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Atlassian means business
The company repositions itself as a communications and collaboration platform for the enterprise — and, in so doing, offers up some valuable lessons for IT and business leaders coping with the impact and fallout of digital transformation.
This article first appeared on CIO.com. The company repositions itself as a communications and collaboration platform for the enterprise — and, in so doing, offers up some valuable lessons for IT and business leaders coping with the impact and fallout of digital transformation. During last week’s Atlassian Summit, the company rolled out a brand new logo and look. One audience member expressed their disapproval on Twitter: “Jeez! It's about the @Atlassian logo again. Who cares? So self absorbed.” In this case, however, I don’t think it was a mere branding exercise. Atlassian used the roll out of its new logo to signal something much bigger: a repositioning of the company as a communication and collaboration platform for the enterprise. Atlassian’s co-CEO, Mike Cannon-Brookes, explained that the original logo reflected their heritage as an IT support business — rooted in Jira, the company’s flagship product. According to Cannon-Brookes, the new logo more accurately symbolizes the value the company delivers to its customers and which its products embody: teamwork, collaboration, compassion and even a little fun-spirited competition. This significant, yet subtle shift in focus was evident throughout the event. From the extensive integration of Trello — the project management tool the company acquired earlier this year — to the launch of Stride, its new team communications product, to the new Atlassian Teamwork Platform, which will underpin all current and future products, this shift was apparent. It was also evident in the proliferation of business-oriented plug-ins and add-ons in its growing marketplace. It was clear that the company aims to be much more than an IT software company. This repositioning as a communication and collaboration platform for the enterprise represents both a tremendous opportunity and a potential risk. It opens the door to much greater enterprise penetration, but also puts the company on a possible collision course with other major technology vendors, such as ServiceNow and Salesforce, that are likewise intent on being the communications and management platform for the enterprise. Beyond what this means for Atlassian, however, this repositioning also has some valuable lessons for IT and business leaders coping with the impact and fallout of digital transformation.
Connecting teams to build the connected enterprise
At the center of this shift is the idea that connecting teams is the key to building great products. Dave Rizzo, vice president of product development for Compuware — a software company focused on "mainstreaming the mainframe," and an Atlassian customer — explained that they not only use Atlassian products internally, but that they promote them to their customers to encourage collaboration and greater interdependence of teams. “When everyone is using the exact same tool to do the exact same things, it helps foster conversations,” Rizzo said. “Collaborating with Atlassian’s Confluence tool creates a totally agnostic environment to talk, discuss ideas and focus.” That certainly applies to IT, but it applies throughout the enterprise as well, and it seems logical that Atlassian would begin to move into this broader posture. Jens Schumacher, head of Atlassian’s Software Teams business, explained that they are seeing use cases of organizations using the company’s products to connect teams outside of IT. They see non-development, and non-support teams, such as business analysts, designers, marketing and enterprise architects using their products both as part of the development process and independently. As a result, the company appears to be investing heavily to ensure that cross-team collaboration is a central component of each of its products. As enterprise organizations continue the transition to become digital enterprises, the company is betting that they will need ever-faster and more efficient means to communicate and collaborate.
Breaking through silos to connect to business value
Finding success in the emerging digital economy, however, will require more than just efficient communications and collaboration. Organizations need to be laser-focused on identifying and delivering those things that provide differentiation and competitive value in a fast-moving market. One of the greatest inhibitors to this, however, is the existence of functional silos which create an internally-facing orientation. Organizations must, instead, relentlessly focus outward and on those things that provide unique value to their customers. “It’s not enough to just develop fast,” explained Schumacher. “You can go as fast as you want, but if you’re not doing the right things, it doesn’t matter how fast you go.” The Atlassian ecosystem echoed this idea of focusing on the creation of business value on the show floor. Companies such as Blueprint, Hiptest, and LaunchDarkly all offer Atlassian plug-ins, add-ons or integrations that help organizations break through silos and connect the dots between IT and the business in various ways.
A holistic view of the digital enterprise
The overarching message is that for organizations to make the transition out of the Industrial Age and become digital enterprises, they must adopt a broader, more holistic view of how they operate in every way. They can no longer see IT as separate from the rest of the organization, and they have to enable friction-less communication and collaboration throughout the enterprise. Atlassian and its ecosystem partners are betting that they can help enterprise organizations make this transition. “Atlassian has the potential to help break down communication gaps between departments,” explained Simon Haighton-Williams, CEO of Adaptivist, one of the earliest Atlassian partners. “They’ve come from the development environment — and developers are some of the toughest customers when it comes to communication and collaboration. So they’ve been tested by fire. They’ve evolved their suite to cover everything that an organization needs to communicate and collaborate.” Moreover, as technology becomes one of the principal drivers of differentiation and competitive advantage, those organizations that can create the greatest agility and interoperability during the development of those differentiating technologies will have a significant advantage over their competition. The battle for enterprise platform dominance is still in the earliest days, and it is far too soon to say whether or not it will be a head-to-head battle or who will come out on top. But this much is sure: Enterprise organizations will need to operate holistically, relentlessly focus on delivering differentiating value to their customers and must continually eliminate any barrier that slows them down as they race toward this future. [Disclosure: Atlassian covered my travel expenses for this event, a standard industry practice. As of the time of writing, ServiceNow and Compuware are Intellyx customers. None of the other organizations mentioned in this article are Intellyx customers.]