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Project Team Collaboration

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Danny Ryan: Welcome to the Work Together Better Podcast. This is your host, Danny Ryan, and I am here with Bruce Harple, VP of Delivery for ThreeWill. How are you doing, Bruce? 

 

Bruce Harple: I am doing great. Glad to be here. 

 

Danny Ryan: Excellent. We’re here to talk about the subject of Project Team Collaboration. 

 

Bruce Harple: That is it. 

 

Danny Ryan: All right, let’s dig into this. First things first. Let’s start with some definitions. What are we talking about when we’re talking about Project Team Collaboration? 

 

Bruce Harple: Yeah, so what we’re talking … and really what kind of led all this, too, as you know, we’re applying 4DX to ThreeWill right before Disciplines of Executions. One of the teams inside of ThreeWill is all the project managers and scrum masters, right? As we talked about what are some of the things that we could do in the area of collaboration because that’s a big area of focus for our company, we talked about project team collaboration and we feel like we’re pretty good at it. We got some pretty good technologies out there that we use to facilitate and to apply to the way we collaborate as a project team. 

 

Danny Ryan: Yes, our kids are pretty awesome-looking aren’t they? 

 

Bruce Harple: Yes, they are. 

 

Danny Ryan: Everybody thinks theirs is, but I agree, I know there’s certain areas that we focus in on and that’s definitely one. When you do it for so long and you have smart people you just naturally get good at it. 

 

Bruce Harple: Yeah, one of the things that we want to do is, our goal is to develop an ultimate guide to project team collaboration. 

 

Danny Ryan: An ultimate guide? I think I’ve heard- 

 

Bruce Harple: Ultimate guide. You’ve heard that term before? 

 

Danny Ryan: I’ve heard of that term before. 

 

Bruce Harple: Yeah, yeah, somebody coined it. I don’t know who it was. 

 

Danny Ryan: It wasn’t me. I reuse everything, 100% of everything. 

 

Bruce Harple: But, yeah, to your question, Danny, just to start out with the basics. It’s kind of what we asked ourselves as our team internally. What is team collaboration? What does that mean? We didn’t create this definition. We looked out on the web and looked at what people said about it. But, I think there was one definition that was really, really simple that we think nailed it. That definition is, “Two or more people working together toward shared goals.” 

 

 That’s a definition of collaboration. If you break it down, it’s two or more people. That’s a team. Right? 

 

Danny Ryan: Mm-hmm (affirmative). 

 

Bruce Harple: Working together so that implies there’s some kind of a process. There’s a method to the madness, right? There’s a way that you’re going to work together and divide work up and assign tasking but still have that common goal, right? And then towards a shared goal. That means you have purpose. You have objectives and you have end results that you’re trying to go after, right? 

 

Danny Ryan: Yep. It’s you saying this is reminiscent of probably the multiple times that Tommy and I have talked about where did the name ThreeWill come from. Core to that is the concept of one plus one equals three. That’s just two people … there are times in which you work together with other people and that one plus one equals one and a half or sometimes less than one. And you’re thinking of what are the things that as a team that we’re working together where you have … the overused words are synergy. But, just something more than one plus one equals two. And something greater than the sum of its parts. That was sort of the underlying idea for the name of ThreeWill. It’s collaboration so I’m right there here with you, Bruce, keep talking. 

 

Bruce Harple: That was kind of where we started. That’s kind of the basis for, okay so that’s collaboration. Now let’s take it, start peeling the onion back a little bit. Then what we decided is we want to talk about project team collaboration. When we started breaking it down we started looking at … what people will see, this is the preview. 

 

Danny Ryan: You just get me excited. 

 

Bruce Harple: I’m just getting you excited, right? We’re really targeting this at scrum masters, project managers, PMO organizations, PMO offices. That’s really who this is being targeted towards. What we’re going to do in this guide is we’re going to take that simple definition and put a little bit more meat around it as it relates to what does that mean when you talk about project team collaboration. 

