“Individuals play the game, but teams win championships”
As in sport, the same rules apply to business. Collaboration is the glue that binds teams. Collaboration is different people executing together on the same issues, cooperatively whether communicating through Chat, Voice, Video or email. But when the business involves regulatory and ISO compliance, collaboration also relates to sharing, documenting and executing a common strategy together, irrespective of location.
Point 1. Email is a Team Killer
In business, an email address is usually the first thing a company gives you on your first day. It’s the basis of your company identity. Without it, you are nothing. With it, you can get access to all the other tools. Yet email does not make you part of the team.
You write your email, add a document, press send. Then you wait for a reply. Hopefully, it will come soon. Hopefully, you won’t get too many emails in a day. Hopefully, they won’t consume your entire day. Users spend on average 3 hours a day producing and responding to emails.
Reading and responding to emails is rarely productive work, and it takes some time. But you’re always busy! just not in a productive way!
Teams using email for “ok”, “you sure”, “yes”, “thanks”, soon discover that it is annoying, distracting and slow… Email is fire-&-forget: Send, forget; Reply, forget; repeat… and when waiting for replies, it’s someone else’s problem. This is NOT collaboration!
Point 2. Teams Deal With Topics
Chat apps make formidable Email Killers and with good reason, they eliminate the Ping-Pong game. Easy to understand and instinctively simple to use, they have become very popular as a team communications tool. No complications. No waiting. No instructions required.
But what makes them truly formidable is that they help teams communicate without effort, they help teams focus, they help teams stay on Topic.
"Chat puts teams ‘in the moment’."
In most chat apps, the chat is either 1-on-1 or is open to the public. If the topic interests them, they participate. They can see who else in the team is in. You immediately see comments from the other team members live and can at jump-in and contribute to the chat at any time.
"Chat is like a live conversation, in writing."
Such Topic chats inherited the Subject line from email. But when the same subject line is used for a series of emails to discuss an issue, the value is lost and there is no continuity, unlike chat. Teams deal in topics, one Subject at a time.
Where Chat apps are introduced, Email use decreases over 90% between team members.
"Chat is an Email Killer!"
Point 3. Teams Share Documentation.
Teams share documents. Email is great for sending documents, everyone gets a copy. That’s not sharing, that’s distributing. On the other hand, Chat is also great for making documents available to users. Simply drop it into the chat and everyone in the chat can open that same copy.
Collaboration is one step up from simple document sharing. Effective collaboration, real teamwork, requires that some element of control over document sharing be an integral element to Chat. Not only are you including a document in a chat for others to open and consult, it has to be the right version, the same document. It needs real document management.
"Collaboration is one step up from simple document sharing."
Both Skype and Slack allow document sharing but these are lost in chat history. They are not integrated into the team document repository or document management system. They are not connected to any project, only to the topic in the case of slack.
The worse, however, is Skype where unless you save it all over again, documents are lost to skype history, i.e. as the chat progresses, the document gets further and further away for the ongoing part of the conversation, essentially ‘disappearing in the history’. For anyone who’s had to go fetch, find, a document in Skype, scrolling up more than few days is a real pain… At least in an email, you can sort by attachment.
Point 4. Teams Are Rarely Co-Located.
The reality of modern business is that teams are rarely co-located with each other, desk-to-desk if you will. Walls, Floors, Buildings, Campuses, even Oceans separate team members from each other. And still, even when only a spitting distance away, we chat. It’s quiet, with no disruptions and it’s sooooooo easy!
Team collaboration requires more than just chat, however. Team communication also requires that team members also ‘talk’ to each other. The phone is dead, long live integrated voice chat apps. And when you cannot be there, go video chat. Where Skype shines, Slack still fails. Slack is a chat app, with voice, but no video. Yet how easy it is to simply call the other side for a few minutes and voila! All good.
And if you ever video chatted, you could even have shown off your pretty face – and looked them in the eyes. Sure, you have to make sure you don’t have bed hair day, but still, it’s more personal, less cold than chat only. Slack is cold.
