Introduction\n\nIn life, we should strive to improve upon what we have and try not to rest on our laurels, as yhis enables us to be best we can possibly be. As businesses grow, develop and success, internal processes and procedures will mature alongside and in many cases will become the defacto methodology that MUST be used. As is the nature of process evolution, the development of these ways of working will involve knowledge available at the time, as well as responses to any external environmental pressures such as auditing, regulation and market fluctuations. This means that potential other, complimentary, improved and even better methods might be overlooked as we fit our processes and procedures over our unique use cases.\n\nIn highly risk-adverse, regulated and high-performance industries, it can be difficult to innovate with new methods and even methods that have evolved within other environments can be met with HUGE resistance within organisations. This is due to the risk of failure and the very real, DAMAGING ramifications that WILL arise in the event of failure. This however doesn't mean that we shouldn't make the effort, because if we don't, our highly ambitious, hungrier competitors most certainly will, and they will eventually leave us behind as we slip into irrelevance and obscurity.\n\nOur competition delivering us a checkmate in by innovating whilst we remained stagnant\n\nWe owe it to ourselves, our colleagues, our clients and to the overall business to continually improve, oh and new shiny things are really fun 😅!\n\nDifferent Company Same Problems 🤦♂️\n\nLike it or not, but technology and applications form the core of most businesses nowadays, both internally-controlled and externally-governed. There is no escape now, but there are many opportunities to improve. What I've found is that in tightly-controlled, highly regulated environments, there is an tendency to avoid shiny new things that could greatly improve productivity because of the fear of the unknown. Instead, there will be a reliance on Microsoft Office (in many cases older versions), notably Word (the brains) and Excel (the heartbeat). I have discussed the issues with more document-based approaches (notably Excel) and advocated the use of databases in a previous article.\n\nGive Me the Truth, the Whole Truth and Nothing But the Truth\n\nOther notable issues include how difficult it is to find the information that you need in documents, especially when you are new in organisation or on a project. I've NEVER seen Google level search engine capabilities when trying to find critical internal policy documents or vital templates within ANY organisation 🙈. Finally, my biggest pet peeve about documents are as follows:\n\nHighly Manual, where you need people and it is VERY difficult (and at times impossible) to automate tasks using the information contained.\n\nPoor Sharing of Contained Data Elements, where you cannot only the bits that you want using a simple interface.\n\nWoman dealing with the stress and inefficiencies of infuriating document-based workflows\n\nThe world has moved on from this kind of document-based approach and the numerous problems that result, and there are a slew of fantastic new tools that we can use that fix these persistent issues. They focus on effective parallel collaboration on fewer resources where the information created/managed can be quickly manipulated and reported in formats and templates of your choice.\n\nProject Status\n\nToday I'm going to focus on how to make completion status visible to all members of the team to help keep efforts focused and ensure project outputs are kept to time and budget. Normally, these will be scheduled in some form of Project Planning software like Oracle's Primavera P6 or Microsoft's Project. If a project takes a Systems Engineering approach, any requirements the outputs are linked to will likely be managed in a tool like IBM's Rational DOORS.\n\nTime and again, I've seen these tools weilded in a non collaborative manner, where a few skilled custodians manage the information in a restrictive who then release snapshot exports and/or printouts that are distributed to the rest of the team. Any form of external user input likely comes in the form of spreadsheet import, which absolutely DESTROYS concurrent working as access must be blocked to ensure the same fields aren't modified by different people, that's if the import doesn't fail annoyingly!\n\nOrganisations are incentivised to operate in this manner due to the VERY HIGH per-user licensing costs, which makes it cost-prohibitive to provide everyone with access. This is unfortunate, as I have found it to be far better when everyone uses the same tool and allow the CURRENT underlying data to drive their effort and performance in real time.\n\nTeam member viewing up to date project information in real time\n\nNow I know that in highly regulated and audited environments with a clear IT policy and DICTATED workflow packages, there is no way to move away from mandatory tools (Microsoft Office is here to stay whether you like it or not). We can however use supplementary applications to greatly increase our efficiency and subsequent delivery of our work. The idea is to get everything to work together rather than in competition with to achieve the best possible results.\n\nAll Eyes on the Prize\n\nWe to focus the important information and put it in front of your team's eyeballs 👀 as much as possible such that this information DRIVES behaviour at all times. We ensure that at no point can the team lose sight of the overall mission and objectives. I've seen countless projects attempt this with colourful and creative spreadsheets, but these have always been overshadowed by database-backed dashboard tools. Rather than faff about with functional spreadsheet grids of cells not actually built for this purpose, these tools can provide attractive, dynamic real-time slices of information which can be adjusted depending on the user and their role and are DESIGNED for this purpose and can be optimised for various viewing experiences. Such tools include:\n\nAtlassian Jira\n\nAtlassian Trello\n\nOpenProject\n\nMicrosoft Planner\n\nUsing tools to make project progress visible to your team at all times\n\nBy deploying such tools within your ecosystem, you can create a database-backed, single source of truth for your data that everyone (with an account) can access, which never goes out-of-sync. With the interfaces many of these tools also provide, the data stored in such tools can be exported using automation and actually drive your other processes and documentation without hours of copy-paste and the frustration and errors that it brings. I demonstrate the art of the possible regarding how systems can be linked together in the article included below.\n\nPutting Data First: Real-time Information as a First Class Citizen\n\nDeploying and Managing Your Improvements\n\nSo you've demonstrated these new and exciting ways of working and have managed to get buy in from the decision-makers who want to make it available within your organisation as part of a staged deployment... what next? What do you need? Most importantly, where on earth do you begin? The road to success is littered with the remains of half-baked ideas and TERRIBLE IT roll-outs, so it's important that we plan this properly to avoid becoming another cautionary tale.