Oct
14
2020
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Atlassian Smarts adds machine learning layer across the company’s platform of services

Atlassian has been offering collaboration tools, often favored by developers and IT for some time with such stalwarts as Jira for help desk tickets, Confluence to organize your work and BitBucket to organize your development deliverables, but what it lacked was a machine learning layer across the platform to help users work smarter within and across the applications in the Atlassian family.

That changed today, when Atlassian announced it has been building that machine learning layer, called Atlassian Smarts, and is releasing several tools that take advantage of it. It’s worth noting that unlike Salesforce, which calls its intelligence layer Einstein or Adobe, which calls its Sensei, Atlassian chose to forgo the cutesy marketing terms and just let the technology stand on its own.

Shihab Hamid, the founder of the Smarts and Machine Learning Team at Atlassian, who has been with the company 14 years, says they avoided a marketing name by design. “I think one of the things that we’re trying to focus on is actually the user experience and so rather than packaging or branding the technology, we’re really about optimizing teamwork,” Hamid told TechCrunch.

Hamid says that the goal of the machine learning layer is to remove the complexity involved with organizing people and information across the platform.

“Simple tasks like finding the right person or the right document becomes a challenge, or at least they slow down productivity and take time away from the creative high-value work that everyone wants to be doing, and teamwork itself is super messy and collaboration is complicated. These are human challenges that don’t really have one right solution,” he said.

He says that Atlassian has decided to solve these problems using machine learning with the goal of speeding up repetitive, time-intensive tasks. Much like Adobe or Salesforce, Atlassian has built this underlying layer of machine smarts, for lack of a better term, that can be distributed across their platform to deliver this kind of machine learning-based functionality wherever it makes sense for the particular product or service.

“We’ve invested in building this functionality directly into the Atlassian platform to bring together IT and development teams to unify work, so the Atlassian flagship products like JIRA and Confluence sit on top of this common platform and benefit from that common functionality across products. And so the idea is if we can build that common predictive capability at the platform layer we can actually proliferate smarts and benefit from the data that we gather across our products,” Hamid said.

The first pieces fit into this vision. For starters, Atlassian is offering a smart search tool that helps users find content across Atlassian tools faster by understanding who you are and how you work. “So by knowing where users work and what they work on, we’re able to proactively provide access to the right documents and accelerate work,” he said.

The second piece is more about collaboration and building teams with the best personnel for a given task. A new tool called predictive user mentions helps Jira and Confluence users find the right people for the job.

“What we’ve done with the Atlassian platform is actually baked in that intelligence, because we know what you work on and who you collaborate with, so we can predict who should be involved and brought into the conversation,” Hamid explained.

Finally, the company announced a tool specifically for Jira users, which bundles together similar sets of help requests and that should lead to faster resolution over doing them manually one at a time.

“We’re soon launching a feature in JIRA Service Desk that allows users to cluster similar tickets together, and operate on them to accelerate IT workflows, and this is done in the background using ML techniques to calculate the similarity of tickets, based on the summary and description, and so on.”

All of this was made possible by the company’s previous shift from mostly on-premises to the cloud and the flexibility that gave them to build new tooling that crosses the entire platform.

Today’s announcements are just the start of what Atlassian hopes will be a slew of new machine learning-fueled features being added to the platform in the coming months and years.

Aug
26
2020
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LaunchNotes raises a $1.8M seed round to help companies communicate their software updates

LaunchNotes, a startup founded by the team behind Statuspage (which Atlassian later acquired) and the former head of marketing for Jira, today announced that it has raised a $1.8 million seed round co-led by Cowboy Ventures and Bull City Ventures. In addition, Tim Chen (general partner, Essence Ventures), Eric Wittman (chief growth officer, JLL Technologies), Kamakshi Sivaramakrishnan (VP Product, LinkedIn), Scot Wingo (co-founder and CEO, Spiffy), Lin-Hua Wu (chief communications officer, Dropbox) and Steve Klein (co-founder, Statuspage) are participating in this round.