 

 And then we’re going to look at industry standard guiding principles for project team collaboration. What are some of the key principles anybody should … or want to apply, right, as they’re working together? An example in the guiding principles would be the work is open and transparent to everyone on the team. Either the project scope and goals are known to all project participants. Everybody on the project has access to the same data from anywhere, anyplace, anytime. You kind of get what we’re headed towards here. 

 

 We want to lay out just guiding principles that apply to any kind of project. Doesn’t have to be a technology project, professional services project. It could be marketing has a project to release a new service, release a new product and that takes a team of people collaborating together to create the messaging behind that, the promotions, the pricing, all that stuff, right? 

 

 And then we’re going to take that and take it a step further and identify best practices. So, here’s guiding principles which are more … that’s the abstracted motherhood and apple pie kind of then. Then start to lay out best practices for project team collaboration. And then we’re going to get into really these key functional areas and that’s where the meat is going to be as we pull together this ultimate guide to project team collaboration. So, just trying to take it from a high level and break it down into smaller pieces and then go after those small pieces and put more meat and content behind it. 

 

 But, ultimately, between the guiding principles, the best practices, functionally how the teams collaborate together, what are the elements of that? Right? 

 

Danny Ryan: Yep. 

 

Bruce Harple: But, then how you leverage a platform like Office 365? How do you leverage that platform to really enable that collaboration, right? So, that’s kind of where we really want to go with this . 

 

Danny Ryan: I like where you’re going with this. What you were just saying reminds of the people process technology which is the people piece of this sounds sort of like the underlying fundamentals of how we’re going to work together as a team. We’re going to be transparent. Everybody’s going to have access to the shared goals together. And then the process piece of this as we were preparing for this we talked a lot about agile and how that fits into this as well. And then, man, we like talking about the technology just because we’re nerds like that. 

 

Bruce Harple: Absolutely. 

 

Danny Ryan: And that’s sort of … in the end we’re building solutions for clients so talking about how this might fit into the Microsoft Stack and what are the different building blocks that we have to enable this. 

 

Bruce Harple: Yeah, and we took … as we thought about this as a team, we took a lot of the agile concepts and principles that you follow with agile that really applied a lot of that to our thinking. We view ourselves as an agile shop not just in how we deliver to customers, but really everything that we do. We’re big believers in inspecting, adapting and getting better at what we do. Not just in how we deliver but just in how we collaborate. How we work together because we want to work together better internally as well as we want to help our customers work together better. 

 

Danny Ryan: Yeah. 

 

Bruce Harple: You’ll see as we roll this out you’ll see a lot of agile concepts kind of baked into this. But, we’re big believers of that. We’ve had great success with it. 

 

Danny Ryan: Very nice. What’s next? 

 

Bruce Harple: I wanted to just as a primer, right, so, what we’re going to be doing during the course of this year is releasing several podcasts, blog posts. Kind of releasing more and more content behind this ultimate guide to project team collaboration. But, I wanted to just give everybody a sense for what to expect. 

 

 There’s four key areas that we’re going to go into this guide. I’m going to go through them quickly just to introduce them and then you’ll see this is where our content’s going to be targeted. 

 

 The first big area is what we’re calling team alignment. And team alignment is all about setting your vision, your purpose, your scope. How are you going to approach the project. It’s really the planning when you think of traditional project planning in a way. Your team organization, what are the guiding principles for that specific project, timeline and budget? So, really the team alignment has got everything you do. You have to really stand up a project, get the team together, decide how you’re going to work together, setting the ground rules and getting organized, right? That’s the first big functional area of project team collaboration 

 

 The next one’s just communications. How do we communicate texturally? How do we communicate via audio, via video? Obviously with all the technology today, there’s lots of ways to communicate. And then just alerting and notifications. What do we want to do in the way of making sure that everyone on the team is aware of key decisions that have been made. Key changes in scope. How do we make that alerting and notification very, very quick instantaneous so everybody always knows what’s going on, right? 

