Collaboration isn’t about working on the same thing at the same time, though that’s one part of it. Collaboration is about working together effectively.
Collaborate. verb. To work, one with another. ~ Macquarie Australian Dictionary, 3rd Edition.
When you think about how you’ve learned field service management, how much of it has been picked up along the way?
In building myFLO we drew on a deep knowledge about core principles in field service management and workflow. And while it’s useful to us, it’s also useful to you.
In this article, we talk about collaboration. It’s the third in a series about core principles. The first was about standardising your process, and the second was about the information lifecycle. In this one, you guessed it, we’re talking about collaboration.
Step 1: Let’s define ‘collaboration’
If you use tools like Google Drive (now called G-Suite), you may be forgiven for thinking that collaboration means working on the same thing at the same time. It’s not. Collaboration is about working together effectively.
In the past thirty years, collaboration has been something of a buzzword. It’s the solution to all of our problems. It’s the light in our darkness. But in the past two years or so, those at the forefront of management have started to notice that it has a dark side. The dark side is the tendency to get stuck in meaningless consultation - either in meetings or by email - and by draining your most giving employees.
This happens because collaboration is poorly understood. Yes, it’s about working with each other. But it’s not necessarily about working on the same things at the same time. It’s also not necessarily about working on those things in the same space.
Field teams are required to collaborate if they are going to function well. But, don’t mistake ‘collaboration’ for being ‘work on the same thing’.
This is an important separation when it comes to software and workflow process. Working together can mean simultaneous input. But it can also mean that you have the right information workflow, one that enables a single goal to be reached easily, no matter how many people make it happen.
Step 2: Support all sides of your business
Whatever the collaborative outcome, make sure that every part of your business is supported.
Field team management requires all parts of your organisation to work together. One of the risks in deploying a software solution can be that the software supports just one element or silo, but neglects the others. An example could be a customer management solution that does not handle the operations involved in allocating the resources required to support the customers.
One of the easiest ways to get around this is to think about it in terms of your customers. What would you need if you were to achieve a seamless delivery of your service? That amazing experience can happen when all of the required input is handled easily.
Serving your clients really means a cohesive organisation
Ultimately, everything you do is in service to your clientele. When your clients are happy, they’re happier to pay you. Their payments fund your salary. Even in a round-about way, happy clients enable you to pay your people.
Great service starts with happy and well-informed teams. For more about this, go back and read the lifecycle management article. In that article, we saw that providing great service is as much about timely information as anything else.
Giving your field team the capacity to make decisions quickly helps your business to deliver every time.
Where does collaboration fit here? Collaborating in this sense means that you have a central location for everything: Every piece of relevant information at the right time, in the same place, accessible by everyone whenever it is needed in the workflow.
Great collaborations are further enabled by the right automations. Automating the right elements of the work allows you to get things done more quickly and more easily.
Step 3: Be clear about who is responsible and accountable
Collaboration doesn’t require a flat, democratic structure. Perhaps on the surface it may look like this when it works well. But the truth is, great collaborations are driven by someone or some thing. Each party to the collaboration is purposeful, responsible, and accountable.
That’s why having a common goal is so important! When everyone wants to achieve the same thing, working together becomes easier.
While you can start collaborating before you’ve given much thought to either standardisation or lifecycle management, it won’t be the greatest idea you’ve ever had. Better is to be very clear about who owns which part of the process, and who is responsible for which piece of information. Doing this early on is going to empower your team members, and will help you troubleshoot problems if they occur.
Step 4: Aim for smart collaboration
When you design and implement a good workflow management system, it should help you to collaborate smartly. Collaboration doesn’t mean that you need more meetings. In fact, a smartly collaborating organisation may have fewer of them.
An organisation that collaborates in a smart way is extremely clear about reviews and approvals, and its systems will help to drive that work. It means that the rules for good collaboration were defined ahead of time, and it allows the system to allocate items for approval only when it’s necessary.
The thinking you do when you standardise your work will help you to work smarter rather than harder.
Great field teams collaborate easily
Collaboration is a critical element in a good workflow management solution. Your teams need to be able to add, draw on, and question information at just the right time. This is what lets them work together in a way that gives your clients outstanding service.
At myFLO, we have been helping people solve this issue of collaboration almost since we started. Our platform grew out of a need to enable easier information management and handling, with the flexibility to adapt and grow as you do.
To learn more about how we can help your team, give us a call on 1300 78 46 60.
 Harmon, Sharni. The dark side of collaboration, in Huffpost. 5 March 2016.
 Cross, Rob. Rebele, Reb. Grant, Adam. Collaborative overload, in Harvard Business Review. Jan-Feb 2016.