The general idea behind LaunchNotes is to help businesses communicate their software updates to internal and external customers, something that has become increasingly important as the speed of software developments — and launches — has increased.

In addition to announcing the new funding round, LaunchNotes also today said that it will revamp its free tier to include the ability to communicate updates externally through public embeds as well. Previously, users needed to be on a paid plan to do so. The team also now allows businesses to customize the look and feel of these public streams more and it did away with subscriber limits.

“The reason we’re doing this is largely because [ … ] our long-term goal is to drive this shift in how release communications is done,” LaunchNotes co-founder Jake Brereton told me. “And the easiest way we can do that and get as many teams on board as possible is to lower the barrier to entry. Right now, that barrier to entry is asking users to pay for it.”

As Brereton told me, the company gained about 100 active users since it launched three months ago.

Image Credits: LaunchNotes

“I think, more than anything, our original thesis has been validated much more than I expected,” co-founder and CEO Tyler Davis added. “This problem really does scale with team size and in a very linear way and the interest that we’ve had has largely been on the much larger, enterprise team side. It’s just become very clear that that specific problem — while it is an issue for smaller teams — is much more of a critical problem as you grow and as you scale out into multiple teams and multiple business units.”

It’s maybe no surprise then that many of the next items on the team’s roadmap include features that large companies would want from a tool like this, including integrations with issue trackers, starting with Jira, single sign-on solutions and better team management tools.

“With that initial cohort being on the larger team size and more toward enterprise, issue tracker integration is a natural first step into our integrations platform, because a lot of change status currently lives in all these different tools and all these different processes and LaunchNotes is kind of the layer on top of that,” explained co-founder Tony Ramirez. “There are other integrations with things like feature flagging systems or git tools, where we want LaunchNotes to be the one place where people can go. And for these larger teams, that pain is more acute.”

The fact that LaunchNotes is essentially trying to create a system of record for product teams was also part of what attracted Cowboy Ventures founder Aileen Lee to the company.

Image Credits: LaunchNotes

“One of the things that I thought was kind of exciting is that this is potentially a new system of record for product people to use that kind of lives in different places right now — you might have some of it in Jira and some in Trello, or Asana, and some of that in Sheets and some of it in Airtable or Slack,” she said. She also believes that LaunchNotes will make a useful tool when bringing on new team members or handing off a product to another developer.

She also noted that the founding team, which she believes has the ideal background for building this product, was quite upfront about the fact that it needs to bring more diversity to the company. “They recognized, even in the first meeting, ‘Hey, we understand we’re three guys, and it’s really important to us to actually build out [diversity] on our cap table and in our investing team, but then also in all of our future hires so that we are setting our company up to be able to attract all kinds of people,” she said.

Aug
19
2020
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A pandemic and recession won’t stop Atlassian’s SaaS push

No company is completely insulated from the macroeconomic fallout of COVID-19, but we are seeing some companies fare better than others, especially those providing ways to collaborate online. Count Atlassian in that camp, as it provides a suite of tools focused on working smarter in a digital context.

At a time when many employees are working from home, Atlassian’s product approach sounds like a recipe for a smash hit. But in its latest earnings report, the company detailed slowing growth, not the acceleration we might expect. Looking ahead, it’s predicting more of the same — at least for the short term.

Part of the reason for that — beyond some small-business customers, hit by hard times, moving to its new free tier introduced last March — is the pain associated with moving customers off of older license revenue to more predictable subscription revenue. The company has shown that it is willing to sacrifice short-term growth to accelerate that transition.

We sat down with Atlassian CRO Cameron Deatsch to talk about some of the challenges his company is facing as it navigates through these crazy times. Deatsch pointed out that in spite of the turbulence, and the push to subscriptions, Atlassian is well-positioned with plenty of cash on hand and the ability to make strategic acquisitions when needed, while continuing to expand the recurring-revenue slice of its revenue pie.

The COVID-19 effect

Deatsch told us that Atlassian could not fully escape the pandemic’s impact on business, especially in April and May when many companies felt it. His company saw the biggest impact from smaller businesses, which cut back, moved to a free tier, or in some cases closed their doors. There was no getting away from the market chop that SMBs took during the early stages of COVID, and he said it had an impact on Atlassian’s new customer numbers.

