It’s hump day: Coronavirus edition

Photo by Reymark Franke on Unsplash

So it’s midway through week 2 and the fun continues. I came to peace years ago that I have a very solitary job as a technical writer. Even when working on teams, I work as an individual contributor. I’ve even had long term writing clients to whom I’ve never spoken with over the phone much less face-to-face. 

Here are some ways I’m amusing myself:

  • Made a resupply run to my local Whole Foods that was a win except for no chicken breasts
  • Doing my day job.
  • Washing my hands…a lot!
  • Cleaning my house a lot more than I regularly do so my kitchen is sparkling.
  • Working on some personal writing projects that I hope to publish in the next week.
  • Thinking more about how the rapid (let’s call it hasty) scaling up of remote work may have lasting effects on the enterprise collaboration marketplace.

I spoke to a friend yesterday on the phone who was pick up a laptop for his wife so she could work from home. He told me that the store he was running out of laptops. These are the times we live in!

How is your Wednesday going?

Integrating Atlassian Confluence Cloud with Microsoft Teams

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

I’ve been following the rise of Microsoft Teams for some time now as the collaboration tools geek that I can sometimes be. The third-party integrations coming available in Microsoft Teams continue to get interesting — throwing away the old Microsoft rule of a 100% Microsoft stack — by enabling integration with third-party SaaS and other applications. I’m especially happy to see the Teams integration with Atlassian Confluence Cloud.

Confluence Cloud and the Teams Store

Microsoft Teams uses an app model for easy integration with Atlassian Confluence Cloud. The app store model is well known so while Teams doesn’t break any new ground here, I did find the store to be responsive and easy to use.

Microsoft Teams Store Landing Page

Microsoft Teams integration made easy

I’ve long been on record that collaboration and group chat applications need to be open to the end users instead of being locked down with service desk tickets being the only key to unlocking them. When administrators give users the appropriate Teams and Confluence privileges, it’s a real easy install and integration.

Click on Store from the sidebar of the Teams application. The Store appears. Search for Confluence and Confluence Cloud selection appears on your screen.

Confluence Cloud in the Teams Store

Select a Team in which to add Confluence Cloud integration from the Add to a Team: drop-down list. Click Install.

Now select the channel where you want to use Confluence Cloud. Click Setup. You only have to do the setup once for Confluence Cloud to be available to authorized users across your other Teams and Channels.

Next, follow the prompts from the Confluence Cloud dialog box. You can now add a reference to a Confluence page residing on your Confluence Cloud. Here’s an example:

When you click on View in Confluence, you are taken directly into Confluence to the page or File list.

Teams + Confluence Cloud

The integration between Teams and Confluence is a smart move. It shows a Microsoft that looks beyond its own technology stack by offering their enterprise customers the tools they need to get the job done. Confluence Cloud is a favorite of DevOps teams because it offers authoring tools that SharePoint just can’t touch.

I’m also a proponent of project teams choosing and managing their own collaboration platforms. Using Microsoft Teams makes that easy because while the company itself may use SharePoint as their standard collaboration platform, their DevOps team can still link to Atlassian Confluence — their preferred collaboration platform — to get their work done.

Personally, I like the thought of using this app to send links to documents or pages to busy executives and others who might shy away from using Confluence.

Why will you be integrating Confluence Cloud with Microsoft Teams?

I’m a technical writer and content development manager living and working in Northern Virginia. Over my career, I’ve written bylined articles for ITSearchOperations, DevOps Agenda, Mobile Business Insights, CNET TechRepublic, and others. My areas of interest include cloud computing, DevOps, enterprise mobility, and collaboration tools. Follow me on Twitter: @willkelly.

7 signs you are losing at enterprise collaboration

Image by geralt via Pixalbay

I’ve come into more than one technical writing engagement only to found the organization was losing or had already lost at enterprise collaboration. As a technical writer, I’ve always had a vested interest in collaborative cultures and platforms. They help me version, publish, and secure my work which has often consisted of sensitive product information.

Here are some signs your enterprise is losing at collaboration:

1. Job security through obscurity

When you have people that act as the self-imposed gatekeeper to project or product information down to even wielding it as a weapon to protect their own turf you’re losing at enterprise collaboration. Think of it as the senior engineer or architect who is the only holder of critical project information. The only way to access the information is through them because they have a stranglehold over the last known good version of the document.

Ultimately, job security through obscurity is a cultural issue that requires more than just a manager to fix. Teams themselves can do a lot to prevent job security through obscurity from ruining collaboration by establishing collaborative cultures where information sharing is a natural element. Sitting on information should be frowned upon not just by the team lead but by everybody. You instill that cultural norm on an employee’s first day.

2. Shadow IT

Going to the cloud as a collaboration platform is as good as it can get for collaboration for many enterprises. Shadow IT is one way to open the potential of enterprise collaboration for an organization, it can also serve as a sign your organization has lost at enterprise collaboration.

With the right management support, you can use Shadow IT for collaboration inside your enterprise and turn it into a win for collaboration. However, if your in-house collaboration platform is seen as unreliable and as a blocker to work it’s going to be hard to turn back from Shadow IT for collaboration without incredible cooperation from all levels of your organization.

3. Big collaboration dreams. Little or no execution

There can be a whole lot of talk about enterprise collaboration it seems. It sounds great as part of a digital transformation initiative. While it warms my heart to see the executive attention to enterprise collaboration issues The hard part comes being able to execute on that big talk.

So much of winning at technology implementations is to start small and work out. The same goes for enterprise collaboration. I long ago became a proponent of team-level decentralized control over collaboration platforms after seeing collaboration being pushed down to teams as a losing proposition. Nobody is going to care — or know as much about your collaboration pain points — as the people who are doing the real work. Management proclamations for collaboration can lack the perspective of people who just need the basics such as enterprise search and mobile app access to your enterprise’s collaboration platform. The art of crafting metadata is going to be lost on the majority of the enterprise. On the other hand, working search tools and a robust platform not so much.

