I was reflecting on my time at the Atlassian Summit today and put some pieces together. Throughout the conference I would hear the keynotes (mostly Atlassian leadership) and session speakers wax on about the improvements in the products and where things were going. (On a side note, this was one of the best events I have attended in my career. Well run, excellent content, and great participation from attendees that came in from around the world.)
I have found the Atlassian products to be very effective and on the mark in terms of enhancing productivity. The message I heard loud and clear from the Atlassian speakers was that they are streamlining their toolbox, making it easier to use, more efficient, and more intuitive. I am impressed with the persistence they have shown in this increase of efficiency as I have watched the product develop over the last few years. It has not succombed to the mind-numbing massive feature infusion so prevalent in our industry. There are countless examples of this phenomenon, led very obviously by Microsoft products.
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What I find interesting is how this attractive message was diluted and changed not far from the main stage. I spoke to various business leaders and speakers at the “Bash” and in the halls. For the most part I heard a lot about process improvement, amazing new features, visibility into teams, improved (increased) reporting, and better (more) documentation. These can be good things, but they miss the point of the tools’ creators. It reminds me of how hard it is to change mindsets and habits. Business leaders have been conditioned to want more data, more information, deeper analysis. Often this runs counter to a business’s primary mission and, if uncontrolled, can be very destructive.
Lets slice it this way: if you want your organization to be profitable and successful you need to maximize the output of your organization. This means that the supporting pieces around the core work (the part that makes a profit), need to be as small as possible and the core work needs to be as massive as possible in your workflow. Successful managers think this way and the Atlassian tools are built to accomplish this. Reporting, timekeeping, and yes, even user stories are supporting mechanisms to the core work, yet the expansion of these was the focus of many of the non-Atlassian speakers and attendees at the Summit.
The focus starts at the usage and configuration of your workflow in JIRA. With a good workflow, important actions and reporting metrics can be automatic or at least reasonably simple. Some of the new features like automated transitions and integrated dev tools facilitate this well. As you lay out your workflow, be sure to deconstruct your processes to understand what is critical to your business productivity and what is not. Spend the extra time to keep your staff in that highly productive part of your workflow. Focusing on improving the productive capacity of your team will not only help you but it will help your staff feel empowered and successful.
The incredible efficiency offered by JIRA and other Atlassian tools has opened up a whole new set of markets for the company. The relentless focus on productivity has pushed JIRA in particular into the forefront of workflow management. It is quite simply flexible enough to run most organizations better than very high dollar systems employed by corporations. I think we will see a transformation in the coming years. What started out as a developer’s issue tracker could very well be the engine that drives business for many years ahead.