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Are you attending to “The School of Hard Knocks” or learning from someone that was or is there?. Well, in my case I think I got lifetime tuition as I like to experiment and work on self learning, but at the same time I am trying to get knowledge from those that learned on their own and are able to share their expertise, and what better place to find Atlassian knowledge than this community site? (check those stats for 2018!)
While I am thinking about the adoption of a new piece of software, I keep in my mind the impact on the End User, they have enough challenges with their daily duties and here we are with new additional activities that will seat on top of their already filled list. By working as Electronic Health Software implementation Project Manager and supporting our team that is staying closely to new users, I learned that every day we could have a surprise that might change the development of the whole effort. As my friend and mentor Sam Williams used to tell me “Who knows what the morning tide could bring in?” And that is what I constantly have in my thoughts when I address the needs of my team adopting the Atlassian platform.
In this article I will write about some of the hurdles that I had to overcome during the last years assisting teams in the process of adopting the new tools that are supposed to make their life easier, boosting their performance and keeping their emails inbox less cluttered… (well, that was the idea right?)
Before moving from Argentina to California I was never exposed to the practice of High School Track and Field until recently when one of my daughter, Daniela, started learning about it and competing on multiple meets. She began without any idea about the sport but her Coach (Jeff Hodges) was able to instill in her the vision of what she could accomplish. Last year her picture hurdling was selected to be the cover of the High School Schedule and to me was a moment of satisfaction, not only as a proud father but as an individual that admires dedicated mentors and teachable students. So, I asked her about this practice, my goal was to find out how their acquisition of discipline and motivation to move towards their vision could be transferred to my current experience of mentoring my colleagues overcoming the hurdles of adopting Atlassian collaboration tools.
Dedicated mentors and teachable students will accomplish their goals and inspire others.
What I see in her picture are the aspects that I would like to transfer to our new users,
But from all of her answers, there is one phrase that she told me once when she failed: “The rest of the race is depending in how I do my first hurdle, and today I did that wrong”. That phrase still resonate in my mind every time I see a new user of our proposed platform. It is exactly the same in new software adoption world, if the user get frustrated in their first contact with the platform, the attitude to overcome subsequent challenges will not be the best one and the probability of failure will be increased exponentially. Therefore, as instructors and mentors, be sure we pad the first hurdles, facilitate the effort to overcome them and, despite of having the end on mind, keep our focus on the initial steps, the foundation of our adopters success.
Here are some of the hurdles that I faced during my journey with Confluence, Jira and other Atlassian products. As I explain those challenges, and how I overcome them, I will share lessons learned and actions taken. (I will also include references to 2019 Summit presentations if they could help providing more information to overcome the hurdle)
My PM role is mainly on implementation of Healthcare Software, specifically Electronic Heard Records, system based on VistA, a whole Hospital Management System developed by the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the foundation of our Open Source offering called vxVistA (www.vxvista.org). A system that has more than 130 integrated modules.
I remember our team first meeting, just few months after arriving to USA. “We need to implement and configure CPRS, IFCAP, Kernel, PMIS, RADS., LAB, PHARM, etc.” I was lost with the number of acronyms included in just one statement. It was all NEW to me, and totally out of context, so any interpretation or translation was impossible.
Now, think for a second, the first meeting with a new Confluence or Jira User. “Hi, we will talk about Dashboards, Spaces, Pages, Wiki, Macros, apps, sections, issues, status, workflow, information radiation and more...”. How is that different to my experience with the acronyms?. How we can avoid this first sour impact of a new user?.
Set.., Go: My approach was to create a comprehensive Lingo dictionary so any term or acronym used in our standards communication could be easily understood. For our open source community we used Questions for Confluence and for our internal enterprise configuration we created a generic knowledge base space in Confluence.
Folders, files, emails with or without attachments to manage important decisions were and are a common practice to create and share information. It is one of the most acquired habits. Emails as example, despite of many factors that indicate that it is not a good practice to support traceability, it is the key driver of many businesses today. How we could break that habit?.
Set.., Go: This is a hard one, what I did was just to show the benefits of alternative solutions, demonstrating multiple features of Confluence to: generate native content as wiki pages, promote the use of comments, decisions, blueprints and templates, usage of likes, reporting, page properties and page properties macros, featuring well built pages with good content and motivate the interception of emails converting them into pages to continue the discussions there. I also try to get them into the scenario of being a new team member and I ask them to imagine trying to access to other people's email inbox, probably impossible, right? Well, how easy could be if supporting historical information is published in Confluence pages?
It is common to organize collaboration environments with a department taxonomy and keep the content isolated for members of that area only. It is not a bad approach until we have multidisciplinary projects or endeavor, where members of various areas are part of the overall objective. If the members of this multidisciplinary team keep developing content on their “own island” without openly sharing with other team members, we are just fostering the generation of “information silos” where only partial information will be shared or easily found.
