Before I joined Atlassian, much of my professional life had taken place in corporate environments where work and communications were compartmentalized into neat, but stifling silos. It was rare to experience spontaneous, cross-functional creativity or be privy to a range of ideas in development. Exposure to the inner workings of other teams was limited to what had been sanitized and prepped to share with wider audiences.

What do work silos look like?

Colleagues communicated in emails and private chat sessions, documents were ensconced in complicated file structures on hard drives, and work stored in private cloud accounts never became part of the corporate fabric. If you needed access to information it was granted via formalized permission through IT or by knowing the right person who could share a particular document of interest.

These are all examples of work silos, which manifest themselves in top-down communications, restricted document access, and management review cycles that end up crippling the free flow of ideas. No matter how broad a person’s scope of responsibility is, they are confined to what is selectively shared with them if their organization is built around tools and principles that restrict sharing and limit awareness.


Open company, no bullshit

When I arrived at Atlassian, I was drawn to our famed values, one of which is: “Open company, no bullshit.” This value is all about transparency, and breaking down work silos so that good ideas and hard work win out over job titles and seniority. I am not alone in finding this principle appealing. In a recent survey, we found that 87% of people would like to work for a company that is transparent and open.

One of the ways we’ve successfully achieved transparency and openness is through Confluence, our team collaboration platform. In fact, when asked, 96% of our customers responded that Confluence makes sharing information with their teams easier.

Break down the silos! 87% of people want to work at a transparent and open company.

For instance, at Atlassian we keep documents “open” so they are discoverable by anyone in the organization. While it’s possible to put restrictions on pages in Confluence so only you or a select few can see them, Atlassians don’t restrict their work. If someone stumbles across your page and happens to comment—you’ve got early input! For the most part, people are busy with their own projects; new pages are created across all Confluence users every 1.3 seconds. But if someone finds your work, Atlassians are empowered to share their thoughts, ask questions, or just give your page a thumbs up. Having the entire organization at my fingertips, as well as its brain power to potentially riff on my work, at all stages of development, is empowering, and sometimes scary.

My work in Confluence

My first assignment at Atlassian was to create a personal blog post, something everyone here does to introduce themselves to their new colleagues. While I loved the “open company” principle when I was interviewing, once I arrived, it made me nervous as hell. I put my intro blog on lockdown for days so only I could see it with a large DRAFT in bold font across the header. Once it had been through multiple personal revisions, I removed the document restrictions and shared it with several departments— it was in the wild. People responded to it with likes and friendly welcome comments on the page.

image2016-8-19-13-28-46-2With that bit of encouragement, I was ready to start working the Atlassian way, with sharing as a first principle.

Open work is energizing

While sometimes intimidating, Atlassian’s open work environment can create connection between colleagues throughout the organization, no matter their functional department or location. Recently, I participated in a rich discussion in Confluence about what age our target user audience starts. It began with a blog post by one of our researchers; 300+ likes and 35+ comments later, Atlassians had weighed in enthusiastically from all over the world and debated many of the concepts presented in the post. If Atlassian did not embrace an open work policy and use a collaboration platform that makes sharing easy, I never would have engaged in this heartfelt discussion with colleagues I had yet to meet.

Work silos–you can escape from them, too!

This is the power of connection and discovery made available to teams that use Confluence, a shift change from organizations operating in restricted silos. Putting work in the public sphere, while it is being finessed, occasionally still feels like a bold move. But, being able to share ideas and opinions on early-stage projects creates a dynamic and engaging collaboration process that trumps carefully crafted emails, meticulously versioned documents, and the safety of a private page.

What else is to be gained from breaking down work silos and cultivating an open work environment? Check out the infographic we’ve created about how Confluence breaks the cycle of idea suppression with smart collaboration.

See the smart collaboration infographic

How I escaped work silos with Confluence