Atlassian Q4FY2020 customer growth graph

Image Credits: Atlassian

Still, the company believes it will recover from the slow down in new customers, especially as it begins to convert a percentage of its new, free-tier users to paid users down the road. For this quarter it only translated into around 3000 new customers, but Deatsch didn’t seem concerned. “The customer numbers were off, but the overall financials were pretty strong coming out of [fiscal] Q4 if you looked at it. But also the number of people who are trying our products now because of the free tier is way up. We saw a step change when we launched free,” he said.

Aug
13
2020
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Slack and Atlassian strengthen their partnership with deeper integrations

A lot of “partnerships” between tech companies don’t get very far beyond a press release and maybe some half-hearted co-selling attempts. When Atlassian sold its chat services to Slack in 2018, the two companies said they would form a new partnership and with Atlassian leaving the chat space, a lot of people were skeptical about what that would really mean.

Since then, things got pretty quiet around the collaboration between the two companies, but today the companies announced some of the deep integration work they’ve done, especially within Slack .

Image Credits: Atlassian

Over the course of the last two years, Slack and Atlassian shipped 11 product integrations, which now see about a million active users every month, with Jira being the most often used integration, followed by Halp, which Atlassian acquired earlier this year.

Every month, Atlassian currently sends 42 million Jira notifications to Slack — and that number continues to grow.

At the core of these integrations is the ability to get rich unfurls of deep links to Atlassian products in Slack, no matter whether that’s in DMs, public or private channels. Coming soon, those unfurls will become a default feature within Slack, even if the user who is seeing the link isn’t an Atlassian user yet.

“Today, if you do drop a Jira link in your channel and you’re not a user — or even if you are and you’re not authed in — you just see a link,” Brad Armstrong said.

“You don’t get the benefit of the unfurl. And so one of the things we’re doing is making that unfurl available to everybody, regardless of whether you are logged in and regardless of whether you’re even an Atlassian customer.”

Image Credits: Atlassian

The two companies also worked closely together on making moving between the products easier. If you are a Jira user, for example, you’ll soon be able to click on a link in Slack and if you’re not currently logged into your Atlassian account, you’ll be automatically logged in. The two companies are taking this even further by automatically creating Jira accounts for users when they come from Slack.

“Even if you’re not a user, when you click on the link, we will then map you from Slack and create a Jira user for you that provisions you and auths you in so you’re immediately becoming a Jira user by virtue of wanting to collaborate on that piece of content in Slack,” Armstrong explained.

That, the two companies argue, turns Slack into something akin to a passport that gives you access to the Atlassian product suite — and that should also make onboarding a lot easier for new users.

Image Credits: Atlassian

“As you could probably imagine, as you know, onboarding is a pain, it’s hard because you have different roles, different size teams, so on and so forth,” said Bryant Lee, Atlassian’s head of product partnerships. “And that’s where you see some of the authentication stuff, the unfurling discovery piece really being an understanding of what those practices are. But the way that we look at it is not just about the product but people, products and practices. So it’s really about understanding who it is that we’re trying to optimize for.”

In addition to these new integrations that are launching soon, the two companies are also expanding their co-marketing efforts, starting with a new 50%-off offer for Atlassian users who want to also use Slack.

“We’re building on the strong foundation of our partnership’s success from the past two years, which has yielded tremendous shared customer momentum and impactful product integrations,” said Slack co-founder and CEO Stewart Butterfield . “Thanks to our strategic alliance, Slack and Atlassian have become the technology stack of choice for developer teams.”

Jul
30
2020
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Atlassian acquires asset management company Mindville

Atlassian today announced that it has acquired Mindville, a Jira-centric enterprise asset management firm based in Sweden. Mindville’s more than 1,700 customers include the likes of NASA, Spotify and Samsung.

