Confluence for Enterprise: Are You a Group or a Team?

Header image showing a team in a broken elevator clubbing together to fix it

Groups and teams are not synonymous. Many organizations think they have teams, when in fact they’re made up of groups. And sometimes the reason for that is the platforms they’re working in.

In this article, we’ll explore the difference between groups and teams, and how an all-in-one collaboration tool like Atlassian’s Confluence can help your groups become teams.

Groups, teams, and elevators

“A group is a bunch of people in an elevator. A team is also a bunch of people in an elevator, but the elevator is broken!”

Bonnie Edelstein

When you first read this quote, you might think it’s being negative about teams. You could read it as: groups get higher and higher, groups succeed, but teams just stop. And, you know, break stuff.

Reading between the lines, you realize it’s saying the opposite. It’s actually talking about the transition from groups to teams, that when the elevator breaks, everybody inside joins forces to fix it. They become a team, and a team is a group of people working together to solve a problem.

And that’s the key difference between them. A group is made up of individuals with separate goals, doing independent work, and succeeding and failing on the basis of their individual efforts. A team is made of people with a common goal, working together to achieve it.

Example of a groupExample of a team
Regional sales departments are often groups. They’re made up of sales reps operating in silos, whose goals depend entirely on individual effort, not on collaboration with other sales reps. Success is measured by the sum of the reps’ independent achievements.Software development and marketing departments are usually teams. Each member is working towards a shared goal. Developers work collaboratively to release a piece of software, while marketers work together on different aspects of the same campaign.

While there is a need for groups in some circumstances, a team environment is more effective in most business settings. This is because the success of a business usually depends on combined skills and combined effort.

The problem is, many groups think they’re teams when they’re not. They’re individuals working alone, not really communicating, not really collaborating. And often it’s because the tools they’re using don’t let them.

I’m not blaming the tools themselves. Lots of them are super-powerful and do everything required to empower a team to work collaboratively. But they are usually part of a much larger proprietary ecosystem, integrating with all the other business tools in that ecosystem, but not outside it. And most businesses are using a tangle of disparate tools from multiple ecosystems: bits of Microsoft, bits of Google, and indeed bits of Atlassian. A Sharepoint document library here, a Dropbox folder there. The result? Silos of trapped information all over the place.

The reason this “too many tools” syndrome cripples countless organizations is if your team is going to club together to fix the elevator, they all need to be in the elevator.

This problem will only get worse now so many people are working remotely. Now, if your teammates are in different platforms, it’s not like you can hop across to their desk for a chat, or lean over and look at their PC. It’s very difficult for distributed teams to be working in different platforms and know what’s going on all the time.

Basically, the elevator isn’t physical anymore. It’s digital. In order to get everyone working together inside the digital elevator, you need to move them over to the same digital platform.

Like Confluence.

Confluence as a single source of truth

The reason we advocate Confluence for enterprise collaboration is its multipurpose nature. It’s an online document management platform that can act as a workspace, an intranet, a knowledge base, even a filing cabinet. It’s a wiki, i.e. a collaborative website, unlike something like Google Docs, which is just a word processor that happens to be online.

It’s also open by default and its hierarchical page structure, search capabilities, internal links, and activity feeds make it easy to find what you’re looking for. Document creation and collaboration is super-easy too. The page editor is intuitive and there are templates and macros (i.e. bits of content you can add, like to-do lists, info panels, and quotes) that make content creation quicker. You’re able to add comments, @mention colleagues, and do collaborative editing without losing anything.

You can also extend Confluence’s native functionality with all kinds of add-ons from the Atlassian Marketplace. For example, if you want to use Confluence for creating and managing contracts, you can purchase an app called Contract Signatures for Confluence. This enables an external party not on your Confluence instance to sign a contract in Confluence. Or, if you want to create reports on Jira projects in Confluence, an app called Custom Jira Charts for Confluence allows to build live, interactive, fully customized charts on a Confluence page.

If through Confluence’s all-purpose nature you’re able to get everybody in your organization working in it, then it can become your single source of truth. And a single source of truth, i.e. where everyone is looking at the same data in the same place, is particularly important if you want your groups to become teams.

Jira Confluence integration

Your enterprise may already be using Jira for work management, in which case, Confluence will be an easier sell to your employees. Connecting the two platforms is very simple and allows team members from different departments to work together, having quick and easy access to the same information. (In Server and Data Center, your Jira and Confluence applications must be connected via application links. In Cloud, they’re already integrated and you shouldn’t need to do anything.)

If you’re a support team using Jira Service Management (JSM), another great benefit of integrating Confluence and Jira is so that you can use Confluence as a knowledge base. In other words, you can create a dedicated Confluence space that contains frequently asked questions, how-to guides, and troubleshooting instructions for all kinds of scenarios a customer may encounter, and link this to your JSM project.

Agents are able to write articles in the connected space, and can start the article creation process from within a service desk issue, making it easier to grow the knowledge base (agents simply tap the arrow next to related articles, hit +, choosing a template, and click create). Once completed, articles appear automatically when customers type a search query in the Jira Service Management portal. If the article is able to solve the problem the customer is having, they won’t need to submit a request. This improves the customer experience by enabling them to self-serve and not have to wait for a support agent. It also saves time for the support team by reducing the number of routine requests and allowing them to focus on more strategic or complex issues.

Find out more about creating a Confluence knowledge base for Jira Service Management (including the very simple steps required to configure one).

Is Confluence right for your enterprise?

Implementing Confluence for enterprise collaboration is a great way of turning groups into teams, a must-have in the remote, distributed environment we now all find ourselves in.

Moving everyone over to a comprehensive document collaboration platform like Confluence breaks down the silos that groups tend to operate in. In other words, people using and creating information that’s hidden from everyone else in personal inboxes, local folders, and unintegrated tools. And by becoming your organization’s single source of truth, Confluence stops employees from having to wade through wrong, outdated, or duplicated answers in search of the right one.

Basically, tools like Confluence make people, processes, and data more open. What enterprise doesn’t want that?

If you’re interested in using Confluence, it’s free to try for up to 10 users.

Christopher is a self-confessed nerd who’d probably take the cake on Mastermind if Star Trek: Voyager was his specialist subject. He writes fiction about time travel, conspiracies and aliens; loves roller coasters, hiking and Christmas; and hates carpet, rom-coms and anything with chilli in it. He’s written extensively for technology companies and Atlassian partners and specializes in translating complicated technical concepts, specs and jargon into readable, benefits-driven copy that casual readers will understand.