Software in the Workplace

I realize there will be many points of view on this, but I wanted to address an issue that I suspect many of you have come across at work; colleague “buy-in” with certain apps.

I was thinking of this while browsing the Craft Deep-Dive thread a few minutes ago. A lot of people mention how easy it is to share documents and collaborate.

I work in Canadian healthcare, so it’s a very Microsoft-heavy environment as I suspect a lot of places are all around the world. I always get a chuckle when I see a thread where someone says they collaborate with people in Craft or have their entire team on Slack. Where I work, it’s a struggle just to keep people semi-literate in Word, let alone something that drives the whole team through a project.

The pandemic forced a lot of us “IT” folks to begin working from home. I have to say we’ve come a long way since 2020. Teams, Office 365 where we used to have an older version – they’re all new additions that in some cases proved to be a bit tricky to get up and running for everyone.

I know this is highly dependent on what area of work you’re in, who you’re working with etc, but I tried to set up a “Departmental News & Updates” board in Trello a few years back and everyone was extremely put out by this. Having to create an account, having to learn a new system – it lasted all of a week I think.

I guess I just came here to try and get a better understanding of a work environment where these niche apps can thrive, and to see if any of you try to “evangelize” certain apps with your colleagues but not being able to break through to get any sort of buy in.

If I asked my team to share stuff in Craft tomorrow, they’d all roll their eyes and half the people would never accept the invitation to join.

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Nice topic. Getting new software and processes adopted at work from the bottom up (or middle out, really) is one of my favorite things to do. You’re absolutely right that if you just create something and suggest people use it, it will fail.

My most successful approach has been to find the one other person who thinks similarly and start using the tool together. Work out the organization-specific kinks. Talk with them about who to invite next. As you slowly let people into the circle, keep reformulating your explanation of what you’re doing based on the real usage you’re seeing. Look for small departments or friend circles you can invite all at once (especially when tools have a social component or can be occasionally used for fun, not just serious work.)

Eventually, there will be the first all-hands meeting where someone says, “there’s this tool we’ve been using that would be great for this,” and that person who hates change or doesn’t understand software will have a look that’s only 50% skeptical. After that, it’s usually downhill to formal adoption.

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There’s a very much indie / self employed bent to a lot of posts on here and that’s where these products thrive.
People are very sniffy about the MS products, but in large corporations they work well enough.

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Same here, I use Office (which I like) and cannot install anything on my work laptop. I am only to use the software I am given. I requested Microsoft Todo since it’s part of Office (which we use) and was told no to even that. Reading forums like this always feels a bit alien to me when work software comes up.

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Same here: working at a multi year client Projekt for a government part and everything is tightly locked down or forbidden. We just updated to Microsoft office 2019 two months ago and use Skype and OneNote for pretty much everything. Cloud is an absolute no go and it took several months for us to at least get VS-Code allowance :blush:. Guidelines are extremely tight and maintained - one colleague had to leave the project in a matter of two hours after he downloaded an app onto his work laptop 🫣. So I better not start doing anything like that - and at the same time people don’t seem to complain a lot here … I assume many are not really tech savvy and take barebone MS Office 2019 as huge improvement :smirk:

Having been working with Microsoft Office products for 30 years, I certainly realize they are extremely useful for getting things done. I have always hated Word and rarely fire it up. PowerPoint and Excel though are constant daily drivers for most of my work, in addition to Outlook (not a huge fan) and Teams, which is “fine” (not ultra-fine, if you know what I mean).

As you have noted, many issues are cultural rather than technical. Even if you invite people to meetings at a time where their calendars indicate a “free” time-slot, that is no guarantee they will show up, or even reply to your invite. Our Teams meetings are mostly off-camera still, a large percentage of people feel uncomfortable with being on camera during meetings.

Corporate machines are locked down for many reasons that make life less fun and less productive, but the risk profile for your company’s operation might warrant this. I’m with a large outsourcing provider, so our IT guys are contractually obligated to ensure they feel confident about what’s on each and every machine that connect to our client’s networks. My personal preference for a particular piece of software is not a part in this equation.

My tip would be to learn how to love MS Office - it will probably be there until the end of your career.

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I actually don’t mind Office at all. I use OneNote at work due to the sensitive nature of the information I keep, so I wouldn’t want to put this in a personal cloud storage area – that could cause issues. I don’t mind the separation the apps create between home and work either. On my phone for example, my Work Focus mode has Teams, OneNote, OneDrive, and Outlook, while my iPhone is usually set to Evernote and Spark.

