Applications like Slack and Microsoft Teams are rapidly becoming central to teamwork within organizations. Microsoft Teams is the fastest growing application in Microsoft’s history, and its ascendancy can be attributed to a similar rise of team collaboration within the workplace.
The promise of teams is compelling:
- Teamwork results in more creative solutions
- Team members benefit from differing perspectives and skill sets
- Teams blend complementary strengths and diffuse individual shortcomings
- Team members motivate each other and maintain a better momentum
- Teams generally have higher collective velocities
- Team members offer one another support and drive team objectives more successfully
- Team members benefit from collective knowledge
Those benefits aside, rolling out a team collaboration platform is something that will only yield the desired benefits if it is combined with the cultural and IT changes required to ensure that teams create a good environment to form trust, resolve conflict, enforce accountability, and allow teams to orient themselves around well-articulated common goals.
This is why we are seeing an explosion of teams within organizations, without necessarily seeing the immediate benefits of the platform.
Without clear objectives and standardization, the Teams environment becomes sprawled and ineffective.
Organizations are increasingly seeking governance solutions to help manage this sprawl, but the housekeeping associated with managing Teams proliferation doesn’t necessarily improve the functional propensity of these teams – it just makes them easier to manage. It is true, however, that an organization can invest into some key elements which will improve the team experience within an organization, and give these teams the best opportunity for unlocking benefits and avoiding pitfalls:
1 Start with a foundation of Identity-Centered Security
By protecting your organization with multi-factored, centralized identity throughout the entire organization, you create an environment which is secure, yet transparent – allowing granular management of information and its distribution (both internally and to external parties). The intent is to make it easy for teams to share and collaborate on information without compromising organizational security or divulging intellectual property.
2 Develop an Information Architecture for your Organization
Managing the flow of information in the organization cannot happen as an afterthought. It is imperative for organizations to understand how information is developed, what their compliance obligations are, and how teams interact with this information in order to expedite the organization’s mission. Failing to attribute the right level of planning leads to compliance liability (since copies of untracked information may reside within teams), loss of informational assets (as teams are lost or deleted), and lack of discoverability (as teams lose sight of previous initiatives and collateral). From a compliance perspective – organizations also must match the seams between the highly collaborative requirements of team collaboration spaces, and the compliance requirements of information governance which the organization is expected to adhere to.
3 Develop your Organization’s Team Ecosystem
Before deploying a collaboration platform, an organization should take some time to understand the types of teams within the organization. This normally involves mapping out roles and understanding how each of those roles interact within each type of team. It is also important to think about why teams are created, how long they exist for, what their objectives are, what tools they use, and how they are closed once they are no longer required. Types of teams might include long-running, structurally oriented teams (such as a Departmental Team), and should also include shorter-lived, goal-oriented teams (such as Project Teams, Opportunity Teams or teams hosting an event).
4 Prepare for Change
No matter how user-friendly teams-based software is there is usually an underlying culture change which needs to occur within the organization. This change could be multi-faceted and include moving away from email as the primary work system, moving to cloud-based file systems, integration of chat into collaboration tools, remote meetings and automated workflows.
The need to manage this change effectively cannot be understated. Taking the time to make employees aware of the change, ensuring that they are equipped to use the tools, inciting a desire for the change, identifying champions, supporting the initiative with executive endorsement and providing adequate support for employees to reinforce the right habits is part of the solution. The secret sauce in this process is defining role-specific workflows and team-specific environments which make it productive and valuable for employees to adopt the new team ecosystem. This process should start long before you deploy the software within your organization.
Building a well-planned teamwork environment within an organization is an investment which will pay dividends if it is properly planned, executed and supported. No teams-based software package is going to be a silver bullet for organizations who wish to unlock the promise of teams – although vendors might have us believe otherwise. As we have seen with previous technology trends – you need great tools to produce great craftsmanship, but no tool produces fine handiwork in the wrong hands, or with insufficient planning and training.