What the Teamwork and Coordination Vehicle Does

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Why opentaps Emphasizes Teamwork Processes

Making your business ready for the new era of commerce is what opentaps is about. The User Manual has devoted several chapters and sections to the set-up of your business on the opentaps model so that operating processes are automated for your best practices, for consistent process execution, and for guiding the company team to perform according to your "rules". That is, opentaps provides an excellent way to solve half of your business operations challenge when it provides all of these integrated processing services.

Then opentaps goes the rest of the way, by providing a set of teamwork services that complement the operating process services. How important is this, and why do we say it is the other half of the complete solution for business operations. The simple answer is that teamwork is absolutely essential if you want any of the following things:

  • You want to grow your business with grace and with reasonable effort
  • You want to provide consistent high quality customer service and support
  • You want to produce consistent business performance results over an extended period of time
  • You want to be really competitive in the 24/7, global domains of your business opportunity

There is really only one way that is currently available to do these things, and that is to implement a teamwork environment and make it hum like a smooth running engine. But, that is easier said than done. Business environments are fraught with surprises, interruptions, exceptions abound, and the "noise" level of information and mis-information is often very high.

To make this situation manageable and to facilitate the necessary teamwork to deal with the environment (without constantly interrupting the business owner or management) requires a system, or framework for supporting the teamwork. (It also requires that owners and managers enable teamwork through the way they organize, train, and empower their staff members and teams to perform within their system. That subject is beyond the scope of our User Guide, but we have provided some useful references on relevant topics.) In the sections that follow, we will describe how opentaps provides the necessary system for teamwork, and how opentaps Users can employ that system.

An Internal Teamwork Viewpoint

Figure 7 illustrates one of the important viewpoints about Teamwork. This is the way in which opentaps' operational Processing Services and unified real-time database resources work to create the framework for what we like to call "real-time contextual collaboration".

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When teams function at peak performance, they must have access to consistent, real-time information about any issues or events that might come up, and about what other Company teams are doing. This is especially true when issues and events fall outside of the normal operational Processing Services which were introduced in Figure 2,

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. These kinds of challenges are often the "exceptions" to our processes, which can only be handled by the team or teams working very smoothly together.

As illustrated in the Figure 7 and in Figure 2, opentaps assembles a complete picture of what is going on, and delivers the critical items to our teams in real-time via secure internet connections to any location where a team member is working:

  • Context of the Customer and transactions
  • Actions that any team member may be taking (or has taken)
  • Communications of any kind undertaken by team members or Customers

The information needed is captured and recorded by any of the company's operational Processing Services or Teamwork Processes (see the next section) into the unified database, and can be recovered in real-time to support team member activity, when the team member has been given access privileges consistent with their job and teamwork roles.

Unfortunately, examples of companies that fail to respond well to Customer's calls or requests are very common. Many companies that grow beyond a very small size have terrible problems in handling exceptions, often making the Customer experience almost intolerably bad. We have all had experiences with really terrible responses to our calls for support. This happens frequently when the company's teams cannot get accurate or current information they require, or they do not know what the other company teams are doing to try and help. So, they end up failing to help us very much, or very quickly.

There are some very basic reasons why so many companies are unable to avoid or resolve such failures in Customer service and support. The reasons usually include these:

  • They don't have a comprehensive business operations management vehicle like opentaps but instead they rely on a patch work of "tools" and individual productivity software instead. This fragments and isolates the Context that good management requires.
  • They have no unified database repository for business information from which team members can obtain critical status information in real-time.
  • They are not organized to handle exceptions and team members are trained to handle questions, but only within a very narrow scope of one operating process.
  • They do nothing to mitigate the "points of communication" problem, which relates to how many people might need to know something about what is going on.

The "Points of Communication" Challenge

As we mentioned in the introduction to this User Manual, one of the most challenging problems that must be solved by any growing business is a problem we call the "points of communication" challenge. This problem is about communicating will enough, spending too much time, and handling distractions which play havoc with what we think of as our "real job". The story goes like this.

"There are only so many hours in a day.  My real job takes most of my time, if I actually do my real job.
But, I have many interruptions every day, mostly about exceptions or surprises that must be resolved.
Anyway, these things are distractions that force me to communicate with so many people and dig around for so much
information, that my time disappears and my job doesn't get done very well.  Too often the disruptions
don't get resolved very well either." 
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As the company grows the number of potential points of communication (people and places that must be contacted for good teamwork) increases MUCH FASTER than the size of the company. Look at this simple example of the number of people in a company versus the number of potential points of communication that may need to be informed about any issues:

  Number of people     Points of Contact
          2                    1
          3                    3
          5                    10
          7                    21
          10                   45

Little wonder that as the organization grows the amount of time spent communicating with all the right people can get out of hand very quickly. This is why the system support for Teamwork Processes (and the team training and empowerment) is so important. As illustrated in Figure 7B, a facility for teamwork communication can reduce the complexity of keeping everyone informed by a very large factor, 4.5:1 in the example of a 10 person team.

