Going Beyond Chat Channels: How to Use Technology to Improve Operational Efficiency

May 21, 2020


6 minutes

In Coolfire’s early days, we created communication software for the military. Our software brought situational awareness to soldiers on the battlefield, providing them with constant access to information about their location, their proximity to key targets, and the location of assets and friendly forces. The software also provided this full awareness and real-time view of the battlefield to command centers.

What we learned is that all military communication is mission-driven. There’s no room for unnecessary chatter on the battlefield — all communication is direct and focused on completing the mission at hand.

We used this same concept of focused, streamlined communication to inform our model as we evolved into the commercial space. We realized that if we could give workers the same kind of task-driven approach to communication, we could help companies improve operational efficiency. We built a product that could help workers stay in communication while also staying task-focused and not getting sidetracked with unnecessary questions or conversations.

Just like with our military model, we centered product development around one central question: How can we help teams talk less and do more?

Our goal is to enable workers to spend less time chatting and more time getting things done. Ultimately, that’s the difference between mere communication and true collaboration.

Addressing the Communication vs. Collaboration Challenge

For companies, manual workflows often lead to siloed information and disconnected people and processes. When communication tools such as chat platforms are added on top of that, excessive talking rises up around fractured workflows as workers try to piece together everything that actually needs to be done.

When companies are trying to communicate between multiple systems and manual workflows, this becomes an even bigger problem. For example, trucking companies must manage workflows between trucking management systems, warehouse management systems, email, order organizations, and more.

Many companies rely on customer service representatives who answer calls, look up information in these various systems, and then funnel that information back to customers. That’s a lot of manual workflows and unnecessary lag time.

Platforms such as Slack may help workers in such situations communicate to ask questions of multiple people to find answers, eliminating middle-man phone calls and emails. But Slack can also quickly create an influx of unnecessary conversation, actually hindering productivity rather than boosting it. Consider that employees at enterprise companies send about 200 slack messages each week, on average. Can you imagine how that might be overwhelming?

That’s why Coolfire looked to take communication tools a step further by removing chatter and replacing it with an emphasis on the work at hand. Coolfire combines messaging with workflow, such as task assignment and completion. That way, employees stay informed but also on task, while companies remain in the know on what teams are working on and what’s been completed.

This creates a new level of operational visibility  that’s important for companies working with multiple teams, departments, and systems, but it’s even more important for companies managing remote or geographically dispersed teams. In a recent survey of more than 1,300 business professionals from 80 different countries, 85% of respondents said they work on at least one virtual team — and that was even before recent events forced more companies to go remote.

Collaboration can be challenging in this virtual environment. With more communication happening digitally, companies need to ensure that conversations aren’t impeding true collaboration. Collaboration needs to enable workers to get the job done — instead of just talking about what needs to happen or how they will do it. The right collaboration tools enable action.

That’s why Coolfire’s collaboration technology delivers information with context around each task so users can make faster decisions and improve operational efficiency.

With Coolfire, users are communicating, but they’re communicating to solve problems rather than to identify them.

Coolfire also saves communication such as messages, alerts, or notifications in a searchable format, ensuring the information is available for governance, training, and compliance tracking.

Turn Chat Into Action With Sessions and Easy Integration

According to a 2019 report from PwC, 77% of CEOs said their main goal was to create or improve operational efficiency. Now, as more teams are having to operate remotely, this level of efficiency means reducing excessive communication and enabling effective collaboration. Chat functionality is an important tool for accomplishing this, but Coolfire takes the basic communication function and adds another layer of capabilities that transform chat channels into active Sessions.

Coolfire’s software allows users to create Sessions around events or tasks. Within each Session, users can communicate and report activity around each operation. This provides a unified view of the work as it’s happening. Instead of trying to get operational visibility into 1,000 tasks a day by looking into 1,000 different chat rooms, workers can see the who, what, when, and where of each task or event in one easily accessible digital workspace. Users can also automate communications such as alerts or notifications within Sessions. Instead of chatting about the next task, users can be notified of the appropriate next steps automatically.

Within a Session, managers and team members have access to real-time status updates for any event or project. This eliminates the need to chat about or follow up on tasks because the status and often proof of completion are already available to all necessary users. All parties have immediate access to the information they need to carry on with the next step in the workflow.

Another means to avoid chatting is the use of sensor data to automate workflow. Let’s use the aforementioned example of the trucking company to illustrate. Trucking management and warehouse teams can be automatically notified when a truck enters a digitally geofenced area — alerting them to the driver’s location and status, when products are expected to arrive, and whether any problems occurred in the last mile of delivery.

In any workspace, whether physical or digital, teams collaborating on projects can benefit from teamwide situational awareness — otherwise known as a common operational picture. For instance, if a team is working within a Session and someone misses a deadline, the reasons can be easily tracked and governed. The missed deadline can even be anticipated and prevented with minimal chatting between teams. Automated messages and alerts can inform everyone when immediate action is needed.

Once teams complete a task or project and the Session ends, all communication and activity are automatically saved and archived. Teams can access this valuable historical data in the future to further eliminate redundancies, streamline workflow processes, avoid late or missed deadlines, and significantly improve operational efficiency.

What’s more, Coolfire’s technology can easily integrate with existing systems and data inputs. Coolfire removes the need to replace entire systems or workflows. Instead, those same systems and workflows can become part of a Session. Sessions can be configured to extract only the data a user needs to ensure efficiency and data security.

How Coolfire Can Improve Operational Efficiency at Your Company

Ultimately, Coolfire’s collaborative technology allows companies to streamline communication and workflows for more efficient work. With complete visibility of their operations, company leaders can eliminate chatter, manual processes, and bottlenecks that are slowing things down; they can also identify where automation and Sessions will lend to a more efficient completion of tasks.

We recommend you map out your business process to see where Coolfire can make an impact. The first step is recognizing your communication and workflow pain points. Then, work with Coolfire to identify how a Session could address them. The goal is to allow your people to do more while talking less and provide the right context and shared awareness to help workers get the job done.

For one use-case scenario of how Coolfire could help turn chat into action, think about how many moving parts ride-sharing workers must keep track of. Managers need to know where drivers are, drivers need directions to pick up customers, and everyone needs to know expected arrival times. With Coolfire, drivers know exactly where to go, when to go, and how to get there. Managers know exactly where drivers are, when to expect them back, and what tasks they’re completing. And customers know when they can expect to be picked up and dropped off.

All of this information is available without any chatting or follow-up questions — but the software still allows for chat if something unexpected comes up. For the most part, however, all the necessary information is already there.

Similar technology can help boost efficiency in many verticals — for example, perimeter security for a corporation. Often, sensors detect human activity and send an alert via email to a designated security officer. But if it’s the middle of the night or that security officer just happens to be away from his or her email, it is unlikely the alert will be seen right away.

With Coolfire, security teams can create a workflow where everyone gets notified when a sensor detects activity, and whoever is on call will receive an alert to go and check it out immediately. The location and other necessary information are immediately available for all parties, but officers can also use the chat function to share nuanced information about specific events.

Coolfire can take the tools and technology you’re already using and elevate the workflow around them — enabling true collaboration rather than filling up your workers’ time with unnecessary and avoidable chat. Ultimately, it’s about spending less time talking about what needs to happen and more time making it happen.

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