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Step 1: Ask a Collaboratory Question

Edited
Bridget Community Manager Aug 01, 2021

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Hello Collaboratory Scientists!

Welcome to Collaboratory Month 🧬

The first step in the Collaboratory method is asking a question that you want to answer. This question will include one of the key starters, which are how, what, when, why, where, who or which. The question you ask should also be measurable and answerable through experimentation. It is often something that can be measured with a numerical result, although behavioral results are part of the scientific method as well.

Example: Perhaps, you want to test an experiment about whether having more meetings results in more efficient collaboration.

A good question to begin with might be: ”Does having more meetings result in a project being finished more quickly?"

Remember - this experiment is all about finding the most efficient teamwork formula. Try to come up with questions about Collaboration topics like:

  • Hybrid teams
  • Breaking down information silos 
  • Collaboration tools
  • Meeting cadence/style
  • Communication tools/styles
  • Asynchronous collaboration

  • Cross-functional collaboration 

  • Internal vs. external collaboration 

  • Create your own! 

We'll award the Collaboratory badge to all Community members who ask a Collaboratory question :) Keep an eye on the main Collaboratory post to discover next steps!  

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26 comments

Rina Nir Marketplace Partner Aug 02, 2021

Our dev team 'lives' in Jira, and we are very comfortable with all the reporting happening in Jira (sprint progress, backlog grooming, velocity, etc.). We also use Confluence for "general knowledge sharing" and non issue specific discussions.
External stakeholders are often curios about whats happening on our side, which forces us to create dashboards and reports --> which often leads to overhead as we try to respond to ad-hoc questions and communicate our "external story" in a way that is relevant and up to date.

What is the most efficient way that we can keep external stakeholders informed?

Like # people like this
Bridget Community Manager Aug 02, 2021

Love it @Rina Nir !! Such an important topic 

I used a Products requirements page in Confluence that I keep updated with the information required.  Best part is a questions section where the team posts their questions for the next time we meet with the client.

Like # people like this

I would certainly recommend to use Confluence  in this case and dedicated spaces and pages with updates would  give updates around the work which can be easily understood and answer most frequently asked questions from external stakeholders. I would also suggest to use Macros effectively under those page to give proper summarized single pager view. It would be highly recommended to use inline and general comments so that team are engaged in comms and that's well documented in a single source of truth instead of offline chats.

We use Jira gadgets in Confluence to display relevant Epics and Stories from Jira and add some explanation on the same page to share this type of information.

We have started by making everything as open as possible, giving everyone read permission ('browse project') in our company and even edit permissions on our Confluence space so we can get the best interaction/collaboration.

Make sure the Jira filters and projects used are shared with everyone to avoid disappointment.

For server/data center versions: You use Jira gadgets in Confluence by first making them available (for example like this)

For cloud: I think this is possible as well and may already be available through "External Content" macro menu.

We use a lot of add-ons/apps in Jira which also have their own gadgets and add these to Confluence as well to share for example Roadmap Plans, BigPicture Gantt charts, Strcutures, Xray reports, etc.

For the last years, our team didn't take notes during our team meeting. Everyone was taking notes for himself. We now started experimenting with a self-made Confluence template to write down the most important points during our weekly team meeting. So here is the question I want to investigate this month (actually there are two 😁):

Does a team meeting protocol helps our team to better collaborate? What content should our meeting notes have?

Like # people like this
Bridget Community Manager Aug 03, 2021

This is amazing - I'm very excited to hear how the rest of the experiment plays out! 

Hi Marc,

 

I use the following format.  Simple.  You can create a template and use it every time.  Having a purpose and an agenda keeps everyone on track.  Keeping actions items and decisions separate, make it easy to find.  And, I embed tables to keep it neat and easy to read.

 

Meeting Info

1. Date/Time

2. Purpose

Attendees with attendance

Agenda

1. Agenda Item 1 Discussion

2. Agenda Item 1 Discussion

3. etc.

