My colleague and Atlassian consultant Adil Nasri wrote his bachelor thesis in 2015 on the topic of “Functional requirements for wiki systems for use as an intranet using Confluence as an example”. For his thesis, he conducted a scientific study of requirements for intranet systems in which 208 participants filled out surveys. Of those participating, 61.1% worked in companies with Confluence-based intranets, and 38.9% used other technical platforms. The contacts were provided by //SEIBERT/MEDIA.
He examined the central question of whether wikis were used like intranets in all departments and whether they were suitable as a central access platform for employees. Based on empirical data, Adil answered the following questions in his thesis: What do companies use their intranets for? What are their fundamental requirements? What important features do they often lack? And can these features be implemented with existing resources?
Use cases for intranets
First, my colleague asked for common uses cases of existing intranet platforms. These are the most frequent use cases:
- Documentation of expertise – 86.5%
- Company-specific news – 80.7%
- File and document storage – 72%
- Employee directory/phone book – 67.6%
- Continued training – 47.8%
- Internal job postings – 43%
- Menu/cafeteria menu – 41.5%
- Expert database – 39.6%
- Short messages/microblog – 34.3%
- Industry-specific news – 31.4%
General intranet requirements
Then, he asked open-ended questions to determine which three functions every intranet should have. He grouped all 543 responses into categories. These are the five most frequent categories:
- Social features: Features that facilitate personalized communication and content collaboration, commenting on content, receiving automatic notifications about changes, etc.
- Knowledge management: Providing knowledge such as manuals, processes, etc.
- Full-text search: Ability to search in all intranet content
- News: Relevant company news, announcements, etc.
- Employee directory: Detailed user directory with phone numbers, photos, etc.
Actual current requirements
Lastly, the survey recorded which features the intranets had and didn’t have and how important these features were. To do this, Adil grouped individual requirements into several categories (content, social, usability and user experience, permissions management) and used an algorithm to determine the existing intranet requirements.
Results for participants whose companies use Confluence-based intranet systems:
- Multilingualism (usability and user experience category)
- E-forms, e.g., vacation requests (usability and user experience category)
- E-learning (usability and user experience category)
- Expert search (usability and user experience category)
- Employee directory and phone book (usability and user experience category)
- Mobile conversion (usability and user experience category)
- Refinement of search results using filters (usability and user experience category)
- Events calendar (content category)
- Bulletin board (social category)
- Personalized content and role assignment (permissions management)
In his analysis, Adil determined ten specific requirements for Confluence intranets. And what about intranets based on other technologies?
It was clear there were more requirements for non-Confluence intranets. Requirements were for the most part identical regarding the category “Usability and user experience.” In other categories, the requirements were mostly for features which Confluence offers natively such as in-app notifications, e-mail notifications, @-mentions, comments, content versioning, content templates, etc. Overall, the survey data discovered 22 requirements for non-Confluence intranets.
Feasibility of requirements for Confluence intranets
How can existing solutions meet the requirements specific to Confluence-based intranets? In reality, almost all can be directly implemented.
Personalized content: Publishing user content (e.g. based on company location, language, department) is not native to Confluence. The add-ons developed by //SEIBERT/MEDIA, Custom User Profile and Blog Highlights, close these gaps and let you offer content based on specific profile attributes.
E-forms: The add-on Easy Forms lets you integrate forms for different use cases into Confluence intranets (available on the Atlassian Marketplace).
E-Learning: EduBrite offers the add-on Gilly for integrating electronic learning into Confluence intranets. Flexible training courses, assessments and similar interactive formats can be set up with this add-on.
Employee directory and expert search: The standard profile in Confluence cannot be enhanced. However, these two closely linked requirements can be implemented using the plug-in Custom User Profile. Profiles can then be assigned as many fields as desired with an option to define mandatory fields. You can search for colleagues based on specific criteria or profile attributes. For example, you can search for employees based on their expertise, project experience or department.
Refining search results using filters: This requirement is native in Confluence and is very powerful. But in order to fully utilize the options, you must work as systematically as possible to make content easily retrievable: meaningful page titles and tags for context. The critical factor here is is not the feature but user behavior.
Bulletin board: This user case is not covered by any add-ons currently available. There are different solutions for community forums that offer similar features to a bulletin board. And modifying the page layout and other configurations can achieve the same effect.
Events calendar: The Easy Events plug-in developed by //SEIBERT/MEDIA also meets this requirement. It lets users register for events with a click and publish them in event overviews.
Multilingualism: Although many international companies have this requirement, Confluence covers it only to a limited extent. Using the Custom User Profile add-on and the //SEIBERT/MEDIA plug-in Navigation Menu Editor, you can customize the system language for users and publish the intranet navigation (and some static content) in different languages for different user groups. But there is currently no solution on the market to organically translate user generated content automatically (inline).
Mobile conversion: Confluence is lagging a bit behind alternative solutions in terms of mobile ability. To date, no native mobile app exists, and the interface isn’t responsive enough to ensure a trouble-free user experience and access to all important features on smartphones. Atlassian is aware of this challenge and is working hard on a solution.
It’s clear the existing requirements Adil identified in his thesis can be easily met with plug-ins, conventional tools and disciplined user behavior. (The //SEIBERT/MEDIA plug-ins mentioned above are already included in our social intranet suite Linchpin.)
Currently, the Confluence market does not offer a solution to address the challenge of inline translation or comprehensive mobile use. It is unlikely this will change in the short to medium-term.
Adil came to the conclusion that Confluence is certainly suitable as a base platform for a professional, sophisticated intranet, and most of the requirements for such a system can be met natively or with the plug-in ecosystem. Thanks for sharing this data and information!
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