This is a guest post by David Goldstein of Arsenale—a San Francisco-based consultancy of Atlassian Experts focused exclusively on Atlassian products, services and best practices. Arsenale is the developer of the Arsenale Lockpoint and Arsenale Invisible Ink plugins for Confluence.  

The Cow, The Pig, The Rooster and the Tipping Point

Confluence excels as a rapid and lightweight content creation and sharing platform. However, even within Confluence-savvy companies, much of the document creation process still centers around using traditional desktop applications, such as Microsoft Office. These documents are uploaded to Confluence and managed as page attachments.

Out of the box, Confluence does a good job of versioning uploaded attachments, but Confluence wasn’t designed to manage multiple users downloading the same attachment, making changes, and then—unbeknownst to one another —re-attaching the file with only their edits. The most-recently uploaded version of the attachment becomes the current working copy, without any notification or opportunity to merge with prior updates.

With these layered versions of uncoordinated document updates, it’s like your team is working
to raise a championship race horse but finds itself instead with a stack of bewildered livestock.

As use of an enterprise wiki grows organically, there’s a tipping point where agile wiki
collaboration
 and anything-goes document editing become a project hazard, hindering the
effectiveness of large teams.

Mission Control

The solution we developed is a robust, enterprise-grade plugin called Arsenale Lockpoint.

Lockpoint gives your teams controlled access to Confluence attachments through a check-out and check-in process, much like traditional document or source code management systems. In Lockpoint, this is called locking and unlocking.

When you need to modify a file attachment in Confluence, simply click the Lock to Edit link, and the file is checked out for your exclusive use.

Lockpoint puts an end to Confluence users accidentally overwriting other users’ changes to critical business documents.

How it Works

Here’s a demonstration of how many of the key features in Arsenale Lockpoint work:

The following types of teams commonly see great benefit to using Lockpoint:

  • Product managers, technical managers and development teams collaborating on product requirements documents and technical specs in Microsoft Word
  • Technical writing teams working with libraries of reusable, rich-content documentation published in Confluence
  • On-boarding new Confluence users who are coming from Microsoft SharePoint or collaborating with document drops on network shares

Developing Product Requirements and Specs with Microsoft Word Attachments

Among many of our consulting clients, Microsoft Word still dominates for writing up product requirements documents (PRDs) and technical specs.  Within large projects, it’s common for many parts of a multi-disciplinary team to weigh in on these documents, with contributions and feedback from product management, technical management and individual developers.

Lockpoint’s tight integration with Confluence’s built-in Office integration helps sanely manage this collaboration, providing seamless, exclusive editing of Microsoft Office documents attached to Confluence pages.

For example, when you click the Edit in Office link for a Word-based requirements document, Lockpoint automatically locks the document in Confluence, launches Word, and holds the lock while you are editing. Other members of your project team will see that the document is locked by you and not available for changes. Using Lockpoint’s built-in notifications, they can click the Notify Me link next to the file to request an email when the file is unlocked.

With all your requirements changes made, closing the document in Microsoft Word will automatically save, version and unlock the file in Confluence, and any colleagues who requested notification are emailed.

Exclusive editing of Microsoft Excel and Powerpoint file attachments in Confluence is just as easy.

Working with Reusable, Rich Content Documentation Libraries in Confluence

For technical writers working on product documentation and knowledge bases in Confluence, one best practice is to create a shared library of reusable content. The goal is to reference content snippets throughout the project space without having to maintain duplicate content each place they’re used. Atlassian has a nice writeup on this concept called Creating an Inclusion Library.

Confluence extensions like Gliffy and Balsamiq Mockups have become key tools for Confluence-based technical writers by providing first class diagramming and UI illustration capabilities. Teams are creating large content libraries with the help of Lockpoint’s integration with Gliffy and Balsamiq Mockups, allowing them to provide controlled, exclusive editing of Confluence attachments stored in their library.

For instance, for a frequently-referenced network layout diagram created in Gliffy, you can start exclusive editing by just clicking Lock to Edit in the Gliffy pop-up menu in the Confluence 4 editor.

If your colleague goes to edit that inclusion library page or its associated Gliffy document, she will see that the diagram is locked and not available for editing.

When finished updating the diagram, you can save the diagram in Gliffy and unlock it from the Gliffy pop-up menu. All of this happens without leaving the Confluence editor.

Migrating New Confluence Users from Microsoft SharePoint and Network Shares

New Confluence users who are coming from SharePoint, or users who are used to collaboration via network shares and emailed file paths, sometimes find their initial open wiki experience to be too open. It seems like anything goes. Larger project teams who are making the same transition en masse have to reconsider long-held processes to match the methodology of a new and very different tool and mindset.

As a result, a number of Confluence installations are using Arsenale Lockpoint to ease user migration from legacy systems and processes.

Lockpoint’s check-out and check-in functionality is safe and familiar to users of SharePoint and other similar document-centric systems. Lockpoint’s deep integration with Confluence’s WebDAV functionality also allows users to mount Confluence as a regular network share, traverse its spaces and pages via the native OS file browser, and automatically lock file attachments on launch for editing when using a compatible WebDAV application such as Microsoft Word or Excel.

Advanced Arsenale Lockpoint Features for Admins

We also added advanced plugin administration capabilities in Arsenale Lockpoint, allowing space-by-space customization of:

  • Lockpoint Administrators – designated users and groups allowed to view and manage all locked files within the space and force unlocks when necessary
  • Rules to automatically unlock documents after a specified number of hours
  • Templates used for all Lockpoint notification emails sent to users

Get Started Today, for Free

From fast-growth technology startups to Fortune 500 firms, Arsenale Lockpoint is helping large, distributed project teams effectively manage their critical business documents in Atlassian Confluence.

To get your team started with Arsenale Lockpoint, download it from the Atlassian Plugin Exchange, or install it directly via the Confluence plugin manager. Lockpoint is available in English, German and French.

Arsenale Lockpoint is completely free for smaller Confluence instances, and available with a commercial license and a free trial for larger, enterprise sites.

For full pricing and to purchase Lockpoint, visit www.arsenalesystems.com/purchase

For additional details on Lockpoint, including user and administrator guides, please visit www.arsenalesystems.com/lockpoint

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