After learning how Git whiz Sascha Wolf built his career via Stack Overflow, we sat down with him and his former colleague to talk about how Stack Overflow for Teams was introduced at Grandcentrix.
The thing developer Sascha Wolf appreciated most when joining Grandcentrix was the passion of his colleagues to do good work. He fondly remembers many conversations with Stephan Hochhaus, Grandcentrix Vice President, HR and Organizational Development. Wolf says they were both “very interested in communication, how to communicate better, and how we can share knowledge better.”
Hochhaus sums up the challenges at the time as the typical growing pains of a young company: “We’re transitioning a lot and changing and evolving. And we found that people need to have a certain forum where they can exchange questions and find out what’s going on currently.”
For Hochhaus, the introduction of Stack Overflow for Teams came just at the right time. “I got one of those emails that normally I would have just deleted”, Hochhaus laughs, “but it offered Stack Overflow for Teams.” He admits, “We were probably one of the first customers using Stack Overflow Teams.”
Sascha remembers some of the pain points that made the decision easy. “When Grandcentrix introduced Stack Overflow for Teams, it was this initiative to try to formalize on how we share knowledge.”
“We had lots and lots of information scattered across various systems”
Grandcentrix had been looking for a knowledge management tool for a while, but nothing really worked. Unfortunately, that meant they had multiple tools that didn’t really solve their problems. Hochhaus says, “We had lots and lots of information scattered across various systems.” They tried many tools, but they all came up short.
“Documenting [knowledge] in Jira was of no use, because once the ticket was closed, it was just gone. You couldn’t actually research it anymore.” For a while, Confluence Wiki seemed the most promising candidate, as Wolf remembers: “Grandcentrix used Confluence Wiki for everything, even project planning, budget, things we learned during writing code.” That wide array of different content ended up becoming an issue, because, when using search, “it was super hard to find anything. You were looking for a full answer and thousands of pages popped up and you had no idea which of these pages was the correct one.”
While good in theory, Hochhaus agrees there was a lack of proper adoption to make it work. Similarly, GitHub had its limits in search capability. Hochhaus says: “GitHub was also full of information. But nobody actually used it to research things. What they did was they Googled everything.”
The company, like most organizations these days, also tried to manage the problem through a chat app. “Like most companies, we’re using Slack. There was a lot of information on Slack. But even worse than with Jira and Confluence, you cannot find anything once it’s gone in Slack, once it scrolls up.”
After so many failed efforts to find the right solution, Hochhaus really appreciated being able to bring Stack Overflow search capabilities to his team. “Everything changed with Teams”, he says. “The nice thing about Stack Overflow for Teams is that it’s familiar to most users. So most of the people here, who are engineers, obviously, they know Stack Overflow. They know how to ask a question, they know how to get an answer. So this is a tremendous benefit.”
“Like an AMA on Reddit, just on Teams”
Hochhaus is especially fond of the tags: “The benefit of tags is great. You can see who asks a lot of questions about a specific topic, who answers a lot of specific questions on a topic.” Hochhaus describes how they previously had a directory on the wiki, which they called “Yellow pages for experts.” Stack Overflow for Teams now offers this insight on the go: “If you look at Stack Overflow and you see the tagged questions and you see somebody answered a well-accepted question on Bluetooth Low Energy, probably they’re a good starting point to talk to your colleagues.”
As a company experiencing constant change, Grandcentrix not only relied on a faster, better way to get answers on their team, they also found Stack Overflow for Teams really helpful for communicating across the company. Hochhaus says it’s “like an AMA on Reddit, just on Teams, which is much better suited for us.”
“People could upvote the questions, could show there’s a lot of interest in this one being answered. So we could elaborate on this, could explain a little bit what we are planning. And this was very well-received.”
And Wolf describes his experience, being one of the early adopters of Teams at Grandcentrix. “In programming, you basically go through the cycle of, ‘Okay, I’m a genius, this works. Oh my God, I know nothing this doesn’t work, I’m too stupid to do this job.’ I think Stack Overflow builds this bridge in between I have a question, I don’t know the answer and then, okay, this is all the information now at my hand to solve a problem.”
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