Workplace Analytics for Teams

In the chapter on Running Team Projects in my book Re-Imagining Productive Work with Office 365 (2016), I made the following “wouldn’t it be cool if” comment (page 197):

Delve Analytics reports on an individual level about the effectiveness and efficiency of the meetings that the individual was involved with during the past week. Wouldn’t it be cool if the analytics capabilities in Office 365 could report on the effectiveness and efficiency of the activities undertaken in running a given team project over the previous week—highlighting meetings that were or were not effective (along with reasons for that conclusion and recommended mitigations), timeliness to complete tasks, and suggestions for other people to involve in the project as well. Delve Analytics at an individual level is good; at a team project level it would be fantastic. While Microsoft undoubtedly has its own research to draw on for such analytics, it would be worth reviewing Google’s research on itself on what makes a perfect team.

Microsoft hasn’t announced the above capabilities in what’s now called Workplace Analytics, but it has announced some new team level capabilities that are good forward steps. Specifically (from July 12):

… we are introducing solutions to help turn organization-wide insights into action plans for individuals and teams. The first solution—Workplace Analytics solution for teamwork—helps teams build better collaboration habits and master their time by guiding organizations through three steps:

1. Discover collaboration challenges – Use data from everyday work in Office 365, like emails and meetings, to discover challenges like meeting overload, minimal time for focused work, or high after-hours workload. Combine these insights with engagement survey results to find connections between work patterns and indicators of team health like engagement and innovation scores.

2. Empower teams to change — Enroll teams in change programs to help them build better habits like bringing agendas to meetings and blocking time for daily focused work. Participants receive personal productivity insights and action plans powered by MyAnalytics.

3. Measure and improve — Make sure your change programs are successful by measuring progress against goals over time. Iterate and improve as you see which action plans succeed or fail in changing teamwork habits.

The data signals that are available from step 1 are critical and define what is possible in steps 2 and 3; what’s captured will shape the proposed remedies or changes. Given that the data collected is quantitative – about meetings held, meeting length, emails sent and received and read (and when), etc. – rather than qualititative (the meeting was productive, the email answered the question, the email created greater clarity to enable better action) – there’s clearly still a whole lot of scope for improving the signaling quality available for Workplace Analytics to do its magic … and therefore reshape collaboration and productivity patterns in team and organisational life.

Small steps in the right direction taken repeatedly lead to great destinations. The above doesn’t deliver on the destination I’m imagining yet, but it’s in the right direction.

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