Difference between confluence and other collabration tools


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Rakesh, I am quite frankly surprised you didn't get a TRUCK load of responses to this. There are some pretty ardent Confluence users here. Regardless, I'll give you my viewpoint.

I've worked directly with both Confluence and SharePoint and have word-of-mouth from colleagues that have worked with other collaboration tools. To put it succinctly, the others are collaboration tools while Confluence is a COLLABORATION TOOL. I have found that when one is trying to knit together a collaborative, automated, smooth running environment (my case is a software development shop), between the various Atlassian tools as the basis and plugins to other special purpose tools there simply hasn't been a process streamline/automation/collaboration need that I can't solve.

In my company everyone hated the processes and policies in place because they, quite frankly, were a giant pain in the butt. What was actually the problem was not the processes. Rather it was the way we were operating them. On one of my projects at that state it is in, the old way would've now had (and I am honestly not exaggerating here)  8 discrete revisions of project plans, not less than 40 spreadsheets generated, 15-ish Word documents, and 6 painfully constructed (a full week's effort to prepare) PowerPoint presentations for program review. What was worse is, that amongst all these discrete documents, the information overlap was ~70%. So, basically, for every piece of information created, 2/3 of it was re-created, re-re-created, an re-re-re-created. I got tired of all that and did a rather "black ops" project of my own to automate and simplify this, sold it to the right people and I was off.

NOW I have one PowerPoint (the one that states explicitly how I will run the project) and I have content. I have the single PowerPoint file to pay homage to the old operation. Next time, now that my developers, peers, and managers are used to and love the way I am running projects, I won't even have that. My development plan will be in Confluence. I run tasks out of JIRA.

When I took over the Confluence server here, it was used very little. It was out of date and had no extensions. I build it up to current, made it fast, and started adding LOTS of plugins to it (many of them free and very very good). Where the "recent updates" page used to have enough room to hold 2 weeks worth of content updates, now it doesn't have room for half a day's worth of update. The key is that I made it very useful, flexible, and powerful. People WANT to use it. It is NOT a pain for them to create, update, manage, maintain their content as it would be (from my direct experience) in SharePoint. I can control accesses and security tightly while STILL providing expansive freedoms to my users to operate they way THEY see fit.

When I take that last statement and compare it to SharePoint, it comes down to my colleagues not only contribute because they are supposed to, they actually do because it is the best way they have of all the tools in-house to contribute, create content, and work as a team. I didn't impose it. I just gave them the tool set, started to lead by example, and they ran with it.

As an example of how easy it is to create meaningful and live content quickly; I had mentioned above that it took usually a week to prepare the PowerPoint slide deck for a monthly program review. Using Confluence with JIRA tracking EVERY task I have in the project as the basis, I was able to create an all encompassing project dashboard populated with LIVE data at ALL times in that same week of effort PowerPoint took. That is where I present my program reviews from and I never have to create a program review presentation again. I have been able to spread the Administrivial effort of running a project from the Sr. managers all the way down to the developers. Everyone contributes, simply and easily, their part of the overall project information in a simple and centralized portal. Sr. managers can actually find things on projects since they are no longer documented on a mass of discrete, static documents. Status meetings no longer exist as DEEP detail on status is automatically captured. It leaves me as a project manager (and chief engineer, which is my real title) to deal with the fun engineering stuff and only worry about exceptions and problems rather than the daily/weekly painful dragging through status. Interestingly enough, in a Computerworld article some time ago, in their list of "15 ways to screw up a development project", status meetings came in at number 7 based on how status meeting knock the wind out of the sails of a development group.

Basically, it changed Project Management from being a painful (and possibly stupid) career path to a job I actually ENJOY doing.

I carry with me, as I automate and streamline process operation the following 3 mantras:

  1. Never create a document. Create content. I can make the documents later if I need to but content should be content that is dynamically usable and shareable. Discrete documents are... not.
  2. If you ever create/update/enter any single piece of information anywhere more than once, you've done something very, very wrong. Reference it. Never duplicate it
  3. If I have to do something manually more than twice, automate it.

Using the Atlassian products I have in-house and by using relevant plugins as required to solve a problem, I've been able to utterly stick to those three thoughts.

The tool aside, I have found Atlassian and their plug-in developers to be, without exception, utterly stellar. I've never waited more than a day for a response from any of them on any issue or question and when I've had a BIG problem (usually self-imposed by Not Being Smart), Atlassian has been on the stick in minutes to not more than an hour. I can't say enough about them as a company along with what they seem to instill in their plug-in developers.

So... I've not really said what the difference is between Confluence and other collaboration tools (other than comments adding up to SharePoint is utterly pointless beside Confluence) but if you do decide to deeply go the Atlassian tools route as your basis, be creative, and enjoy it, you can't help but succeed.

Hope this helps

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