Image Credits: Atlassian

With this acquisition, Atlassian is getting into a new market, too, by adding asset management tools to its lineup of services. The company’s flagship product is Mindville Insights, which helps IT, HR, sales, legal and facilities to track assets across a company. It’s completely agnostic as to which assets you are tracking, though, given Atlassian’s user base, most companies will likely use it to track IT assets like servers and laptops. But in addition to physical assets, you also can use the service to automatically import cloud-based servers from AWS, Azure and GCP, for example, and the team has built connectors to services like Service Now and Snow Software, too.

Image Credits: Mindville

“Mindville Insight provides enterprises with full visibility into their assets and services, critical to delivering great customer and employee service experiences. These capabilities are a cornerstone of IT Service Management (ITSM), a market where Atlassian continues to see strong momentum and growth,” Atlassian’s head of tech teams Noah Wasmer writes in today’s announcement.

Co-founded by Tommy Nordahl and Mathias Edblom, Mindville never raised any institutional funding, according to Crunchbase. The two companies also didn’t disclose the acquisition price.

Like some of Atlassian’s other recent acquisitions, including Code Barrel, the company was already an Atlassian partner and successfully selling its service in the Atlassian Marketplace.

“This acquisition builds on Atlassian’s investment in [IT Service Management], including recent acquisitions like Opsgenie for incident management, Automation for Jira for code-free automation, and Halp for conversational ticketing,” Atlassian’s Wasmer writes.

The Mindville team says it will continue to support existing customers and that Atlassian will continue to build on Insight’s tools while it works to integrate them with Jira Service Desk. That integration, Atlassian argues, will give its users more visibility into their assets and allow them to deliver better customer and employee service experiences.

Image Credits: Mindville

“We’ve watched the Insight product line be used heavily in many industries and for various disciplines, including some we never expected! One of the most popular areas is IT Service Management where Insight plays an important role connecting all relevant asset data to incidents, changes, problems, and requests,” write Mindville’s founders in today’s announcement. “Combining our solutions with the products from Atlassian enables tighter integration for more sophisticated service management, empowered by the underlying asset data.”

Jul
15
2020
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Atlassian brings a table view to Trello

Atlassian today announced a number of updates to both its Confluence workspace and its Trello collaboration and project management tool. The focus here, the company says, is on supporting “the next phase of remote work.” Trello alone saw a 73% rise in signups in mid-March 2020, just as companies started shifting to work-from-home, compared to the same time a year ago.

The actual new features are pretty straightforward. The highlight for Trello users is surely the beta version of a table view. This marks the first time the service is giving users this spreadsheet-like overview of what is happening across their various Trello boards. It reminds me quite a bit of Airtable, but what’s maybe more important here than the feature itself is that the Trello team says this is the first of a series of new ways to view data across multiple projects in the application.

Image Credits: Atlassian

As for Confluence, a lot of the new features here are about saving users time (or measuring it). Coming soon, for example, is a bulk content management feature that will allow users to do things like archive multiple pages with a single click, label them or export them, among other things.

Available now are Confluence Smart Links that let you preview content from across the web so that users don’t have to leave their workspace to see important information, as well as real-time feedback on the content in Confluence, with the ability to view, create and resolve in-line comments while in the service’s edit mode.

Image Credits: AtlassianThe last new Confluence feature is Page Insights, which is all about metrics. With this, Confluence adds estimated read time to its page view counts, “making it easier to form quick decisions about when and how to consume content in a busy workday. […] This simplifies the mental process of navigating the endless sea of content.” Who still has the time and energy to read all of those long documents, after all?

“Teams around the world were forced into working remotely, but now many organizations are considering a permanent move to a more distributed work environment,” said Pratima Arora, head of Confluence at Atlassian. “With so many work streams across departments and individuals, it becomes impossible to rely on the old system of email chains as a vehicle for planning and managing work. Leaders need to look at whether they have the right work management system to support collaboration across the organization for the long term.”

Jun
02
2020
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Pitch deck teardown: The making of Atlassian’s 2015 roadshow presentation

In 2015, Atlassian was preparing to go public, but it was not your typical company in so many ways. For starters, it was founded in Australia, it had two co-founder co-CEOs, and it offered collaboration tools centered on software development.