Action Items

1. Who, What, When

2. Who, What, When

Decisions

1. What, Why, When

2. What, Why, When

Thanks for your tips, @Marjorie ! I just wrote a new Confluence template for our meeting notes this week. 😁

Based on the feedback of my team, I made some adjustments compared to version 1.0. One thing was to separate the action items. And I use a lot of tables. 👍 

Like Marjorie likes this

Can you share your template??!! ;o}

How do we create single source of truth for better collaboration with cross functional teams ?

Like # people like this
Bridget Community Manager Aug 03, 2021

Great question @Kishan Sharma !

We keep a wall of truth.  I recommend a page called "Wall of Truth" and pull it up during meetings and discussions.  Keep it up to date.  Tag people when it changes.

Like # people like this

That's a nice question @Kishan Sharma !  I would agree with the above suggestion from @Marjorie .  A dedicated page to keep a track of outcomes of  meetings and discussions would be great and it should be maintained after those ceremonies.  I think it should be a collaborative effort instead of an individual updating it. It would be great to circulate an update as comments with relevant people tagged after each occurrence.

Thank you @Suvradip Paul I have formed below hypothesis on my question -

Considering the complexity of the project, select the right collaboration tool and create a dashboard in a shared space where cross-functional teams can visualize the work in progress, check status, set goals - deadlines and assign them to appropriate teams for actions. 

So yes, creating a shared page /Wall of truth having action points, statuses, and the project leads of the functional teams can help to be on the same page in this case.

Like Suvradip Paul likes this
Daniel Ebers Community Leader Aug 04, 2021

In a larger environment where Confluence is accepted and used daily we hear feedback which suggests documentation is felt not to be targeted to everyone's specific need.
Previous knowledge differs, personal style of getting topics explained differ ... finally there are personal preferences when it comes to formatting.

What if on a single day a content creator receives feedback regarding a specific page from two distinct persons in the following way:

- the summer camp page ... "got too long/detailed, it took me hours to read"
- this summer camp page ... "got too short, I could not find the right information"?

It seems what one persons considers a lengthy page still leaves questions for others.
While one person prefers a bullet-pointed style others wants to have full-sentences with longer explanations.
Not everyone is on the same level of experience/knowledge making it hard to find the right balance of explanation.
Also, some team members prefer a nicely formatted page with emojis and styling where other tend to keep away from documents that show more than a few pictures/emojis.

How can we find a balanced approach for content creation which, best case, satisfies specific personal preferences of team members when consuming content?

Like # people like this
Bridget Community Manager Aug 04, 2021

So brilliant!

Great question. Yesterday, as I worked through creating a doc for our support team to reference, I used "expands" to help keep the page less "busy" for folks who don't need all of the information. The page still contains all of the same information, but is easily collapsed/expanded when that information is needed. Some pages seem to lend themselves to less words and more pictures (which seems to be the way many of us prefer to consume information now, too!)

Like Daniel Ebers likes this
Rina Nir Marketplace Partner Aug 12, 2021

@Amanda Barber - the expand is a great idea and definitely helps keep things tidier.  I use it too.

Anther thing that is useful is to "layer" the page:

At the top, put a short version (The gist, or an "executive summary"), and underneath that- a TOC and detailed sections. So people can read the more detailed information if the need

Like # people like this

Great idea - adding that to a recent page I've been working on. Thank you, @Rina Nir !

Is there a coincidence between asynchron work, number of meetings and length/number of needed (or maybe not needed) documentation and notes? Or is there even no causality 🤷‍♀️

When you and your co-workers work all over the world and everyone is having their own kind of working rhythm and imagine working with external stakeholders with the same conditions - it sometimes feels hard. There are more meetings, more things to be written down, or longer, or shorter (as @Daniel Ebers mentioned) - or does it just feel like that?

Using Confluence for Collaboration and Documentation and Jira for Projects, Trello for Self Management,  it should be easy....

We use the Confluence space for recording daily scrum meeting notes, and sprint-related information, JQL filter results. Collaboration is very fast, whenever something is needed our members mention it in comments. Due related items, Tasks. all will be tracked. and Blog Posts are also much useful to us.

we linking Epic-related pages to respective epics in Jira. so everyone has a more detailed view regarding the stories and epics. After every release, the information we record in the "Release" tree in confluence.

