Using Confluence as a Team Interface

Atlassian’s Confluence is a great document collaboration application that gives teams one centralized web-based place to organize work, create documents and provide feedback to each other. Unfortunately, many organizations are not making the most of their Confluence investment because they’re just using Confluence as a general wiki for uploading documents and looking stuff up. If this is what you’re doing, you’re missing out on some of the significant productivity gains that Confluence can bring.

Using Confluence to increase productivity

In my mind, one of the best uses for Confluence is as a team interface, a single location that draws in information from diverse sources and makes it possible for team members to be within two clicks of essentially everything that is relevant to their job. And I do mean everything.

Say you’re heading up the Human Resources department. You have a lot of documents that need to be shared externally with the entire company, and many confidential things that can only be shared with the appropriate team members within HR. With this in mind, how could you best use Confluence?

For your internal team you can set up a team interface—a complex and robust space that draws information in from all of the applications that HR uses. For example, you might be using JIRA as a way to track candidates, with each candidate set up as a JIRA “issue.” All of that candidate information can be fed from JIRA into your Confluence space. Once you do that you’ll be able to update candidate information from Confluence, and have the updated information flow back to JIRA. Information from other applications would be brought in to your Confluence team interface as well.

The end result: You will now have one place where everyone can go to do their work, without the need to repeat things in multiple places. This essentially turns Confluence into a control panel for each person’s role at the organization. Everything they need is pulled into that one convenient space, ideally just one or two clicks away.

For your external audience, you can set up a searchable wiki with all of the company-wide HR forms and policies. When someone needs to know how to call in a sick day, book a vacation, etc., this is where they go. And for those who are in departments that are also using Confluence as a team interface, your external wiki could become a tab on their team interface, putting vital HR documents and information within two clicks for their team members as well.

Keeping your Confluence space useful

Of course, like anything that grows organically, over time a Confluence space can get out of hand. Here’s what I recommend for avoiding this problem:

  • Prune regularly – I like to look at Confluence as being like a garden. If you’re managing your garden it will grow, be fruitful and be a positive thing in your life. But it will also start to grow weeds. In Confluence, for example, a “weed” could be multiple sources of truth. Using our HR example, you might have two different HR pages that both contain instructions for booking your holidays. One of these pages is current, while the other is deprecated.Now imagine this problem multiplied out 1,000 times. Regular pruning would prevent this problem and other related problems that reduce Confluence’s effectiveness. To keep things going well you need to regularly pick the weeds and prune the overgrowth.
  • Use the right tools – Confluence offers a great deal of flexibility, including the ability to use a wide variety of add-ons.While I tend to be more concerned with the structure and functionality of Confluence, the look and feel of things is very important as well. I recently helped do a roll-out of Confluence for a client who wanted a very modern look and feel, and also needed Confluence to meet the specific accessibility needs of some of their employees. We were able to do this through the use of a great add-on called Brikit. Brikit not only provides functionally useful “gorgeous designs” as they claim, they also graciously provided us with some pre-made code that met a good part of our client’s accessibility requirements.
  • Let the team self-manage – Although you might think that to set up Confluence as a team interface you also need to set up strong governance rules regarding filing systems, file naming conventions and the like, I’ve found that it’s really not necessary. As the space grows and people begin to use it more, they naturally want to refine it so that they can do their job even better. Because of this they start to pull in exactly what they need, weed out the outdated files and organize things to achieve that two-click efficiency that is the goal.

Conclusion

Need help getting Confluence set up as a team interface within your organization? Give us a call. As Atlassian Platinum Solution Partners, Coyote Creek has the expertise that you need.