That meant that the company leaders really needed to work hard to help investors understand the true value proposition that it had to offer, and it made the roadshow deck production process even more critical than perhaps it normally would have been.

A major factor in its favor was that Atlassian didn’t just suddenly decide to go public. Founded in 2002, it waited until 2010 to accept outside investment. After 10 straight years of free cash flow, when it took its second tranche of investment in 2014, it selected T. Rowe Price, perhaps to prepare for working with institutional investors before it went public the next year.

We sat down with company president Jay Simons to discuss what it was like, and how his team produced the document that would help define them for investors and analysts.

Always thinking long term

Jun
02
2020
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Atlassian launches new DevOps features

Atlassian today launched a slew of DevOps-centric updates to a variety of its services, ranging from Bitbucket Cloud and Pipelines to Jira and others. While it’s quite a grab-bag of announcements, the overall idea behind them is to make it easier for teams to collaborate across functions as companies adopt DevOps as their development practice of choice.

“I’ve seen a lot of these tech companies go through their agile and DevOps transformations over the years,” Tiffany To, the head of agile and DevOps solutions at Atlassian told me. “Everyone wants the benefits of DevOps, but — we know it — it gets complicated when we mix these teams together, we add all these tools. As we’ve talked with a lot of our users, for them to succeed in DevOps, they actually need a lot more than just the toolset. They have to enable the teams. And so that’s what a lot of these features are focused on.”

As To stressed, the company also worked with several ecosystem partners, for example, to extend the automation features in Jira Software Cloud, which can now also be triggered by commits and pull requests in GitHub, GitLab and other code repositories that are integrated into Jira Software Cloud. “Now you get these really nice integrations for DevOps where we are enabling these developers to not spend time updating the issues,” To noted.

Indeed, a lot of the announcements focus on integrations with third-party tools. This, To said, is meant to allow Atlassian to meet developers where they are. If your code editor of choice is VS Code, for example, you can now try Atlassian’s now VS Code extension, which brings your task like from Jira Software Cloud to the editor, as well as a code review experience and CI/CD tracking from Bitbucket Pipelines.

Also new is the “Your Work” dashboard in Bitbucket Cloud, which can now show you all of your assigned Jira issues, as well as Code Insights in Bitbucket Cloud. Code Insights features integrations with Mabl for test automation, Sentry for monitoring and Snyk for finding security vulnerabilities. These integrations were built on top of an open API, so teams can build their own integrations, too.

“There’s a really important trend to shift left. How do we remove the bugs and the security issues earlier in that dev cycle, because it costs more to fix it later,” said To. “You need to move that whole detection process much earlier in the software lifecycle.”

Jira Service Desk Cloud is getting a new Risk Management Engine that can score the risk of changes and auto-approve low-risk ones, as well as a new change management view to streamline the approval process.

Finally, there is new Opsgenie and Bitbucket Cloud integration that centralizes alerts and promises to filter out the noise, as well as a nice incident investigation dashboard to help teams take a look at the last deployment that happened before the incident occurred.

“The reason why you need all these little features is that as you stitch together a very large number of tools […], there is just lots of these friction points,” said To. “And so there is this balance of, if you bought a single toolchain, all from one vendor, you would have fewer of these friction points, but then you don’t get to choose best of breed. Our mission is to enable you to pick the best tools because it’s not one-size-fits-all.”

May
12
2020
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Atlassian acquires Halp to bring Slack integration to the forefront

Atlassian announced today that it was acquiring Halp, an early-stage startup that enables companies to build integrated help desk ticketing and automated answers inside Slack. The companies did not disclose the purchase price.

It was a big day for Halp, which also announced its second product today, called Halp Answers. The new tool will work hand in glove with its previous entry Halp Tickets, which lets Slack users easily create a Help Desk ticket without leaving the tool.

