Anyone who knows me knows I am a huge fan of the Atlassian suite of tools and that I'll readily expound on the benefits that these tools bring to the table in any organization. Taken as a full suite of tools, they can do wonders for the speed and efficiency teams and even an entire company. Personally, I’ve been using them and been an administrator of them since the mid-2000s when Atlassian was just a small upstart in the dev tools industry. Back then they were primarily known as a purveyor of bug tracking software. So, Yes, I'm a fan but...Why have I always been such a fan of this toolset?
Originally I was a fan because I’m a technology and process geek and Jira is a really flexible platform that allowed me to model pretty much any process that I wanted. Afterall, at its core its fundamentally a data modeling platform combined with a workflow engine. It also, quite helpfully, allowed me to finally stop using MS Project to try to manage the Agile sprints my dev teams were running. For me it was hard to argue with the notion of not having to use MS Project anymore.
However, of late I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about what makes excellent technical teams tick and I concluded that my passion for Atlassian actually goes deeper than the fact that they sell an excellent set of tools. There's something different about the company itself, what they represent and how they present themselves to the market. That really hit home earlier this month with I attended the 2019 Atlassian Summit (their annual user conference) and I wanted to share some of my thinking.
I attended my first Atlassian Summit in San Francisco back in 2013. It was held in a building about 2 blocks from Atlassian’s San Francisco offices and there were about 750 people in attendance. It was a pretty typical vendor conference with a focus on the latest/greatest versions of Atlassian’s products. There were the obligatory partner vendor booths to visit, sessions about configuring the tools and a big lavish event to cap off all off. Interesting but nothing particularly unique as far as software vendor conferences go. Most people have been to one or more conferences like this in the past.
Now, fast-forward to the 2019 Atlassian Summit. This one was in Las Vegas at Mandalay Bay and there were over 5000 attendees. A big, noisy, crowded, event in a big, noisy, crowded hotel. However, all those things don't make the event different from other software vendor events. Those things just make it...big, noisy and crowded. What made the 2019 Atlassian Summit so interesting to me is that Atlassian devoted the bulk of the general presentations not toward product information and release announcements but towards thought leadership around teamwork and collaboration. Every general session they had was primarily devoted to helping the attendees understand how the success of a company (including Atlassian) is tied not just to the tools but to the people, the teams and their ability to openly and effectively collaborate. They talked a lot about how Atlassian works and collaborates and they were clearly proud of it. So, here we have a software company that sells tools designed to enable teamwork, collaboration and process but at their annual conference the company isn't talking so much about their software, they're talking about how to get the people, the processes and the tools all aligned on a common set of goals. Now go look at this article that I wrote a number of years ago and recently posted to LinkedIn.
Back to the title of this article. Why Atlassian? Its not because they have a great set of tools that can help the people at nearly any company improve the way they accomplish their work. In my opinion, they do have that and the techno-geek side of me loves it. The real differentiator to me is that the entire company, from the co-CEOs down, all seem to practice what they preach and feel strongly enough about it that they are willing to devote a significant portion of their annual user conference to helping others understand what they’re about and how they work.
In short, Why Atlassian? I submit that its because they “get it”, they practice it as a matter of course and they care about doing it “right”. I believe that's rare today and its worth noting. They have a vision around what they do, they incorporate that vision into everything they do and out of that vision came sucess. I'm sure they care about the bottom line (they are a public company afterall) but the bottom line isn't what drives the business. The vision drives the business and therefore the bottom line.