Confluence, by Atlassian: Understanding the Software
If you've ever asked the question, "What is Atlassian Confluence?" you might have received one or more of the following common answers:
- "It's a wiki."
- "It's a knowledge base."
- "It's an enterprise-friendly collaboration workspace."
And although these answers may be accurate, they aren't that illuminating if you're not already familiar with terms like "wiki" or "knowledge base." Confluence is meant to be used by everyone in your organization; every additional contributor increases the value of your instance. On your Confluence journey, it's important jargon doesn't intimidate users before they even get started! They are much more likely to jump in if you use simple, clear language and explanations.
As always, we're here to help! Let's look at each of these common methods of explaining Confluence and some alternate approaches.
What's a wiki?
Since most users are familiar with Wikipedia, Confluence champions may assume the first answer above ("it's a wiki") is a good way to employ the time-honored tactic of starting with something users already know. However, while most users have read a Wikipedia article, there is very little chance they've actually written or edited content on the site. This is where the analogy doesn't take us as far as needed for new Confluence users.
For most users, Wikipedia is just another read-only page on the web. Even if aware Wikipedia is user-editable, they almost certainly don't have the experience of easily creating and editing wiki pages and then having the content immediately available to other users. It's powerful, but hard to really "get it" if you haven't actually done it before.
This concept is critically important in understanding Confluence's value:
You can create and edit content that's immediately available to your team, or even our entire organization on Confluence. It's as easy as editing a document in a word processor but more powerful because you don't have to worry about how others will access the new content.
What's a knowledge base?
Next up in common ways to explain Confluence: the term "knowledge base."
This is even more unfamiliar to most users outside of IT. We may be able to better meet users where they are by using the phrase Frequently Asked Questions, aka the infamous "FAQ." Thanks to it's popularization as a go-to spot for answers on many websites, this might be a better entry point to explaining the value of Confluence as the central repository for an organization's knowledge.
We're all familiar with the struggle to find answers in our organizations. Our clients have tackled this challenge by centralizing their knowledge in Confluence. Users need to know:
Confluence is the single place where we store our FAQs. When you have a question, it should always be your first stop. Since you generate new organizational knowledge each day, help teammates (and yourself!) by storing answers, historical information, and future useful content in Confluence!
What's a workspace?
The problem with the term "workspace" is overuse. We hear it used to describe project management systems, collaborative editing in documents, physical locations (e.g. desks, lab tables, kitchens, classrooms), the main area of an application where content is manipulated, and even online portals. And that's just the beginning of things that get called "workspace."
We need something more precise when describing Confluence. Sometimes it's better to use an example to illustrate the value of Confluence instead of abstract jargon. Quickly explain how you or one of your teams have used Confluence. The more germane it is to users's daily responsibilities, the better. In other words, avoid using a software dev team's use case when talking to the accounting department. While Confluence can enable very complex use cases, stash those for advanced users. With new users, make it approachable and the value immediately obvious.
Drinking our own champagne
Recently at work I joined a three-person ad hoc team to reach out to attendees at Atlassian Community Events about career opportunities here at Praecipio Consulting. We started with a single Confluence page and simply attached one Keynote file as the starting point for our presentation. That's it. It took our team lead 15 seconds to create our team's "workspace."
During a subsequent remote meeting using collaborative editing we added sections to our page for talking points, an email template to event leaders, a table for tracking progress, and a Team Calendar to prevent schedule conflicts. All of us updated the document simultaneously. Additional meetings generated additional content sections, sub-pages (e.g. lessons learned), and more.
Because this was a one-time effort, a full project-management system or "plan to plan" would've taken longer than our actual project. But not having Confluence would've made it much harder to stay organized and make quick progress. Confluence is flexible and grew with us as our project evolved. Confluence also stores every edit as a previous version which can be referenced if the change information is ever useful (e.g. when did we reach out to a particular city last?). Since it was so successful, we'll likely repeat this effort in the future. Our work is stored in Confluence for when that day arrives. The wheel will not need to be reinvented, even though Confluence made that first round very efficient and effective.
That simple, thirty-second example of a one-page project "workspace" demonstrates several components that make Confluence so powerful:
- Quick ramp-up and flexible for any kind of work
- Evolves and grows with your team as needs change
- Real-time collaborative editing allows everyone to stay on the same page, even in remote meetings
- Add-ons and features, like Team Calendars, add deeper, dynamic functionality
- Confluence automatically versions edits, allowing us to go back in time if needed
The Journey to Confluence Success
Making Confluence approachable for new users is a critical first step in successful Confluence adoption, but it's not the only one. Here are some other resources to ensure your success.
Confluence is easy to get started with, as long as users aren't intimidated by jargon. It's also easy for it to grow out of control without some guardrails in place. To prevent your Confluence from becoming an overgrown forest - and to make it easy, especially for your newer users - a good design for space organization, permissions, add-ons, and more will save you lots of pain. Praecipio Consulting engagements range from accelerators to get up-and-running on common Confluence use cases to custom-designed engagements tailored to your organization's specific requirements. Let's discuss what would work best for your situation.
Atlassian documentation is great but most users don't read it. We offer instructor-led training to make sure your users get the practical how-to knowledge they need to be effective with Confluence from day one. Contact us for more details.
For learning the basics of Confluence, you can always direct users to Atlassian University which offers on-demand online courses.
Finally, Atlassian has a thriving user community which meets online and in-person every day. Check the forums to see if your questions have already been answered or, if not, post it.
Confluence can dramatically streamline knowledge and project management. It can become one of your users' favorite tools for getting work done. We're experts and ready to help. Please get in touch and let us know how we can help.