Microsoft Sharepoint 2010 Wiki takes on Atlassian Confluence 5.2.x.

In a recent strategic summary for a large law firm in Toronto, we compared Microsoft SharePoint with Atlassian Confluence 5.2.x.

This is an extract of our white-paper. However you can also find a download link for the full paper at the end of this article.

Executive Summary

Our takeaway message is that “Confluence is a competent general purpose document development platform and an excellent wiki platform.” If your needs are based on getting users to contribute to reference content then features for collaboration around document construction should rank highly in your needs statement. This is what wikis are good for. And this is what Confluence excels at, and especially compared to SharePoint Wiki.

No discussion of SharePoint vs. Confluence is complete without mention of Atlassian’s SharePoint Connector for Confluence. That essentially lets SharePoint be used for one site, and Confluence for another. It integrates search so that searches made in Confluence return results from SharePoint, and searches in SharePoint return results from Confluence. And it unifies user directories. In this set up, consider “Confluence is the daily heart beat of your teams, Sharepoint is the reference platform behind Office”

Organizational Competitiveness

Organizations vary tremendously, not least in their needs, their technology solution set and the technical sophistication of typical user.

In the period up to 2005, many intranets were only capable of “providing read-only access to reference content” – content needed to change infrequently, the message was shaped by a few individuals in the firm, and it was sufficient for this message to be provisioned by IT.

But organizations must compete. For most firms, the talent they hire is their most precious asset. The growth of the consumer internet, typified by Facebook and Wikipedia fuelled demand and inspired workers to the possibilities of immediacy, feedback and incredibly unfettered exchange of information and knowledge building for the good and competitiveness of the firm.

In the context of outsmarting the competition, enabling the firm to be responsive or “agile,” is king. To be dynamic a firm needs its staff to intensely share information – it needs to collaborate, sourcing ideas from the far reaches of staff, and driving its smartest ideas into action.

Wikis: Tapping Knowledge for Content

“No matter how structured and organised your content is and how good your search is in SharePoint, a Wiki still makes the information much more discoverable as it’s not hidden away in (attached) documents, it’s just a few clicks away at all times.” – Jodie Miner, Collaboration Consultant.

Most intranets are not centred on the idea of most users building their knowledge into the content. Wikis are exactly focused on this.

Under ideal conditions, a Wiki is a set of useful content that is internally-consistent, up-to-date and continually changing – maintained by a broad number of stakeholders. As with any social computing platform, the content is only as good as the contributions that it secures from participants.

Wikis are a place for joined-up content. When wikis are vibrant with content updates from a broad base of users continually refining that content, they become the hub at which to continually provide and consume content from peers.

A wiki’s key goal is engagement for continual enrichment of the content. For engagement, usability and ease-of-use is critical. Leadership communication using the platform in support of the platform is vital and the most credible endorsement.

We also have available a whitepaper that compares the Features and Usability of SharePoint Wiki and Confluence. As engagement is impacted by usability, your leadership needs to be confident that the messages of endorsement they send are not countered by negative statements about poor usability.

So, many firms use Confluence to provide better wiki functionality into SharePoint team sites.

SharePoint: Strong at other tasks

Organizations that require depth across many traditional functional areas are targeted by a Sharepoint general-purpose solution. This software includes File Management, Document Archiving, Retrieving, Metadata-rich Document classification, Retention and Expiry of Documentation, Portals for departments, an interface for Database Applications written in MS Access, Business Workflows in Infopath and Business Intelligence.

What is SharePoint good for? (SharePoint Symposium 2011) highlights SharePoint experts opinion as to its strengths and weaknesses, quotes “For example in social computing SharePoint has every feature that you might ask for – blogs, wikis, microblogging, discussion boards etc. The features may be variable in quality (… microblogging ‘sucks’), but they are all there. However you could not roll out vanilla SharePoint blogs, wikis, discussion boards, activity streams etc. and expect any significant uptake of these features.

Using a third party tool…

If you wanted a social computing capability that people would actually find useable, interesting and lively then you would either have to build a customised user interface on top of those features, extend SharePoint with a third party tool, or use a separate application entirely” (emphasis mine.) As we discuss in Appendix B, Blended Perspectives notes “many fairly basic wiki features are not present, (such as page hierarchy)” let alone cutting-edge ones such as collaborative Q&A (exemplified by Confluence Questions), and in our Usability section, that getting users enthusiastic about working together can be hard enough even with the most intuitive, frictionless user interface. The same symposium paper SharePoint Wiki laments many usability issues for simple tasks.

On Usability, wikis in SharePoint is comparatively a minor focus for Microsoft. The wiki simply uses the SharePoint way of doing things. For instance, it uses SharePoint shared editor, same usability standards and same navigation features. So, whatever user interface control is needed for SharePoint in its entirety is usually applied to SharePoint Wiki, even though it’s technical people that set up SharePoint and just lay users that need to set up with Wikis. (Illustration: Title-setting in SharePoint – found on the properties sheet. In Confluence its the most obvious – and editable – box shown the top of each page containing the Title).

Confluence 5.2.x. is Ready to Use

Confluence needs little technical construction when first installed, but “ready to use” is not a characteristic of SharePoint. SharePoint’s enormous breadth of functionality makes it very popular among consultants. This is due to the customization necessary to make it fit for various purposes. The comparably narrow focus of Confluence translates to less set up. This productivity saves not only on the cost to involve the IT department, but gets the project initiated faster too. This is not to say that either can avoid an information architecture, but that this work is not held up by IT. This is all true for Confluence 5.2.x.

Some firms need to have a dizzying array of technology tools and options, others need a “one tool intranet” solution. The table below is our round-up of opinions on these matters.

Compete or Co-exist?

As mentioned above, many organizations use both Confluence and SharePoint. They pick Confluence as their Collaboration platform and SharePoint as their Archive-and-Disseminate Platform.

Furthermore, it is frequent for larger organizations with specialized needs in particular departments. In addition to architecting a hybrid best-in-class approach and picking multiple specialist applications. Rather than mandate “one application fits all,” they seek a blend of best-in-class functions based on applications. Each application is setup to deliver the best functionality for a given purpose. Each faction becomes being a system of record for a certain type of content, process or interaction pattern. Alternatively users are given clear guidance on when to use each.

For an application to gain its right to be a component in a Hybrid solution, integration is key. Confluence Search and User integration with SharePoint acts as a gateway to blend Confluence information into a federated architecture.

Services

  • Interested in a better wiki for SharePoint?
  • Interested in our whitepaper that compares Confluence with SharePoint? Then click here: [purchase_link id=”122971″ text=”Free download” style=”” color=”blue”]

The debate rages on! For further information or to discuss the Atlassian playbook, contact us today – we can help you.

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Blended Perspectives is Canada’s largest Atlassian Solution Partner providing Consulting, Managed Hosting, Installation, Data Migration, Performance Tuning and Certified Atlassian training. We have deep expertise in all Atlassian products with certified experts covering the full lifecycle for SDLC, Service Desk and broader business application support.
Founded in 2007 after years of experience serving clients in Canada, Europe, USA and Australia; Blended Perspectives’ mission is to enable Corporations to unleash the power of their teams and to leverage the true potential of their business via enhanced tools and processes.

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