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Extending Slack for better KM

Slack apps for KM

Slack is a great tool for just-in-time comms, but it hits a wall when it’s your only centralised knowledge source or when conversations and channels get so vast, you have no hope of finding something that’s already scrolled by. Thankfully, there are a few add-ons that are coming to the rescue. It’d be nice if collaboration tool vendors would put a focus on building/acquiring good search in the first place, but it seems to be a universal condition, so let’s take a look at your options.

1. Niles

Niles is a bot that lives in and logs channels to learn the answers to common questions, and can be referenced directly within Slack. Anyone that’s supplied an answer will be prompted via email to review and refresh, if needed. Bots like this rely on machine learning, natural language processing, and time, so it won’t work perfectly out of the box. However, a great thing it has going for it is that there’s no external apps or extra logins. Interaction with the knowledge is all contained within Slack. It can be hooked in to your Google Drive to search docs and into Salesforce, which is great for sales teams. It’s filed under HR in the apps directory but it serves anyone that does any kind of support. More info in this Techcrunch article.

2. Obie

Obie is similar to Niles but has hooks into its parent product, Tasytt. Tasytt offers a CMS, process flows, and a built-in reward mechanism for knowledge contributors; and it integrates with a whole range of apps including Google Sites, Dropbox and Evernote.

3. qPod by nimeo

qPod takes it up a level and hits the enterprise right where it hurts—Outlook, Office 365 and Sharepoint; plus all the cool kids. Nimeyo aims to eliminate any friction by surfacing what you need directly in whatever you’re currently using. Intended for enterprise, pricing is on an annual per user basis and the baseline config is email analysis only. Context is king when it comes to knowledge and nimeyo is all over that.

4. Tettra

Tettra is a simple wiki that bolts onto Slack. Invoked with a slash command, it’ll show you a knowledge article within Slack and provide an option to share it with the channel. You can also allow requests and assign page ownership to domain experts. You can see what it looks like just by checking out their own support page.

5. Guru

Guru offers a Slack bot and a browser extension providing easy accessibility from wherever you spend most of your time. Guru’s schtick is trusted content, so they provide functionality for domain experts to verify knowledge articles and for search results to be prioritised by popularity score and filtered by tags, categories and collections. This is my pick if you’re in a chat-ops environment and you need to level up your reusable knowledge assets.  Integrates with a bunch of sales and support solutions.

6. Notion

Notion is a unified workspace, rather than a knowledge repository. It brings together your dispersed systems into one workspace that you can then customise based on your team’s processes and workflows. It integrates with Slack, but it also accesses content across Trello, Confluence, Google Drive, Basecamp and more, allowing you to move things around in a drag-and-drop fashion in a way that makes sense to how you work and what you need to know about.

7. ClozeLoop

ClozeLoop has one purpose: sales enablement. It brings disparate sources of sales content, like battle cards and RFPs, from wherever you’ve been keeping them and puts them right in the sales workflow. ClozeLoop integrates with SalesForce and Slack, and also has a web app with plenty of useful features. The app gives your sales team a chance to flag content when it needs updating, a simple thing that many knowledge base products forget about. I love that they’re dedicated to this one application of knowledge management with no intention to expand into other use cases, because they really nail it.

KM for strategic advantage


Original photo by Flowizm

It’s easy to see the benefits of knowledge management when its applied to a support function. Problems are solved more quickly, customers are happier, analysts are less stressed. It’s almost a no-brainer to look here first for improvements to knowledge flow

Knowledge management has application across the whole lifecycle of a product or service, though—from strategy, to design, to delivery and operations, to support, to continual improvements, and finally, to sunsetting (and even failure).

So, imagine the wobbly movie image as we flashback to the early days of a new service offering when it was just an idea in the CEO’s mind. She heads up a successful organisation servicing a healthy niche, and she’s looking to the future to offer a new kind of service in hopes of deepening relationships with existing clients and broadening market reach to gain new clients. A CEO that doesn’t look for new opportunities, isn’t a good CEO.

If you were the CEO, what you do next? (Is there a market for Choose Your Own Professional Adventure books?)

I want to focus on the organisational knowledge that’s locked away on your side of that equation for now, so we’ll assume that the customer’s context, in terms of your existing service offerings, is well understood. You gain competitive advantage when you understand your market intimately, you see and sense the market trends, and you know your competitors well enough to differentiate your service in way that makes you more attractive to the people you want to sell to. You have to understand what your particular mojo is and draw that connection to the new service/product, especially when it seems a little distant from what you presently deliver.  

How does our imaginary CEO do that? How would you do that? Well, we’re all guilty of making assumptions, and they happen pretty regularly in businesses that aren’t big enough to fund a research team. When you gather your people together to surface the unknown knowns, articulate your particular kind of mojo (the combination of internal skills, passions, mission and values), and then co-create the strategic positioning for your new offering, that is knowledge management applied to strategy.

When you use knowledge management practices at the strategy phase you have:

  • A “stickier” product/service, as a result of mindful positioning
  • Better decision-making along the way
  • Broader buy-in from the in-house expertise who will be delivering the new offering
  • Increased speed to market

The entrepreneurial culture has glorified failure, but if we embrace a knowledge culture from step one, we’re taking one big leap towards mitigating that risk. And I think we’d all rather succeed, right?


How active is your directory?


Getting the most out of Confluence’s personal spaces

If your organisation has been using Confluence for several years, already, chances are it’s adoption has happened gradually—organically, even—as one team started using it for documentation, and then another, and then another. Your organisation’s Confluence may have become many things to many people. One of the often untapped benefits is the personal space feature. In terms of basic info like name, location, department etc, it’s very much like any other directory service; it relies on the profile owner to keep it up to date, and hopefully a little bit interesting, so that you can quickly find contact info for whomever you happen to be looking for. But that’s just one small part of it.

Customisable home page

When you create a personal space, you’ve got your own dashboard view of your workday, in a way. The sidebar can be configured with links to frequently used other parts of Confluence—like project pages or a knowledge base—and even external links to oft-visited websites, like eBay. Just kidding; no one goes there, anymore. We’re all using Gumtree. You can use it as a home base for draft documents, meeting notes, tasks and project to-dos, and you’ve also got a ready-made platform from which to share your intrapreneurial insights via the blog.

Using labels

Confluence also gives you some pretty need functionality that can help you as your business grows and you find yourself working with so many people that you can’t possibly remember which team everyone belongs to. Labels allow you to improve your findability. You could label your personal space with fire-warden, JP, and projects or groups you’re associated with. It’s easy to go crazy with labels, though, so it’s a good idea to have a conversation with other team leaders and HR to find out what people wish they could search on when they go looking for people in the staff directory.



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