Collaboration’s Biggest Challenge

A few years ago, SLACK was the messaging darling, enabling quick, simplified messaging with minimal setup and management for administrators.  In addition, it boasted a robust API/Integration framework which let it do what so many collaboration applications to date had struggled with – get inside everything you work with.

Or rather, you get inside SLACK with everything you work with.

Fast forward to today and there are not only a number of challengers to SLACK but also SLACK has been hit by a few complaints about being “too much”, “always on”, “never able to get away”, etc, etc, the list goes on.

This isn’t a SLACK problem though, this problem has been in existence since the first iteration of that green jellybean icon came to represent your availability – you are here, you are available, let’s get to work.  That little icon came to represent not only your availability to get work done but also an indicator of when you are available to get work done (read: how much work are you putting in, how later are you up).

Collaboration’s biggest challenge to autonomy and not micromanaging your team has always been that little green icon.

How do I know where they are if it’s not green?

They’ve been away for so long, they must be doing something else?

Why aren’t they answering when they are green?

It’s the perceived notification that someone is available and ready to do work for you – that’s how it is interpreted but what it was never meant to show.

Want to know how pervasive the colour schemes are in messaging tools?  Look no further than them all using similar schemes – green – available, yellow – maybe, red – busy – they flow between different systems so we don’t need to relearn anything.  And just like a traffic light, they mean exactly the same things to a user.

But the question for the traffic light – Would you leave it on green all day long? – probably not, because eventually, it’d burn out.

When email took on the collaboration challenge it did so without presence, asynchronous communication – “I’ll get back to you when I can because I could get busy” – which unfortunately turned into the simplest of messaging protocols that allowed and enabled people to SPAM us with updates on everything and anything.

As much as we want to make it, Collaboration’s biggest challenge will never be the technology, the protocols, the AI to reduce message flow, where it’s hosted, whose hosting it, etc, etc, etc.  It will be the trust we put in each other around presence and messaging to ensure that those boundaries are preserved and supported.

Think that’s an easy way out?  Then here’s a question for you – What is your company’s collaboration policy and does everyone know what it is and how it works?

Doubtful, if you do fantastic and if you do, that means this post wasn’t meant for you, it’s for the rest of us that are working against that little green jellybean trying to find the right way out.

 

Conference Season is Upon Us

We’re in the thick of it now – Conference aka “Drinking from the Firehose” Season is upon us.

From now until October, the conversation around the water cooler and SLACK channel’s are going to be focused on one thing.

What conference are you going to this year?

And if you didn’t get your first pick or your choice was assigned to you – the follow-up questions might include…

Where is it?

Is there anything to do there?

Who are you going with?

I don’t have anything against Conferences, as a means to disseminate large amounts of information to a group of individuals they are great.  They are the firehoses of communication to get an idea out to as many people as possible and try to do it in an intimate way as possible.

They are meant to get you excited about doing work when you leave the conference, when you come back to the office with this new found information and want to try something new, change the world, put a dent it, etc, etc.

But.

How many times have you done that?

How many times have you watched all the sessions you missed?

How many times have you implemented what you saw in a conference into a shipping product for release in the next few months?

With the above questions in mind, if Conferences are your primary source of training and you’re not implementing what you have learned into your work in the next 2 – 3 weeks from when you’ve returned from the conference then what value has it brought to your growth.

(I emphasize growth and learning here because I know conference trips serve other values such as team bonding and enjoyment).

If you were to take the funds to be used on you attending that conference what would you do differently to ensure you apply them to your growth path?

Buy twenty Udemy courses?

Register for a year-long Plural Sight subscription.

Sign up for a developer cloud account with all the cool features on it (not only the three ones).

Integrate that decaying “customer required” app into your main code base and get a feel for what it truly does?

The options are endless, I’m sure with half the funds available to you, you invariably take a different approach to your learning.

Conferences are about mass consumption where the other niche training options above are about learning.

Am I looking for Training or Mass Consumption?

What you hope to get out of each is vastly different and applying one goal (I want to learn) to the wrong implementation (firehose) will leave you feeling discouraged in the end.

Know what you want, ignore the hype and figure out the path you need to take to get there and make it happen.

But know that you have the power to make the right choice for your growth.

Unified Service Desk Outside the Contact Centre

The Unified Service Desk for Dynamics 365 should really drop the Service from it’s name and become the Unified Desk.

With the last few incarnations of the Unified Service Desk, the underlying configuration and Framework have grown into an application that can no longer be discounted as a contact centre only client.

Unified Your Applications

How many times have you been using that home-grown system that manages your back-office orders while being transferred a call from the contact centre to look at a customer’s billing statement?

Wouldn’t it be great to not have to change that home-grown application, open the customer case that has already been started and have it send data to your application with no changes to the original application?

Wouldn’t your customers think it’s great when they don’t have to repeat their information to another person for the second or third time?

Or what about being able to setup multiple agent configurations across a multi-tenanted contact centre that allowed you to use the same Dynamics 365 tenant, same security roll-ups and same user profiles but with different configuration profiles, enabling your development team to focus on building solutions and not synchronizing data between multiple tenants.