 

Danny Ryan: Mm-hmm (affirmative). 

 

Bruce Harple: That’s in the big bucket of communications. And then there’s execution which is the meat and, Danny you and I were talking about before we started, where does agile fit into this? That’s really in the execution. That’s your DevOps. How do you organize? How do you lay out tasking? How do you define deliverables for each milestone? How do you manage that? 

 

 But, this is also where you get into document management co-authoring commenting as you go on a document so the team can collaborate and rally around deliverables. And you can make them better and better and better because everybody’s working. Multiple people can work on the same deliverable when it’s a document it’s deliverable. 

 

 But, getting into task management. Getting into budget management. Change management. Risk management. That’s all the stuff. Some of that’s project management 101, but we’re trying to get it organized in a way that says this is execution. Here are the elements of it. And like I said, we’re going to get into how do we enable that with some technology? 

 

 And then the last area, using our agile terminology is inspection and adaption. It’s about retrospectives. It’s about knowledge management. How do I capture what I’m learning as I go through this process so that I can then share that with others in the organization and continue to get better at what we do. And then just really reporting, dashboarding, having radiators, things that tell us how we’re doing. Tell us how we’re doing. Tell the customer how we’re doing or whoever you’re delivering to. 

 

 Those are the four big, big buckets. Again, it’s got team alignment, communication, execution, inspection and adaption. Those are the big elements and that’s what you’re going to start to see us rolling out. 

 

Danny Ryan: Since being a Microsoft partner and sort of I know our background and maybe people listening to this might not know our background, our focus has primarily been on a lot of the collaborative technologies like SharePoint and more recently Teams and other associated technologies that are involved with this. Right off as you’re talking about some of this I think that somebody look at project team collaboration they’re going to think Microsoft Project which I don’t think … How is that … We’re talking more about the enabling collaboration across a team. This isn’t like Micro … What’s the relationship to the technology of Microsoft Project to this? Does it have anything to do with this at all? 

 

Bruce Harple: It could. When you get into the execution component, the way you execute and the way you can use technology to help you manage the execution could be from Microsoft Project. Microsoft Project tends to be a more waterfall type of a project management tool versus an agile tool. But, that is one tool that you could use to help manage execution. There’s other tools like Planner and Office 365. There’s Azure DevOps that we use for agile. You could actually set up planner boards inside of Azure DevOps. Project is just another tool you could leverage to help you manage your execution. 

 

Danny Ryan: We on marketing don’t use Azure DevOps. 

 

Bruce Harple: Not too late. 

 

Danny Ryan: How do you see … we’re going to be building up content particularly around these different areas. 

 

Bruce Harple: That’s right. 

 

Danny Ryan: And then is this just helping the typical project that we’re going to be … is this … do you see this as being like a service offering in the end or this … What do you see customers will be reaching out to us to help them with project team collaboration? Or, is this more of this folds into the typical we’re helping you build out a digital workplace or an intranet and this is sort of our underlying philosophy of this is sort of like core to what we’re doing for a digital workplace which is you’re enabling project team collaboration. 

 

 Just trying I guess in my mind fit this into sort of like the terminology that we use today, the types of projects that we have today and how does this role into … I’m a marketing guy and I’m an assimilator. I’m sort of like taking this, where you’re going with this and trying to fit it into where we … not just where we are today but where we’re going over the course of this year. 

 

Bruce Harple: Yeah, I think ultimately there’s two deliverables out of this. One will be the guide which will be a document as you know to lay all this out. But, the other thing is I think we do want to have a service offering that might start out with just a simple assessment and maybe some proof of concepts. So, looking at an organization and how they organize around their projects because everybody could be a little different. We want to understand and respect that. But, really trying to understand and assess how people are working today or how an organization is working today as it relates to a project-based initiative. 

