Collaboration: It’s not brain surgery, but it does require the right tool for the right situation

Submitted by Rob Schmidt, WashU IT Systems Engineer IV


WashU IT subject matter experts from Network Engineering, End User Services, and Desktop Engineering collaborate to troubleshoot an issue and improve IT processes.

We have a plethora of tools at our disposal to collaborate with one another: in-person meetings, phones, email, texting, Teams, shouting across the room. It’s important that we use tools effectively, and more importantly, know when a tool will not be effective.

Recently (late April), Mitch Gentry evaluated a ServiceNow (SN) ticket assigned to the WashU IT networking group.  The ticket described recently SITS-migrated workstations experiencing multiple network connectivity and login issues.  A temporary fix had been put in place to keep people working, but this solution hampered the nightly SITS migration schedule, including QA testing, and the image build process.

Mitch knew that finding root cause for complex incidents could be agonizingly slow, especially if the analysis required several technical groups to resolve.  Anticipating this being a complex challenge, he decided to avoid the potential SN ticket “fire and forget” and instead started a Teams conversation to identify complexity and SMEs needed.  It quickly became clear that even a rapid, but asynchronous, collaboration process wasn’t going to get to solutions quick enough.  Using Teams, they organized an in-person meeting of the SMEs in the QA workspace at 4480 Clayton Ave.

Consisting of SMEs from Network Engineering, EUS, and Desktop Engineering, the group performed many cycles of “test, troubleshoot, and resolve” to capture data and compartmentalize the multiple issues into actionable items. From this work, they identified process improvements, needed knowledge base (KB) articles, and configuration changes.

This in-person, collaborative effort proved to be a significant time saver. These separate, but related issues, could have been divided into numerous SN tickets and spanned several weeks’ worth of troubleshooting and resolution.  Because the SMEs came together to share their wisdom, they not only solved the immediate issues, but also improved our services.  Using the right tools at the right time for the right challenge is part of what helps make our IT services great.