There is no doubt that Skype has redefined chat, voice & video and as the direct result, teamwork. It represents the first generation of truly accessible, and cheap, teamwork apps. Still, Skype is stand alone and you cannot capture calls and save them for compliance purposes. (although 3rd party apps are trying). Skype is a great social app, albeit repurposed.
“Team collaboration requires more than just chat, however. Team communication also requires that team members also ‘talk’ to each other.”
Point 5. Beyond Collaboration, Cooperation.
Collaboration is about fostering cooperation. People work on projects together, there is cooperation there. Cooperation is an integral to good collaboration… enter project management. Collaboration should be the backbone of projects… providing the means to communicate about project specifics without using multiple systems… i.e. email + PM software + Slack + Skype + Dropbox + whatever other single-use utility you need to foster cooperation… a.k.a. working together!
”Collaboration is about fostering cooperation.”
Where collaboration is about team communications, collaborative cooperation is about executing the game plan.
Point 6. Collaborative Compliance, Regulatory & ISO Compliance Made Easier.
As businesses increasingly adopt ISO certifications, whether ISO9001 or ISO13485, teams need communications solutions tailored specifically to supporting regulatory and ISO compliance. Needed is an app where team collaboration has compliance in its DNA, not stitched together with API’s.
"…teams need communications solutions tailored specifically to supporting regulatory and ISO compliance"
It must be designed and purpose built on the basis that regulatory and ISO compliance is best done through team collaboration & cooperation, incorporated within a QMS system. And a good QMS system should include in its DNA at a minimum Document and Project management. By addressing all the key components of compliance as a single integrated system, teams become naturally involved in the compliance process.
Point 7. Collaboration Through API’s, a Piecemeal Approach.
If you send a document that is required for compliance via email or chat, the problem is that it’s still in the email or chat. It’s not part of the project. To a certain extent, you can use API’s to connect different apps and generally it could sort of work, or not! First, someone has to connect the API’s; Second, apps are constantly being upgraded to new versions; and Third, API’s rarely deliver the level of integration you would like.
Compared to purpose-built compliance and collaboration apps, a Slack API approach delivers piecemeal at best. But let’s face it, when you do so little, selling API’s is the only value Slack has…
To be fair, Skype is more synonymous with this 3-way communication tool, but it is still inherently a social media tool. To try to improve on this, Slack, using its API’s, has integrated with Skype in an attempt to resolve this issue, but it’s still two separate apps, where one would be better, much better.
FYI: Slack is a Chat app, but so is Skype! What’s the point?
The limit of APIs becomes even more apparent when compliance is thrown into the mix. How to get the API’s to save attachment into the right compliance folders? In an email, there is email rule – limited! In Skype chat, not such rules. In Slack, there is the API, but will they do what is expected? Should all the Chat be saved? Where will the document in the Chat go? How to get it there? Who will program this? These are but a few of the questions you need to ask yourself when looking at collaboration software for compliance.
That is no small question because compliance involves far more than merely saving the chat… you have to do something with it. Compliance as a rule, generally requires issues to be reviewed, discussed, actioned and followed-up – all documented! For example, in ISO13485, a design change, or design issue, has to eventually find its way to the Design History File. Good luck using API’s to accomplish this. Compliance is serious business and using API’s to glue different apps together, even if it is Slack, does not make it integrated, it makes it piecemeal.
Would you buy a car one piece at the time? No, your team needs to be driving now!
So although Chat apps like Slack are email killers, on their own they are not a compliance solution. It’s not truly integrated, it’s not creating a seamless user experience, seriously lacks real functionality necessary for serious compliance.
Notwithstanding that chat is an improvement over email, nor chat nor email, even together, is a complete team communications solution much less a collaboration solution. At a minimum today, Teams need more than an array of communication tools such email, chat, voice and possibly video all integrated with document and project management which themselves are incorporated into a cohesive quality management system (QMS).
Only then can team collaboration lead to team-based compliance.
The days of the toy apps, like Slack, are numbered as purpose-built apps come online, purpose-built to support collaborative regulatory compliance.