Virtual Team Management Tool Review: Why We Fell in Love with Atlassian Confluence

Earlier this year, an intrepid team of young developers at PediaPress had a radical idea: they would make a print edition of Wikipedia.

Like, the whole thing.

The plan was to print out every single article in the English Wikipedia (around 4 million in total) and bind them in books – they estimated it would take about 1,000 volumes, adding up to more than 1 million pages. The bookcase required to hold them all would be 8 feet high and more than 32 feet long, and the project would cost around $50,000, which they hoped to raise on the crowdfunding site Indiegogo.

Now, if you’re like me, you’re thinking two things. First, this is a really creative project. And second, a print edition of Wikipedia is SUPER not-practical! (Not that they were doing this to be practical, of course.)

Even leaving out factors like the ridiculous cost and the physical space it would take up, a print edition of Wikipedia eliminates some of its best qualities: it’s searchable, it’s infinitely scalable, and anyone in the world can edit it to make it better on the spot.

That in mind, why would you print out things like your company’s employee handbook? Or training materials? Or weekly agendas? So they can get recycled, or lost, or squeezed into a file folder? If a wiki is so useful for the million different things you look up on a regular basis, don’t you think it might be useful for your business?

That’s why today, I’m reviewing Confluence.

Ever since I mentioned Confluence in my roundup of tools for online teams, I’ve gotten a TON of people asking about it – which is prettttty exciting, because I honestly think that way more people should be using this thing! Even if you DON’T have an online business, Confluence will streamline your day-to-day tasks and organization in a huge way. Pretty soon, this puppy is gonna be EVERYWHERE.

Confluence is an online tool that allows you to build and manage a private wiki for your business. Using a super simple template format, you build your wiki page by page, organizing it however you want – eventually, it turns into a searchable database that houses ALL of the company info that you and your employees might need. Here, check out the homepage for the LKR Confluence:

Atlassian Confluence review

On the left, we’ve built in different categories, sort of like a table of contents – any employee who visits the Confluence can use those categories to find the information they’re looking for. If they click on the first one on the list, for example – Employee Handbook – they get taken here:

Atlassian Confluence review - LKR Social Media

Cool, right? In fact, that right there is one of the things I love about this program:

Confluence is perfect for boring-but-necessary information (BBN).

Everybody who runs a business – heck, everybody who WORKS FOR a business – knows how much documentation is involved. You’ve got more red tape than an adhesives store! More files than a nail salon! More policies than an insurance convention! (Okay, my standup routine could use a little work.)

The point is, there’s a TON of stuff to know, and stuff that you probably won’t need to reference every day of your life – but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to document it SOMEwhere. Sure, you could print it up in an employee handbook, but the second you want to make any changes, you’re gonna have to do it again – and then you’ve got multiple copies of this document out there in the world, just waiting to confuse anyone who happens to look at the wrong version.

This is why Confluence makes the onboarding process for new hires about a million times faster and easier. Instead of throwing a pile of paperwork at every new employee and expecting them to read and retain all of its information, you can just point them toward your Confluence, which has the answers to all of their questions. And that takes me to my next big point:

Confluence allows you to create how-to pages for pretty much anything.

Tell me if this sounds familiar: you’ve got a certain task that you only have to do every now and then – maybe once a month, you take a look at your Google Analytics page and check on a few vital stats.

When you log in, though, you draw a big ol’ blank. Dangit! This was so simple last time…you just clicked on the one link, and it showed you the thing…which one was it, again? You know you wrote it down somewhere…maybe on a sticky note or something? Whatever! Stupid Google, ruins everything!

In Confluence, though, you can create how-to pages for ANYTHING, so you and anyone else who needs to perform a certain task can figure it out without having to guess – or having to ask! Just like that Google Analytics thing – check out this example from our own Confluence:

Atlassian Confluence review

With this how-to guide that we whipped up with just a few screenshots, any member of our team can handle this task – whether or not they’ve ever done it before! This makes Confluence an ideal training tool, especially for remote work – and in true wiki fashion, anyone on your team with permission can edit a page. Seriously – ANYONE.

You don’t need to know diddly squat about web development to build a Confluence.

Did your web design talents peak with the Spice Girls fan page you made on GeoCities? (Hey, we’re all friends here.) It’s no problem at all – because you don’t need to know the first thing about HTML to build a Confluence wiki. The whole thing is template based, so it never gets much more complex than typing up a blog entry.

Atlassian Confluence wiki review

The interface has all the usual tools for formatting your text, inserting images, putting in hyperlinks – whatever it is you need to do! (And if you ARE more techno-savvy than the average bear, you can integrate spreadsheets, calendars and more.) Basically, this thing is ÜBER user-friendly. And speaking of users:

Confluence allows you to tag your coworkers.

Because only certain people have access to your Confluence, anyone who views it has a little user profile – and that means you can tag people. This makes it so you can draw someone toward a relevant page, like we do every week when we make an agenda page for our usual meeting:

Atlassian Confluence

Look – it’s the whole happy LKR family! Everybody got notified when they were tagged, so they had a quick and easy link to the weekly meeting page. A weekly meeting page like this is a HUGE benefit for remote teams! By making a new one for every meeting and saving all of them in Confluence, we can easily keep track of our goals and progress, and refer back to topics of discussion from prior meetings. It’s a ridiculously simple way of keeping everyone in the loop and making sure that nothing slips through the cracks over time. We actually do the same thing for keeping track of customer feedback on a weekly basis, too:

Atlassian Confluence review - embedded tweets

Instead of letting all that feedback get lost forever, or stuffed into some random Word doc and forgotten about, we catalog it in a place where any team member can access it at any time. (Perfect for when you need a little motivational pick-me-up!)

Basically, we all fell in love with Confluence.

You know that when I find a tool I like, I can’t keep quiet about it – so consider this an official recommendation. Since we adopted Confluence here at LKR, we’ve been gaga for it, and we’re STILL finding new ways we can use it to streamline our workflow and become more efficient. So whether you have a distributed team, you want to go paperless, or you’re just ready to be a bit more organized, this tool should be on your radar.

Oh, and the print edition of Wikipedia? Unfortunately, it didn’t meet its fundraising goal. Maybe some things really are just meant to live on the web.

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About Laura Roeder

Laura Roeder is a social media marketing expert who gives businesses of all sizes the tools they need to make their mark on the web. She is the creator of the social media scheduling software Edgar, as well as social media marketing web courses like Creating Fame and Social Brilliant.

Comments

  1. Now if only I could find a better personal wiki solution..

  2. oh how I wish I’d seen this a week ago, when I was deep in a google search for a much better solution to create documentation! Loved seeing how you implement this for weekly team meetings!
    Thanks!
    ~ Loralee