“Halp Answers enables your teams to leverage the knowledge that already exists within your company to automatically answer tickets right in Slack . That knowledge can be pulled in from Slack messages, Confluence articles or any piece of knowledge in your organization,” the company wrote in a blog post announcing the deal.

Note that integration with Confluence, which is an Atlassian tool. The company also sees it integrating with Jira support for other enterprise communications tools down the road. “Existing Halp users can look forward to deeper (and new) integrations with Jira and Confluence. We’re committed to supporting Microsoft Teams customers as well,” Atlassian wrote in a blog post.

Halp is selling early, having just launched last year. The company had raised a $2 million seed round in April 2019 on a $9.5 million post valuation, according to PitchBook data. The startup sees an opportunity with Atlassian that it apparently didn’t think it could achieve alone.

“We’ll be able to harness the vast resources at Atlassian to continue with our mission to make Halp the best tool for any team collaborating on requests with other teams. Our team will grow and be able to focus on making the core experience of Halp even more powerful. We’ll also develop a deeper integration with the Atlassian suite — improving our existing Jira and Confluence integrations and discovering the possibilities of Halp generating alerts in Opsgenie, cards in Trello, and much more,” the company wrote.

Halp’s founders promise that it won’t be abandoning its existing customers as it joins the larger organization. As a matter of fact, Halp is bringing with them a slew of big-name customers, including Adobe, VMware, GitHub and Slack.

Apr
29
2020
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Atlassian co-founder and co-CEO Mike Cannon-Brookes is coming to Disrupt SF 2020

Atlassian is about as ubiquitous to software engineers as Google is to the rest of us. The Sydney-based company, which launched in 2002, develops tools and services for enterprise collaboration and marched efficiently to a public offering in 2015.

So it goes without saying that we’re thrilled to have Atlassian co-founder and co-CEO Mike Cannon-Brookes join us at Disrupt SF 2020, which runs September 14 to September 16.

As far as entrepreneurship goes, Cannon-Brookes is on a very short list of founders who have led a company from founding to public offering, and all the steps in between.

Atlassian was one of the early players in enterprise collaboration, particularly for engineering and development teams, and has over the years introduced a robust product suite, including Jira, Confluence and HipChat.

Cannon-Brookes has been at the helm for the entire journey, from raising early funding to product development to acquisitions (including Trello) to public offering and beyond. All the while, Cannon-Brookes kept the company’s HQ, and all invoicing, in its home country of Australia, becoming the most successful tech startup to ever launch out of the nation down under.

One of the more interesting features of the company? Unlike Microsoft and IBM and other big enterprise software companies, Atlassian has always operated without a proper sales team, using a fraction of spend on sales and marketing compared to other enterprise software giants.

“We had a hunch early on that salespeople break software companies,” Cannon-Brookes told the Australian Financial Review in 2015. “But convincing people this model would work has probably been the biggest struggle we’ve had. We’ve had a lot of smart people who wouldn’t join the company or give us money or advise us because it made no sense to them.”

The company developed an enormously successful distribution flywheel built on the back of one necessary ingredient: remarkable products. Great products at low prices mean that you can sell to everyone, and if you sell to everyone you have to do it online and with transparent pricing and a great free trial. But if you offer a free trial, you better have a remarkable product, and the flywheel spins on and on.

It has worked.

Atlassian products are used by more than 160,000 large and small organizations across the globe, including Spotify, NASA, Sotheby’s and Visa.

Cannon-Brookes is also a tech investor across sectors like software, fintech, agriculture and energy, with a seat on the board of Zoox.

We’re excited to sit down with Cannon-Brookes and hear more about the company’s trajectory over the last two decades and hear what comes next for the behemoth.

Disrupt SF 2020 runs September 14 to September 16 at the Moscone Center right in the heart of San Francisco. For folks who can’t make it in person, we have several Digital Pass options to be part of the action or to exhibit virtually, which you can check out here.

We’ll be announcing more speakers over the coming weeks, so stay tuned.

(Editor’s Note: We’re watching the developing situation around the novel coronavirus very closely and will adapt as we go. You can find out the latest on our event schedule plans here.)


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