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Team collaborations not smart enough in SA

The biggest barriers local companies face when trying to facilitate better and more collaborative teamwork are legacy systems, lack of flexibility and seamless integration of tech tools into existing platforms.

This is one of the key findings of an online Smart Teamwork Survey, which was conducted by ITWeb, in partnership with open source and services Obsidian Systems.

Smart teamwork enables employees to work together across different company functions and departments, and leverage technologies to gain efficiency and increase productivity.

When it comes to the nature of their teams, over a third of respondents indicated they belong to the ‘technology stack’, and the majority of those (57%) deal with software. Another third of the sample said their teams are part of ‘line of business’ operations.

The survey found the majority of respondents (64%) use some kind of software tools to manage their teams. Those who are not using software tools, remain unconvinced or unsure as to how they could from them. Only a quarter (24%) said they’d consider adopting a software tool to manage their teams.

Angela Ho, marketing director of Obsidian Systems, believes there are many factors that contribute to the success or failure of smart teamwork projects.

To start with, teams must have a platform that facilitates simple, real-time and integrated communication.

“There is wisdom and discernment required when adopting any software that will have an impact on teams in any organisation. When considering a tool, one needs to establish why there is a need for the tool and how it will enable internal or external teams to work together. Team members should have a common vision in mind. Unfortunately, software solutions are often seen as a panacea rather than addressing real issues,” explains Ho.

The reasons for not having adopted any software tools are threefold: budget constraints (33%), lack of management buy-in (31%) and uncertainty about ROI (33%).

According to Ho, the benefits of adopting the right tool, with buy-in from the team members, can enable more than just a management tick-box, visibility or reporting. It enhances collaboration, continuity, longevity and tangible outcomes, based on team goals.

“The very basic smart teamwork tools used by organisations should at least provide a project and team collaboration tool, chat apps, wikis and team discussion boards, online document storage and shared documents.”

Implementation challenges

The respondents reported the top three challenges their teams are facing are speed of change user adoption and information overload.

Karl Fischer, DevOps area lead at Obsidian Systems, explains: “The ‘speed of change’ is an aspect that we have very little control of across all industries. However, the mapping of various scenarios or outcomes can allow for a point of predictability. If we can predict the outcome then speed shouldn’t matter, and it can then be part of your competitive edge.”

The advantage in DevOps is that it can be built into workplace processes that will assist with the speed of change, he adds.

“In terms of information overload, exception reports have always been the standard, but data dashboards that enable information to become easily consumable are a new way forward,” notes Fischer.

Creating smart, strategic collaborations

The top three elements companies expect from their tools in order to be more collaborative were cited as user adoption (66%), strategic fit (60%) and customisation (59%).

Jean-Marié Hamman, operations manager at Obsidian Systems, says user adoption and strategic fit can be a double-edged sword.

“Some tools fit the business case, but become nebulous without user adoption. Due diligence is required for mapping out workflows and understanding the complexity of an organisation’s teams before any platform or tooling can be deployed. The next step is crucial and is sometimes overlooked – testing user adoption for a tool, rather than force-fit people to use the tool, can make or break one’s project implementation.”

Over 52% of respondents rated their ability to facilitate cross-functional team collaboration as high (7 and above on a scale of 1-10), while only 9% rated it as low.

Catherine Muller, human resources manager at Obsidian Systems, believes a culture of continuous improvement in any organisation takes more than cross-functional team collaborations to achieve success.

“True collaboration is only achieved when a group of people with varied expertise and skills come together to work towards a common goal. When one knows what the problem is, an ultimate solution can be agreed upon.”

However, Muller advises companies not to stop there – one should always be looking forward to solving similar or new potential problems or opportunities daily, through innovation.

Teamwork visibility

The majority (56%) of respondents indicated that enabling teamwork visibility is more important to them than allowing autonomy (44%).

“Playing off visibility against autonomy is dependent on one’s perspective. Autonomy is about leading and enabling team members to make decisions. This culture of try and test can be critical to delivering more sustainable customer service,” explains Martin Liebenberg, managed services area lead at Obsidian Systems.

“Visibility then becomes the role of the tools that provide observable output of those decisions. In a support line, relationships are nice to have, but tools that allow for seamless teams that can easily step into a solution role are critical.”    

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