Some people insist on working their own ways, and IT managers like to respect different working styles. But many engineers ask, “I don't need to know four ways. Just tell me the best way so that's all I have to remember.” (It’s great when people seek suggestions, because we can encourage the method that captures a project history, as with transmittal logs.) Tips for engineers and IT managers when implementing new software If you’re an engineer in a firm where new software is coming into use, let your IT and training teams know your preference—whether you want to work things out for yourself or learn the recommended method. (There may be processes we all have to follow, but hopefully they re - flect the users desired workflows.) If you’re an ITmanager implementing collaboration software, establish guardrails that consider user input. It avoids colleagues being unable to remember how they sent a file, for example. Native and organic growth is really important, but giving people good recommendations reduces many process and data sprawl problems. Different sharing methods for different tasks If you're pointing a fellow engineer to a file to work on jointly, it makes sense to simply text the link or share in a Teams channel. The file does not move and you do not have to document the action. But if you’re sharing a file with a consultant or contractor outside your firm, you want to document their reception of it. For that, you’ll want to use PIM software. For example, regarding file transfers, Degenkolb and Ulteig encour - age people to use TonicDM for project-based file sharing, because the software logs and tracks transfers. (TonicDM works as a channel app within Teams, making it easier to work from that single Teams pane.) Different services for internal and external messaging Degenkolb Engineers separates messaging between two services: • Teams is better for internal personal and project communica - tion, and in some cases, messaging with external clients. • Yammer serves well for ask-and-answer questions that extend to the entire firm’s expertise, versus smaller pools in teams.
Using Yammer this way creates a knowledge base that makes today’s learnings available to future employees. A note about collaboration and knowledge management An interesting phenomenon regarding chat collaboration is that we’re seeing general staff answering software questions. It’s a return to ask - ing the person at the next desk for help before escalating the question to an expert. And because the answers are out in the open, your help desk can monitor them to make sure bad advice doesn’t spread. We are seeing far fewer office-wide emails these days. Instead, they go into chat forums and ask questions there. Design firms have so much knowledge contained in the minds and hearts of the people. It’s cool to see that knowledge surface as people collaborate. In closing: situations are reversed In the old days, employees were in one place—the office—and infor - mation was in many places, such as servers, Outlook Exchange, Office documents, PIM software, and more. Today, those situations are reversed. Information is more fre - quently consolidated in one place—the cloud—and it’s the work - ers who are distributed. As luck would have it, cloud computing makes it easier for distributed offices and team members to collaborate. Now you can manage cloud- hosted data in a single pane, and can do so wherever you’re working. The firms who embrace and master these technologies are better poised to deliver better designs on schedule and within budget. And because it’s fun to use cool tools, work is more rewarding, too.
DAVE MARTIN is a project engineer and tech implementation manager at Degenkolb Engineers, a multi-office, mid-size structural engineering firm headquartered in San Francisco. TYLER VOEGELE is the enterprise applications and systems lead at Ulteig Engi- neers, a firm delivering comprehensive engineering solutions across the Lifeline Sectors® of power, renewables, transportation and water in North America.
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