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Atlassian bets on cloud with free editions of Jira and Confluence

Phil Wainewright Profile picture for user pwainewright September 8, 2019
Work management and team collaboration vendor Atlassian sees cloud as the future and is enhancing its appeal both to large enterprise and emerging markets

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(© kraft2727 -

Developer tools vendor Atlassian has unveiled a raft of new cloud offerings for its Jira work management and Confluence team knowledge products, including new free editions intended to lift adoption in emerging and underserved markets.

With 90% of new customers now starting in the cloud, the company has decided that's where the future lies, and has bolstered support for existing on-premise customers to make the move — but still at their own pace. In a pre-briefing at Atlassian's San Francisco HQ last week, Harsh Jawharkar, its Enterprise Cloud Lead, told me:

Different customers are in different journeys, different states of maturity, in terms of cloud adoption. We don't want to be forceful in terms of what our point of view is.

There are people who are cloud-native, cloud-first. They will jump right in. Other folks — we have a history with them, we go back at least 17 years helping people collaborate — are on the on-prem side. They may or may not want to do a lift-and-shift. We understand.

The announcements introduce new pricing plans, additional enterprise-grade security and data privacy features, updates to a centralized administration console, and new cloud migration tools and programs:

  • Four new cloud plans, including Cloud Premium for the enterprise and business market, heavily discounted academic and non-profit plans, and the free editions of Jira Software, Confluence, Jira Service Desk, and Jira Core.
  • New data protection, security and other measures designed to appeal to enterprise customers, including data residency controls, custom domains and a Trust Center.
  • New functionality in Access, the central console for Atlassian administrators, including integration to SSO platforms from Microsoft and Google Cloud, support for cloud access security brokers, a cross-product audit log and analytics reports on product adoption and usage.
  • Additional support for cloud migration, including migration assistance tools, free cloud trial licenses for existing customers, more transparency on cloud roadmaps, and new cloud sales incentives for channel partners.

Democratizing team collaboration

With the new free plan and reduced-price education and community editions, Atlassian is returning to its roots in democratizing access to team collaboration, says Jawharkar:

With our free plans, any startup or small business can immediately get the essentials of project management and knowledge sharing through the combination of Jira and Confluence. They may even be graduating from basic spreadsheets and unstructured methods ...

The company is seeing keen interest in its products in emerging markets and wants to tap into that international opportunity, as well as extending its reach among smaller businesses and startups in all markets. He adds:

Atlassian has customers in nearly 200 countries today. Regardless of industry or geography, every small business needs the same fundamental methods to organize their work and collaborate to be productive.

We believe that we’re meeting latent yet growing demand across the world — including underserved and emerging market segments — by introducing our free plans, so that literally anyone can organize and manage their work to accomplish any purpose they choose.

Enhancements for larger enterprises

The company is just as serious about supporting larger enterprises with its cloud offerings. The enhancements to its Access admin console are typical of the capabilities these customers need, says Jawharker:

These are very mundane, but real world challenges that admins have to live with. It does ultimately affect whether they feel confident in how they can use [the products] in scale, given that their scope is pretty massive.

The cloud migration tools, too, have to cater for sophisticated requirements:

It's not just about moving users and groups, projects, instances, content. It's also about how do you programmatically help a big company, or even a midsize company, manage change over time in a phased program.

There's always a business context, too, that has to be considered, he adds.

When we talk to customers, cloud is a means to an end. The real question is, how do we help a particular company or industry solve existential business problems or business goals with cloud as a catalyst?

Extending into business functions

Atlassian is starting to see a new phase of adoption of its products outside of software development teams, where it's become more or less a standard. Now that digital collaboration and agile work management has started to spread outside of software engineering, other functions such as product management, marketing and sales are starting to find the products useful, says Jawharkar.

We're in that space with the technical audience. They've embraced this as an operating methodology. But because they work with so many other constituents, it is so intermingled, that everybody is exposed to Jira Software. Marketers are using Jira Software to request design assets from the designers. PMs are asking marketers about when campaigns are going to ship. So inevitably, we've already crossed that bridge into other teams that are adjacent to engineering ...

It can be manipulated by literally any team, it could be even customer service, to use it for whatever purpose. It gives you, essentially, a relational database, workflows, and the mechanisms to literally mold it to any workflow you want.

Distributed patterns of teamwork

Atlassian finds itself in the right place and the right time, he argues, as enterprise work becomes more distributed into smaller teams and projects, following on from what has already happened in the technology sphere.

I almost think that if you take the concept of microservices and apply it to organizational work, that has happened. We are now very distributed, there are many remote teams — not just here, but around the world — different companies that are much more comfortable with those flexible work schedules ...

I think when the cultural forces align with technology, there's a different curve, and I think we've hit that curve. And that's why we've seen Slack, Atlassian, a whole bunch of other folks, Zoom, Okta, growing really fast, because they're serving these latent needs.

Businesses today need to organize themselves to be much more agile and responsive, he concludes:

We live in a world where every business has to compete harder for the attention and loyalty of customers, whether it is B2B or B2C. Businesses, including our customers, are being asked to evolve much quicker ...

Gone are the days where you were asked to build to last. Today it's really about, can you build for change? You have to build and organize business to be so nimble and flexible, that they can adapt to new disruptive forces, to changing consumer trends, very quickly.

My take

Atlassian has taken a surprisingly long time to fully embrace cloud. While it has a long-established cloud offering, the company got started on-premise, and many of its customers have stubbornly remained there — not trusting the cloud to protect their core software engineering efforts and the associated intellectual property. So if even these organizations are finally embracing the cloud, that's quite a significant shift.

Coupled with this new-found commitment to, and investment in, the cloud as its core platform, Atlassian is also completing a strategic shift related to its divesting of the HipChat and Stride messaging tools to Slack. It is no longer competing to be the entire collaborative canvas for an enterprise, but instead it is doubling down on the work management aspect of collaboration.

With its acquisition of Agilecraft — now relaunched as Jira Align — it is adding the ability to quantify and monitor the output of work in order to optimize teamwork patterns. That's a new direction that helps defend its patch against inroads from the likes of Asana and one that has interesting potential for delivering extra value to customers.

I've always felt that it's unwise to underestimate Atlassian. After my latest catch-up, I feel that the company is building new strengths that will serve it well.

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