How I converted my entire company over to Confluence, and lived happily ever after


Note:  I am not endorsing or advertising any specific tool in this article.  It’s merely meant to share my tips from rolling out a new tool across a company.

I couldn’t believe it.

On my first day on the job I asked “so, where’s the wiki?”  The answer was this horribly outdated wiki system which shall remain unnamed.  The most recent article in it was a couple months old.

After just coming from a company that was tool happy (see this article for just a small subset of monitoring tools alone), I was shocked that this promising startup was so clueless when it came to their intranet and communication systems.  I was used to using tools from Atlassian like Confluence, Jira, and HipChat.

For those that haven’t used the Atlassian tools before, here’s a super quick overview, and then we’ll get back to the transition:

  • Jira – Jira is a task tracking software.  It’s great for tracking all software development in your organization.  I currently work in an embedded company and we also use it for other work tracking, such as hardware assembly, failure analysis, supplier issues, etc.  Jira provides agile+kanban boards, reporting, workflow management, excellent searching, and an entire marketplace of plugins.
  • Confluence – Confluence is a collaboration tool that can be used by your entire company, including HR, IT, marketing, finance, legal, and engineering.  It’s basically a wiki on steroids.  It offers excellent privacy controls, templates, document storage, search, and integrates nicely with Jira.  We use it for tracking product requirements, meeting minutes, software designs, company policies, etc.
  • HipChat – Hipchat is an enterprise chat tool.  Similar to stash, it offers video conferencing, chat rooms, and integrates with many other tools (i.e. jenkins, etc.)
  • Stash – Stash is a web front end for git.  It provides a nice and easy way to manage your repositories, perform pull requests, view a commit log, etc.

Ok, back to the story!

I immediately identified this tool migration as one of my early wins (see my article here for a book that describes the best way to onboard as a manager).  I knew this would be a huge win for the company if we moved over to a modern system.

Within a couple weeks I knew I was going to drive this change through the company and came up with the following transition plan.

Steps I took to make the transition:

  1. Assess the situation
  2. Make the pitch
  3. Set up the tools
  4. Train the staff
  5. Flip the switch
  6. Find early adopters, and deep dive with them
  7. Reinforce the usage
  8. Be patient

Once I figured out the steps I needed to take I immediately took action.

Step 1 – Assess the situation

Figure out what tools your company actually needs.  There are many wiki solutions out there.  I chose confluence because it’s what I was familiar with at my previous company.  Also, I knew I wanted to use Jira, and Confluence integrates very nicely with it, so it made the decision that much easier.

Understand the key players in these tools.  Who are you going to have to win over?  Who set up your current system?  You might want to check with them first to see what they think of moving to a different system.

Step 2 – Make the pitch

Once I figured out what tools I wanted to move to, I then needed to get buy in from the leadership team.  This was necessary not only to purchase the tools, but also to get the reinforcement I would need from my peers to push it across the entire company.

I didn’t want to end up in the situation where only a subset of the company (i.e. software team!) used the tool, and the rest of the company was running on the old system.  My plan was to actually shut down the old system all together.

At our of our regular leadership weekly meetings I walked through various tools using a free trial that I had set up.  I explained my own personal experience using them at my previous company and how they could benefit us by improving communication, collaboration, and transparency across the entire org.

Most people were interested in the tools, there was one skeptic, but didn’t want to put in any effort.  In the end I got the green light to move forward.

Step 3 – Set up the tools

Once I had the blessing to make the purchase, I went ahead and configured the tools for use on my own team.  My plan was essentially to get my own team using the products to demonstrate a ‘success story’ within the company, and train the entire staff so they could do the same.

The software team was itching to use these tools, and they quickly adopted them during the trial.  We migrated all of our issues out of our old system and set up a sandbox where people could play around and get familiar with the tools.

Step 4 – Train the staff

Once we had a sandbox up with some real data in there as well, I scheduled 2 lunch and learn sessions for the entire company.  Lunch always helps to draw a crowd!  In the session we went over the basics of confluence, how to use templates, attach files, create spaces, permissions, etc.  Also, we walked through the basics of Jira, including creating a project, workflow capabilities, creating an issue, searching, boards, etc.

In these sessions it was clear who the early adopters were going to be.  Some folks were really excited about the tools and immediately saw the potential.  Others were more skeptical and were critical of the interface.  Most folks just ate the pizza and didn’t say a word.

By holding the training session I avoided any potential resistance of the tools due to ‘lack of training’.  This is frequently an excuse used by folks that just want to be lazy.

Step 5 – Flip the switch

Once every had a chance to be trained, we scheduled a time to do an official migration of our old system to the new, and put the old into read only.  We did the migration at night, just in case there were any issues.  Fortunately we had already practiced this on a staging server, so it went off without any issues.

Once the switch was flipped, I sent out an email to the whole company with instructions, links, etc.

Step 6 – Deep dive with early adopters

Now that the system was live I needed to make sure everyone started using it!  I had no doubt that some folks were going to ignore it, or start to build a negative resistance.  I headed this off by finding who the early adopters were and deep diving with them.  I help sessions with several groups and set up spaces, projects, and workflows with them live.  I was able to answer all their questions in a smaller setting and target the training directly to their teams needs.

Step 7 – Reinforce the usage

After the deep dive sessions, I then checked in with folks periodically to see if they had any questions.  In any meetings I was sure to advocate for the tool, and just act like everyone has been using it.

Step 8 – Be Patient

Immediately after the launch there was a spike in usage, but then it started to taper off.  At one point I was frustrated and thought that we weren’t going to fully take advantage of these tools.  However, week after week groups slowly started to add content.  After several weeks of steadily growing usage, all of a sudden the entire company flipped.  People were now talking about confluence in meetings, “Just put it in confluence”, “make sure you make a page for that”, “be sure to file a jira ticket”.  The usage had taken on a life of its own and it became a self reinforcing system.  I couldn’t believe how quickly the entire company flipped after weeks of only a small percentage taking hold.

Some Advice

Here are my lessons learned for introducing a new tool for the entire company:

  1. Roll out the tool to the entire company, not just your team.  Make sure everyone is successful.
  2. Put in the extra effort.  Hold trainings, deep dive sessions, etc. to ensure you gain critical mass.
  3. Find early adopters – find folks who can help socialize the cause!
  4. Ignore the negative people, they are just laggards and will follow along once the rest of the team starts using it.


What are your experiencing introducing new tools in your company?  I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments section.  Or feel free to message me on twitter @sw_mgmt.

Update:  Check out my follow on article, 10 Ways to use Confluence for Improved Communication

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