For every different scenario related to tasks, we made different templates. These templates making our life easier.

Being a confluence administrator, sometimes my team upload ppt's in confluence, if a template is used for PPT presentation, searching a keyword in a template used PPT is a horrible experience for us.

Like # people like this

With lots of remote meetings lately, I think it is even more important to have a good agenda.

A good agenda makes a good meeting.

How can we collaboratively set agendas beforehand and make meeting documentation in Confluence easier?

Like Marjorie likes this

Can you do it at Daily Standup, if you have them?  Or a page to collect Agenda Items?

Like Britta Neugebauer likes this

@Britta Neugebauer  - A clear and focused agenda is key to any successful meeting.

So, if this can be a single pager confluence which is updated on regular basis and a quick discussion can be done in daily standup for immediate ones and mark the others and bring those as part of Sprint Retrospectives and try to sort out. Use Confluence Marcos effectively to categorise these items. 

I would be happy to hear your feedback.

Like Britta Neugebauer likes this

Does anyone have a good way they Sprint Plan in Confluence?  Any lessons learned?

Like Suvradip Paul likes this

Nice question @Marjorie ! I have worked in some teams where we used to use Confluence for Sprint Planning, Sprint Review and Sprint Retrospectives.

I would say the Sprint Planning was effective through Confluence like documenting the current sprint goals, check the velocity of team using the velocity reports and followed by planning the team capacity keeping mind factors such as prioritising goals,  leaves in current sprint and maximum capacity available, any other potential risks involved. Different macros can be used to design this template.

Now, WRT lessons learnt - 1. Our SM used to take offline notes during this Sprint Planning Session and then publish it tagging  later with required audience. We tried to do part of meeting but it was not quite easy so agreed to publish the template after the Sprint Planning 2. Teams used to comment and we used those comments as part of previous sprint open queries while starting the next Sprint Planning.

Like Marjorie likes this
Like Suvradip Paul likes this

Thanks @Matt Reiner _K15t_ for reminding me of "Placeholder text" in Confluence. I really should use it more often. Great feature!

Like # people like this

How can I create more collaboration during our daily standup (recently moved from Scrum to Kanban/Scrumban, but the standup framework is still Scrum.)

Like Bridget likes this

Hmm, tweaking for Step 2...

Does time-boxing individuals' standup discussions to 1 minute provide more time for and aid in facilitating collaboration following the traditional mentions of work done, work to do and blockers?

Like Bridget likes this

We are a bit of an oddball in the Atlassian universe - a business process team. We're currently running our first ever sprint! Is there a best practice for collaborating via Jira/Confluence out there that is not Software or Services?

Like # people like this
Sharon Tan Community Manager Aug 30, 2021

Welcome to the Atlassian Community, @Susan Witton ! This would actually be a great question to post in our Jira Work Management group for input from other teams who may be using Jira and don't fall within a traditional software or service/IT team. Feel free to get as granular as you like - JWM is our new space for business teams who use Jira :) 

Hey there, i am relatevely new to Confluence and i just searching for a method to structure the content. My main problem is how to work with old content that already exist? Is it better to leave it on a fileshare or should we import it to our confluence? Is it possible to add existing office documents on a file share to Confluence search?

Like # people like this

Hi Matt, that depends a lot on the documentation relevance.

We also faced this and I worked together with one person to manually import documents and made us of the 'import Word document' function to add such documents. It cost us quite some time to do that and also clean up / correct the page structures and sometimes we chose to simply copy paste the (Word/PPT) document content and paste that in a page because it gave better results than the import method.

We also wanted to preserve the original documents, just in case and added those as attachments to a page in the same space.

All in all I have to admit that after a year we evaluated the content and found it was barely used and we decided to remove the pages and only keep the one page with attachments but even that was rarely used and outdated even more when time passed and I think we got rid of it altogether.