The teamwork venue in opentaps is intended to enable just this kind of streamlined team communication and the large reduction in time and confusion associated with handling exceptions to the routine.

The Teamwork Processes Viewpoint

There are four systematic Teamwork Processes that we should focus on, shown in Figure 7A:

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  • Context -- Capturing, storing, and producing the full context of Customer (and Partner, Supplier, or Competitor) relationships, transactions, events, and many other things that might need to be managed or resolved.
  • Communications -- Capturing, associating, storing, and producing communications as part of the full context that team members may need in order to work effectively on situations that arise.
  • Actions -- Capturing, associating, storing, and producing the full story about actions and plans that team members may be undertaking.
  • Authority and Security -- The full context of business situations always includes -- who has access to information about them, who may take actions regarding the situation, and what forms of security apply to the information access and the possible actions that can be take.
  • Learning Cloud -- The Figure 7A also depicts a fifth component labeled the "Learning Cloud", which reminds us to discuss the important team building aspects of empowerment, training, and learning that can lead to higher performing teams when properly considered and incorporated by management. We will discuss this item at the end of this chapter.

In Figure 7A each of the Teamwork Processes includes a number of components to consider (listed in the boxes of Figure 7). Each Process intersects not only with the internal business Teams in ways we will discuss in the next section, but the Processes also intersect with Customers and other constituents via the Stores, Web Sites, and the other communications methods we implement for customer service and support.

Also, the Communications and Actions Processes are designed to loop back to Contexts, creating additional contextual information stored in the opentaps database and available to all authorized team members. This feature is very important because of what happens if it isn't done. When Communications and Actions are taken in good faith by some team member(s) but are not known and understood by other involved team members, then the result is additional confusion and "noise" in the teamwork environment. That is a net bad result produced by an attempted good effort. The following example and comments about email are a good example of how Communications creates additional valuable Context that becomes readily accessible,when it is processed in a smart way.

An Example About Email and Context

Because our goal is to make the full context available to Team Members in real-time, it is important to capture and make even the content of the other communications methods part of this context. For example, often there are business emails relating to situations that must be managed. Too often some important information contained in such email is not made known at the point and time when it would be most useful in resolving situations.

Thus, opentaps provides sophisticated business email processing that finds both inbound and outbound email that should be made part of the business context, and then produces such relevant email when the appropriate context is opened for review. This is done by associating the email with other contexts like:

  • Accounts
  • Cases
  • Events

(The set-up for this processing is discussed in the section Setup for opentaps email Handling). There are other examples of this kind of context detection and storage which will be addressed in the following sections about how Teams can use Teamwork Processes.

Using opentaps Teamwork Processes

Some of the important business Context needed by Teams working on situations is system generated, for example when transactions are executed, or when information is updated for accounts, or orders, or partners, or shipments. There is also a second equally important source of Context. This is the Team Member generated Context.

In the following sections we will discuss both kinds of Contexts, starting with where and how to access needed information of the system generated type. Then we will address when and how Context is generated by the Actions and Communications of Team Members working on business situations -- which is a focus on Communicating and Acting within Teamwork Processes.

We will close this section with a few comments and references on the "Learning Cloud" in Figure 7A, as it relates to Team performance and potential Team contribution to positive business change.

Accessing and Using the Contexts

When we talk about Contexts here, we are thinking about resolving business issues, Customer requests, exceptions to the normal business processes, or other sorts of situations that require teamwork to handle. Thus, Contexts include every sort of business related information that has a baring on such a situation. This certainly includes the information recorded in any part of the opentaps operational processes, which can be found using the "Find" or Search facility provided in each process tab.

Beyond this way of accessing information (that may be part of the Context of a situation), opentaps provides a number of other ways to view and access information that may also be relevant. The following two sections cover more about system generated Contexts, and about Team Member generated Contexts that are generated when they perform roles within the Teamwork Processes of opentaps.

