Feature:

Enterprise collaboration platforms in the workspace

By Lukas Stewart

TheServerSide.com

MS SharePoint and Atlassian for IT Collaboration

Despite all the popular stereotypes about IT workers being socially inept, they’re likely to be quite socially savvy when it comes to collaboration platforms. More than half of the respondents to TheServerside.com Readership Survey revealed that developers use collaboration tools on a regular basis to connect with and work with other team members – both inside and outside of the IT department. The most popular platform is Microsoft SharePoint (38%) with Atlassian’s Confluence coming in second (31%). Many businesses use both platforms.

What are the benefits of each system? How can they be used to further the business objectives of IT? How can they be used most effectively together? Let’s take a look!

MS SharePoint Reaches Everyone

Even though the respondents to the survey mentioned above are typically Java developers, they have no issue with using MS for collaboration purposes. This platform has the advantage of being well-known outside the IT community. Most employees and managers in other departments understand how to use MS tools because of the high level of market penetration. IT is usually very familiar with SharePoint since their department was typically responsible for creating and rolling out this Intranet platform to the rest of the company in the first place. There’s no real barrier to adoption for IT users who got in “at the ground floor” with this technology.

When IT wants to communicate and problem solve while tapping into the knowledge base available in other departments, it makes sense to use a common platform. IT may understand the “how” of getting the job done, but the “why” and “what” concepts may need to come from team leaders in other areas. A business application that’s designed to support HR, Operations, Finance, Logistics, Customer Service, Marketing, or other processes requires input and feedback from these departments. SharePoint provides a tool for sharing documents outside of sit-down meetings and meshes well with the agile philosophy that’s become popular in the IT realm.

At a more advanced level, SharePoint can also be used as a Project Management Information System (PMIS) to communicate with stakeholders, manage documents, automate reports, track scheduled activities, and control risks. For a small business, it may serve as an alternative to enterprise-level project management platforms. For a larger business, it may be a useful adjunct since it can be readily integrated into MS Project. The mobile capability of SharePoint is an especially attractive feature for businesses with a widely distributed development team.

Atlassian Confluence Brings It All Together

This collaboration platform is all about high level knowledge sharing. It delivers the capability for participants to create and manage Wikis, threaded discussions, blogs, and more – all easily searchable for greatest usability. Generation X and Y employees who enjoy the prospect of instant communication will latch on to the social networking aspects of Confluence. Older workers will appreciate the ease of creating, sharing, and updating documents so knowledge is never lost. It’s a great environment for developing and visualizing project specifications that involve crowdsourcing.

What makes this tool particularly popular with developers is the fact that Confluence and JIRA are designed for complete integration. This means IT gets the benefits of a social collaboration tool and a development collaboration platform. Here are a few of the features that become available through integration:

  • Create, manage, track and report on actionable JIRA issues
  • View JIRA content in Confluence and vice versa by embedding gadgets across systems
  • Share/embed code snippets of java, Ruby, Python, C++, etc. inside pages and blogs for other developers to view, copy, and discuss
  • With JIRA connected to Confluence, IT can also:
  • Configure workflows
  • Link issues to the relevant source code
  • Add GreenHopper to facilitate agile project management

SharePoint and Confluence

Since 2007, MS and Atlassian have offered a joint solution called the SharePoint Connector that allows connection of the two platforms. The typical business enterprise user who chooses both solutions wants the Word document library functionality of SharePoint that features tightly controlled user access. But they also need the more open, browser-based, best-of-breed wiki and real-time discussion capabilities of Confluence. With the Connector, IT can readily embed content from one platform to the other in either direction. The content of both platforms becomes searchable without sacrificing security and access restrictions. Changes made to documents in Confluence are automatically updated to SharePoint so there aren’t mismatched versions floating around. Finally, users can comment on either platform to take full advantage of the social aspect of collaboration.

23 Aug 2012

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