John Funk Community Leader Aug 13, 2021

There are lots of tools out there for collaboration. Some are in person meeting facilitation ones like Zoom, Skype, Teams, etc. Others more chat based like Slack, Teams, etc. 

Is it possible to leverage a chat type collaboration tool in such a way that in person meetings can be reduced, thereby cutting the number of context switches that need to be made in a day? 

 

Like # people like this
Kavya S Atlassian Team Aug 19, 2021

We use Confluence for storing all employee-facing content within Atlassian. Content requires maintenance and timely updates - for that we need accountability. 

How can we bring accountability for content that was created out of collaboration? 

Like Marjorie likes this

Ask for an owner when you collaborate on a subject.  That is they person who is responsible for making sure it gets updated.  They can reach out to others to help them.  But overall they own the accountability to make sure it gets done. 

Think keeping track of the volunteer owners in a RACI chart.

Kavya S Atlassian Team Aug 25, 2021

Thank you @Marjorie! I had not heard of the RACI chart - looked it up - seems very helpful approach. Will be interesting to use this to our model of working and identify owners.

@Kavya S a RACI is frequently used by Business Analysts.  Hope it helps you!

Tamanna Godara Community Manager Aug 19, 2021

When we work on async projects, everyone can come and collaborate in their free time. How do we make sure that we get timely feedback and move to the next steps?

Wow @Tamanna Godara , great question! That's something I faced and I can share my experience from Scrum of Scrums ceremony and the way we did to proceed if that helps you.

If we maintain a single pager placeholder in Confluence and encourage people to fill that with in a certain time (e.g.- the end of the Sprint which ends after two weeks, so ideally two weeks time) and use that as next discussion agenda and share the page with all the relevant people tagging them as appropriate highlighting the next steps.

Let me know your feedback if it helped you.

Jimmy Seddon Community Leader Aug 23, 2021

I love the concept of this post!  Anything that makes me stop, think and reflect is always engaging and enjoyable in my books!

Is it more efficient to use a time-boxed meeting cadence or asynchronous communication to keep team members informed about what everyone is working on?

Like # people like this

I think a hybrid approach.  Sometimes time boxed meetings and mostly asynchronous.  We are still human and need that collaboration to see face and body language.  We communicate non-verbally 60% of the time.  

Like # people like this

My team is working on a huge project that is estimated to take 6 months to finish, we would like to proceed iteratively, release new functionalities each week and a version to be tested by the client each month, we hold meetings with the team each week for progress assessment and with the client each month for feedback.

How do we make sure the meetings don't create too much overhead and lose us whole days of work ?

Great question @said kouzibry !

This reminds me some classic problems mostly faced by everyone.  Juts to add, we were also a team located in three time zones with very minimum time overlap and we were working on a significant release which had regulatory impacts if the timelines are missed.

So, we agreed to some basic practices to limit the audience and ceremonies so that we can maximize the throughput. There were some initial challenges but it got stabilised in due course.

  1. Depending the ceremony type identify the audience and involve the relevant people only and publish an dated update through confluence with summarised one pager outcome. Encourage team to spend 5mins a day to check the update and comment as required.
  2. Make sure at maximum 20% capacity of overall sprint capacity are used for these ceremonies. The rest  80% would be used for feature work.
  3. Daily Scrum, Sprint Review, Sprint Retrospectives and Sprint Planning efforts were included in that 20% capacity.
  4. Be genuine in Sprint Retrospective and raise points with issues and specifically check these are not repeated in future retrospectives.

Hope that helps you and I would be glad to know your feedback on the above.

Liam Green Community Leader Aug 25, 2021

I joined a new company last month and we have a 'touch point' team call at 8.15 every morning.

Being 4 weeks into this, my question is: 

Does starting your day with a team check in keep the team focused and help everyone to feel more connected? 

Like # people like this

I have a query on taking meeting notes and the best way to circulate with required audience.

Is it a good practice to take and circulate meeting notes during the meeting(as part of meeting) or is it a better approach to circulate after the meeting is over ? If both are right and it may vary depending on the type of meeting then it would be good to know which one would be effective with an example.

