upgrade, allow them to sit in on meetings and contribute and to see the way that the existing teams operate through the use of the collaborative tools mentioned above.
When the employee experience is taken into consideration, businesses can see less churn and will be able to attract and retain more talent because employees are more empowered to take ownership of their work without sacrificing their wellbeing. In fact, according to Forrester, “Psychological research shows that the most important factor for employee experience is being able to make progress every day toward the work that they believe is most important.”
Whether your team is remote, on-site, or a blend of both, collaboration and creating a culture that fosters new ideas and digital transformation should be at the forefront of your plans. The benefits of these strategies and technologies, such as ITSM software and automation, can all result in cost optimization across the IT department and organization as a whole. This will help your team launch beyond the new normal into a more long-term strategy, no matter what else the world throws at us.