When building a knowledge base, often one of the first considerations is where to store your information. Depending on your use-case, you might have considered a number of options that may have been influenced by historical choices in your organization or compatibility with other technologies. A popular choice, that we at Obie have seen used time and time again, is Atlassian’s Confluence. Whether you use the cloud based version or spin up your own managed instance, Confluence has a number of ideal attributes that are very suitable for building a Knowledge Base. There are a few cons, but we’ll get to those in a bit. Let’s start with the reasons why Confluence is a great choice to power your knowledge base.
Major Pros for using Confluence
Touted as its greatest strength, Confluence’s collaboration tools are the leading reason for choosing it over the competitors. While administrators can manage permissions at a highly granular level, anyone who has access to the space can contribute to the base of knowledge. Version control is embedded to track individual contributions. Moreover, any time updates are made, collaborators are notified. This creates an efficient feedback loop for the collaborators and helps ensure that the knowledge base is comprehensive, accurate and timely.
Aside from the direct integrations with the rest of the Atlassian product offering (such as Jira Service Desk, Jira, Bitbucket, Trello, and more), there is a very robust marketplace of 3rd party integrations (either plugins or APIs) that work seamlessly with Confluence. These integrations can assist with anything from making better charts, to connecting to the Google Suite of products, to adding gifs to your documents. The use of integrations enhances the richness of content to aid in future consumption.
What good is any tool without analytics? With the help of plugins or APIs you can track most viewed, accessed, liked pages and so on. This is a critical component to understanding how knowledge is used in your organization.
Minor Pros for using Confluence
The aforementioned items are the main reasons why teams choose Confluence, but there are also other minor benefits that solidify it as a strong knowledge base candidate.
- Ability to export into various formats (PDF, DOCX, EPUB, etc)
- Automatic updates to content with linked content
- Scalability from startup to enterprise
Cons for using Confluence
Search has been notoriously one of the biggest challenges for Confluence users. So much so, that we have developed solutions specifically for solving this problem. The Obie browser extension is an easy and free way to make search across your Confluence workspace much more accurate and faster. Obie searches text in Confluence:
- Document titles
- Body text
- Confluence tags
Dependency on plugins
The Atlassian community has picked up the slack where its native functionality falls short. Unfortunately, that native functionality comes up short in a number of scenarios, so you will need to get comfortable with 3rd party dependencies. That said, even the 3rd party marketplace is not perfect, and you may need to create some of your own plugins whether it’s to better serve your use-case or to connect to your own APIs. In this situation, you’ll need to develop your own plugins in-house (you’re definitely going to need a Java developer for this work).
Starting out with Confluence is easy, with their cloud-based service, but if you have more advanced needs, such as data locality, you’re going to need to plan to self-host. The cloud-based solution frees your sysadmins from dealing with headaches involving data security, updates and scaling, but it certainly does have limitations for larger organizations that outgrow standar product.
The pros outweigh the cons
For the knowledge base use-case, Confluence’s pros outweigh the cons. The beauty of this platform is that it’s designed to grow with your organization as it scales. From the early days when knowledge is kept in the hands of a small number employees, through scaling to larger and distributed teams, and onward to a full enterprise status with more complex needs, Confluence finds a way to fit into each stage of evolution.
With Obie, you can build a modern, searchable and fast knowledge base; and connect tools like Confluence, Google Drive and Box to enable one accessible source of truth for your company.