As a Knowledge Management System, Confluence is all about improving efficiency, making it easier for collaboration to take place. This means that all users need to “be on the same page,” following the same rules and guidelines regarding how documents, information and knowledge will be organized. It also means that the system must be designed and maintained in a way that ensures all users can quickly and easily find the document, information or piece of knowledge they need at any possible time.
What I’ve seen is that there are four important governance issues that are absolutely vital to the Knowledge Management System project’s success:
- Limit page structure to a maximum of 3 or 4 levels – Finding a file, document or piece of information within Confluence is similar to using Windows Explorer to find a document on a PC. However, while many people find it helpful to use multiple file levels when saving things on their own computer, when you need others to be able to locate things, too, it is best to work with your stakeholders to establish some taxonomy best practices. One of the best rules of thumb is to limit the depth of file hierarchy to a maximum of three or four levels. Any more than that and you risk losing the user. People will find it so difficult to locate things that they’ll give up. For example, say the Marketing Assistant uploads the “Product X Data Sheet” to Confluence so that everyone in the company can access it. Where should this document be filed? Without a clear policy regarding folders and sub-folders or pages and sub-pages, the Assistant might file it under Marketing / Dental Products Division / Product X / Winter Trade Show / Revised Materials / Product X Data Sheet. Thus ensuring that no one will ever see the Product X Data Sheet again!
- Maintain a single source for each item – If you want to be able to reference a document or file from multiple spaces in the wiki, do not put copies of that document in each Confluence space. Instead, maintain a single source for the item, and set up links from the other locations. This ensures that everyone always has access to the latest/best version at all times, and that multiple departments won’t need to be notified every time an update to the document is made.
- Enable search through standardized titles and tags – To ensure that your wiki’s search function will work properly, you must be very strict about how things are titled and tagged. First, it’s extremely helpful to have a titling convention that everyone follows. Even more important within Confluence, though, is how each page or file is tagged (and that users are required to tag things at all).For example, say I create a page on “the best restaurants in San Francisco” and want to tag this page with “San Francisco.” Should I use “SanFrancisco,” “San-Francisco” or “San Francisco”? Any of these would work – as long as everyone else uses the same tag, too.The best way to manage standardization of tags within Confluence is to create a “tags database” and a process that prevents users from choosing a tag without first checking that database. If the desired tag is not in the database, the user can follow a process for adding one. Taking this approach brings consistency to your wiki’s search function.
- Put data retirement rules in place – As time goes by, things get out of date. How will you ensure that all documents residing on Confluence are still relevant, accurate and good to be used by anyone who has access to Confluence? You need to put a process in place to ensure that everything in Confluence is up-to-date, and that outdated information is “retired” and moved to an off-wiki archive. Once you archive a Confluence page, all information in that specific page will no longer be available in the search results seen by any other users.
Addressing these important wiki governance issues will go a long ways towards making your Knowledge Management System a very strategic information tool within your company.
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