It is now common practice to have Slack powering communication and collaboration for DevOps teams that are seeking faster iteration and continuity in their workflows. Bringing access to team knowledge to that Slack-centric workflow decreases distractions and increases productivity by enabling self-serve support directly within the channel where work happens. In many cases, documentation is compiled using a tool like Confluence. When there are issues that cannot be resolved independently or a bug is found, DevOps teams frequently create and track issues for resolution with a tool like Jira Software.
This trifecta of tools – Slack, Jira and Confluence – exist disparately in the DevOps workflow with only very limited integrations available to users. These limitations cause an abundance of glaring productivity gaps. By adding Obie to Slack, you can connect knowledge to the place where it is more frequently requested and enable issue tracking and creation, for when that knowledge is insufficient for producing a resolution. Lets examine each component in more detail.
Connecting Confluence Knowledge to Slack with Obie
Confluence is a popular tool for DevOps teams to store knowledge and documentation. But a common challenge that arises is that while Confluence is accessible via the web, it fails as a knowledge base solution because of it’s lack of a robust integration with Slack. Confluence is impossible to search from anywhere but Confluence, and even that user experience is lamented. Instead, team members prefer to just as questions in Slack, either directly (via DM) or channel-wide. This limitation and poor experience forces users to switch applications as required to get the knowledge they need.
To counteract this, Obie brings search, access and sharing of Confluence content directly in Slack. One can interact with Obie in three different ways:
- Using the
/obieslash command (eg.
/obie VM configuration scriptwill search Confluence, and other sources, for relevant documentation). Obie will privately share search results, which can be used, shared or dismissed if not relevant.
- By sending Obie a DM with some keywords (similar to #1 above).
- In channels where Obie is invited, he passively listens for questions in the flow of conversations, and suggests Confluence resources that might be relevant in an attempt to resolve the solution before someone else switches context to attempt to resolve – this is called Obie Suggest.
Creating Jira issues directly from Slack with Obie
When self-serve knowledge is insufficient for resolving a productivity blocking issue, a common next step is to escalate the issue by formally adding it to the queue in Jira. Obie allows users to create and follow Jira Issues without ever leaving Slack. He offers two different ways to achieve this result.
- Click the expansion menu from any Slack message and choose “Create Ticket”.
- When conducting any search using Obie (via DM,
/obieor Obie Suggest) – at the bottom of any of the listed Obie interactions with a “Create ticket” button.
- Click the Shortcut button on the message bar and choose the “Create Ticket” option.
With both of these improvements in mind, let’s examine how Obie works in practice.
Real-world examples of how Obie optimizes the DevOps workflow
So what does the optimal workflow look like? Envision these common scenarios:
Tracking bugs and creating issues
Bugs are a fact of life for any DevOps team member. When someone stumbles upon a potential bug while working on a project, how would you ideally like to see them react? Should they just blast out open ended questions in Slack? Should they try to figure things out at little on their own before disturbing other team members? Here is how Obie makes this workflow more efficient.
- The developer notices an abnormality in the behavior of a product feature related to an internal Postage and Shipping API. In an attempt to figure out if this is a limitation of a related API or if its a bug, they begin to explore.
- The developer uses Obie to search for anything related to the Postage and Shipping API that they have from internal documentation using the Obie slash command
/obie postage and shipping api
- Obie searches across multiple silos and returns a number of results including API documentation stored in Confluence and a recent Trello card noting an upcoming deprecation to the API.
- After reviewing the API documents in the Confluence document, the developer realizes that in fact the abnormality is a bug, but that the Trello card noting the deprecation is not affecting the code in this instance
- Directly from the Obie search result, the developer can click the Create Ticket button and the process starts generating an issue in Jira
- The ticket is created, all from within Slack, and the team is notified via a message the #bugs channel
This entire scenario is a textbook example of how Obie enables self-serve support. The appropriate team members were notified passively through an update in the #bugs channel and no one was disrupted from their productive time or forced to switch context to answer a question – a win-win scenario.
Spinning up a VM to test an update
In the realm of DevOps, developers often are required to spin up VMs for various testing purposes. There can be a number of variables that affect the process for spinning these machines up, including the programming language, dependencies and more. Having access to the knowledge required to complete this work is absolutely critical. Consider this slightly different scenario in which the team interacts with Obie in a different way.
- A junior developer is getting trained up on a new codebase and needs to launch a new Azure Linux VM to test her code. She’s obviously done this hundreds of times in the past, but she isn’t sure which dependencies are required to make sure that the test runs flawlessly.
- Instead of directly asking Obie, she does what many people do and blasts out an open ended question in the #dev-chat channel:
What VM image do we use to run tests on WordPress Plugins?
- Before the team can absolutely lambaste the junior staff member for such a seemingly simple task and bothering everyone with it (although they secretly love to help and remember their junior days quite vividly), Obie senses the junior developer’s question in the #dev-chat channel (because he was invited) and searches the various silos for related knowledge for the query.
- Among other results, Obie privately returns a Confluence article to the developer entitled “How to launch a Bitnami WordPress VM image”
- She clicks the link resource and gains the information required to progress in her work.
- She upvotes the search result (to improve the Obie search algorithm) and clicks the share button in the #dev-chat channel to let people know about the resource in case the issue ever comes up again.
Again, in this scenario, while it played out a little differently, Obie was able to direct the proper knowledge to the junior developer quickly and ensure that no one else was required to switch context and reduce their productivity.
A tool like Obie sits at the intersection of all of the most common tools used in the DevOps workflow, including Slack, Jira Software and Confluence, among others. If you work with these tools in your DevOps workflow, Obie can help accelerate your team to success.