Curiosity and learning are the engines powering the growth of Shopify, which has revolutionized commerce with a platform for creating online storefronts. With a company culture that prioritizes the value of seeking knowledge, Shopify attracts and retains problem-solving talent to support its ambitious goals.
“We hire a lot of intensely curious people,” says Jacob Touchette, senior knowledge management content specialist at Shopify. “There are difficult problems to solve at Shopify, and if you’re not intensely curious or interested in learning, you won’t find those problems as intriguing as someone else.”
As Shopify scaled rapidly in both workforce and amount of information that needed to be documented, the company required a knowledge management tool that was powerful, easy to maintain and integrated well with Slack. Slack helps Shopify connect teams, tools, customers and partners in a digital place that’s fast, flexible and inclusive for a work-from-anywhere world. Shopify chose Guru, the knowledge management solution that continually scales through user contributions along with advanced tools for verifying, updating and permissioning content.
“You don’t just need the right information. You need it delivered right to where you are, in the same moment. And for us, that means Guru delivered through Slack.”
Scaling knowledge management at Shopify
While knowledge management spans the entire organization, it initially took hold with Shopify’s support team, which relied on a system built internally, outside of Slack. But the rapid growth of the support team quickly outpaced its ability to keep up with information that needed to be easily accessed and managed.
Since Slack was where the support team managed requests for help, Shopify wanted a knowledge management system that lived within it. “You don’t just need the right information,” says Touchette. “You need it delivered right to where you are, in the same moment. And for us, that means Guru delivered through Slack.”
With Guru, Shopify was able to consolidate its support knowledge on the same platform it used to respond to customer inquiries—Slack. Guru also has features to help maintain the quality of knowledge: Its verification tools can track the history of every “card” or information window.
Easily searching for knowledge in Slack channels
The ability to use Guru without leaving Slack was hugely helpful to support team members working to quickly answer customer questions. But the Guru integration with Slack goes deeper to improve the value of knowledge management searches.
To find answers and share customer queries with the appropriate teams, the support team can search for information in any Slack channel, a digital space for collaboration. It can also reach out to specialized support teams through various Slack channels with standardized titles based on the business area they support. For example, the
#support-shop channel specializes in Shopify’s Shop app.
In Slack, Shopify’s teams can use the
slash command /guru to submit a query and retrieve any relevant cards that could help based on each card’s permissions and access controls. Anyone can create Guru cards when they believe a new one is needed.
To reduce the likelihood of outdated information being provided, each Guru card requires an owner, which is assigned at the time of creation and can be reassigned anytime as needed. Card owners receive automated nudges in Slack to update the information they own. Using Slack and Guru APIs, Touchette’s team built an application to further customize the verification process. Using this custom integration, Touchette can quickly prioritize which team members to personally message to update information they’ve stored in Guru.
Verification of data helps improve trust in the knowledge management system. “We’re seeing that play out with a spike in requests to submit or update content,” says Touchette.
“With the shift to digital-first work, we expected to see an uptick of knowledge management improvements, simply out of necessity. But the ability to use Guru directly in Slack is one of the big things that helped with adoption across the company.”
Improving digital learning experiences for distributed teams
In early 2020, before remote work became a necessity, Shopify had a head start in preparing for a distributed workforce because many employees including Shopify’s support team already worked remotely. But when the Covid-19 pandemic struck worldwide, in-person meetups or group training sessions weren’t possible for Shopify. Suddenly, the entire company needed Guru, and knowledge exchange over digital channels took on a whole new importance.
Shopify teams outside of the support department accelerated adoption of Guru. The talent team now uses Guru and Slack for its own knowledge repository and to keep the culture of learning alive in the absence of in-person collaboration.
“With the shift to remote work, we expected to see an uptick of knowledge management improvements, simply out of necessity,” Touchette says. “But the ability to use Guru directly in Slack is one of the big things that helped with adoption across the company.”
Even amid the upheaval of the pandemic and remote work, Shopify found that its culture of learning became stronger. “The number of Guru cards grew by a factor of six or seven over the past few years, which is huge,” Touchette says. “It’s a wild amount of growth just for pieces of information that are out there to share.”
The combination of Slack and Guru supports a workforce that loves to learn and wants to pass along its knowledge to colleagues and customers.
“Slack is how all of our teams communicate and how we check in with each other,” Touchette says. “And Guru is where all of our knowledge is stored. I don’t know what we’d do if we didn’t have both!”