In the decades that I’ve worked as an IT Contractor, I’ve had the opportunity to work on many different projects for many different Corporations. My roles as Software Analyst & Developer, then later as a Technical Writer has given me the chance to observe how large teams integrate Atlassian Confluence alongside their other documentation management tools, such as Microsoft SharePoint or Documentum. The results of what I’ve seen, both within large Software Development Companies employing over a hundred developers, and the usual corporate office environment have been ‘mixed’ – a euphemism meaning ‘not very good’.

But My Team are Technically Proficient!

Simply because Confluence is used by teams of Java Developers is no guarantee they will follow good data management practices – they are developers not data analysts.  In fact, the worst data management practices that I have seen have been centered around large IT Software Development Teams.  Analysts and programmers frequently think, design and use the simplest methods, not only in their coding, but in their data management. This can have the effect of making data stored in SharePoint, or Atlassian Confluence sites difficult to find, use, or understand.

How to Make Confluence play well with SharePoint.

I’ve seen wikis such as Confluence integrated well with other systems, such as SharePoint, but more often than not I’ve seen them working together pretty badly, and unnecessarily so.  There are a number of common issues that can cause this disharmony between systems. In this article I will outline the most common factors I’ve seen, with some suggestions to correct this situation.  So buckle up, as this post will not be politically correct… In no particular order, as all organizations are different, here are the most common reasons I’ve personally encountered, that have caused Atlassian Confluence installs to fail, be disliked by users, or work badly with other systems, or in corporate environments.

A dirty dozen:

  1. Inadequate Training on Confluence Best Practices for all users.
  2. Training a few people to a high level, then expecting everyone else to follow.
  3. Unclear boundaries between Confluence and SharePoint or other Document Management Systems.
  4. Poor Confluence Space Management Discipline causing run-away growth in the Space Directory.
  5. No ‘informal’ Confluence User Group, allowing people to talk about Collaboration.
  6. Lack of Descriptions and Categorization of Confluence Spaces in the Space Directory.
  7. Lack of understanding on Confluence Page Templates, including easy-to-setup Custom Page Templates.
  8. Lack of understanding on Parent/Child Page Tree Structuring.
  9. Total lack of use of simple Labels on Pages, other Content Types and Attachments.
  10. Lack of understanding of Attachment (document uploads)
  11. Lack of understanding of version control built into Confluence.
  12. Office Politics or Office Psychopaths?

Inadequate Training on Confluence Best Practices (for all users).

Training tends to be expensive, it’s a great big cash-cow for many companies, but it doesn’t have to be. Large corporates with perhaps hundreds of Confluence Wiki users face a dilemma in their training efforts. Although Confluence is a blank canvas, with which teams can build whatever they wish, this can be somewhat of a double-edged sword that can lead to chaos without proper best-practice training for all. Many corporates employ their own Technical Writers and Training teams to train out all of their key software resources. This is okay, and something that I’ve been employed to do on many occasions myself, however the internal training resource is more often than not simply repackaging training materials they took from someplace else, without any deep understanding of what they are presenting. Trainers are trainers – they are not data management experts. They can repackage, but they cannot advise from a position of true knowledge. The other option is outsourcing training in one of these general ways:

  • By selecting a small number of team members to undergo high-level training in the classroom, which works well, but is expensive.
  • Using YouTube-type resources, which in my own experience fail often for one simple reason – they can be long, monotonous, boring, and rather generic.
  • Using Skype or Webcast dial-in sessions ‘with an expert’. These often fail for exactly the same reason as watching YouTube videos. They are also extremely expensive, and you pay per participant to the webcast.  Sit through a two-hour webcast with an expert and measure the distance between your top and bottom eyelids at the end of the session. Not the best way to learn anything in my opinion.

The main problem we all face today is our attention spans are short for one very good reason – the sheer volume of information we are presented with on a daily basis. Each and every one of us is overstimulated with information.  If the information we need to take in is not quick and zippy, our minds tend to get bored very quickly.

Are Controlling Psychopaths Ruining Your Data Management?

A little known fact is that it is estimated that one percent of humanity are psychopathic, sociopathic or malignant narcissists. These psychological conditions render the area of the brain that controls empathy – dormant. Using detailed psychological screening, in the book ‘Psychopaths on Wall Street’, forensic psychologist Robert Hare discovered the rate of psychopathy was over ten percent.

Is a Psychopath running your data management team?

  • Pathological narcissism, or narcissistic personality disorder makes up about 1–2% of the population.
  • Sociopathy makes up about 2-4%
  • Psychopathy is around 0.7–1% of the population.

So all together psychopaths, sociopaths and narcissists make up possibly 3.7 % of the general population. However, in some industries, such as Wall Street, that figure has been found to be over 10%.

Psychopaths, Sociopaths, Narcissists are not ‘team’ players (unless they are on top of it).

The driving motivation in these personality types is power and control.  The centers of the brain that deal with empathy are completely dormant in the psychopath, and only their desire for control and personal power matters to them. Indeed, there has been much speculation over the years on whether Steve Jobs was in fact a sociopath.  He has been one of my personal heroes for a long time, but when one reads the way he mistreated people in his life, and how he drove people in his teams to near breaking point, one has to wonder just what type of personality lurked behind those eyes.  Was Steve Jobs a great man – undoubtedly he was.  He created Apple with Steve Wozniak, was forced out of the company (through office politics), started two other wildly successful companies, then came back to do it again.

You are most likely to find a psychopaths in areas such as:

  • High Finance (10% of Wall Street workers, according to study).
  • Big business (20% of CEO’s according to study).
  • Politics
  • Medicine
  • Law
  • Media
  • Religious organizations.

The great thing about being independent is that one can speak the truth. In thirty years of working in a very wide range of office environments, I’ve definitely met at least three very clearly psychopathic people.  Each one held a Managerial positions in Corporates. One had a high-degree of control over a Microsoft SharePoint site for a large (un-named) Corporate.  ‘They’ displayed so much desire for control that they actually caused a great deal of harm to the company itself, running a large project that should have been cancelled, far past its expiration date. I witnessed a great deal of data-disturbance simply because the manager in control of this data-management project (that had failed) simply refused to accept that failure, as that meant a loss of their own personal power.  The needs of the company, their colleagues, and other teams really did come second-place.  Perhaps you have met someone like this in your workplace? Having a psychopath or a sociopath at the head of your organization can be an absolute boon for that organization on the world stage, however having a number of sociopaths running competing departments or data management systems in your organization can be a nightmare that’s not easy to fix. I’ve witnessed this happening, and it’s not pretty.

An ignored problem

Although studiously ignored in today’s Politically Correct culture, it’s also not as rare as one might expect.  I’ve worked in an IT Contractor role for over twenty organizations, and I’ve met three very definite psychopaths holding mid to high managerial roles. That ratio (3% of us being psychopathic/sociopathic/narcissistic) is about right – and these people impact not just the people they work with, but the ‘office politics’ and the data management decisions that are made, all from a basis of expanding their personal power and reach.

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