Set.., Go: One of the approach we took to avoid the repetition of this scenario in Confluence and Jira was to avoid the initial creation of department spaces and projects, instead we took the path of developing a Product Centric approach, where each product “space/project” was like a grape in a bunch of grapes, containing all the information related to that product. In this way, team members knew that if a architectural design, or brochure, or video demonstration is needed, they could go to the product space to find it instead of reaching each one of the department in charge of the generation of that piece of information.
Later, after old habits were changed, we created areas team spaces with the only condition that non product content should be there. Of course, it is not an approach that will work on all type of organizations. However, it is very effective when you start a new Confluence and Jira implementation from scratch.
Josh Lowy - Building a Culture of Success on Open Principles
In my opinion, there is no real success if a team is not involved. As in sport, we cheer the success of an individual on a race, but we know that there is a team behind that trophy. Besides, during the journey, there was, per sure, a lot of collaboration and ideas exchanges. It is part of the game and human interaction, but, how we can foster collaboration among team members?.
Set.., Go: By using Open collaboration tools like Confluence and Jira we can engage team members to actively participate on content development, knowledge sharing, discussions, co-editing and co-design. To engage them, managers could pick a topic of the month and invite their team to elaborate and build up on top of it, adding other point of view or branching on new discussions. At the end, we are just providing the perfect landscape to nurture human iteration, one of the most required and difficult aspect to improve online communities. Try also using the environment for alternative activities, like social events where they can use Jira for event planning and Confluence for event news and picture gallery.
Dominik Katz - Feedback Is the New Black: Building Trust So You Can Scale
I found a situation where the initially designed tracking tool was also carrying all the heavy load of related information along with the artifact to be tracked. Tracking that element during the life cycle goes from the beginning to the end, when eventually we close it and archive it, buried with other artifacts. Then, our focus goes back to the active ones and if we do not nurture good practices some of the information of the closed ones get lost and never transferred to the final documentation, knowledge base or releases.
Set..., Go: And here is where the idea of Confluence and Jira are better together. We instructed our team to develop and keep the supporting documentation in Confluence with little information on Jira so we can focus on the actual life cycle and team interaction. Despite all of this, and that the information was just a click away, it was not easy for all team members to rely on Confluence and the idea of attachments or heavy load of information was also residing on Jira. To foster the use of the new wiki tool, and break the habit of loading the tracking tool with valuable information, the team decided to limit the type of attachments to the minimum, trying to force the users to generate native content in Confluence and link it to the issue to be tracked. Hard to sell and conflictive approach, but effective on the initial phase of the implementation.
Henry Cunningham - Jonathan Katahanas - Not Getting the Message? Tips and Tools to Removing Communication Silos On Your Teams
I still remember the huge announcement of a highly expected release, a rich editor and other key features for Confluence. It was great and welcome, until we have to explain it to old users that spent a good amount of time mastering Confluence markups. On the other hand, it was well received by new users that enjoy the new onboarding experience without any complain, until a major change will impact them and shake a little bit their comfort zone.
Dealing with changes is for many a challenge and as administrators of the platform we need to be aware of it and be prepared. Atlassian is well known for adopting new technologies and for having a good release pace, always on the edge of innovation. However, there is another side of the story, and that is coming for the Marketplace, no all the vendors were or are prepared to follow the same pace due to many reasons, resources, knowledge, business priority, etc. The impact in your configuration will be eminent and you could get trapped waiting for apps to be updated, the danger is that Atlassian will continue releasing new version of your platform products and the gap will be increased.
Set.., Go: Here is where you need to set the boundaries in how big the gap between your existing version and the latest release will be acceptable. Don’t get behind or the impact on uses will be too big to absorb and a shake on their comfort zone will looks like an earthquake to some of them. If you face this situation, contact the vendors and find out their upgrade plans and for each app you install from marketplace, create a contingency plan to activate it in the case the app is not longer available for your platform. Keep the user experience in top of your priorities while you keep the pace of upgrades, prepare a good training and notification, don’t focus only on the technical feasibility and instrument an action plan for end users as well. Well informed team is the key to success on the adoption and maintenance of collaboration tools and its continuity on the adoption path, nobody likes surprises on a tool that was created to perform better or do their job. My lesson learned here is that it is better to delay the upgrade a little bit and spend more time designing a good communication and training plan before moving the switch to a major user experience change.
Related Article: The Purpose of The Atlassian Marketplace
More Hurdles on Part 2. Sorry, I run out of space but I am working on the Part 2 of this Article. While I was writing these lines I was thinking about each one of you, community members, that spend time answering questions, helping others and writing books to share your knowledge (like @Jobin Kuruvilla [Adaptavist]@Rachel Wright@Matt Doar , and other authors). Thanks for being such good mentors and I hope each one of us can be good teachable students. To all of you, my heroes, Thanks!
Remember, as mentors and trainers, we have just one opportunity to cause a good First Impression. Only one chance to help our trainees to successfully overcome the first hurdle. An event that will set the mood and their attitude moving forward. As in Hurdling, the way you overcome the first hurdle will position you on the right path... or not.
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Fabian A. Lopez (Community Leader - Argentina, Florida, California)