Fivetran values autonomy, which creates a need for resources and knowledge sharing so every member of its hybrid organization has what they need to do their work. As the team grew, it created more information and, with it, the need for a better way to share documentation and collaborate.
Fivetran uses Slab to house all of its internal documentation and get the right content to the right people. Slab is the first place people go to look for information. It helps increase the trustworthiness of information, eliminates silos between teams, and encourages everyone to use the wealth of information at their disposal.
“Everybody at Fivetran has the autonomy to do their work because Slab empowers them with the information they need and removes blockers so that they can achieve their goals.”
Xander Bennett is the Internal Communications Lead at Fivetran, a market leader in data connectors. Fivetran differentiates itself from the competition by acting as an out-of-the-box solution with over 160 connectors, which make it plug-and-play.
As part of the People team, Xander manages internal communications across Fivetran, working closely with several teams to help with large internal projects and manage documentation for the company—most of which happens in Slab. "All of our company's documentation is in Slab, and I'm the resource people use when they need anything Slab-related," he says.
For Xander, two things are key for successful internal communications: trust and consistency. Information has to be provided at a regular cadence, and it must be accurate. "Be honest to build trust. People will figure out if things aren't going well quickly. Maintain a regular cadence across channels so people know what to expect," he says.
Knowledge sharing is core to Fivetran's culture because it supports the company's values. "We believe people should 'Get stuck in'—the idea that everyone should just do the work and they don't always need to ask for permission," says Xander. This reduces the need for communication by encouraging team members to use resources and knowledge to do their work and is aligned with their commitment to being a data-driven company.
"Less noise and constant communication are best for supporting our company's philosophy, and Slab is a part of that," says Xander. "It's key to our team's ability to find the information they need without slowing others down."
As Fivetran has grown, so has its documentation, creating more and more docs to organize so people can find them with ease. The team was drawn to Slab because, like a wiki, it's easy to search. And with straightforward writing and editing features, team members can easily take notes, see who has contributed to a post, and collaborate. Xander and the team have iterated and standardized how they use Slab while providing room for individual teams, like engineering, to have flexibility on how they document information.
Today, Fivetran uses Slab for all of its internal documentation across every department, creating curated spaces for teams and roles so everyone has access to the relevant information they need. For example, process-reliant teams, like Engineering, rely on Slab to document their work. Every time Engineering launches a new connector or product, they follow a standardized process, which is documented in Slab—this use of standardization and templates helps to streamline launches.
As an organization grows to comprise thousands of employees—as Fivetran has—documentation takes on new meaning. With a large team comes a large amount of documentation, which brings with it a different challenge: how to filter and find information. Especially within bigger teams, there are many more people reading documentation than there are writing it—the ability to find what's relevant quickly and easily becomes critical for content consumers.
To address these needs, Xander uses topics to create custom spaces for each team within Slab so that people can easily discover information that's relevant to them—and avoid wading through content not intended for them.
A prime example of creating a custom view in Slab is Fivetran's manager resources. Before, manager resources were scattered, and the process of sharing them was unclear. Now, the People team uses Slab as the central place for manager training documentation, centralizing all resources in a manager-only section in Slab.
"Our manager resources are only visible to managers—based on their level in Workday—and are now curated and organized for training and ongoing needs," Xander says. "Because we've grown so much and we have so many managers, standardizing and globalizing how we train and provide resources to managers has been critical to providing a consistent manager experience."
This use of Slab helps Xander and others differentiate between searchability and discoverability by encouraging them to think about how others will find content. "You can't search for something you don't know exists," Xander says. With Xander's guidance, people organize content by role or team, interlink content by arranging it in subtopics, and house Slab posts under multiple topics if they are relevant for multiple teams. The custom approach ensures discoverability so everyone can find what they're looking for—and know that it'll be the most relevant content for them.
Xander recently assisted with the rollout of Workday at Fivetran with a highly customized approach to documentation in support of the new implementation. "Because software companies like Workday cater to such a wide range of customers, their vendor documentation can be hard to parse and find what applies to your use case—which can lead to an unsuccessful implementation," Xander explains.
Rather than simply sharing the PDFs received from Workday or opening a Slack channel for questions, which would have required 24/7 monitoring, the people team built a highly-customized Slab hub for Workday documentation. In it, he created posts for each kind of user, curating Workday's extensive library of content for each role.
He developed personas across the company based on types of users, created articles for every person interacting with Workday, and developed a Slab landing page for each role. "The custom landing pages for key Workday users within our organization included only the relevant resources each persona would need," he explains. "We linked to FAQs for that role, pinned the most commonly asked questions, and titled everything clearly so that people could find what they needed instead of searching through endless vendor documentation.
To ensure a smooth rollout, he distributed the wealth of information on a timeline, presented it in a manager's meeting, started Slack channels, and supported the launch with plenty of linked documentation and live training sessions.
Using Slab helped the launch go smoothly and supported Xander's robust communications plan. It helped people navigate the new tool and get the information they needed to understand how they should be using it. By focusing on the needs of the various Fivetran stakeholders, Xander eliminated irrelevant information from Workday's documentation and customized it to Fivetran's needs. "By curating information in Slab to only what's necessary, people tend to engage with it more—people disengage when faced with too much information," Xander explains.
“By curating information in Slab to only what's necessary, people tend to engage with it more—people disengage when faced with too much information,”
To help others use Slab, Xander created a series of posts with guidelines on how to start using Slab, organize content, title posts, link between posts, update content, and write titles, all of which help to make Slab more searchable for everyone using it.
Overall, using Slab has helped develop an internal muscle memory that Slab is the first place people go to look for information at Fivetran. "While Slack is how we communicate, it's very ephemeral, so it's not the best place to house important information," Xander explains. "People can stay focused because they aren't being Slacked for questions—everyone knows the answers are in Slab."
Xander and the Fivetran team use verified Slab posts to increase the trustworthiness of information. At other companies, people might see that an internal knowledge database hasn't been updated in months and wonder if it's still relevant. "With Slab, you can see something is verified and know when it was last reviewed, who owns it, and who the subject matter expert is—in case you have follow-up questions, you can Slack them," Xander says. This builds trust in the information being up to date and creates a positive feedback loop: if information in Slab is updated, people will search there before asking their manager or peers for information via Slack.
Using Slab's customizable permission settings, resources are made available to specific people depending on their level in Workday. Xander loves having the ability to make a topic visible to a specific group of people and control their editing abilities, especially for sensitive information. "It's nice that we don't have to bother with email lists or Drive permissions, and access control helps us as we continue to standardize and globalize trainings and resources as we hire more members of our team," he says.
Finally, Slab helps eliminate silos and drives cross-functional understanding by allowing anyone to look at another team in Slab and understand how it works and which of the other team's resources might interact with their own role.
Overall, the more material that Fivetran puts into Slab, the better organized it is, and the more people are able to consult Slab for the information they need. And, based on insights in Slab, views have steadily trended upwards—meaning more and more people are creating and consulting content.
Xander's number one goal is getting the right content to the right people so they're empowered to do their jobs—and Slab helps him do so. "Everybody at Fivetran has the autonomy to do their work because Slab empowers them with the information they need and removes blockers so that they can achieve their goals," he says.