The System Generated Contexts

opentaps provides a comprehensive set of business operations processes which, when executed and with results recorded in the database, represent a complete and real time status of the business. Thus, accessing this kind of data provides essential context that may be needed to resolve business issues. Context is provided in four ways that we will discuss next, as follows:

  • Accessing the Business Records (in the database)
  • The MyHome Tab, a home page for each Main Navigation section
  • The Reports Tab, and a CRM Dashboard page -- summary of links to commonly needed reports and team activity graphs
  • The CRM Section, Team Tab -- for managing Teams


Access to the Business Records in Any Part of opentaps

An overview which is about how to access the business records in any part of opentaps follows:

  • Any Business Transaction record in opentaps -- any record can be found like this,
    • Finding the Transaction records in real time -- any record is available in real time, when the system is running normally,
      • Main Navigation Icon > [Any Function] Tab > [Find] Button -- records in any Tab section of opentaps can be found using the search function, usually via a button labeled "Find". Refer to the relevant User Manual Tab section for details on "Find".
    • Access permissions to view or change records -- because opentaps uses access controls, often called User Permissions, which are applied to many individual sections of the system, it is necessary that Team Members have been granted access to the sections of the system that they may need to access. Refer to these User Manual sections:
* Introduction_to_opentaps_Security_Controls
* Internet Security, Certificates, SSL
* Security_permissions_for_users


Accessing the Main Navigation Summary Pages - called "MyHome" Pages

Each Main Navigation section of opentaps provides a [MyHome] Tab, a page of summary information for that Main Section. These summary pages provide links to some of the key functions and to some reports available for that section, the ones that are most often needed for quick answers to impromptu questions.

These MyHome pages also contain graphs which provide a snapshot that answers commonly encountered questions. The following is an example of a [MyHome] Tab (using CRM as the example Main Section):

  • Any Main Navigation Icon > [MyHome] Tab -- a home page for each Main Navigation section
    • Example, the CRM [MyHome] Tab
      • [My Calender] or [My Teams' Calender] -- a calender page for the individual User, or for the Users own Team can be seen on this page.
      • Pending Activities Box -- summary of the Users Pending Activities already associated in the relevant operational contexts
      • Pending Inbound Email Box -- summary of the Users Inbound Email already associated in the relevant operational contexts
      • Pending Outbound Email Box -- summary of the Users Outbound Email already associated in the relevant operational contexts

For details on the use of the CRMSFA MyHome Tab features, refer to MyHome -- Using the Calender and Dashboards

The Main Navigation Section [Reports] Tab (and CRM graphical Dashboard)

Each Main Navigation Section has a [Report]s Tab with many more links to preformatted reports for the section. CRM also has a page of graphical reports called the Dashboard screen that is available from the [Reports] Tab > [Dashboards] Button. There are also some unique pages that offer compact summaries of important information such as Account status, Partner Status, or Survey Results. The following list points to these resources:

  • Any Main Navigation Icon > [Reports] Tab or [Dashboard]
    • CRM Icon > [Dashboard] Button, a special "Dashboard-like" Page is displayed,
      • CRM Icon > [Accounts] Tab > Account Details Screen -- refer to Account Details Screen, a dashboard like summary of an Account
      • CRM Icon > [Partners] Tab > Partner Details Screen -- refer to Working with Partners, a dashboard like summary of a Partner
      • CRM Icon > [Marketing] Tab > [Survey Results] Button -- access to Website survey results


The CRM Section [Teams] Tab and The [MyTeams] Button

opentaps provides the CRM Section, [Teams] Tab where the relevant information about sales teams and account teams can be found.

  • CRM Icon > [Teams] Tab -- refer to the User Manual Sales Teams and Account Teams for complete information on creating, organizing and managing CRM Teams. For Warehouse Teams refer to the User Manual Team Members which is a special section for assigning Warehouse Team members, a necessary step in using the Warehouse access control Permissions.

The CRM Section also provides a button called [MyTeams] that enables the User to switch from working with their individual information to working with their Team's information instead. This viewpoint switching is provided in the Tabs for Accounts, Cases, and Opportunities.

This button is located in the corner of several relevant pages where there is information available for an individual User job, and also for a Team Member's Teamwork job.

  • [MyTeams'] Button -- View Team Accounts, Cases, and Opportunities


The Team Member Generated Contexts

The Team Members for an Account will generate important business context when they create and document Cases, which are Customer requests or issues, when they plan and execute Activities such as meetings or work items, and when they take actions such as communicating, emailing, and filing items that address Cases. When the Team is using opentaps to accomplish these things, they are creating and saving the context required to manage the business effectively.

Creating Team Context in the [Cases] Tab

The Cases Tab provides one of the powerful ways that Teams can record the context that is essential for good Customer support. Cases are a way to document Customer requests or issues.

  • Customer Requests and Issues, CRM Icon > [Cases] Tab -- refer to the User Manual section The Cases Tab for details on how to use the Cases Tab functions.

Once a Case is recorded by anyone, it is assigned to the account owner for that Customer, and cannot be reassigned except by changing the Account Owner. The case can be viewed by any member of the relevant Account Team by using the "My Teams' Cases" button on the Cases screen.

  • [My Teams' Cases] Button

On the "Cases" page Click the [My Teams' Cases] button at the top of the display list to bring up the view of all Cases that belong to any of the Account Team Members.

