Magnifying glass reviewing a Confluence Page

Improving the Document Review Process in Confluence

Confluence is more than just a collaboration tool. It’s a central source of knowledge that can bridge the gap between teams with real-time sharing, editing and collaboration.

But… where there’s documentation you’ll often find a process. πŸ˜…

For many organisation’s the review and approval process is a critical part of ensuring Confluence pages have been finalised before their release.

The requirement for documents to be approved may be driven by company policies, industry standards, or specific regulations. Whatever the reason, the review process can sometimes be over-complicated and more focus is put on the process rather than the people who will be using it every day, which can cause it to be seen as a burden.

It doesn’t need to be seen this way. In reality, the review process is a great opportunity to transform the content in Confluence from good to great.

Below we’ll share some top tips to help ensure your document review and approval process is efficient and hassle-free for everyone. 

Choose the right people to review Confluence pages

It’s important to define the people that need to review the page or document (with emphasis on the word β€˜need’…).

Sending your document to more reviewers than necessary will only slow the process down and in all honesty, most of your colleagues won’t thank you for it. After all, they have their own to-do lists!

Whilst it can feel easy to err on the side of caution and include multiple reviewers, you need to make your choice of reviewers based on business processes and what’s necessary. It’s about finding the magic balance between efficiency and ensuring your documents are reviewed by the right people. 

However, before we move on… we know this approach won’t apply to everyone. You may work in a highly regulated industry where Confluence pages must be reviewed by specific departments or subject matter experts in the business.

Even for teams in this environment, the review and approval process should still be designed in a way that ensures it’s robust, adheres to regulation, and is optimized to prevent the process from becoming an unnecessary (and painful) bottleneck.

Set some ground rules with your reviewers

The best approval processes are efficient without compromising the quality of the review. 

One key component to achieving this 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 the approval process without comments or any feedback? Honest answers only please (wink) In our experience this rarely happens and it’s therefore essential you have all the information and feedback needed to make the required improvements to your pages and documents. 

Encouraging your reviewers to be thorough the first time around helps you keep the process efficient and it also respects their time. If a Confluence page is continuously being sent back and forth with everyone adding new comments each time they review it, the process soon becomes frustrating for everyone involved as well as bringing your project to a grinding halt. 

It’s important to recognize that remote working can also increase the risk of this happening. The coffee machine conversations or quick visits to someone’s desk feel like a distant memory but they served as a great way to get some of the answers you needed.

As we continue to work remotely, encourage your teams to be more thorough in their review and if needed set up a conference call and discuss their comments for additional context and understanding. 

The review and approval process is about finding a balance and as a team you can find the way that works for you. 

Separate the mandatory comments from the optional

How many times have you received a LOT of comments on a Confluence page or document you submitted? I’ve certainly been there βœ‹

When you are faced with all of these comments how do you separate the mandatory from the optional? From my own experience, I have fallen into the trap of making all the changes that were requested in the review cycle because it felt like the right thing to do. And then there came the day when I realized some of the suggestions were just that – suggestions, and it was just the reviewer providing their opinion. 

You might also find yourself thinking – are all of these changes necessary? Why have they raised this now but not on other Confluence pages and documents they reviewed before?  

It’s easy to get frustrated but one useful tip is to encourage your reviewers to state which of their comments are mandatory and which are optional. A great example of this in practice is a reviewer adding (M) or (O) after the comment to signal if it’s mandatory or optional. This might seem like a small and trivial suggestion but believe me, it will make a big difference in the long run!

Define a clear process that everyone can follow

Without a clear process in place, teams will have the scope to do things their way and this can lead to inconsistencies, project delays, and the quality of your document management process being compromised. 

At the end of the day, you want a process that is easy for people to follow, maintains a high level of productivity, and enables projects to be completed in line with your organization’s policies and any applicable regulations. For many teams, you will already have processes in place and it’s important to optimize these as time goes on.

One simple way of optimizing the process is to set up a group that is accountable for managing how review and approvals are managed across your teams. This group should consist of people from different levels and functions in the business so you get a holistic view of the process. It’s no good having just senior management around the table if they don’t use the review and approval process that often – choosing a subset of power users will give you far greater insight. This is also a great way to manage any requests for change to the document management process in Confluence.

Now, for those teams that don’t yet have a process in place, it’s best to start with a planning session. Bringing together a group from different areas of the company will help you design the review and approval process that ticks all the boxes. 

Before we move on, there’s a really important point to make – don’t put the process before the people using it! You could create the greatest process in the world (on paper) but if it’s unusable or contains too many steps it will soon become a hindrance to productivity. Always focus on keeping it as simple as possible and you can always build from there. The review and approval process for Confluence pages should be allowed to naturally evolve as more people use it and work out what works and what doesn’t. Having a team in place to manage its evolution and optimization is the key to success. 

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.

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