First impressions of Automation for Confluence
Automation for Confluence – what is it?
Automation for Confluence is a new feature for Confluence that can be used in the Premium and Enterprise version of Confluence Cloud at no additional cost. In Automation for Confluence, individual modules can be assembled into rules without code according to the IFTTT principle (If this then that). The basic principle: based on certain events in Confluence, certain actions are automatically executed. The sequence and the result of the actions can be influenced by different information. This information can be used when defining rules in Confluence through so-called SmartValues. With their help, dynamic as well as calculated content, such as the title of the current page, the name of users, or tomorrow's date, can be used in various places in rules.
Anyone who has had experience with Automation for Jira will be familiar with this principle. This is because Automation for Confluence is modeled on Automation for Jira in terms of function, structure, and presentation. Accordingly, users of Automation for Jira will quickly find their way around the Automation for Confluence interface.
Who can use Automation for Confluence?
As mentioned above, Automation for Confluence is available for all Premium and Enterprise versions of Confluence Cloud. To use the features, you must be either an instance administrator or a space administrator. To create space automations, open the settings of your space. There you will find the automation rules entry at the bottom of the list.
As a Confluence administrator, you can also navigate directly to the global automations via the Confluence settings. However, the personal space is better for testing automations.
What can you do with Automation for Confluence?
Automation for Confluence can already be used to implement a wide range of actions quickly and easily. In the following, I will provide short examples of four use cases that I am excited about. Because they improve and simplify workflows in Confluence many times over.
Content creation through Automation for Confluence
There are two applications that I really like: Building page structures when creating a space and recurring page creation.
Often there is a requirement to set up project spaces according to a specific schema. From requirements management to documentation, a uniform structure helps users quickly find the information they need. Until now, this required additional apps. Now, however, these structures can be created natively using templates with Automation for Confluence.
Especially when working on a project, the documentation of meetings is necessary. However, this is often lost or not maintained in Confluence. To support users here, a page for meeting notes can be created before recurring appointments. This way, participants are informed about the creation of the page shortly before the start of a meeting and are thus encouraged to document the points discussed.
Content organization through Automation for Confluence
In addition to the page structure, Confluence offers another organizing principle to quickly find pages, connect them and make them visible. We are talking about labels. Unfortunately, labels are seldom maintained because it requires manual effort and uniformity within the team (e.g. assignment, spelling, inheritance rules). With Automation for Confluence, it is now possible to minimize parts of this effort and to create uniformity.
In particular, the inheritance of labels is a requirement that could previously only be solved with apps. With Automation for Confluence, it is now very easy to define a list of labels that should also appear on subpages. Theoretically, it is even possible to create dynamic labels based on the page name using SmartValues. Furthermore, a "proliferation" of labels can be prevented: Automation for Confluence allows you to define a set of labels that may be used. If a label is not part of this set, it is removed by the automation. Even though label management with Automation for Confluence is possible in principle, for more complex and, above all, scalable solutions, there is no way around an app. I recommend Magic Labels for Confluence from Polymetis Apps.
Notifying users about Automation for Confluence
With Automation for Confluence, you can send custom notifications to users. For example, if a task on a page is due soon but not yet marked as done, the assigned person can be reminded via mail, Teams, or Slack. Tasks distributed in a meeting are less likely to get lost this way.
But also the existing notification system of Confluence can be used with Automation for Confluence by adding stakeholders to a page as watchers depending on the label, location, title, or even content of the page and informing them about changes in the future according to their own preference. In this way, the information flow of a company can be improved and controlled in a targeted manner.
Integration of other tools with Automation for Confluence
Last but certainly not least, Automation for Confluence can be used to build any kind of integration via webhooks, which can also replace some apps here. Automation for Confluence can not only send web requests but also receive them. That means events in other tools can potentially trigger rules in Confluence.
You can use Automation for Jira to create release notes, create meeting notes when a meeting is set up in Teams, and extend the functionality of Automation for Confluence using REST APIs from other tools. The use of webhooks and web requests makes it possible to run workflows and repetitive tasks in a clean, reliable, and automated way.
What can’t you do with Automation for Confluence yet?
Despite all the possibilities that Automation for Confluence offers, there are still some impossibilities and stumbling blocks:
Content creation is still quite superficial. Although pages can be created using templates, it is not yet possible to control the content. Here, Atlassian has announced that they will make template variables usable in Automation for Confluence, setting up a large set of use cases implementable using SmartValues.
The conditions that can be used to change the flow of a rule are currently not as intuitive and easy to use as one is used to from Automation for Jira. Technically, many applications can already be implemented today, but require the use of SmartValues, which may discourage beginners. Here, a block that makes the available information and comparison options selectable via GUI would be a useful addition.
The available SmartValues often do not yet provide the necessary information to summarize even complex tasks into simple rules. This leads to the fact that rules have to be created several times in slight variations or cannot be implemented without involving the Confluence REST API. In addition, name conventions that exist in Automation for Jira's SmartValues are not consistently implemented in Automation for Confluence, which has caused me a headache when testing.
Automation for Confluence is a powerful tool that will make a lasting improvement to the way many teams work. Still, there is room for improvement. I have been testing Automation for Confluence since late April 2021 and have seen positive developments across the board. The product team at Atlassian has been able to count on feedback from the community over the past nine months, gathering information on both use cases and issues, and has acted accordingly. Many of the applications presented in this article would have been almost inconceivable at the beginning of the testing phase. Now they can be implemented without any problems. I'm excited about the further development and look forward to using Automation for Confluence with us and our customers!
This article is the first part of our series on Automation for Confluence. The upcoming parts will go into detail about the rules mentioned here, so you can use them in your team as well.