Do you remember the filing cabinets of yesteryear? With its huge drawers and hundreds of folders, often requiring entire office warehouses to accommodate them. Only those in charge of filing the documents knew how to find anything, so you had to wait for those people to find what you needed at that moment...
But thankfully, with servers and the cloud, things have changed!
Now we have virtual platforms where you can save not hundreds but thousands of files in countless folders. You can quickly sort and search by name, date, or type. Much easier. You can share a simple link for others to see your file, download it anywhere, send it by email, and even work together to edit simultaneously.
Everything seems great, right? Well, sometimes accidents happen. Files can be deleted, saved in the wrong folder, named incorrectly, or simply outdated. It's important to stay vigilant and ensure all necessary information is available and up-to-date.
Great Documentation Equals Productivity
Documentation plays a crucial role in the workplace, and neglecting it can lead to many, many headaches, as it is one of the leading causes of internal communication failures, which in turn causes unnecessary meetings, data loss, and production delays.
In a traditional office setting, it might be easier to solve questions by approaching a colleague's cubicle. However, if the information is not documented, the same questions will likely arise repeatedly, wasting time and causing frustration.
On the other hand, in a remote work setup with team members in different time zones, this exchange of information may take time, which will generate more significant delays. New team members may struggle to find the right person to ask for guidance, and last-minute changes can leave them waiting for a specific individual to return and update the necessary documents.
Lack of proper documentation can create a range of issues.
We are not talking about documenting everything that each person does daily, as that would be impractical and result in a vast amount of unnecessary data. The key is to establish a culture of documentation and build an organized knowledge structure that everyone can access, contribute to, and understand.
Appropriate documentation offers numerous benefits beyond saving time and money:
- Team members will be better prepared
- Promotes harmony by ensuring consistent data sources
- Facilitates horizontal communication
- Shortens the onboarding process for new team members
- Simplifies collaborations between teams
- Preserves valuable knowledge even if someone leaves the team
Try Confluence, The Knowledge Management System
Multiple tools are available to manage information, but we want to highlight one that we use at Catapult Labs and find essential in our workflow.
Surely you are familiar with Wikipedia, right? Confluence is essentially a wiki, but much better! It's a collaborative space for organizing information that adapts to your specific needs; it can be a simple data repository, a space for meeting notes, an events calendar, a task-tracking tool, or whatever your team and your project are looking for.
Here are three main reasons why we find this Atlassian tool fantastic:
It's adaptable: it allows you to personalize its structure to fit your specific needs. You can select different functions and integrate complementary add-ons, creating a unique space tailored to your team’s requirements.
It's collaborative: one important aspect to highlight is its collaborative nature. You can tag team members on pages, assign roles, and manage viewing and editing permissions. This level of control ensures that the right people manage your information and encourages team members to contribute to their own sections at their convenience.
It's navigable: you can search the database beyond just titles or dates; you can search by users, projects, and teams. You can interact with the information, add tags, and receive notifications when someone edits or comments on your pages, among other features that enhance navigation and interaction.
In addition to keeping your information protected and organized, Confluence offers a wide range of possibilities to leverage that knowledge. It will also help you do better planning, data analysis, process streamlining, sharing internal policies, and increasing work transparency.
At this point, you might think that Confluence is undoubtedly complicated to use because of its extensive capabilities, but it's actually quite intuitive. When your register as a new user, tutorials are available, and Atlassian also provides courses to help you further explore its functionalities. The only limit is your creativity and how far you want to take it!
Before you start using Confluence with your team, we recommend the following:
- Give access to all team members
- Discuss the expectations for this new documentation space
- Define the documentation requirements and designate managers to handle them
- Create guidelines to ensure the structure is followed
- Establish protocols to edit and approve content
5 pages you need in your new Confluence space
In Confluence, spaces are created and organized into page trees, where all pages can have multiple child pages. Each company decides how to structure its data and the sections it needs, which means that one space is never the same as another. However, having worked with numerous teams from different lines of business, we realized that certain sections are truly useful, and you should consider adding them to your space.
1. Team: While it may seem basic, the “Team” section is often overlooked but holds great importance.
Even if you have been working with the same colleagues for years and are familiar with their roles and responsibilities, there are inevitable changes in positions, responsibilities, and individual growth within a team. This not only generates new ideas for projects and business opportunities but also serves as a source of motivation. When team members can see their professional growth recorded in the company's history, it provides a sense of recognition and encourages them to continue developing their skills.