Viewing Cases in the Account Tab

In addition to Case management in the Cases Tab, opentaps also presents the summary of Cases for an Account in the Accounts Tab, Account Details screen.

Cases can be managed and documentation created easily by using the subsections provided for,

  • Case History
  • Pending Activities
  • Bookmarks and Files
  • Notes
  • Activities History

Creating Team Context in the [Activities] Tab

opentaps is capable of solving one of the biggest problems encountered in providing customer support. That is the problem of Team Members not being aware of what is being done to help the Customer, especially by other functional organizations in the business.

When opentaps Activities Tab is used by Team Members when they are managing meetings, correspondence, work items and the like for Customer support the records are created for a complete context of activity. Information is available on the system and is not scattered among various isolated applications that are not available to everyone who is authorized and working online.

The functionality provided includes these items:

  • CRM Icon > [Activities] Tab -- refer to The Activities Tab section of the User Manual for additional details on using these following functions:
    • [My Calender] Button and Screen provides for Team calendering of Events.
    • [Pending Emails] Button and Screen displays both inbound and outbound email that needs to be further processed by the team.
    • [Create Event] Button and Screen support managing calendered Events that involve the Team.
    • [Create Task] Button and Screen support management of work activity not shown on the calender, but which is tracked for status and closure.
    • [Log Email] Button and Screen provides for log keeping of email that relates to the Team but which does not come in by the opentaps automated email handling system.
    • Using Special Email Processing in opentaps explains how opentaps can be used to process all email in the context of the business transactions being processed and recorded in the system.
      • [Write Email] discusses how to write emails so that the maximum business context is recorded in the system when the emails are sent.
    • [Log Call] Button and Screen provides for log keeping of phone calls that relate to the Team and add context regarding Customer relationships.

Communicating, Acting, and Adding Context

Security, Authority, Permission and Action

Teamwork environments often mean that more critical information is made available to authorized people, who must then use that information appropriately and must protect it as well.

Careful consideration should be given to who needs access to information, who can add to or change the information, and for what legitimate reasons. The system itself may become more visible to more people, increasing the need for adopting the recommended and required set of security measures for the system and the systems physical and internet environments.

For the introduction to security measures for operational systems such as opentaps refer to the User Manual section

Introduction to opentaps Security Controls

The following User Manual section is recommended for Users who may be leading the adoption of Teamwork methods supported in opentaps:

Internet_Security,_Certificates,_SSL

The User Manual section that discusses access-control and User permissions in the opentaps system is a good starting point for a discussion of how you can control your Teamwork environment to protect data and sensitive information. Please refer to the section:

Security_permissions_for_users

Team Learning and Very High Performing Teams

Even though the subject of organizing, training, and empowering teams is beyond the scope of this User Manual for opentaps we are mentioning the topic here because of it's great importance.

Teamwork has never been more important to business success than it is today, as the global extent of communities of common interest, working together as teams, continues to spread and accelerate.

We will mention a few references that address some of the important trends and concepts relevant to teamwork on the global scale.

The Real Wisdom of Your Teams

One of the most important ideas about why progressive businesses want to support teamwork, rather than just put up with it, is based upon these two ideas (found in the references):

  • The Intelligence of Teams -- A high performing team will always display intelligence and wisdom that is greater than the smartest people who are members of the team. The teamwork is a way of super-charging the work of the best people available.
  • The Age of the Specialists -- Modern facilitated Teamwork means that specialists who are willing and able can work together can often produce results that will far exceed that available from a group of generalists, or (in some cases) a team with only the best local specialists (who might not really be the best available anywhere.)

But these results will be realized only if we permit the teamwork to achieve high performance, and that means the team must have access to all of the relevant information, that is current, and consistent, and immediate. This is where the Teamwork and the Operational processes in opentaps come into play, providing the authorized team members with the fuel to power toward and to produce excellent results.

High Performance Teams Cause Change

One of the interesting observations found in the references is that a high performing team will very often produce pressures for change in an organization. When the team is empowered, fully enabled, and working will they will naturally bump into the obstacles and the artificial boundaries that may be limiting business results. Then, they will do the natural thing, which is to push for change and for better business results.

So, this notion points toward both a great opportunity for business improvement, and an opportunity for some acceptance and accomodation by management and business owners. In other words, be prepared to hear about and support changes to improve business results -- that will probably be come from your high performing teams.

References About Empowering Your Teams

  1. "The Widsom of Teams, Creating the High-Performance Organization", Jon R. Katzenbach, and Douglas K. Smith, HarperCollins Publishers, New York, NY, 1993.



Manual Pages >> Why opentaps Emphasizes Teamwork Processes

Section Pages >> Using opentaps Teamwork Processes