If your IT service desk or wider IT department is looking to improve collaboration both within teams and between teams, then this article on successful collaboration is for you. In it, I share my experiences starting with how collaboration works best when three key elements are met:
- It’s low-friction,
- It’s persistent, and
- It’s dynamic.
Now let’s address what each of these elements means.
1. Successful collaboration needs: low-friction
For “low-friction,” being able to move in and out of a collaboration space should require a minimal amount of extra effort for a team member to be able to interact. If your “collaboration platform” is separate from your normal workflow, then it won’t succeed unless it’s either forced from the top (in which case it will be resisted) or it has another very strong attractor (it’s what everyone else is already using).Being able to move in and out of a #collaboration space should require a minimal amount of extra effort for a team member to be able to interact – @JasonStonehouse Click To Tweet
2. Successful collaboration needs: persistent collaboration
How about “persistent”? Working within and across global teams, many chat platforms just don’t work well when you’re in a team whose local working hours are significantly offset from others. It’s for this reason that tools like Slack have taken off while other instant messaging platforms have fallen behind. Being able to drop in on active conversations while delayed by several hours and being able to both catch up and jump into threads means that the collaboration persists even when some of the team is offline.
3. Successful collaboration needs: dynamic collaboration
Now finally for “dynamic,” this is perhaps the most obvious need but often the hardest to develop for successful collaboration. If no one is using a collaboration space, then no one else will want to use it. People are social creatures, even us introverts. Being able to hop into an active space and seeing a discussion will create an impulse to participate. Recognizing that the discussions evolve, and change, means that stagnation cannot establish roots. It’s what makes social platforms like Facebook and Twitter so successful. When we open our Facebook timeline or our Twitter feed, we see a stream of active discussions that we feel drawn to participate in.Being able to hop into an active space and seeing a discussion will create an impulse to participate – @JasonStonehouse #collaboration Click To Tweet
Bringing these three collaboration elements together
So from a practical perspective, how can these elements be used to help your IT service desk or wider IT teams achieve successful collaboration? It begins with the recognition that the type of collaboration will vary from one project or team to another. So, look at where people are already gathering, and if they’re already on a platform that you can use, then use that.
In the days when we all went into the office, it meant that we put small-to-medium-sized, non-reservable, collaboration spaces (rooms with whiteboards and means of capturing those whiteboards) near where employees would gather, like the office break room. What does this look like now, with the global pandemic keeping many of us remote for over a year, and return-to-office plans till a vision of the future for many? It means finding a platform that everyone is already using (or is willing to use) and ensuring that it meets the three elements.Want to be successful with your #collaboration efforts when it comes to your #servicedesk team? Start by recognizing that the type of collaboration will vary from one project or team to another – @JasonStonehouse Click To Tweet
For some workplaces, this means a solution such as Slack (or the open-source alternative Zulip), where employees can easily create new channels when new opportunities arise and people can have it open persistently on whatever platform they’re using, be it a mobile app, a desktop client, or a web application. For others, it’s more likely a corporate tool such as Microsoft Teams.
Either way, having the ability to create a new space empowers people to collaborate more. Every time there’s a need to “contact the help desk” or “raise a ticket with the admin” the potential for low-friction collaboration dies a bit.
No matter your platform, you do need to seed the activity from time to time. Often what this means is having a few “influencers” in a team asking open-ended questions in a space to get the conversation started. After a few cycles of this, you’ll often find that the successful collaboration becomes self-sustaining.
What would you add to my thoughts on successful collaboration? Please let me know in the comments below.
Jason is Director of Program Management at Akamai Technologies where he leads the Information Security PMO. He began his career in higher education and has worked in direct support roles, managed teams of support professionals, designed knowledge management systems, redesigned incident management processes, and been occasionally mistaken for Clark Kent. In his current role, he is helping a high-performing global team evolve to meet the growing demands of a world that is always online, increasingly remote, and constantly evolving.