Productivity software company Atlassian has launched several new features for its Confluence and Trello platforms in a bid to boost efficiency for workers stuck at home by the pandemic.
The five new features – four for Confluence and one for Trello – build on the company’s January promise to make its products more collaborative and engaging.
“We're investing heavily in Confluence as a solution to keep distributed employees organised and efficient,” said Pratima Arora, head of product at Confluence.
Atlassian has added page insights, bulk content management, smart links and an enhanced commenting experiencing to Confluence. “We all want to make quicker decisions, that's all it comes down to. I want to make quicker progress. ...I want to move work forward in an efficient and fast way,” Arora said.
Page insights is designed to help workers who can no longer simply ask a colleague in the office about what content is most important or which pages they should focus on.
Instead, the feature highlights which pages are important with data at the top of each Confluence page showing total page views and estimated read time.
Bulk content management is designed to relieve information overload by allowing users to archive multiple pages at once to remove outdated or unnecessary content.
Smart links insert small previews of external content into a page, while the new commenting capabilities let users incorporate relevant feedback as they create and viewing content and allows them to resolve and create comments in edit mode.
Trello’s new feature – table view – offers users better visibility into work happening across projects, individuals and teams in an easy-to-read and -manipulate table format. It also allows users to see and manage information across boards in one place. Table view is currently available in beta mode for Trello’s business and enterprise users.
Addressing collaboration pain points
The updates released this week are a tacit acknowledgement that the nature of work continues to evolve and will end up looking different in a post-pandemic world.
“Throughout this whole process, work never stopped, so the issue of work management has been equally important in the distributed work environment – but it largely took a backseat while people were figuring out information sharing, product and project tracking and making sure work updates continued to happen over email,” Arora explained. “Unfortunately, this meant that employees had a divided view of their work.”
Chris Marsh, principle research analyst at 451 Research, said that these issues are not just a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. He said insights gleaned by 451 Research before the pandemic found that there was already a lot of friction in the workplace, with workers subject to endless emails, instant messages, meetings and conferences.
“We carried out a survey at the end of last year and found that four times the number of employees wanted to do less calls and email and IM than wanted to do more. This was already a pain point and this sort of head-long, untried digital immersion forced by the quarantine has only exaggerated the problem,” he said.
Marsh said the pandemic has also forced a lot of companies to acknowledge the important role face-to-face interactions had to play in productivity. That's because in an office environment corporate siloes and fragmented, legacy business applications could often be negated simply by walking over to a colleague’s desk or bumping into them in the kitchen and having a work-related conversation.
“When you don't have those face-to-face interactions, and you're just doing lots of virtual communication, all the research has shown that virtual conversations are very tiring," Marsh said. "There's a lot of Zoom fatigue, and also you have fewer of those sort-of spontaneous conversations that can actually be very useful. It’s become a real challenge.”
The Confluence announcements are designed to directly address that issue, allowing users to flag necessary information early on rather than requiring readers to hunt down colleagues for answers.
The Atlassian moves are part an ongoing trend among productivity platforms to transition from being a best-of-breed software stack to converged workspaces. Confluence made this pivot at the start of the year in an attempt to reduce friction amongst its users and improve efficiency and productivity.
In theory, if the workspace tool allows users to do more, they're forced to do less context switching, which should bolster productivity, Marsh said. Having one tool for content management, another for instant messaging, another for analytics and so on, only serves to slow down work.
Marsh said the Confluence and Trello enhancements can help collaboration software vendors who want companies to deploy their platforms broadly, not just across teams.
“It's clear to [Atlassian] that we’re never going to go back to where we started and there's a chaos right now that's happening where work is getting mismanaged across different products,” said Arora. “Organisations need to take a hard look at their collaboration tools and processes and be prepared for these uncertain times but also these new times ahead.”