 

 And then really going to and using some of the technology to show them different ways that they can apply technology to make that project team collaboration more effective and more efficient. And ultimately leading up to maybe there is an engagement we help set up their Office 365. It could be a subset of your digital workplace, right? 

 

Danny Ryan: Mm-hmm (affirmative). 

 

Bruce Harple: It’s just how project teams collaborate and work together and really taking the different elements of Office 365 and applying that where it makes sense. As you know there’s a lot in Office 365. There’s a lot in that platform. There’s a lot in Azure. It’s really taking what makes sense for each individual customer and helping them implement in a way that makes sense to them, that fits into their culture, their process for getting work done. Really trying to help them automate it and get more effective and efficient and then collaborating better together. That’s what we want to do at the end of the day. 

 

Danny Ryan: I think this is … right away I think the … we end up categorizing a lot of the different types of projects that we do. This sounds like it’s one towards the … I like the idea of focusing in on the PMO and this reminds me of recent conversations. We had a podcast with Trisha Mercaldo who’s working in a PMO right now and we were talking about collaboration in the PMO which this is all sort of reminiscent of some of the things that we were talking about with her. 

 

 So, it would be interesting. I know there’s other existing clients that we have where we have relationships with folks in the PMO so it would be good. I’m always for the more … collaboration is such a broad topic. 

 

Bruce Harple: It is. 

 

Danny Ryan: If we can figure out certain key people within whether everybody thinks will come up with some sort of industry solution. Well, this is … let’s pick a department. Let’s pick somebody within the organization and how can they get their hands on this and get the value out of it and talk about things that they can do and move forward with. I’m glad to hear you guys are … that this is an area that you’re focusing in on. I think it’s great. 

 

Bruce Harple: Yeah, I think the team is excited about it. I think we’re … again, we feel like we’re pretty good at doing project team collaboration. We really are trying to look at ways we can leverage Office 365 to be more effective with what we do. Both kind of inter-team collaboration but also collaborate with the customer. You know there’s a lot of collaboration that takes place between us and our customers and they’re part of the team. It’s one big integrated team. I think through proof of concepts, through things that we’re doing there’s a lot we could show people. 

 

Danny Ryan: That reminds me I was just talking about different industries, this might be something that in general professional services firms would be interested in this. 

 

Bruce Harple: Oh, absolutely. 

 

Danny Ryan: It’s helped them out with what we do. It’s one of those things that why not? If we can get them … us being smaller… probably because we’re smaller can allow for innovation really to flourish just naturally because you’re smaller you can move faster. Can help out some larger professional services organizations with what they do and that would be interesting to see if we get some traction there. 

 

Bruce Harple: Yeah, absolutely. 

 

Danny Ryan: Anything else before we wrap up? 

 

Bruce Harple: That is it. I’m just trying to whet everybody’s appetite and to say there’s more to come. 

 

Danny Ryan: I like getting people excited about things. I’m all about it. I look forward to covering these topics later on this year. Sounds like you’re doing this as a team. 

 

Bruce Harple: We are. 

 

Danny Ryan: So, you’re soliciting the help of some other folks to produce some of this content and I love it. Thank you. Also, just since I’m sitting here with you I have to have my quarterly thank you for all that you do, Bruce, you’re awesome. 

 

 Again, I’m amazed with what we hear back from customers and knock on wood. We’re still at 100 with our NPS score. I know I’m going to probably jinx us there with that. But, it’s incredible what you guys do. I just want to encourage you to keep doing it and keep being successful on every project. 

 

Bruce Harple: Yeah, we have an amazing team. Amazing group of people here so proud to be here. 

 

Danny Ryan: Awesome. Well, thank you, Bruce, for doing this. Thank you everybody for listening and have a wonderful day. Thank you. Bye, bye. 

 

Danny RyanProject Team Collaboration

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