Passing the baton so we don't drop the ball
March 28, 2014 11:10 AM   Subscribe

My coworkers and I are being spread thinner across the 24-hour day, to the point that we will no longer see one another all together here in the same hour. We need to find a tool, preferably free, so we can get information to one another from shift to shift.

We're in tech support, responding to phone, email, IM, and occasionally web-based chat, and saddled with the very clunky Salesforce (henceforth SF) CRM for tracking cases. It's great at tracking cases over the long term, but our general activity moves fast enough that SF is too inconvenient to document quick changes in cases (or just quick cases), or summarizing information from one shift to the next. Trying to solve this problem has resulted in months of trials of various still-clunky add-ins to SF which are costly and mediocre.

But the case-tracking problem is not the problem here. It's secondary to the fact that we are not even going to be seeing each other, and need a better way, other than "read the case and emails, doofus," to pass catch-up information to the next people.

Ideally, this would be done over the course of the shift, and could be updated so that the final end-of-shift report is some kind of "this is where things are now" potentially with "here's what I've tried so far" and "here's what the next step is, seeya suckers." Contact info, for example, can be stored in SF easily, but SF is really time-consuming document little updates, and can't output any kind of report to give catch-up. (It has a activity-generated personal blog, but that doesn't summarize, just snows the users with SF links.)

Where should I be looking? Time-tracking software? Is there any that lets you share with a pool of others? Balls are being dropped as it is, and hiring is not currently in the cards, so it's going to get worse.

If it's software, web-based would be perhaps ideal, and if we need to host something here, that's also welcome. We do a mix of Windows and Mac, so cross-platform is greatly preferred. We also mix iOS with Android on the mobile front.

(With apologies for the mixed metaphor in the title.)
posted by Sunburnt to Work & Money (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'd create a dashboard in SFCD.

Create a report for "Active Cases"

Then create another for "Cases created in the last (time period)"

You can have them listed on the dashboard, and then anyone who needs info, can click the object, and be taken to the report. Then they can click the case, et voila!

You can use the comments section to leave up-to-date notes about the case, that can show up in the report.

You can ask for SFDC developers to enable "in line editing" for comments, and have them display in searches, so you don't have to edit each case, to update comments.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:16 AM on March 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

This may be more simplistic than what you need, but I work at a public library where people are on all kinds of different shifts throughout the week, and we communicate with a private wordpress blog. It's set as our browser homepage, and everyone uses the same login. It's easy for staff to catch up on recent posts at the start of their shifts. You could have a post for each case, and either edit it with updates throughout the shift, or add comments.
posted by songs about trains at 1:10 PM on March 28, 2014

I'd use a local wiki tool or another collaboration tool like igloo.
posted by TimeDoctor at 2:51 PM on March 28, 2014

Are you all in the same physical location, just at different times?

In my experience, this is one of those problems where the tech can kind of mask where the actual problem is, people's behavior. You need to solve this with stone-age tech first, then see about making it more convenient with technology, not try to fit a process to the tool you happen to have.

The main issue is you need to figure out what the crucial information is. What needs to be turned over to the next shift? Make a dead-tree-type logbook and start by logging everything you can think of that happened. That will be excessive. You'll have to decide what the oncoming shift doesn't care about and never looks at. Once you start cutting back, though, someone will leave out something that turns out to be very important, even if not used all the time. Good to know.

You'll end up with some kind of form with reminder prompts so you don't forget the lesser used important things. You need to get people in the habit of using it all the time, not scrambling to fill it out ten minutes before the next shift arrives. You need everyone to expect one from the previous shift and to use it rather than wasting time trying to figure it out and duplicating things that were already tried. This is a behavior/discipline thing and no tech solution is going to get you anywhere until this is solved.

Then, you try to replicate that with technology. Not before, not in parallel. Establish the behaviors and habits first, then you won't be fooled by crappy software "solutions."

Where I work, we still use a shared network folder where we save a filled-out MS Word template each shift. It's only one technology step above the paper log book, but it works so well even for a work-force spread across a large geographical area, we have no need for anything else.
posted by ctmf at 5:24 PM on March 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you're in at he same physical location, a big whiteboard might be handy.
posted by mskyle at 6:12 AM on March 29, 2014

We are in the same location.
posted by Sunburnt at 1:06 PM on March 29, 2014

I just remembered that we have an active Basecamp account; maybe we should exploit that a bit.

These are some great suggestions, thanks.
posted by Sunburnt at 1:32 PM on March 29, 2014

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