CASE ABB

How Roundtable helped disparate teams find common goals

How can a R&D reference team with members from four different continents develop a joint vision and objectives for their project in an agile way?

Sofigate’s Roundtable is a business social media facilitation solution. It creates a virtual decision space for collaboration.

Involving and engaging end-users at the very beginning of the R&D project ensured the business viability of the final product. A shared virtual decision-making environment removed barriers for cooperation.

EARLY REFERENCE TEAM INVOLVEMENT ENSURES SUCCESS

ABB Drives Service, part of ABB – a global leader in power and automation technologies – has used Sofigate’s project managers in their development projects for several years. One of the key success factors in these projects has been the early involvement of reference teams from different, globally very scattered, business organizations. How does one facilitate cooperation, form consensus and reach goals in this kind of environment, without having any face-to-face workshops?

HOW TO UNITE A GLOBALLY SCATTERED TEAM?

In August 2014, ABB Drives Service started a project searching for efficiency improvements by introducing a mobile friendly solution to facilitate end-to-end delivery of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) service. LCA service had been previously delivered by using time-consuming Excel templates and other laborious manual work procedures. For this project a reference team was selected to represent a real-life user group for the solution, consisting mostly of end-users. The reference team was spread geographically very wide, having participants from 4 continents and 5 different time zones. Finding suitable times for brainstorming, workshops, decision-making, and even simple discussions was known to be difficult.

ABB decided to utilize Sofigate’s Roundtable to create a virtual decision space for the reference team to collaborate. Roundtable is a business social media facilitation approach that enables time and place independent decision-making. The greatest benefit of the early Roundtable involvement was that the project team could agree with the reference team about the solution scope, and so the reference team’s expectations were managed right from the start.

“We have used Roundtable in many projects and found it exceptionally good for R&D projects. As a tool, it is much more focused than for example group discussions in Yammer or some other online environment. It forces the participants to concentrate on the matter at hand. Therefore, the conversation rarely meanders off topic,” says Juha Alamäki during the project Global R&D Manager at ABB Drives Service.

ONLINE FACILITATION LETS EVERYONE HAVE A SAY

Sofigate’s Jarkko Pukkila managed the project and facilitated the reference team discussions in Roundtable.

“Roundtable enables an iterative solution development, and that was just what the project needed. We had the reference team involved during many different steps such as setting requirements for the end-product, looking for ways to further improve usability, and ensuring that the end-product correlated to the vision set in the beginning. Having users involved was a key success factor to assure an end-product that really suits their everyday use”, says Pukkila.

“This was a different kind of development project. We started the work by defining the end-product output, a report that the solution would produce. Having users involved in the development process as early on as possible ensured that the end-product output works exactly as it should from the business point of view,” says Juha Alamäki.

The reference team was extremely happy with Roundtable. Many participants were grateful for the opportunity to participate without being constricted by time and place. Some even joined in from airports when traveling. An online facilitation tool allowed all team members to have a say in questions and matters that were important to them. Because the project had a significant number of users in its team, viewpoints for the development and use of the solution were diverse. Roundtable facilitation uses this diversity to make better decisions.

MORE THAN R&D

ABB’s Juha Alamäki is very satisfied with the results.

“The best feedback we’ve received has come from the users, who have been very pleased with the solution and taken it into use faster than in most R&D projects. Even though the project wasn’t finished yet, they were asking if they could start using the new solution!”

Juha Alamäki is convinced that Roundtable is an approach not only for IT organizations. It has been most successful in R&D when used for gathering ideas, validating solutions, and ensuring the project teams’ commitment to the solution. In addition to project work, Alamäki sees potential for its use in e.g. steering committee work, preparing for meetings, and pre-approving changes.

“Having deadlines for assignments in Roundtable automatically make the participants finish them on time! This way of working would definitely make steering committee work more efficiently in any organization.”

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