\n\nStressed guy holding his head after witnessing the terrible deployment of his excellent idea\n\nSo to ensure things can go as smoothly (as they possibly can), I recommend doing the following:\n\nEngage IT early with your requirements clearly defined and most importantly written down. This includes system requirements needed to run the software (normally on the developer's website), user requirements determining who needs access (internal only, external clients etc) and availability requirements which take into consideration backups and recovery in the event of disaster (i.e. your application breaks). You need to manage expectations as depending on their capabilities, it might take a while! I've personally had the absolute "pleasure" of dealing with slow, inefficient departments where I've had to hold their hand every step of the way, as well as diagnose and fix problems for them, so understand that you might be needed more than you originally estimated!\n\nJudge your privacy and security needs ahead of time, write them down and ensure they are understood by all stakeholders. Who only needs to see the data (everyone, senior managers, directors, a mixture etc) and to what degree (partial, all etc). Map your user(s) to their needs. Also, what would the consequences be if the data is leaked/breached internally by staff or externally due to misconfiguration, mistake or human error? If you are in a restricted environment, assess the risks and use these to plan mitigations, fixes and data access policies. Also, if putting anything online both internally and externally, ensure that your IT/Security teams are adhering to and understand modern web security practices, some of which I've detailed in previous articles below.\n\nAuthor, formalise make internally available (also easy to find) and widely disseminate CLEAR sign up and usage policies for your new tool(s). I have seen it so many times in companies, where you could have the BEST tools in the world which are AVAILABLE, but because no one knows about them or there is no clear way to get started, these game-changing innovations never take off and aren't used. Your role is to remove any barriers to entry to get people into your platform(s), not create more hoops to jump through and red tape to cut. Also, remember you will likely be following many software roll-outs that went terribly bad (I've seen so many 🙈) and thus many staff will be jaded, so these policies give them a reason to trust that your deployment will be different.\n\nAllocate administrators with clearly defined roles for your tool(s). As your collaborative platforms (hopefully) become more popular, you will need people to add new members and manage their accounts (password reset, permissions etc). This is more day-to-day running rather than software support (this doesn't work type problems), and thus doesn't need for the staff to be dedicated 100% of the time. You need this as if people are waiting a long time to get access, they will likely lose interest and never trust you again.\n\nOngoing licensing costs allocation is really important, especially from a functionality and security point of view. One important rule with software is that you keep it up to date, and if you purchase it, you need to factor this in. On top of the new features that you will miss out on, you will likely not benefit from any security fixes and patches that come with later versions, leaving your data and/or system and/or network vulnerable to attack. Anecdotally, I have personally seen organisations with locally installed versions of Atlassian Jira software from MANY years ago that are relied upon for everyday use, merely because they decided not to spend on support. Not recommended, but it happens A LOT.\n\nPlease Take Care when Putting Things on the Internet!\n\nWeb Hide and Go Seek\n\nProtecting Your Site Against Cross Site Scripting (XSS)\n\nOvercoming the Fear of the Unknown\n\nGuy looking scared and worried\n\nWhenever trying to challenge the status quo and established methods of work (especially in restricted environments), we will invariably come up against roadblocks that we will need to overcome.\n\n"We've Always Done it this Way": People are used to their current processes, they've learned the correct way and probably struggled with and finally accepted any inefficiencies along the way. Thus any subsequent additions to them will just seem like extra work they really cannot be bothered with (who can blame them 🤷🏾♂️). To overcome this, we need to show how the innovation is beneficial to them and how it will their improve day-to-day work. If you don't do this and just power through, when implemented people will just do the BARE MINIMUM and your bold new way will NEVER take off.\n\nIT Stranglehold: In many (especially restricted) organisations, despite the best of intentions, IT (namely their software usage policies) can unfortunately choke the life out of any innovation. Approved software registers, locked down permissions and slow, inefficient outsourced capabilities can make the adoption of new tools appear seemingly insurmountable, and it may not seem (or even be) worth the effort required 😞. To overcome this, get buy in from senior members outside of IT before raising it. Remember that the role of IT is to support the business, not to tell you "No" every step of the way (as a member of the security team once told me). Remind them of this by putting together a kick ass value proposition that shows the incredible benefits, as well as describes how their roles will make a real difference. Also, TRY NOT TO GIVE UP 🙈. Conversely, if you DO have an IT team that prides themselves on saying "No", raise this with senior people as this kind of environment allows your competitors to steal a march on you.\n\nInability to Join Despite Wanting To: You may very well inspire EVERYONE to join you on such an incredible journey, but that doesn't mean that they'll be able to. Picking up new methods and learning new tools and skills might be very hard for your colleagues and thus they could be put off by the perceivably steep learning curve, taking back onto tried and tested methods. To overcome this, it is YOUR responsibility to deliver the training materials needed to bring everyone up to speed. This can be delivered face-to-face, webinars, on quick-cards and even pre-recorded screen captured videos. Get people to ask questions and publish a 'Frequently Asked Questions' (FAQ) resource for people to browse. They'll thank you later 😁.\n\nBeautiful world map\n\nChange Your World 🌍\n\nChallenging established norms can be extremely difficult especially in highly restricted environments. It however isn't impossible, it just requires careful research, planning, buy-in, stakeholder engagement and expectation management. It is definitely worth the effort, and is profoundly satisfying when you see the fruits of your labour in action and you have your peers approaching you with ways of furthering and expanding what you have established 😀. I think that it is so important to be the difference you want to see in your world, and try and improve things where you can.\n\nTake care and all the best, Si.