Collaborative Workspaces

So, here it is – my first ever blog post!

To ease myself into the world of blogging, I thought I would start off relatively simply (for want of a better word).

[This is a work-in-progress: Hopefully, feedback helps me to improve this post]

Introduction

In the world of software development, I’m certain (and I hope) we all agree that communication and collaboration are two key ingredients. In fact, I once read a quote that said: “Developing software is a communication problem”. It’s probably not too far wrong either, in my opinion.

In order for collaboration to happen fairly easily, consideration needs to be given to the more common activities the teams and people will need to conduct and the situations they will need to deal with. I also like to think of impediments in workspaces as any other team impediments. After all, would you rather your people spend time writing code or trying to find a free meeting room to collaborate over a design idea?

It’s important that the people are involved in the design of their own workspaces, and that management supports the creation of this collaborative style environment. This will create a sense of shared responsibility and engagement and these gains will certainly outweigh the cost of their involvement.

Obstacles

Based on my experience and observations, some examples of common workspace obstacles include but are not limited to:-

  • creating meeting invitations
  • time spent searching for free meeting rooms
  • inadequate space for visualisation of work (commonly using whiteboards)
  • inadequate space for shared drawing/modelling
  • difficulty in performing shared code review sessions
  • difficulty in performing shared design/modeling sessions
  • insufficient facilities for demos
  • insufficient facilities and space for individual team meetings
  • high disturbance and noise levels (usually from open plan offices)

Suggestions

Here are some suggestions for how to remove these obstacles and to create a workspace that can improve morale, promote collaboration and increase productivity:-

Layout

Teams should be contained in dedicated areas, with walls or partitions. Some research shows that teams in open plan offices are far less productive than teams in quieter dedicated areas (circa 100%). One of the reasons for this is that although communication levels can be high, typically the type of communication taking place adds little or no value to the work being done.
Advantage(s): Minimises noise disturbance and creates focus.

Small meeting rooms

A small quiet space within each team area for quick meetings, or, small rooms nearby that are dedicated to the teams.
Advantage(s): Minimises waiting.

Space for whiteboards

Needs to be significant. The walls or partitions can provide this space.
Advantage(s): Provides needed facilities, minimises waiting, reduces frustration.

Projectors

Good for assisting in the sharing and communication of information. Best if each team has their own projector, with the walls or partitions providing space for the projecting of the images.
Advantage(s): Provides needed facilities, minimises waiting, reduces frustration.

Privacy

Everyone needs some privacy from time to time to make phone calls, etc. Mini conference rooms or private cubicles will provide for this.
Advantage(s): Feeling respected, minimise long walks away from team areas.

Convenience items

Commonly used devices such as fax machines and printers must be easily accessible and quickly available. Also, items such as sticky notes, prestik, black tape, whiteboard markers and erasers, should also be readily available.
Advantage(s): Minimises waiting, reduces frustration.

Creative Spaces

There is no need for a dull and depressing workspace. Ideally, colours and other aspects should be used that can help to support creativity.
Advantage(s): Support creativity, improve morale and create sense of pride in workspace.

Well, there you have it. That’s my take on some of the ways to create a collaborative workspace for your teams. Hopefully, you find this information useful and derive some benefit from it.

Any comments or feedback on this post would be very welcome.

Blog post no.1……….tick. 🙂

Ciao for now

Mark

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About Mark Nilsen

My name is Mark Nilsen. Thanks for stopping by! My love for computers began with a Commodore 64, before I was 10 years of age. While studying towards a Commerce degree majoring in Industrial Psychology and Information Systems, I found myself far more interested in playing international sport, and in computer systems and computer programming. Currently, my professional life involves building software, optimizing processes and attempting to create and maintain highly effective, motivated teams. More recently, systems thinking and organisational cultures and mindsets have fascinated me (and frustrated me, but mostly fascinated me!). I believe effectiveness trumps efficiency, every time.
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