Like Sharon Tan likes this
Sharon Tan Community Manager Aug 26, 2021

Hello everyone! I've recently been thinking about how to format content to make it fun and engaging, and was surprised when I recently visited a deli and really loved how the menu was formatted. I was also drawn to a recent library book because it presented bento box ideas in a really cute, magazine-style way!

My Collaboratory question is related to structuring content to increase collaboration and engagement: 

Would making documentation/meeting notes more beautiful and functional encourage your team to collaborate on that page more?

By collaborate, I'm thinking read the page, inline comment, like the page, edit the page, or even add your own flair to it. Looking forward to seeing the results alongside everyone else! 

Like Kishan Sharma likes this

When meeting regularly with a stakeholder (weekly meets, for examples), I've found that having a sync wiki is helpful for keeping our discusions focused.

This approach permits async commenting/collaboration (and issue resolution), but it's not perfect.

(For sure, it's more effective than a never-ending email chain.)

What's the best way to capture meeting notes without generating too much paperwork?

For sure a meeting notes template can help drive for a consistent format.

Like # people like this
Dave Liao Community Leader Aug 30, 2021

To elaborate, the sync wiki is basically a long-running wiki page - think like an application log.

Brant Schroeder Community Leader Aug 27, 2021

We use Confluence extensively in our company.  Some users are good at collaborating on meeting notes and preparing for meetings to ensure that they are productive.  Some users are not and always come unprepared or drop items on the team that are not on the agenda.  

What is the best way to get these team members engaged and using the products to benefit the whole team?

Like Dave Liao likes this

I'm new at my work, the team is small (1 PO and 1 Dev - Since I arrived, we are 2 devs now). They started to use Jira to have a roadmap of all the changes they has been doing. Every conversation or decision about changes or features, they had it on skype calls and chats or emails.

I started to comment on issues, explaining the method, adding screenshots or blocks of code. The PO loves it, so we started to learn on Atlassian's University and encourage the other dev to learn it too, so we can talk the same language.

IIn the last week, we started using Confluence to document the advancement and we love the availability of all the pages. So we are planning to start the documentations of APIs, the admin platform and others undocumented releases.

Now, the problem are the CEOs who don't want to follow protocols or invest on certifications, they also do not see the benefit of these tools, but we want to boost our work with these greats tools, so...

How long does it take to demonstrate Confluence's effectiveness to CEOs? Any strategy?

Like Dave Liao likes this
Dave Liao Community Leader Aug 28, 2021

@javodev - Numbers. If you're using Confluence Cloud, consider:

  • Adoption - how many users have been provisioned with Atlassian IDs to use Confluence? (if it's opt-in, this is easier to figure out)
  • Usage - how many folks have logged on in the last X days?
  • Pages Created / Visited /etc. - (on Premium and Enterprise plans) - use Analytics to figure out interesting stories to tell
Like javodev likes this

@Dave Liao - Thanks for the reply!
I'll keep an eye on those points 👀

Like Dave Liao likes this
Dave Liao Community Leader Aug 28, 2021

My pleasure, let us know how your journey goes! 🙏

Mirek Community Leader Aug 31, 2021

Is there any one that could say ..

What is the most productive time of a day and maybe there is even a specific day in a week to get most of a team meeting that would fully engage everyone?

Some people prefer Monday morning, some Friday end of the day.. Other say that Wednesday is the best.. We are looking for a time when everyone would be focused not distracted by other stuff and healthy to be able to fully interact and collaborate. 

Like Dave Liao likes this

The Collaboratory-series let me reflect the collaboration behaviour in my team so I came up with the following question:

❓ To what extent does using the comment function/inline-comment function on a page reduce communication/collusion in chats.

I often note that someone is asking me a question to a page via a Teams message. When I'm asking the person why she texted me in Teams the answer is always: "I thought I'll reach you faster this way."

Than I'm asking: "But what if somebody else has the same question. This person cannot see the answer because it's in this private chat. Would'nt it be great if we would have it on the page so other people can see your question and my answer?"

The answer is in 99% almost the same: "Yes that would make sense!"

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