Confluence is a great tool for creating, managing and sharing documents between teams. Its intuitive design and breadth of features make it easy for people to work together in one place – rather than wasting several hours each week searching for information that’s spread across various applications.
Whilst Confluence is perfectly placed to be your one-stop shop for collaboration and knowledge sharing, it will still fall victim to organizational policies and procedures that govern how documents should be managed. In this article we’re going to focus in on the document review and approval process in Confluence and how you can make this easier and less tedious for everyone involved.
Before we dive in just remember the review process is a great opportunity to transform documents from good to great and maintain the quality and standards you hold yourselves too.
So without further ado, these are our tips that will improve your document review and approval process in Confluence:
- Choose the right people to review Confluence pages
- Agree on some ground rules with the review team
- Separate mandatory changes from suggestions
- Create a clear process that everyone can follow
- Keep everyone informed with email notifications
- Save time with automation
- Accept that things can (and will) change
- Use an approval tool built into Confluence
Choose the right people to review Confluence pages
So, let’s set the scene.
After hours of work your document is finally ready to be reviewed and approved. It’s time to select your review team… Now, I don’t know about you but I’ve definitely been in situations where there’s a long list of people to choose from and it can easily feel like you should send it to them all (or at least a large number of them).
It’s at this point you should take a moment to pause. Ask yourself – do you really need to send this document to the entire team? Probably not… but it can easily feel like the right thing to do.
Just remember that the more people you send a document to, the slower the review process will be. And in all honesty, most of your colleagues won’t thank you for it. They have their own to do lists after all.
Tip #1 is to choose the people who need to review your document – with emphasis on the word ‘need’.
If you are in doubt, what does your company policy say? That’s the best place to start and after that chat with your colleagues and find out who should be involved in the process.
It can often feel easy to err on the side of caution and send your document to loads of reviewers. Believe me, I’ve been there! But you need to remember the document review process is there to ensure the right checks have been made before a document is approved and it has been managed in a way that aligns with your organization’s policies.
That doesn’t mean everyone needs to see it! Try to find a balance between the review process being efficient but ensuring it has been seen by the right people.
For those of you working in regulated industries, you may need all your Confluence pages to be reviewed by specific departments or subject matter experts before they can be shared. And that’s absolutely fine!
Even if you are working in a regulated industry, the review and approval process can still be designed in a way that ensures its robust and adheres to all the regulations, but is optimized enough to prevent the process from becoming an unnecessary bottleneck.
Agree on some ground rules with the review team
The best document review processes are clear, well understood, consistent, efficient, and don’t compromise on quality.
One way to achieve an efficient, high quality review process is encouraging your colleagues to be as thorough as possible when reviewing Confluence pages the first time around. How many times have your documents gone through multiple review cycles with new comments being added each time? Even more infuriating, what about comments being added after multiple review cycles that could (and should) have been added in the first review?
Now before your blood starts to boil at the thought, we recommend you encourage your reviewers to be thorough from the beginning. It doesn’t just keep the process efficient and make it easier for you. This approach also respects their time and prevents a game of document review ping-pong breaking out on Confluence which can be frustrating for everyone and bring projects to a grinding halt.
If the content owner receives all the required feedback to make improvements to a document then you are in a much better position. Yes there may be additional changes required in the second round – and that’s often expected, but this approach will help prevent it spiralling out of control.
Before we move on there is one bonus tip we’d like to throw in here. Sometimes you may receive comments or feedback that lacks context or is not clear. In our experience, we would highly recommend speaking with the reviewer to get a better understanding and ensure you are clear what needs to change.
At the end of the day, the document review process in Confluence is about finding a balance between everyone involved and working as a team is always the best approach.
Separate the mandatory comments from the suggestions
So, you’ve sent a document for review in Confluence and received a LOT of comments from the review team. 😨
Which of these comments are mandatory changes? Are any of these comments just suggestions? You might even been asking yourself ‘Why have they raised this now but not on other documents?’
Before that feeling of dread (or frustration) washes over you, take a deep breath, grab a coffee, and let’s discuss how to avoid this situation from happening in the future.
Start by encouraging your reviewers to label their comments and state which ones are mandatory or suggestions. They could simply add an (M) or (S) after the comment which gives the document owner a quick way of identifying the mandatory changes.
This might seem like a really simple tip but you’ll be amazed by how many teams don’t do this.
