Chat Ops to help solve collaboration issues
Let’s introduce two tool changes into the analog collaboration that is captured above to improve this interaction.
First, let’s switch from team collaboration that is done over the phone, with emails or by shouting down the hallway, to a digital team-chat tool. In the last few years, a new wave of collaboration tools aim to improve the online collaboration among people and teams. A few worth mentioning are Microsoft Teams, MatterMost, and Slack.
These tools are characterized by focusing on a chat interface, yet organizing it around persistent and dynamic channels/topics. So each Service or Application that IT or the Business is providing could have its own dedicated channel, yet each new major production issue could have its own dynamically created channel that is archived once the issue is resolved. Beyond that you’d normally find graphical widgets that enrich the chat, a rich permission model to control who can do what, and much functionality around the way people can share, highlight and organize information.
This helps to make sure that all the participants share the same view of the discussion, as well as giving the luxury to always go back and see what was discussed up to now. It also helps logging the discussion for future retrospection. But this capability by itself is not enough to make the big impact on culture that is needed.
Second, let’s add chatbots into the mix, and practice ChatOps. The chatbots allow for a chat interface to the systems that the experts work with. Via this interface experts can now share the data that they are seeing with others. Now everyone shares the same context and can act as one virtual team solving the same issue. It is like each person holds just one piece of the puzzle, and the bots allow everyone to share their pieces with the rest. This means that within the channel the complete picture is formed. I like to call it – Bring Your Own Bot.
The collaboration becomes significantly more efficient:
- A bot can start the conversation by creating a new channel, inviting the right people, and setting the context for them by sharing the right data.
- Each expert can bring in additional bots into the collaboration. Via those bots the experts can share additional pieces of information, such as: monitoring status of the environment, information captured in the ticketing system, information out of the defect management system and much more. Everyone can now easily see all the relevant pieces of data.
- Experts can also take actions upon the environment by asking their automation bots to perform certain tasks while everyone else can be aware of the steps that were taken.
- Anyone that joins the conversation in the middle can go back and review what was previously discussed, quickly get up to speed and be productive.
- Any manager that needs to be informed of the status can open the channel and get a sense of the severity of the issue and the ETA for resolving it.
- When the issue is resolved the entire collaboration with all the data that was used and all the actions that were taken – is logged for future retrospection and improvement.
One of the practitioners I’m working with reported that they are now solving issues about 20% faster, and that they are capturing about 60% more valuable information that is used for learning and improvement.
Ok, so we get that this is a modern and helpful way of doing collaboration. But does this really help improve the engagement of people?
Or in other words: Does this really transform the team’s culture?