I do use Todoist to keep all my tasks in one place, but other than that there’s good separation. That may be a nightmare for some but for me, it works.

It’s more the culture of people who immediately say “I’m not good with tech” or who refuse to try anything new. Mixing the people who use file folders and post-it notes on their walls with people like us who “app” it up – it doesn’t always equate to seamless sharing in apps like Craft or Notion, to say nothing of the severe privacy violations that would take place in certain environments.

One possible “common” tool that could be acceptable (if you can get around the “stored in the cloud” aspect) are collaborative whiteboard solutions like Miró and Mural. They are (IMHO) as simple as it gets, and they sure respect the post-it users.

I have found these super useful to get great inputs from participants who prefer non-verbal communication over talking up in a group setting - and it is amazing to see ideas pouring in on the board when lots of people are on there.

Still - super frustrating with the users who plain refuse to acknowledge that computers are a thing now. :slight_smile:

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Locked-down environments and processes in medium-to-large organizations leave so much effectiveness on the table, though. It’s easy to say that Office is fine, and also easy to say that people around you should just understand how to try new software and throw up your hands. What’s hard, but worthwhile, is to actually take the organization to where it needs to be through a mix of formal and informal adoption methods.

The success of demand-driven enterprise sales (e.g., Slack going in to large employers to unify all the ghost usage) over the last decade is a testament to this.

This is true, and probably well known. Still won’t matter one bit in most of the big companies though. This is the main driver behind shadow IT, which is alive and well.

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Correct. And MS Server is excellent at managing huge networks. With all the data breach liabilities locked-down computers are a must in bigger companies.

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Microsoft’s Whiteboard app is gradually getting better. It’s not up to the standard of Miro, but it’s getting there. If you’re already in the Microsoft Ecosystem, it’s worth a look.

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Getting better perhaps, but still quite terrible in comparison. Soon usable, I hope :slight_smile:

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I use Microsoft products 5 days a week and I’m not sniffy about them… but I do swear at them constantly! I believe Microsoft’s software division motto is “Never let good enough be the enemy of shipped.” (To say nothing of the design department’s altogether more simplistic motto “MORE WHITESPACE!”)

100%. In fact… 200%. Outlook is a dumpster fire on Windows. Teams slowly gets worse but started out in a decent place.

But to the OP’s issue, it took me years to get my team of 6 (including me) to buy into what we call our “wiki”. It did actually start as a (text-based) wiki, but later migrated to OneNote for simplicity. This repository now includes over 600 articles, at last count, that cover just about everything we do. From team contact details, to timesheet codes, to how complex (software) processes work, to what goes wrong from time to time and how to deal with it, to ‘backgrounders’ on various technologies and tools we use, to hints and tips, to common issues we see that we can reassign to others without delay, to all manner of other stuff.

Apart from sheer persistence, the following helped me get it accepted:

  • As soon as I found one other team member who appeared to “get it” I gave them some more in-depth tutorials and went out of my way to be helpful to them in getting the hang of it.
  • When anything came up that should have been documented in the wiki, I made mention of it in the team chat. Every time.
  • When I quickly solved a problem by referencing any content already recorded, I exclaimed how easy it had been. Every time.
  • When someone was crowing about having figured out something complex, I would mention it would be a great idea to get it in the wiki.

And so on. Eventually each team member began to get actual value for themselves out of it. Once that had happened for a bit, I was seeing new content appear without any prompting. It still took me a while to get some people to do a decent job, though I accepted that sometimes, a quick “memory dump” was a useful starting point. (Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.)

Now I can hardly keep up with the changes and no-one ever mentions the wiki except to reference information in it, or occasionally to ask “why isn’t there something in the wiki about this?” which is usually followed by an apology from someone for not having got around to it.

In summary, make it part of conversation every single day and make sure everyone has an opportunity to see the value they can derive from it. And it’s very much an “attack in depth” (to adapt a phrase) to get the message across.

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I tried something similar to your Trello board, but using Padlet. It didn’t even require an account to view or post. No one contributed a single thing. I’ve worked in the UK National Health Service and at universities. All very Microsoft-based, and most people are at the level of using bold, italic, etc in Word - but not paragraph styles.

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Ugh. Teams. Agree it was ok to begin with; now it’s so bloated. Can they squeeze something else in there? You bet!