Database you want to use

Hi, we are Lera Novikova and Karina Arushtova. We are co-founders of Learning Experience Collective, a Talent-As-A-Service company. We are a collective of educators that sources, approves and manages Learning Experience Designers to create top-quality educational solutions.This article is about our experience with databases and wiki pages.

1. Why do people create wiki pages
Normally, in small teams of around 3 people no one works on the same task twice. Members communicate, everyone knows what their teammates are up to. Yes, sometimes 2 of them complete the same task. Sometimes people can’t find a very specific document or a link. But these problems are rare and not very important. They do not affect what those small teams do.
A team of 5 to 10 people is a whole new story.
  • Teammates reinvent the wheel and create their own templates and keep useful links in their private documents instead of sharing with others.
  • Employees get confused because it’s unclear who does what. They have to set up meetings and investigate, and ask everyone the same questions about the work process. Sometimes it’s hard to simply find contacts of a teammate.
  • If every teammate uses a private Google drive instead of a wiki page work files may get lost after an employee quits or gets sick. It can be a serious problem.
  • Sometimes in team meetings people have great off topic ideas. If you don’t have a common page to keep these ideas they will get lost.
  • In big companies employees don’t always know what their colleagues from other departments do and what their work process and timings are. A detailed and regularly updated description of every department’s role would solve a lot of problems.
  • It is much easier to improve the quality of your work and experiment when you keep the results in one page, evaluate and compare them.

A lot of things can encourage you (especially if you are a team leader) to open Notion and create a wiki page. Let’s talk about how to do it.

2. How to create a wiki page
  1. Start. In our projects we usually start with a database or a collection of useful links. At this stage we share the wiki page with everyone and explain how to update it. The sooner you invite your team the better. Because if they create the wiki page with you they will see it as a convenient tool. You will not need to force anyone to use it.
  2. Organize. A wiki page structure depends on your team’s needs. Some teams want to keep all their projects on a common page. Other teams want to experiment, fix results and discuss them. Some will only keep useful links there, some will use it to store onboarding materials for new employees.

You can set up a team meeting and discuss what your teammates want to have on hand or save for the future. And organise your wiki page according to that. 
For example, your team wants to keep useful links somewhere. So you create a “Useful links” page. Or maybe your teammates wonder who can answer their questions and discuss work matters with them. So you create a “Team” page or a “Projects” page, list team members, their responsibilities and contacts.

3. Test. Your team is not used to a wiki page yet. At first you have to remind people about it and explain how it solves their problems and why it’s important. 
Our experience shows that regular team meetings and structure updates are crucial. We archive pages we no longer need and create new ones so they always stay useful for everyone. 
Further we will discuss tools for your future wiki page.

3. How to pick a tool
We all want the best tool for everything. The best learning format, the best education course, the best database tool. But before you pick it you should answer questions like “Why do I need this database?”, “How many people will work on this database?” and “What other tools do people already use?”. So instead of looking for the best tool we suggest looking for the most suitable one.
Some teams are happy with sharing their files through their local network. Other teams prefer a Google document with links to their Google drive folders. In both cases everyone knows where to find what they want. Everything functions just fine. Bringing Notion, Roam or Obsidian into such teams will not be a good idea. But if your teammates send documents back and forth, lose files and can’t work properly when someone takes a vacation, they probably need a new tool.

Notion is a suitable tool in the following cases: 
  • Several people are going to use your database. 
  • These people regularly use the same templates, such as lesson plans or  frameworks for learning programs. 
  • You need different  access levels for different people and you want to post your work publicly sometimes. 
  • You want a workspace that feels like an “All-in-one” shampoo for men. You want to track tasks, describe workflows  and keep links there.

Roam Research и Obsidian
These tools are pretty much alike. The main difference from Notion is that Obsidian and Roam Research have more in common with Google Docs. Text structure makes it easier to switch between segments and add links than a block structure. Cross-referencing only takes 2 clicks. Any element (a file or a picture) is a part of a text. Roam is a nice contrast to bulky Notion. Notion, however, is good for neat structuring and for posting your pages in the public domain because long texts usually scare people off.

Obsidian and Roam Research are suitable tools in the following cases:
  • You want to create a private database. 
  • You want to reflect on your content and get new ideas from it.
  • You want to keep a lot of files.

Now let’s get to implementing your database into your workflow. 

4. How to make everyone use your database, not just you
Remember that even the most suitable tool is just a program that will not necessarily solve all your team’s problems. Here is some advice on how not to let your database become a dusty digital shelf.

  • Ask yourself why you need to use and update the database. Don’t think too much. A couple of answers will be enough. 
  • Ask your teammates where they keep their files. 
  • Vote for a suitable tool. Don’t be too democratic though. Otherwise you will vote forever and never pick anything. 
  • Create at least a part of a database together. This is the most important step. It lets everyone on the team agree to be involved and co-create. 
  • Think about how to softly implement your database into your team’s workflow. Make it the easiest option. For example, if you work in HR people often ask you for a vacation request form. You put it into your cosy Notion database but your colleagues still come to you when they need it. Send them the link with the file in the  database first. Then start telling everyone  where to find the form but don’t send the link. In the end everyone will just go to Notion and find whatever they need. 
  • Plan an unobtrusive training on how to use the database. Don’t go for a big education program. A couple of Loom videos or a tiny 7taps course should help.