Collaboration – what car do you drive?

Working from home means tools that help us work together are far more important to our efficiency and productivity. If the software you use was a car, what model would you be driving?

  • Do you still drive a manual Ford Escort with manual heating, few safety features and a MW/LW radio that feels familiar from the 1990’s?
  • Have you moved on to a more modern Escort? It’s got some better features like airbags, anti-lock brakes, but let’s be honest, it’s hard to work out what all the buttons do so you don’t use much.
  • Or have you moved to the modern world of a voice activated Ford Focus, with built in Satnav, adaptive cruise control, digital radio and an easy to use interface on a touchscreen that just seems to do everything for you and gets you to your destination quickly, fresh and relaxed avoiding traffic jams?

Here is how to tell, and how to change to make you more productive every day. Trust me, 10 minutes reading this blog and a couple of hours of training will pay back many times over in the very first weeks of using Microsoft Teams.  

I’m assuming you are familiar with the concept of instant messaging and holding video meetings using tools like this; this blog is about moving on to the next level and how to tell where you are.

So what car are you driving?

Ford Escort – Early Model

Some tell-tale signs are

  • Storing everything in file shares and with minimal search capability, never bother looking for material and often recreate things many times. You may use shared areas but a lot is in your personal document store.
  • Emailing copies of documents around and spending hours working through conflicting feedback to create that master presentation, monthly report or programme status report.
  • Struggling to read all the Data Protection and other policies, and remembering to do everything required of you. When was the last time you remembered to properly tag a document with its data classification or deleted a document once its retention period has passed?
  • Spending a large part of your life chasing people to complete tasks and being too busy to do yours.
  • Making most of your calls to colleagues on your mobile phone.

If you are in this category, it’s probably because you tried more modern software a few years ago but it was too hard to use. So you stayed with what always worked for you. To be honest, that was me until recently!

Ford Escort – Later Version

A few years ago Microsoft introduced SharePoint, and other tools like Skype for making calls. In theory they were really good…. for technical geeks……. but do you know anyone who uses them extensively? I don’t, despite having SharePoint Teams, adoption strategies etc, etc, and working in IT!

In the car analogy, I know my car had loads of new features, but there were so many buttons to press to try and make it work, I didn’t bother and carried on driving the way I used to. And there was no way I was getting an automatic car to save me the bother of changing gears, they were far too costly and unreliable.

Ford Focus – Modern Driving

If you have driven a latest generation Ford, it’s a revelation. I know it’s not the trendiest car you can buy, but it does everything you need it to, is safe and makes your life easy and more productive.

Microsoft Teams is like that too when it comes to working together and collaboration. We are starting to use Teams for instant messaging type chats and video conference meetings in the same way we also use WhatsApp or Zoom. But the real power of teams comes from three aspects

  1. The things it can do including
    • Co create and work together on files in real time – no multiple version merging
    • Manage Tasks through the Tasks/Planner tools – the system chases your colleagues for their actions on your behalf
    • Chat and collaborate in Teams on topics (known as channels)
    • Far less emails to deal with
    • Add third party apps and access to your key other systems all in one place
    • Create dashboards and data visualisations for your teams
    • Automate regular tasks using workflow
    • It works well with all the other Microsoft products, if you are working on a document in Teams next time you open word, it’s there and easy to find in Word too.
  2. It keeps you safe
    • The Data team can set up data protection policies and the system keeps you safe by applying policies easily and automatically in the background
    • The Security team has lots of options to automatically manage who can see and access what and manage these sort of things
    • Because it’s Cloud based, it’s easy for the IT team to manage and configure it, no more installing software and servers, they can focus on configuring the software and helping you get the best use from it
  3. It’s developing fast and you don’t have to do anything to get new versions or wait for your IT Team to do an upgrade. So new features and capabilities are available to you regularly.

What Next?

If I’ve convinced this is for you, I would suggest various steps.

  • Get some training, help and guidance
  • Start small, maybe create a team to collaborate on some tasks and documents with a small group of your colleagues
  • Look online – there is loads of good training, I particularly like the LinkedIn learning Teams for Project Managers course here. Don’t be put off by the title, its essentially Teams for people who need to get things done!

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