Remote collaboration – three things you need to get right

While we begin to ease our way back out of lockdown and return to ‘normal’, there are a number of changes which are here to stay and organisations need to be ready for them.

The pandemic and subsequent lockdown have changed the way we work at a pace we could never have expected. Years of digital transformation have been accomplished in just a few months, business plans and strategies have changed, working patterns have been overhauled, how we communicate and collaborate at work has shifted radically.

As a digital-first business we’ve been accustomed to remote working for some time, whether staff working from home while collaborating with their colleagues, or entire teams working in close collaboration with our clients’ inhouse teams to add velocity and deliver project work.

Because of this, many of our clients have sought our advice on what works well. Here’s the three key pillars of remote collaboration we’ve been discussing with them.

1. Choose a good collaboration platform

Most companies use some form of internal chat system, whether a major platform such as Slack or Microsoft Teams, or bespoke setups. In many companies there is even a combination of platforms, with some individual teams operating their own instances of chat platforms.
These platforms have become paramount as organisations have moved to remote working. It’s not an option to use ad hoc or patchwork collaboration platforms anymore. As an increasing amount of work moves to the cloud and teams are not able to meet in person as frequently, a universal, interconnected, organised and accessible platform is a must for employees to continue to work effectively.

We’ve been using Microsoft Teams for several years now as our collaboration platform. It made sense for us as a Microsoft partner; our skills in web, API development and conversational interfaces meant we could turn its flexibility and extensibility to our advantage in integrating more of our company systems into a single place. This has turned out to be a priceless investment and has made our transition to remote working and collaboration extremely smooth. So much so, we are now consulting on Microsoft Teams and helping our clients transition to this tool in supporting remote collaboration.

2. Encourage trust, celebrate transparency

There’s no more ad hoc status catchups, peeking over the shoulder during work hours or grabbing someone for a quick catchup on the way to the café. When everything is remote, we have to be more transparent than ever in how we go about our work. This means open and accessible tracking of work through platforms like Azure DevOps; organised, accessible document repositories open to all team members and with live documents and trackable changes; and the ability to surface work and data from potentially dozens of systems without the need to hunt down multiple logins to review and contribute to ongoing work.

This applies for all level of employee – from managers and executives checking in on the progress of projects, sales opportunities and workforce productivity down to frontline workers getting access to the systems, workflows and documentation they need, and being able to report their progress. While we’ve been promoting transparency for years, the practicalities of the pandemic have added a much greater sense of urgency.
Platforms like Microsoft Teams can support this. Not only can you setup hooks which enable progress and status updates to be delivered straight into collaborative spaces in Teams, you can also build bespoke data integration points or automated chat services.

3. The rise of internal search

With more work moving to the cloud, the volume of data being created by everyday work has and will continue to increase exponentially. It’s no longer possible to turn to your colleague next to your or nip over to someone’s desk for a quick 5 minute chat to ask a question or find the piece of information you need to complete your own tasks. As the volume of data increases, much of it unstructured, smarter and more powerful search capabilities are coming to the fore.

We’ve seen an increased demand for services like Azure Cognitive Search, and have developed our own smart service ‘bot, Basehunter, to support with this challenge within Teams. Smart search isn’t just for customer-facing interfaces, it’s now a must-have for enterprise systems as well.

So what are the next steps?

If you don’t have a collaboration platform, you need to start implementing one now. Of course we recommend Microsoft Teams, but there are a number of platforms available to suit different types of business types and needs.

If you already have a powerful platform in place, there are countless ways to make it work harder for you, from improving access and transparency for your workforce to automating workflows and administrative tasks to boost productivity and make remote working a smoother and more enjoyable experience for your staff.

As experienced users of Microsoft Teams, we’ve been looking for smarter ways to use and connect data to make collaboration easier and more productive. Since partnering with Microsoft, we can now offer free Microsoft Teams workshops to qualifying organisations to help understand the opportunity, identify the right use case and build a plan to take action. Get in touch to book a workshop and see how you can set your organisation up for long term success.

Andrew

Senior Producer

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