4. Checkbox IT

I once described a SharePoint implementation to a former manager as imagine if you stopped by my office door one morning and said: “Hey, install SharePoint but I want you to do absolutely nothing else to it.” That’s my definition of Checkbox IT. To add insult to injury, Checkbox IT means little or no platform support either. It’s a sure recipe to drive your users away from collaboration.

Recovering from Checkbox IT’s hold over enterprise collaboration means going beyond just the usual change management. You need to burn your old collaboration platform to the ground figuratively (the brand name) and literally (go to the cloud) until you can then begin the long road to rebuilding collaboration platform credibility back again.

5. Collaboration through proclamation

An enterprise collaboration strategy coming from the top down can work against such an initiative in some organizational cultures. The top-down approach to collaboration can miss some of the pain points

Two things that come with collaboration through proclamation that further tarnish collaboration is centralized collaboration management and people leading the collaboration charge that lack the skills and experience to understand the current state of collaboration in your enterprise. Their focus is showing up on an upper management’s PM dashboard versus genuinely helping business operations. Enterprise collaboration, content management, and knowledge management (beyond just the usual semantics)

6. Employee rebellion

A sure sign you are failing at enterprise collaboration is employee rebellion. It usually takes the form of employees doing anything and everything to work around the collaboration platform you have in place.

Such rebellion can take the form of emailing the team’s technical writer for the latest version of a document. The technical writer either goes into the collaboration for themselves to share the newest version of the document or emails a version they’ve been storing locally on their PC. Managers and executives can especially be guilty of such rebellion — all under the guise of being busy — getting their employees to retrieve documents for them.

Employee rebellion against a collaboration platform is all but impossible to recover from.

7. Lost your day 1 advantage

When your enterprise bungles the launch of a collaboration platform, and users feel the pain as they use it to do their jobs, it’s hard if not impossible to regain user trust in the platform. The day 1 advantage can be hard to gain in the first place with some users anyway since people do carry baggage about collaboration platforms in the first place.

Collaboration for the win

Winning at enterprise collaboration means having a strategy with participation and input from all levels of an enterprise. Coming back from enterprise collaboration failure can’t work without such cooperation.

How are you winning at enterprise collaboration?

Hey there! My name is Will Kelly. I’m a technical writer and content development manager living and working in the Washington, DC area. After spending years focusing on technical and SDLC documentation, much of my work now focuses on thought leadership content and marketing collateral. My articles have been published by DevOps Agenda, Mobile Business Insights, TechBeacon, CNET TechRepublic, and others. Follow me on Twitter: @willkelly.

Atlassian Stride: Running in circles

Not to be outdone in collaboration and group chat, Atlassian recently launched Atlassian Stride, a new challenger into the group chat rumble we have going on in the market today. I got to use HipChat on some previous contract, so I was interested in seeing Stride for myself.

Atlassian Stride checks all the group chat boxes:

  • Invitation to join
  • Apps for the major platforms
  • Easy to follow onboarding for new users

When you first open Stride it reminds you a whole heck of a lot of Microsoft Teams and by extension Slack. That doesn’t have to be such a bad thing because I don’t see the three group chat applications in direct competition. While I do see Slack and Stride mixing it up for the attention of development teams, because Stride has an advantage with customers already standardized on the Atlassian stack.

You can set up public and private rooms in Stride to fit your needs which is to be expected in a group chat platform.

I got access to Stride by signing up for an invite. The application still has the feel of a very version 1 offering. While it maintains the usual level of Atlassian quality, I was hoping for more integration options out of the box like I see in Microsoft Teams.

Stride lets you insert files from either Dropbox or Google Drive in the rooms you create.You also can post decisions or tasks in the rooms. I see some real potential with these posting options especially if you can eventually link back to either Confluence or Jira.

Anybody who has ever worked in a group chat heavy work environment has their own stories about being interrupted by a chat client. I think it’s cool that Stride has a Ready to Focus option that enables you to write a short note about what you are working on and then mutes notifications and room activity while you get your work done.

Of course there are Stride applications for the major operating systems . There are also Stride applications for Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Mint, and Debian showing that Atlassian acknowledges their hardcore software developer roots. I checked out the Mac and iOS applications and found them to be stable and devoid of any surprises.

Atlassian makes the Stride Issues list open to the public via Jira. It’s important to note that Jira treats everything as an issue so you’ll see a list that’s more about customer suggestions than it’s about bugs and technical issues.

Final thoughts

I’ve been an off and on user of Atlassian tools for the past few years. What remains to be seen is if Atlassian Stride will subsume HipChat, an app with a loyal customer base? Tinkering around with Microsoft Teams and now Atlassian Stride has shown me how much influence Slack now wields over the group chat market.

In my opinion, Atlassian makes a solid 80/20 platform. You get what you need to do most jobs but may find yourself having to download and install a plug-in or extension to add some other functionality you might require to do your job. Considering the growing role of group chat in today’s enterprise, I hope to see Atlassian launch some sort of an app store for Atlassian Stride in the near future.

My name is Will Kelly. I’m a technical writer and content strategist living and working in the Washington, DC area. My current focus is thought leadership and technical marketing content. I got my start writing user guides, administrator documentation, online help, and later moved into SDLC documentation. My articles about enterprise mobility, BYOD, and other technology topics have been published by IBM Mobile Business Insights, Samsung Business Insights, TechBeacon, CNET TechRepublic, and others. Follow me on Twitter: @willkelly.