Online meetings are here to stay, but we can reduce their number at least. Understanding which tasks are better completed with a meeting, and which can be done asynchronously with the right tools, will allow you to cut down on Zoom time and make the meetings you do have more effective.

Confluence is a great option to collaborate both synchronously and asynchronously. Team members can work on the same page simultaneously, or use comments and versioning to develop the document over time. No need to hunker down over the same document in a boardroom or Hangout, and definitely no need to email Word Docs back and forth.

But some projects require a more structured process and more careful oversight, especially if there is an element of risk or regulation involved. How can you double check that documents receive the proper approval of managers, when you can’t pop over to their desk? How can you make sure that everyone has read the final version and had their say? It may be tempting to get the whole team together for yet another Zoom meeting, but instead, we should turn to tools that let us automate some of these processes.

Let’s say you are developing a new software feature. Your team, with members in Europe and North America, gets together in the narrow slot of overlapping time zones to discuss the feature in an online meeting, using that space for what it’s best for – in-depth planning that gets everyone pointed in the same direction, and allows for creative, free-flowing discussion. Once tasks have been delegated and the meeting is over, the feature description is written by the appropriate user as a page in Confluence.

So far, so good. But once the document is done, how can you bring together all those team members to make sure the feature description matches that initial discussion? You could have another meeting, but a better answer might lie in Atlassian’s Marketplace with Comala Document Management. Comala Document Management is an app that lets you build customizable approval workflows in Confluence Cloud, Server, or Data Center. Pages can pass through various stages or states, and at each state you can require users to approve or reject the page. For companies operating in a compliance environment, you can also include electronic signatures to meet sign-off requirements.

Returning to our feature description example, a simple 3-stage workflow might be applied to the page. The workflow begins in a DRAFT state. When the author is finished, they press a submit button, and the workflow moves to an IN REVIEW state. At this point an email is automatically sent to the Product Manager, letting them know that the page is ready to be reviewed. The Product Manager has the option to approve or reject the page. If the page is rejected it can revert to the DRAFT state, if approved it can pass to the PUBLISHED state. Of course, if you want you can have multiple reviewers, or multiple review stages, you can build that in.

Additional features can also help you automate your documentation, like Read Confirmations. With read confirmations you can assign users to read a page, and they’ll receive an email with the link to the page. From there they can confirm reading with the click of a button. A report shows who has and hasn’t read the page. One of the common time-wasters of a meeting is when attendees aren’t caught up on the required reading, so this can be a useful feature.

If there’s one thing we’ve learnt in the past year, it’s that having a variety of tools and using them in the right way, can unlock new opportunities and efficiencies. Using them in the wrong way makes us want to throw our laptops. Tools like Confluence and Comala Document Management can play an important role in reducing the number of meetings by empowering you to work asynchronously.

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