Digital Teamwork: How We Work With Our Customers and Internally

Digitales Teamwork, digitale Zusammenarbeit, digitale Teams: Egal, wie man es nennt, wichtig ist die Organisation der Arbeit, um produktiv zu sein.

Digital teamwork has become a decisive factor for successful work organization, especially since the coronavirus pandemic made remote work the norm in most offices. If you are aware of the challenges and find suitable solutions, hybrid or even completely remote teams can be even more efficient than the team that traditionally spends five days in the office. At tracekey, everyone feels very comfortable with the hybrid working situation. We have learned a lot about digital teamwork over the past few years and worked on it together. 

Since the first emergency solutions that the sudden home office during COVID-19 brought about, many companies have been focusing on long-term solutions that enable digital teamwork. Regardless of whether work is decentralized, shared in the office, or hybrid, it´s always a challenge. In most cases, however, it can be solved well with jointly developed structures and suitable tools and rules.

Challenges for digital teams

Communication is always a challenge for people working together. Digital teamwork can be problematic, particularly if there aren´t suitable measures taken in advance. It’s hard to have a personal and direct connection when you can’t sit face-to-face or walk over to the next office to discuss something. Under certain circumstances, this can lead to “I would have done it this way” sounding like “you made a big mess”. With a well-defined set of communication rules, handling communication becomes easy and hassle-free, even in digital working situations. 

Another stumbling block: Dealing with excessive digital information can be overwhelming. It comes through various channels such as chat, email, and WhatsApp messages all at once, instead of being discussed in person over coffee.

Digitally working teams must, therefore, inevitably establish fixed structures for meetings, set up communication rules, and determine which information is shared via which channel. It is the responsibility of management to establish clear rules to prevent overworking. Breaks and fixed working hours must be mandatory, and no bonuses should be given for unnecessary overtime.

We often forget that socializing with the sole purpose of building relationships is crucial for successful teamwork in the digital age. It’s not just about making project-related agreements. However, it is about digitally mapping the casual conversations that occur around the coffee machine or during lunch breaks. To foster a sense of community and connection in the digital workplace, it’s important to show appreciation, plan events, and engage in casual conversations both in-person and digitally. This can be achieved by sharing pictures of past on-site workshops or excursions in the chat and thanking those who helped tidy up the office after events like the Christmas party. All these efforts help create a positive and supportive work environment.

What does (digital) teamwork mean at tracekey?

At tracekey, we have always worked in agile structures. That is why we rely on digital tools such as Kanban boards to organize our tasks. For us, teamwork has always meant that all tasks in a team can be taken on by any team member. To ensure efficient task management and seamless teamwork, we have implemented a process where we have daily meetings to discuss progress and crucial tasks. Additionally, we make sure to document all relevant information and comments on each task’s ticket. This practice helps anyone unfamiliar with the topic to easily catch up and take over in case of absence or illness. 

Good digital teamwork is also based on trust. For example, that agreements are kept or that all information is passed on. This also includes continuously learning from each other and making knowledge available in the internal wiki. Digital teamwork requires even more than knowing and correctly assessing your skills in an analog environment. It also means knowing how others work. Can I call the person directly or am I better off writing a short message? Otherwise, should I schedule an appointment because I could disrupt their focus? How can tasks be divided up so that everyone can contribute productively?

We have been relying on digital collaboration for over 10 years

A major advantage of our company organization and our SaaS offering is that we have always worked with our customers digitally. Contracts are negotiated in online meetings, processes for successful collaboration are defined, training in our software is carried out, and services are provided – all via digital tools. Our regular customer newsletter also contributes to successful digital teamwork. In addition to specific instructions on how to deal with software updates, we also address recurring service requests and explain step-by-step how certain processes work. Further, all functions in our software solution are geared towards digital collaboration. One example is the dedicated role concept. The concept defines which process step in the serialization workflow is performed by which role and which tasks have been taken over by tracekey. Additionally, collaboration is supported by the notification function, which, for example, provides information about upcoming tasks in our reporting app.

Thanks to years of experience in digital teamwork with our customers, it was no problem to transfer this to our internal work.

At tracekey, we do not work fully remotely but work flexibly in the office and from home. However, this also means that all teams always have to work in hybrid mode. With a few exceptions, of course, for example on shared office days. We pursue a few strategies in all teams that benefit digital teamwork.

Saying good morning in the chat

Depending on the size of the company or department, you can see at a glance whether someone from the team is absent on site. For a good overview, tracekey has an official vacation calendar and a chat with daily messages for each team. Additionally, HR sends out notifications about sick colleagues. Everyone says good morning, announces their breaks and says goodbye at the end of the day. This makes it clear who is available and who is out walking the dog.

Short wire – also digital

Of course, it’s easier to just call over the screen if you have a question about the current graphic for the upcoming meeting. As this easy way of communication is so important, it should also be available digitally. For example, fixed meeting structures that enable daily team exchanges are suitable for this. But also, a cross-team chat that can be used for funny memes as well as for questions or messages.

Meetings – as efficient as possible

Digital meetings require a lot of concentration. Subsequently, they need to be at least as efficient as analog meetings. The following points have become established at tracekey:

– Before the cross-team monthly closing meeting, we look at our agenda together and it is clearly defined who tells what, when, and why.

– During planning meetings, there is a specific structure that everyone follows. Firstly, all topics are briefly presented. Then, the company decides on what they want to work on during a specific period. After that, individual topics are further discussed in small groups. The attendees also determine who needs to be involved in the review process of a task and when.

– The meetings always end on time and a follow-up is scheduled if needed, to ensure breaks are taken.

– Equipment is everything: comfortable headphones, good cameras, and sound systems in the large meeting room all benefit the digital and, above all, hybrid way of working.

Advantages of digital teamwork

To fully realize the benefits of joint digital collaboration, proper organization of the team and availability of necessary structures and equipment are crucial. This applies not only to remote teams but also to those who work in the same physical location. When these requirements are met, digital work can undoubtedly offer significant advantages. Take the example of online meetings. Better planning makes them more efficient. Also, everyone realizes that staring at little faces for three hours straight is not very productive. People who were unable to attend the meeting can simply watch the recording later and not miss anything.

Clear communication rules can prevent stress and mistakes. If only because more thought has been put into them. For example, who is affected by a topic and, therefore, needs to be included in the meeting or email? If work is done digitally, more digital tools are inevitably used. Shared whiteboards, Kanban boards, or wikis support the exchange of information and, therefore, teamwork.

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