21st September 2017

How to share knowledge and stay productive in the holidays

The weather is decidedly autumnal, the kids have gone back to school and there’s no denying that the holidays are well and truly over. How did your business cope over the summer? Did things run smoothly or did information get lost and projects stall while people were away?

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Once a small business gets to a certain size, capturing information about projects or specific information about how to perform tasks becomes more and more important. We all know how frustrating it is to have a client on the phone as you desperately try to answer their question about something your colleague’s been working on – the colleague who’s currently backpacking around Peru with no mobile signal! And it’s even worse if it's you in the office over the summer, trying to do the job of several people.

Thankfully, there are lots of online collaboration tools out there to help you overcome these issues. They are also useful for when staff are on holiday at other times of the year, or on maternity or sick leave, and for capturing information and knowledge when staff move on or you have a new starter.

Two of the tools we like to use are Evernote and Confluence. They both get a 4.5/5 star rating in user reviews and are both used by some big names. Skype, Facebook and Microsoft use Confluence to help them stay on top of their information, while MailChimp and Career Builder are fans of Evernote.

We use Confluence to document and share instructions to make sure that every member of our team can carry out certain tasks even if it’s not normally part of their role. It has changed our processes and means that even when people are away, the rest of the team have access to everything they need.

Evernote vs. Confluence: a comparison

Both Evernote and Confluence are subscription services. You can sign up to a free service with Evernote, Confluence starts at just $10/month and they’re both suitable for small- and medium-sized businesses. Evernote is fine for freelancers too, while Confluence suits small businesses up to large organisations rather than sole traders.

38% of Evernote users are businesses with 1 to 10 people and 20% have 1001+ employees. Of Confluence users, 14% have between 1 and 10 members of staff and 20% have 1001+.

Both packages are simple to use and the systems are quick and easy to learn, yet you might find Evernote more flexible as it operates on the web, iPhone, Android and Windows phone apps, whereas Confluence only supports iPhone and web based applications. We did a lot of research before we started using Confluence. Here’s what we found out…

Evernote is best for: capturing notes and memos (as well as maps, plans, itineraries, clippings, images…) so that you can share them with other people. It’s very easy to use, extremely flexible, and makes creating a business workflow simple. It’s ideal for smaller organisations that want to be able to share information and collaborate easily.

Confluence is best for: creating, organising and commenting on or discussing information, such as files, notes, policies and comments. It makes it easy to find, use and update data. You can also use different themes and permissions for different projects or departments, and it’s better for larger companies.

We started out using a Wiki to store and share information, these days Confluence is ideal for our needs. We use it to capture and share code, learnings, problems and solutions, and make comments to explain why we’ve written code a certain way. Here are a few of our tips on how to use any package effectively:

  • Capture information if you perform a job at least twice, or if there’s a gotcha that means you hit the same snag every time you try to do something (don't repeat yourself)
  • Don’t write down too much though, just the basics so that someone else (who may not normally do your job) can get the task done without spending 20 minutes reading everything beforehand. And remember to amend your notes if things change.
  • Just remember not to include passwords or sensitive information in a shared environment as all members of staff will have access.

So, if you don't have a company knowledgebase for internal notes, how tos, policies and procedures, maybe its time to be smart and put this in place before the next holiday season arrives...

If you’d like to talk to us about building a smarter business online please get in touch

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