Written by: Ryan Britton, US Program Lead
4 Things You Should do before Investing in a Teams Platform
Applications like Slack and Microsoft Teams are rapidly becoming central to expediting teamwork within organizations. Microsoft Teams is the fastest-growing application in Microsoft’s history, and its ascendancy attributes 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 different perspectives and skillsets
- Teams blend complementary strengths and diffuse individual shortcomings
- Team members motivate each other and maintain a better momentum
- Teams generally have a higher collective velocities
- Team members offer one another support to drive team objectives more successfully
- Team members benefit from the collective knowledge
Having a team, however, does not automatically unlock these benefits. Research has shown, however, that a high level of functionality is not inherent to all teams. Factors such as trust, conflict resolution, commitment, accountability and goals can cause dysfunctionality. Maintaining a team also has an underpinning cost – the amount of time required to resolve conflict, the cost of coordination amongst team members and the increased amount of communication needed.
Therefore, it seems that rolling out a “Teams Platform” will only yield the desired benefits when combined with the necessary cultural shifts, process engineering required to drive teams that have a good foundational environment to form trust, resolve conflict, imbue commitment, enforce accountability and orient themselves around well-articulated communal goals.
I believe that this is why we see an explosion of teams within organizations, without necessarily seeing the immediate benefits of the platform. The teams’ environment becomes sprawled with teams that lack standardization, direction and clarity of thought behind their objectives and lifecycle. Teams Governance has become a hot topic to try and manage this sprawl, but the housekeeping associated with managing teams proliferation does not necessarily improve the functional propensity of these teams…it just makes them easier to manage. Organizations can, however, invest in some foundational elements to improve the team experience and provide them with the best opportunity for unlocking benefits and avoiding pitfalls:
- Start with a foundation of Identity-Centered Security. By protecting your organization with a multi-factored, centralized identity which is pervasive across the entire organization, you create an environment that 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.
- Develop an Information Architecture for your Organization. Managing the flow of information in the organization cannot happen as an afterthought. In this day and age, it is imperative for organizations to understand how information is developed, what their compliance obligations are, and how teams interact with this information to expedite the organization’s mission. When Teams interact with the organization’s information – it must be in a controlled and conscientious manner. The alternative leads to compliance liability (since copies of untracked information may reside within teams), loss of informational assets (as teams are lost or deleted), lack of discoverability (as teams lose sight of previous initiatives and collateral that was generated). From a compliance perspective – organizations also have to match the seams between the highly collaborative requirements of team collaboration spaces and the compliance requirements of information governance.
- Develop your Organization’s Team Ecosystem. Before unlocking Team Software, an organization should take some time to understand the types of teams that it contains. This normally involves mapping out the roles within the organization and understanding how each of those roles interacts 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.
- Prepare for Change. No matter how user-friendly Teams-based software is – there is usually an underlying culture change that 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 is in this process defining role-specific workflows and team-specific environments that 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.
In summary, I believe that providing a well-planned teamwork environment within an organization is an investment that 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 that wish to unlock the promise of teams within their environments – 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/training.
Mint partners with Oxford Computer Group to host a webinar on 29 August 2019. As modern businesses embrace the cloud, and the workforce becomes more distributed and mobile – organizations demand a friction-less environment for collaboration and teamwork.