On the other hand, this information dramatically facilitates the onboarding process of new members or temporary collaborators. If the culture and procedures are documented step by step, understanding the team's objective and workflow will be much faster. Additionally, if there is a dedicated space for new members to introduce themselves, it fosters social integration, builds trust, and allows others to identify who they can approach for assistance or guidance.
2. Glossary: Often passed over, the "Glossary" page is an essential resource, especially when collaborating with individuals who are new to the field, have recently changed careers, or hold non-technical roles. While experienced team members may be familiar with the terminology used in their specific sector or project, newcomers can find themselves lost and overwhelmed by unfamiliar terms scattered throughout the documents.
Having a comprehensive glossary eliminates the need for individuals to research and decipher every concept independently. It not only includes technical definitions but also extends to encompass the company's culture and informal jargon used within the team. This way, the glossary becomes a valuable resource that fosters understanding and ensures clarity in communication, enabling everyone to navigate the team's language effectively.
3. Processes and policies: It is essential to have a compilation of manuals that not only train your team on technical aspects but also incorporate guidelines for behavior, security policies, request protocols, and more.
By including these resources, you ensure that each team member has the knowledge they need to fulfill their role successfully and understand the company's philosophy and values.
4. Calendar: While you may already have tools to manage agendas individually, a shared calendar serves a different purpose. It allows everyone to stay informed about their colleagues' activities, project progress, and upcoming tasks.
The collective calendar is not meant for monitoring your team; instead, it promotes information sharing and transparency. It helps track the progress of specific projects and identify the team members involved in particular tasks.
5. Reports: Don't lose track of results by making separate files by month, putting them in different folders, or making them difficult to access. Instead, consider compiling all the reports in a centralized space organized by theme, team, project, or structure. This makes it easier for your colleagues to find and understand the information they need.
Having all the reports in one place allows for effortless comparisons, graph creation, identification of areas for improvement, and analysis of team performance.
Find your booster: Confluence Add-ons
But wait, there are still significant advantages of Confluence to talk about, such as the enormous variety of tools that you can integrate directly into the platform to meet your team's much more specific needs.
In the Atlassian Marketplace, you will find more than 500 options; that’s why this final section would be never-ending if we let ourselves go. However, we will just share our top three favorite extensions that have proven to be helpful for remote teams using the agile methodology.
Retrospectives are part of improving your team's work; therefore, you should keep a record of your sessions' agreements and actions.
Agile Retros will greatly help since it can be integrated with both Confluence and Jira, allowing you to centralize all the information in one place. This app is flexible and caters to distributed teams, offering the option for asynchronous sessions and promoting individual thinking to avoid group bias. It provides a range of pre-selected techniques while also permitting you to design your own custom retrospectives.
This plugin has remained popular for years due to its ability to incorporate various diagrams, flowcharts, and drawings in an interactive manner. It allows you to present information in a visually appealing and easily understandable format, regardless of whether you have a software development background.
From here, you can integrate it into your Confluence.
Based on the Planning Poker technique, this app assists you in estimating your backlog. It allows you to import issues from Jira, customize your estimation style, make the process fun, and at the end, export your results directly to your issues.
And before concluding this section, we wanted to mention one last thing: in addition to these add-ons, there are alliances between Confluence and other essential platforms that cater to the fundamental needs of a team. We couldn't leave this out, as we believe that unifying your tools strengthens your digital ecosystem, and it is worth investigating the available options.
For example, if you're searching for technical project planning and management software, we highly recommend exploring Jira, an Atlassian product specifically designed to integrate seamlessly with Confluence. And for business communication, you may already be familiar with Slack, one of the leading messaging systems that foster collaboration among remote teams. However, you may not be aware that Slack can also be smoothly integrated with Confluence, too!
We encourage you to explore these possibilities to create a robust and interconnected digital environment for your organization.
Beyond the tools themselves, fostering a culture of documentation, organization, and collaboration is vital to empower your team, facilitate learning and boost their productivity, regardless of whether you work in a traditional, hybrid, or remote setup. But if we want to make these habits easier and get the most out of our data, you must know the digital platforms that best suit your work style, philosophy, and goals.
Remember that what is not measured cannot be improved, and what is not registered can be forgotten, so train your team to synthesize what they know and do, encourage them to ask questions and seek ways to share their expertise with others, and understand how they research and retain information so you can structure your data within your chosen platform correctly.
If you'd like to see even more app recommendations, you can read about add-ons that increase your team’s performance, and explore the Atlassian Marketplace. You'll always find a new tool to experiment with!
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