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Microsoft Teams: Remote work, DevOps and Team Efficiency: How To Combine Them?
11 June 2020
by Jean-Paul Lizotte

Unlike many others, my concept of DevOps is not that of a new guru indispensable to operations. On the contrary, it is a collection of principles and practices that bring together implementation and operations teams. To this end, we must put in place processes that help people and provide them with the right tools.  I do not miss a chance to do organizational jiu-jistu to make the work easier and more enjoyable. I received a huge boost when our partner Microsoft launched its collaboration tool “Teams”. And as for the Ops in DevOps, sometimes I imagine it means opportunistic, because I am. 

Not that there was nothing like it or that it was impossible to do what we can do now with the help of Teams, but the ease of simplicity and integration, in my humble opinion, is unmatched in the market. The integrity, reliability, and level of maintenance that Microsoft’s products offer (their detractors will say what they want) diminish my daily concern about the durability of our internal solutions. Our Microsoft partner usually makes sure that everything is easy for us. But as far as Teams is concerned, apart from a particular and personalized integration, this kind of attention was not really necessary. 

And since my specialty is reorganizing work, the challenge is great with the advent of containment. So, what are the ingredients for keeping your team efficiency when all the members are forced to work from home, and for an indefinite period? 

Teams, or how to keep and develop team efficiency 

If I were to capture in three phrases the essence of what Teams brings, it would be: easy integration, improved communication, enhanced cohesion. Certainly, integration is a daily concern. I’m talking about the integrity of the teams as much as the cohesion of the tools. In our methodology, the morning scrum is absolutely necessary. Synchronization and effective communication depend on an easy and quick point of contact; Teams is certainly an easy way to achieve this. Whether it’s to make a mock-up on the board, share a screen to explain a case, an incident or a particular situation (it bugs my computer), Teams meetings are a great help. 

The exchange of documents and the centralization of these, via the integrated “Sharepoint” helps us to return often to a context that might otherwise be feverish to share. Indeed, it is now easy to go back to a previous discussion and find the attachments in the discussion itself, or to simply consult the documents tab to see everything you have thrown at a colleague. 

I love tabs in Teams. Between the PowerBi dashboards that expose and make objective the team efficiency metrics and the integration of Azure DevOps, I feel like I can find everything immediately. Oh, and speaking of this one, I also like the fact that you can add work items in a discussion. The “context” of the work is often the weak point of remote collaboration, not knowing what we’re talking about is a hindrance, too often it only happens once a day. Teams eclipses it in every way imaginable. 

The fact that our calendar and meetings are notified like other messages in the discussions also helps us keep up. Because timing is also a way to stay organized. Without getting too hung up on metaphors, having the same or similar pace has been critical to maintaining the viability of our clients’ critical applications. The “where,” the “when” and the “what” we are is defined by our ability to stay in sync. 

With Teams’ integrated notifications, we know when important events have taken place, whether it’s a medium-size terminal, when unit tests have been integrated or when a deployment is underway in the test environment. It will remain trivial, even after our collective containment, to keep teams and owners informed of the actions and various stages of the implementation of their applications, contributing to the team efficiency.

Microsoft Teams & Team Efficiency

 

Teams also means strengthening cohesion and communication 

If I seem to have spent a lot of time on integration it is because cohesion and communication, I repeat, are the most critical ingredients to maintain with decentralised work. The fact remains that the libertine and sometimes even playful aspect of Teams is not to be neglected. 

We’ve created “unstructured” areas free of organizational constraints, where people can be both creative and friendly with each other. It makes it possible to chat with a colleague from another team who has completely different concerns, either for official reasons or just to relax a bit. The change of scenery and the new perspective offered by someone away from our immediate concerns is very refreshing, even necessary. 

A “coffee machine” meeting area has thus been created and is becoming a focal point for people to exchange once a day, to give them the feeling that they are still all in the same family, united in the same effort. Virtual “happy hours” have also become a reality. Thanks to the ease of meeting in large numbers with Teams, and the quick exchange of hyperlinks or screens, games and jokes circulate effortlessly. It removes the psychological pressure of having to maintain a constant seriousness and isolation. 

We have also created areas where people can experiment. We have made developers, managers, and marketing people “owners” in some teams. Since Teams is constantly evolving, this gives them the chance to try out new features and integrate new tools to test and break in, and then offer them to the entire organization. Experimentation is a critical aspect of our DevOps principles. 

To date, they have discovered ways to ensure that the specifications are compliant and that the value requested in the changes is adequate. They have the autonomy to add functionalities or to communicate their own needs to the different teams, especially the operations team. To everyone’s delight, responses are fast, efficient, and user-friendly. 

Communication and the DevOps approach, the keys to success 

For if we learned anything in this new “distributed” adventure of containment, it is that effective communication requires extra effort. This is often imposed on the person seeking help from another. Teams has somewhat democratized this effort and has certainly minimized it. By offering a rapprochement, an ease of being both vocal and visual, Teams has made communication more structured. Indirectly, it has also demanded a more cohesive organization but has also peppered it with new possibilities. 

My love for integrating tools and processes to serve users is certainly apparent. But when those users are sometimes hyper-technical or people hovering 10,000 meters above the technology, I’m glad to have Microsoft and Teams in my corner right now. I can’t see myself collating all the disparate tools, to be able to do what we need to do and what we’ve discovered since then, with the other tool suites. 

Being confined is not to be helpless. At Emyode we were given what we needed to empower us to navigate through this challenge and keep the team efficiency. And I’m glad to be able to announce that it could just as well, be as easy for you, just by integrating Microsoft Teams. And I invite you to contact us if you need to talk to someone about it! 

Talk to you soon.