Navigating Remote Collaboration Challenges in the Covid-19 Era

Remote Collaboration Covid-19 (1)One of the things Covid-19 has shown us, is that the digital agility of an organisation can mean the difference between success and failure in a crisis. Those businesses who were already set up for quick and seamless remote collaboration when Coronavirus struck, have been best placed to weather the initial commercial storm, while those who weren’t, have struggled to work efficiently and respond to dramatic change.

Regardless of preparedness, though, some organisations will inevitably be furloughing staff in the weeks to come as orders dry up and customers’ priorities change. But some sectors including the life sciences industry, will likely be busier. What’s more, their success in innovating and collaborating, will prove to be more critical than ever before.

Who’s feeling the strain and who’s best prepared?

Companies working in regulated industry who are currently working without a single, dedicated digital Document Management System (DMS) or an eQMS (Electronic Quality Management System) may find it more difficult to marshal a dispersed workforce, coordinate their activities and continue preparing their products for market. Conversely, those companies using a dedicated DMS to store and collaborate on their project and quality documentation may well have more success at keeping it all on track (or even accelerating their processes to respond to new demand).

Fragmented tech poses remote working challenges

Companies who have chosen to manage their documentation through a combination of email, file sharing platforms (such as Dropbox or Google Drive) and a bunch of different PM apps and tools, could well be feeling a greater sense of fragmentation now that they are physically separated, too. In this world there’s no sitting down, side by side, with laptops and multiple windows open; there’s no peering over each other’s shoulders as you to thrash out a problem together.

Even with daily ‘Zoom’ stand ups, screen sharing and constant 'Slacking', businesses may see siloing increase, productivity dip and mistakes creeping into their design and development processes, as problems more successfully hide from view or fall between the gaps.

Why not just use Google Drive as a document management system?

3 ways digital DMS and eQMS can give the competitive edge in the remote working world

1. Collaboration

Challenge: When a team uses a variety of collaborative tools, there can be multiple digital and analogue review mechanisms at play (emails, physical meetings, phone calls, IMs). This fragmentation can cause confusion and mistakes to occur when it comes to defining next steps and ownership of tasks.

Answer: A central, cloud based collaboration tool through which all comments, corrections and ‘hand offs’ can be channeled, will ensure efficient and documented team collaboration, reducing the risk of duplicated effort and unsanctioned work.

Challenge: With no single source of truth there can be no definitive visibility of what activities are outstanding, open or overdue

Answer: The right DMS can provide that overview in various ways, helping a business see ‘at a glance’ what needs to be done and by whom in order to finish a sprint or resolve an issue.

Challenge: Communication and collaboration with external parties can be even more difficult without a single tool in which it can be managed and overseen. Giving outside collaborators access to all your project management tools, servers etc, can be time-consuming and a security risk.

Answer: A good DMS, on the other hand, will let you instantly share defined parts of your database in the most secure way possible for third parties to access and collaborate together while not having full run of your entire systems. These users can instantly be set up to receive all the relevant notifications to become a functioning part of your team, as they comment on and contribute to a project, but be instantly ‘shut out’ when their contract is ended.

2. Quality Management and Document control

Challenge: With a basic digital document storage strategy, files and documents can be kept in various locations and shared by email in an ad hoc way. This can lead to organisations losing control of vital process and oversight, and failing future quality audits.

Answer: Having all your documentation in one place, governed by a single naming convention, with version control in operation and a hierarchy of access permissions, everyone will be able to find everything they need and be able to tell the difference between final issues and WIP drafts.

Challenge: Where document storage is fragmented and reviews and approval aren’t subject to automated work flows, processes can breakdown and vital information fall through the net.

Answer: Automating workflows in single digital DMS, to create standard operating procedures around document review and approval will improve the durability and repeatability of your system of document controls.

Challenge: Quality Systems that are not fully digital and automated may still require ‘wet signatures’ to be supplied as the final record of sign off or approval

Answer: eQMS that have digital signatures build into their approval process, make it easier to survive and thrive when everything else has gone virtual.

7 deadly sins of the product development process

3. NPI development activities

Challenge: Without a platform that is a single source of truth it can be difficult to avoid siloing within a complex product development process. In regulated sectors, this can make required design controls even more difficult to manage.

Answer: The right DMS will help you phase gate your design and development process collating documents and holding them in folders for official approval before release. A DMS can notify and remind stakeholders to take action, as well as formalise sign off procedures to satisfy the regulation.

Fragmentation frustration

For many, the next few months may underline the pivotal need for a ‘single source of truth’ when it comes to managing complex development projects in an increasingly virtual world. Those working in regulated industry may just have had a glimpse of the future of collaboration within a permanently dispersed workforce.

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Tags: Product Management, New Product Development

Joe Byrne

Written by Joe Byrne

Joe Byrne is the CEO of Cognidox. With a career spanning medical device start-ups and fortune 500 companies, Joe has over 25 years of experience in the medical device and high-tech product development industries. With extensive experience in scaling businesses, process improvement, quality, medical devices and product development, Joe is a regular contributor to the Cognidox DMS Insights blog where he shares expertise on scaling and streamlining the entire product development cycle, empowering enterprises to achieve governance, compliance, and rigour.

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