Atlassian offers businesses a 'refund of collaboration tax'

Phil Wainewright Profile picture for user pwainewright April 2, 2020
Atlassian adds automation to its Jira platform to help relieve distributed teams of some of the collaboration 'tax' of remote working

Young business team discussing project at computer © alexbrylovhk -
(© alexbrylovhk -

Newly dispersed teams everywhere are discovering the challenges of keeping everyone on the same page. The old workaround was to put the entire team in a single location. Now that's no longer possible, people are relying much more on digital teamwork tools to share progress. This adds an extra layer of co-ordination — a familiar burden to those already experienced in digital teamwork. Atlassian's Sean Regan calls this burden a 'collaboration tax':

Everyone is becoming more decentralized, yet more collaborative — and so what you'll have is an incredible collaboration tax.

The burden is particularly high when people are collaborating across different functions, such as developers with product teams, or product teams with marketing, legal and finance. This is because each set of workers have their own set of tools that they're used to working with, he explains.

The reason why that collaborative tax exists, is because every organization on the org chart defines work differently in different tools. Your marketing people describe it as a document, your finance people describe it as a spreadsheet, your sales people describe it as an account ...

What we have is an automation Tower of Babel, where everybody has an automation tool of some kind, but they don't have a way to make it all work together.

About that collaboration tax refund

Atlassian is one of a number of vendors attempting to provide a common platform for co-ordinating work, or a collaborative canvas for digital teamwork as we call it at diginomica. The vendor has been helping development teams co-ordinate work since its foundation in 2002, but more recently has extended its reach into other functions across the enterprise. And now its tools are able to streamline that co-ordination and provide some relief from the collaboration overhead. Or as Regan, who is Head of Growth for Software Teams at Atlassian, puts it:

What we believe is we can give you a collaboration tax refund, with automation. It'll feel like you're literally getting time back.

Its platform has two unique attributes that help it deliver that tax refund, he explains. The first is that it has two core products that help teams define work in a standard way.

What Atlassian does uniquely, unlike any other company, is we provide the atomic unit of work. It's the Jira issue. And it's the Trello card. That is where any team in any organization can define what work needs to be done, who's going to do it, at what priority is it going to get done?

When you have a common agreement on that, you can make work flow in a way that no other solution can. And we can do it from the most technical teams all the way through to the least technical teams.

Workflow automation

The second element is an automation tool that connects these units of work into a workflow. Based on Atlassian's acquisition of its ecosystem partner Code Barrel last October, that automation technology is now available natively to all Jira Cloud customers, even in the free editions, and also integrates into other tools.

The visual rules builder provides a no-code platform for defining conditions, triggers and actions that can automate previously manual steps. Early access customers have found significant time savings from using the tool, says Regan, for example by capturing when a developer completes a task or a customer raises a comment, and then automatically triggering follow-up actions.

An example would be, if a developer does work in a code repository. The old way would be a developer works in the repository and then has to manually go tell their product manager, programme manager, or they'll manually update Jira.

We've been able to automate that, so that when a developer makes a change in code, it automatically reflects in Jira. A different example would be when a designer makes changes in Figma, InVision or Adobe, we can automatically reflect that status, that change and those files in the Jira issue ...

We want to change the dynamic of the whole plan-track-work model today. I think that today, whether you're a developer or anybody, you feel like you work for the project management tool. You have to update it, you're in trouble if you don't update it. You're not collaborating effectively, if you don't do that manual work.

We think it should change. It shouldn't feel like you work for Jira, it should feel like Jira works for you — Jira will automatically update itself based on the actions you're taking.

The Jira automation announcements earlier this month foreshadowed more integration and automation enhancements to follow this week at the Atlassian Remote Summit, an online replacement for the originally planned event due to be held in Las Vegas. The core audience here still consists of developers and IT people, but as digital teamwork and remote working rapidly joins the mainstream, Atlassian aims to appeal to a broader enterprise crowd. As Regan put it in yesterday's keynote:

The changes adopted by technical teams over the last ten years are driving the evolution of entire companies whether they know it or not. It isn't just technical teams and tooling. Agile companies are transforming their practices, their approach to transparency and openness. Atlassian is a partner on that journey as well.

We'll have more coverage here shortly from day 2 of the Summit. [Updated: see Atlassian powers up Jira Align for enterprise work management].

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