It’s a guaranteed way to make things easier for everyone involved – both document owners and the review team. It can also help teams learn more about any standards or requirements that apply to certain documents so they can apply these in the future before something is sent for review.
Define a clear process that everyone can follow
Without a clear process there is a risk of teams managing the document review process their own way. This can lead to inconsistencies, poor quality outputs, project delays, and even the document management process being compromised.
It’s important the review process is easy for people to follow, enables team to be productive, and supports projects being completed in line with your organization’s policies and any applicable regulations. You may already have processes in place and these should be optimized and reviewed as time goes on.
One way of optimizing the document review process is to set up a group that manages how the document management policy is applied to Confluence. This group should consist of people across the organization, ideally at different levels and from a range of departments so you get a broad range of perspectives. It’s really not useful having a group full of senior management if they don’t use the review and approval process that often.
By choosing a number of people around the organization who use Confluence for document reviews, you’ll get more useful insights and be able to identify the areas for improvement. This is also a great way of managing any requests to change the document management process in Confluence.
It’s important that you don’t put the process above the people using it. You could have the greatest document review process in the world (on paper) but if it’s unclear or contains too many steps it will soon become a bottleneck and impact productivity. Always focus on keeping it as simple as possible and build from there.
The document review process in Confluence should be allowed to evolve naturally over time and having this group in place gives you a team of custodians that can help evolve and optimize the process to ensure it’s fit for purpose.
Keep everyone informed and use email notifications
Everyone is busy and we all have our priorities. As an example, the project you are pouring all your time and effort into and is your number one priority might not be on someone else’s radar at all.
Once you submit your Confluence pages for review and approval you may feel like the reviewers will share your urgency and importance but in most cases, this is not true. Don’t forget the document review and approval process is just another part of daily work and without the right notification mechanisms in place, things can be missed.
Using email notifications can be a simple but effective way of keeping your busy team in the loop and prompting them when a document is waiting for their review.
In Confluence, it’s important to choose an App that has built-in notifications as this will make the process much easier for you. The last thing you want to be doing is send manual emails to your reviewers every time you upload a document – it’s a waste of your time and it can quickly become difficult to maintain.
You are welcome to try out two of our review and approval Apps in Confluence; Approvals for Confluence and Workflows for Confluence. These are both free to try for 30 days and come with built-in email notifications that you can activate.
Save time and harness the gift of automation
Once you start using automation, you’ll see the huge benefits it can bring. As technology has moved on, automation has become a core part of many software applications and can bring significant benefits to productivity and efficiency.
We’re not suggesting you automate the entire document management process but where it’s possible and makes sense you should consider leveraging automation. For example, in Confluence, you could choose to use customized review and approval workflows which trigger automated actions depending on the document stage.
Workflows for Confluence is a great option to support you and comes with a range of automation built-in. These will allow you to automatically:
- Move through the review and approval cycle without having to manually send pages to individual reviewers
- Send email notifications to team members when a page is waiting for their review
- Unlock pages for your colleagues to access and view once the review and approval process has been completed
- Send notifications on page approvals/progress to other popular collaboration tools such as Slack and Jira
Accept that things can change
There is always one constant in life and that’s change. This is no different when it comes to the document management process and the pages you originally submitted for review and approval may evolve significantly throughout the process.
It’s important you don’t take this personally.
In most cases, it’s normal and is just a reflection of your team trying to develop the best content possible. The reviewers will have different opinions, experiences, and expertise to bring to the table so instead of seeing this as any form of criticism, use the review and approval process as an opportunity to harness the different perspectives. Even better, take time before you submit the Confluence page to gather opinions and expertise from people from your team.
Once the document has been uploaded for review and approval, there may be some occasions where a reviewer wants to seek the opinion of another team member. If the Confluence page is already in review how do you do this quickly and easily? We recently added this feature into Workflows for Confluence so you can add reviewers into an active review cycle quickly and easily.
Choose the right Confluence approval app for your organization
Confluence does not come with any built-in page review and approval capabilities so you will need to seek a third-party solution. Don’t worry though there are some great options on the Atlassian Marketplace including two of our own.
The Atlassian Marketplace allows you to evaluate (trial for free) third-party apps and we would suggest you try them out to see if they will meet the needs of your teams.
If you would like any help getting set up with Approvals for Confluence or Workflows for Confluence don’t hesitate to book a demonstration with us. Our team would be more than happy to help and we can also chat through any of the questions you may have.