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  • Annand Sharma

Tech Recipe: Building a dynamic workplace

Updated: May 9, 2023

Background:

Organizations must adapt to a more dynamic work environment to better serve distributed teams where employees may be in different geographies or in the field. Between smartphones, internet connectivity, and software we can be more connected than ever. With the right ingredients you can meet all of your team’s needs.


One of the key challenges with distributed teams is building a shared “source of truth.” Of course, there’s a few software applications that can help us build that. These fall into a few different categories that we’ll go into below.


Identity management is the foundation of any business software shared amongst employees. Most commonly this is your corporate email system.

Knowledge base is a digital repository of process and other documentation. Maintaining documentation can be a full time job but it should be distributed amongst the team.


Project management software is useful if your business regularly deals with complex tasks involving multiple stakeholders and dependencies.


Other collaboration or real time communication can be useful when email is too slow or siloed. This software creates fast, informal, real time, cross team communication.


Shopping list:


Needs:

The base layer of the business software cake, Authentication and Identity Management. One of the following is great:

  • Microsoft Office365

  • Google Workspace

  • Okta

Microsoft and Google bundle a few toppings in their package:

  • Meeting Software

  • Collaboration

  • File sharing

Your business cake isn’t complete without:

  • Project management

    • Trello

    • Asana

  • Real time communication

    • Slack

    • Discord

  • Knowledgebase

    • Notion

    • Slab

If you want more variety than what Google or Microsoft include, there are many alternatives or even add-ons to what is included. Such as Zoom for meetings or Dropbox for file sharing.


Managing a distributed team well will require a cultural shift within the company. The key is to make sure everyone working together has access to, and uses, the same tools regardless of their location and team.

Note: This list is a starting point, you may want additional toppings or different flavors based on your business needs.


Cooking instructions:

We’re making a cake that you can enjoy anywhere. Everything we mention can be used on a mobile device. In cases where native mobile apps are available, those will offer a better experience than the mobile web version which is helpful in a pinch.


Base Layer

  • Follow the instructions to enable Single Sign On (SSO) for your respective system: Google Workspace or Microsoft Office 365

    • Alternatively use Okta or other Identity Access Management (IAM) solutions

  • This foundation is crucial. Not only do you need this to set up any of the toppings from this recipe, but just about every modern SaaS tool is compatible with Google and/or Microsoft SSO.

With Google and Microsoft, most subscription packages include:

  • Meeting Software: Google Meets, Microsoft Teams

  • File Sharing: Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive

  • Collaboration: Google Docs, Google Jamboard, Microsoft Office, Microsoft Teams

For these and other tools included in Google or Microsoft productivity suites:

  • Create some default settings to make adoption of included tools easier, such as:

    • Automatically include links for digital meetings when there’s more than 1 person invited to a meeting

The setting in Google Workspace automatically adding Google Meets to meeting invites
  • Automatically upload files in email to the file share

    • The file will only be shared with the people on the email, however, this helps set the precedent that the file sharing service should be used

  • Putting people in organizational units or groups

    • This automatically creates mailing lists for teams

    • This gives you the ability to create shared permissions and access, e.g. new members to the finance team can automatically access anything finance team members need to access

  • Make sure everyone has access

    • If the company provides computing devices, make sure the relevant apps are preinstalled or readily accessible

Toppings

File sharing

  • Install the desktop and mobile apps on every business device

  • Create groups and team folders

    • Be sure to give the relevant people access

  • Companies may find that OneDrive or Google Drive don’t meet some requirements. This could be anything from sharing outside of the company is a requirement, or collecting signatures, or perhaps more security and auditing around who accessed files. In this case you may look at Dropbox or Box.

  • Dropbox:

    • Generally regarded as the most well designed, reliable, multi platform file sharing solution.

  • Box:

    • More enterprise oriented. In other words more robust, more business oriented features for example a detailed audit trail for files or folders.

Project management

  • Get started by putting existing workflows into the software

    • Break down repetitive, complex, multi step workflows into tasks

      • Team members should be responsible for creating and updating the tasks within each workflow

      • Managers can see the whole process and also have reporting and insights on progress

  • With more familiarity you can put complex projects into this software

    • Teams working on projects can run more efficient meetings if all the tasks are up to date

A sample Asana Marketing Campaign project represented on desktop web and mobile
  • Effective use of project management software means you can better estimate and plan how long and how much certain projects will cost

    • At the end of each project you can compare your projections to what actually went into the project

Other collaboration or real time communication

  • Companies often find Microsoft Teams or Google Meet may not meet their needs. In this case the top replacements tend to be Zoom and Slack.

  • Zoom:

    • Some companies choose Zoom over built in solutions for more flexibility or reliability.

  • Slack:

    • While Microsoft customers could use Microsoft Teams, Slack is often selected because it can be easier to use, has more software integrations, and has more features such as enabling collaboration with people outside of your company

  • Start by making sure everyone in the company has access to the tool you selected

    • Office 365 subscribers can use Microsoft Teams for those virtual meetings as well as real time collaboration

  • Build out the spaces, sometimes called channels, for each team

  • Add any relevant software integrations

    • For example if you use ZenDesk you can integrate that with Slack enabling you to create and manage ZenDesk tickets from Slack

Knowledge base

  • Start by putting your employee handbooks, training, sales & marketing materials and other collateral in the knowledge base

    • Note: you can control access to this knowledge base using the corporate email as well as organizational structures

  • Encourage and empower individual team members to keep the knowledge base up to date. Unlike a printed book, you can make new versions of a digital knowledge base for free.

    • Slab, for example, will automatically remind the creators and contributors if content hasn’t been updated by some interval that you can set


Let us know what ingredients you use in your cake

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