Stage 2: Still Testing…..

Monday March 2nd, 2020. Voyansi, then AEC Lab consisted of 3 project team members: two software developers and our PjM/ head of Software, Libo. Similar to countless other spinoffs, we began this voyage with the tools we had in hand when we left AEC Resource.

I’m writing this post today because it’s always darkest before the dawn. If you are familiar with Tuckman’s Stages of Team Development, you probably recognize from my title that (almost) 1 year ago today, we were in stage #2, Storming.

If we were collaborating on a joint AEC Lab / AEC Resource project we used Microsoft Teams to communicate and SharePoint to store our files. Internally, we used G-Suite and Discord to communicate and collaborate. I remember I was easing into work when I just snapped. We had 3 chat channels, 2 emails accounts, 3 apps to write ideas and create dashboards, and numerous places where files were stored and accessed.

Again, at this moment, the team was just 3 people, but for our size, we were dealing with a large number of projects. That Monday I asked Libo what was going on. He told me: “We are still testing, our system is not ready”. That was a bleak feeling.

A couple of weeks later, the number of apps in our system shrunk. This gave us an opportunity to really get familiar with our new suite of tools and learn the limitations. We were firmly in the “Norming” stage at this point, but we wanted to go beyond. The “Performing” stage was in sight with our next step: completely integrating our system to become a data-driven company. Today I can say we have a strong data ecosystem with a consistent way to handle our data and communication.

This last year has really challenged everyone by changing the needs of newly distributed teams to work and collaborate together. My colleague Mike noted he now had 8 video conferencing tools installed on his computer. As I’ve personally experienced, a high number of tools means that it’s harder to be proficient, much less skilled with all of them.

Even if your team is not newly formed, you may feel like you are in the storming phase! If you are feeling this way, new ways of working and collaborating remotely are a good opportunity to take a moment and consider the tools you are using. Here are some tips from my experience during this transition:

  1. Don’t be afraid to change what you are doing today and try out new tools.
  2. Test many applications. Do not select the first you try, just because you liked it initially.
  3. Think about your full suite of tools. What systems or steps in your workflows can be automated or integrated. What does each tool you decide to keep or purchase get you, and is it easy to add or pull data from it?
  4. Systems are living tools. Don’t be afraid of change, new functionality or features usually mean you are able to do more in less time.

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