Simplified Deployment

Or how often do you come in the morning and fire up all three or four applications you need to log into separately, logging into each one and instead simply double click one app, have it load and sign you into all the others?

The argument for having to roll-out a client application is weak at best (the one I hear the most).

With the improvements in downloading customization files to an agent’s desktop, files are streamed to their LOCAL DATA folder (away from the main installation) and loaded on demand (or unloaded after they have been used). Create a configuration file, add it – along with your other files – to a zip archive, add it to the USD configuration and wait for it to deploy.

Custom User Interface

Not sure about how the Unified Service Desk looks?

Create your own – that’s right, create your own.

With the Unified Service Desk you can create your own view with a basic understanding of WPF that aligns to what you want your view to look like so if the traditional 4 panel display doesn’t work for you, create something that models your organization view, complete with branding and deploy it as easily as you would any other Unified Service Desk customization.

Deliver your Dynamics365 Platform

The Unified Service Desk interacts with any customization you have in your solution framework. When implemented correctly, it can be the gateway to your users accessing not only your service centre but all of your applications within your Dynamics framework.

If you haven’t used the Unified Service Desk before or want to learn more about it can do for your Contact Centre or Business, give us a call and we’ll show you how.

 

 

Lead them in the Middle

Your First Team Meeting is critical to getting things underway with either a new team or project.

How you start will set the tone for how the project will kick-off and where your team will look to focus their energies.

In the beginning, like the song, “Everything Is Awesome” in the beginning, simple because it’s all new, emotions are at a newfound level of excitement, goals have been set.

You’ve set the groundwork, the plan, the direction, the path to go down, but apart from that – but you haven’t started yet.

Nothing has been done, so everyone is happy with the dream.

Fast Forward to the end of the project, the team has come together, they’ve gone through the final pushes of people coming in early, working late, sweating more then they usually do, doing whatever they can to get this project/product out the door and make it a success.

The team has done in so again, emotions are all happy because the release has gone out the door.

If you haven’t realized it – this is where you many of the great team quotes originate from – how the team came together to become a success, how they fought through adversity and change to deliver, how they never gave up.

There is enough literature on how to start and finish any project to keep you reading well into the afterlife.

But what about the middle?

What’s happening in the middle?

What’s going on when all that code churn is happening?

When the team is having to up their growth quotient by learning on the fly and still delivering?

When frustrations over not hitting performance targets are starting to set in?

When the team is feeling worn out and knowing that they have much more work to put in?

This is where Leadership matters, this is where Good Leadership matters – Leading in the Middle.

  • Leading when things aren’t perfect.
  • Leading when everyone is complaining.
  • Motivating those around you to keep going.
  • Keeping your head when things don’t go right.
  • Knowing when your team needs a break or they will be broken.
  • Understanding what minor things manner in the grand scheme of the whole project.
  • Giving your team leeway to try new ideas and let them fail.
  • Insulate that failure and not blaming it on them.

If you can do all those things, then you are already on the right path to Leading your Team in the Middle.

The most successful teams are those that were able lead well in the middle when things became murky or the team started to struggle because that’s what every team goes through.

The middle is never perfect, it’s never clear, it’s never straight forward, how you lead in the middle does not define how you will finish, but rather who wants to start with you again on the next project.

Will they come back for more?

In the calm moment of reflection that happens after the delivery of any project, will they go back there with you?

When lead correctly, in the middle, the team is ready to jump onto the next challenge, they are sold before the project is even announced, it’s not a question of If the project will start but When.

If you start off with the right objectives, lead well in the middle, the end will take care of itself.  If you start off strong, mess up in the middle, the end will eventually take care of itself, but not as well as it could have and you probably won’t get another opportunity to start again.

 

 

We Call Them Workshops

When we were devising our library of training programs on Leadership and Team Development all the way to Advanced Dynamics 365 Architecture and Design we stayed away from comparing them to the traditional catalog of Courses and Certifications or classifying them as Sessions that people would attend.

As our Workshops imply, our focus is for every person to leave with the knowledge that a problem they are experiencing today can be resolved when they go back to the office the day after.  We keep our workshops small to foster discussion among attendees so they can learn and grow from each other while honing their expertise with the content.

For this reason, we place great emphasis in preparing ourselves for you attending your any of our workshops.

Before attending any of our workshops we want to hear from you to ensure you’ve signed up for the right workshop and that you’ll be getting the right material from it.

These conversations are comprised of three key questions to get the ball rolling;

  1. What are the biggest challenges you are facing in your environment today?
  2. What does success look like for you when you leave the workshop?
  3. What is it you want to do with what you learn when you’ve finished the workshop?

With this information in mind, we look to bring in your real-world problems and examples into the workshop and forgo the standard labs that might help you get through the next module but don’t necessarily to translate to what you are working on today.

If you’re interested in finding out learning more about our workshops and how we can tailor them to your group or team – contact us for more information (we offer group discount rates).

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