I’ve been working on a very interesting project to help a group of community service organisations work better together. Here are a few thoughts and lessons I’ve learnt that others might benefit from too.
This is a great example of how technology can benefit NGO’s. In Canterbury, New Zealand where I live, these organisations tend to be small and want to spend their budget on outcomes for people, not IT costs and consultants (yes, I am one). These organisations often work together, for a common purpose but find it challenging when the technology stack doesn’t support easily collaboration.
Enter Microsoft Teams! Teams provides 3 basic functions that help make working together easier. A Chat client for conversations, cloud based document storage and meetings. Yes, there are many other features, but when you are working with a wide range of people with varied skills and computer expertise, it’s best to start small.
Starting small means focusing on the core requirements, avoiding bells and whistles (at first) and addressing the top 2-3 problems rather than a myriad of small problems. I think Microsoft Teams strength here, is the ability to dumb things right down while also making it easy for users to get on with working. Our users want to work with people and improve there lives, not spend weeks trying to understand how to use a complex system.
- Having a minimum standard for hardware is important, but for a small organisation with limited funds, having the latest gear isn’t always possible.
- Getting all the organisations involved to buy in to Teams as the common platform means moving off other existing things and standardising across organisations.
- Operating costs need to be as low as possible. Remember, the money should be spent supporting the community, not with consultants or on licensing.
- A single source of truth for core documentation and policy
- A place to work on reusable resources that can be shared between NGO’s
- A common set of tools to learn across all NGO’s in the group
- A collaboration space to meet, work and get to know each other
While the core focus of the project is collaboration, that doesn’t always mean “on documents” or “in meetings”. This project is also about community and building opportunities to collaboration across organisations and build working relationships through the sharing of ideas, meeting of minds and social activities.
I noticed at our “big Microsoft Teams launch day”, that people got it and quickly! Once they got past the initial login experience, WiFi and device challenges, the conversation quickly turned from “how do it do that?” to “hey lets work this way. It will be great!”.
I’m looking forward to seeing how this space develops over the next few months. The creative ideas people have for collaborating and the types of outcomes it generates for the community.
It makes me thing, we need to build collaboration spaces that solve more than the problems related to creating a document with several other people. We should also think about what this means for the remote worker, often isolated, often working alone with a mountain of work and little resource, trying to make a difference.