GitLab Summit 2020 recap: Using messaging for better remote DevOps collaboration

As many on-site organizations scramble to adopt remote work, DevOps teams are turning to messaging and integrated workflows to collaborate effectively. Usual office work practices are changing, and people are having to adapt to a remote-first approach. This demands a change to your company culture, a remote mindset and the tools to deliver it.

Here at Mattermost, we work hard to create a great remote experience for every member of the team, and we believe that facilitating the easy flow of information is key to fostering a healthy, collaborative remote team.

At Gitlab Summit, Customer Engineer Paul Rothrock and Sr. Product Manager Aaron Rothschild shared some tips from Mattermost on desiloing information and creating a better remote experience for your whole team. Read on to learn some of the key takeaways from their session, or jump to the end to watch the entire talk.

Implement a communication framework that helps team members discover what they’re looking for 

Implementing a shared communication framework and guidelines helps give the whole team a baseline understanding of where to find what they’re looking for and how to structure new channels and threads effectively. 

The Mattermost team uses simple channel naming conventions to help team members find information easily. “If we have a channel where developers talk about X, we prefix it with Developers:. This gives people an easy way to figure out where they can go to learn more about a specific product question,” says Paul. “There’s always that trepidation when you go into a community around, ‘Is this the right place to ask?’ and this convention helps to reduce that.”

The team is also encouraged to use hashtags to thread related messages together—such as #customer-feedback for any message containing feedback from customers. Using hashtags helps other members of the team find and contextualize that information easily, without having to scroll back through weeks’ worth of messages to find the right post.

Use tool integrations to keep information up-to-date and discoverable

Aaron also notes that integrating other key platforms and tools with Mattermost has helped make development and customer support workflows easier while ensuring that everyone on the team gets involved at the right time. 

“A key part of any DevOps organization is triggering [action] off of messages. As a product person, it’s always a challenge ingesting feedback from various sources,” Aaron explains. Mattermost’s productboard integration helps capture customer requests and feedback into the productboard platform, and attribute customers to certain features that they want, giving PMs an easy reference point for following up on those requests.

Another essential integration is with Jira. The support team can create Jira tickets directly within Mattermost that associates those support tickets with messages from customers. This helps the team retain as much context as possible about the issue, and helps the support team move the ticket through the resolution process. 

Establish team rituals that reinforce cross-team communication and celebrate wins

“The most important part of being a remote-first organization is really about courtesy, and being able to think about other people,” says Aaron. Increasing visibility around the hard work that team members are doing is important, as it can be hard to have insight into what everyone else is working on when the team is distributed. 

Creating rituals to celebrate successes and recognize outstanding performance helps motivate the team. For support tickets, Paul created a webhook that posts the Zendesk ticket number, customer feedback and an @ reply to the team member that received praise. 

remote devops best practices using webhooks to highlight team wins

The Mattermost team also throws a celebration after each launch to make releases a positive, exciting experience. “I’ve been in organizations where a release is coming up and [the vibe] is nervous or bad because there’s something going wrong,” says Aaron. “By making a process ritual that associates good feelings with a release process, it can change how the team perceives things.”

Learn more about remote DevOps collaboration

For more tips on streamlining DevOps collaboration, watch the full session below. And be sure to check the rest of GitLab Commit’s great sessions on practical DevOps strategies on their Youtube channel

Build a better remote DevOps experience

Want to help build a better remote experience? Join Mattermost and Jitsi from Nov 10–17, 2020 for Hacking from Home: Thriving in a remote environment. The goal of this hackathon is to create new solutions that optimize remote work for everyone. Learn more about the hackathon and how to get involved.

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Ashley Dotterweich

Ashley Dotterweich is the Head of Content at Mattermost. Previously, she ran content marketing for Heavybit Industries and Rainforest QA.

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