Slack Collaboration in Modernization Projects
Mobile devices have changed the face of collaboration. Alert notifications and instant access are now ubiquitous and user friendly in a wide range of apps for banking and finance, shopping, travel planning, and dating—the list is endless. Because these features are also penetrating the B2B world, access to team members is now only a tap away.
Platforms for workforce collaboration are taking productivity to the next level. Slack is among the premier platforms to provide customization and extensibility through APIs for collaboration integration with 3rd party apps. At Synchrony, we have leveraged Slack capabilities to create a just-in-time process collaboration workflow for software modernization projects.
Today common practice is for users to login and navigate through dashboards to get the latest project data or check the next assigned task. The integration of Synchrony’s Modernization Lifecycle Platform (MLP) with Slack collaboration takes the notion of shift-left to the next level: project stakeholders are aware of events sooner, and can respond faster, as an integrated collaboration eliminates intermediate steps. With these features, modernization team members have access to the latest project data and can interact with the project’s workflow and fellow team members—right from their pockets—by responding to project events that are pushed by the collaboration service event bus.
Let’s take the system administration functions as an example. Empowered by Slack’s slash commands, sysadmin members now have access to a command-line interface to quickly inquire and control cloud compute and storage resources from their mobile phones. Events from cloud monitoring services, such as the AWS Cloud Watch, will inform administrators about resource constraints and allow resolution though Slack interactive messages. These message responses are routed through the custom Slack MLP App to Node.js services that manage resources through the cloud service APIs.
Modernization developers and testers also can collaborate using Slack messages. When a tester adds a new defect from the MLP TestLog user interface, a message is broadcast on the project’s channel and the developers immediately get the notification. Once a fix is available and delivered to the project’s repository, the project lead gets an interactive message that the automated workflow is ready to process the fix and can initiate the tasks directly from Slack. The Slack interaction will be visible to other team members, and the MLP user interface will also reflect the workflow progress. Upon completion of automated tasks, the project manager can respond to the availability of a new automated task by assigning resolved defects and test cases back to testers for verification—all within Slack.
Project managers also have the ability to create event subscriptions based on event types, users, event data, and calendar information. The subscriptions are processed by the MLP collaboration services that gather project metrics and push them to the Slack user interface. For example, an event subscription can be created to produce a just-in-time notification of the project metrics for a weekly project review meeting with various stakeholders. The metric results will get pushed onto the project’s channel, with a link back to the MLP metrics UI that will allow project stakeholders to instantly drill into the metric details during the meeting.
Distributed Team Collaboration
Modernization projects are often carried out by multiple teams whose members are typically customers, solution providers, and system integrators. These teams perform tasks such as project management, migration tools development, application migration, build, deployment and delivery to testers, testing and quality assurance, etc. MLP supports this ecosystem through project and task workflow configuration, and solution configuration and release. Project issues can be redirected to solution providers, who can respond to notifications by creating and delivering new solution releases that generate Slack notifications. These, in turn, enable authorized team members to automatically install updates and run the project workflow with the latest changes. Subsequently, testers are notified of the availability of the latest updates and can proceed to validate the delivered fixes.
The usage of Slack channels enables all stakeholders to keep the project’s pulse and to track all its activities in a central location. Slack’s latest search/filter capabilities enable users to quickly identify project events of interest and evaluate their current state. Project managers can see the testing activity and track responses from developers. Channels also include shared conversation among project stakeholders that enables turning these conversations quickly into actionable items. For example, a message with a screenshot from a customer can be turned into a defect/task using a Slack action.
The effect of pushing the available project data to all stakeholders begs the following question: what’s the next step in productivity? Each modernization project is unique, but all projects develop patterns over time and note common factors that are ripe for mining, such as testing/fixing patterns, release patterns, etc. Machine Learning integration is definitely the future. Perhaps notifications will take the form of recommendations about how to adapt the work, based on project circumstances. But that’s for another blog post…
If your team is ready to take advantage of today’s leading collaboration tools for your modernization project, Synchrony can help.