Atlassian upgrades developer experience - here's how

George Lawton Profile picture for user George Lawton March 26, 2024
Summary:
Atlassian adds several major enhancements across its developer experience tools, including a Compass integration, work suggestions, and custom compliance checks.

upgrade

Jira is a front-line tool for many development organizations for agile project management, IT service management, bug tracking, and software portfolio planning. Atlassian’s strength among development tools vendors lies in providing tools that improve developer experience across these various functions through a portfolio of tools such as Confluence, Compass, Forge, and Bitbucket.

Suzie Prince, Head of Product, DevOps, at Atlassian, explains:

Today, a typical developer’s job encompasses much more than just coding. On average, developers only spend around 20% of their time writing code. Developer experience is about helping developers with the other 80% of their job by improving how they collaborate and communicate with colleagues, how they find relevant context and consume information, and how they manage additional responsibilities such as testing, QA, security, observability, infrastructure configuration, incident response, and more.

Bitbucket and Jira have a long history of being deeply interconnected. For example, Bitbucket shows up in Jira when users update anything in their source code or continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD) tools. Users can also automate updates in Jira based on what’s happening in their code and CI/CD. 

Furthermore, Jira is embedded inside Bitbucket and popular integrated development environments (IDEs), so developers can easily update Jira right where they work. In addition, all Atlassian’s cloud products are built on a common platform, sharing a data model, workflow, automation, AI, and collaboration capabilities. However, hiccups remain as developers are tasked with a faster pace of development. For example, one recent Stack Overflow Survey found developers spend more than an hour daily looking for answers or solutions to problems. 

Atlassian has just rolled out several major integrations and enhancements to help developers spend more time in the flow of work:

  • New Compass integration helps developers quickly assess the health and performance of their services.
  • Jira Work suggestions help identify development bottlenecks to prioritize improvements.
  • Bitbucket custom merge checks align code updates with organization policies. 

Reducing search time

Atlassian has added support for a new Compass component catalog within Jira. This allows developers to find information about necessary components without looking for service owners or hunting down documentation. It also allows developers to understand how resources are distributed and prioritize technical debt. This will enable software engineers to track their services and systems and improve software health and engineering standards. 

Previously, engineering managers often struggled to understand their software team’s health and operational status. There was no centralized place to see all dashboards, track service level objectives (SLOs), or review documentation. Teams cobbled together various tracking systems, such as keeping lists in Atlassian Confluence or Google Sheets or using bookmarks. 

Before Compass components were integrated with Jira, engineering managers had trouble understanding their software team’s health and operational status. There wasn’t a centralized place to see all their dashboards, track their SLOs, or review documentation. Some teams kept lists in Confluence or Google Sheets, while others used bookmarks.

Atlassian released Compass in 2022 to allow teams to centralize these things in one place. They could find data on other teams through a centralized catalog and create scorecards to identify weak areas. The new Jira integration now means managers can create Jira issues associated with scorecard failures and measure the impact of their team’s work against their goal metrics all in one place.

Automating the to-do list

Development teams often use Jira as a central to-do list for their next task. It has always been good for planned activities but struggled with unplanned activities like responding to code update reviews (technically called pull requests), fixing bugs, or addressing newly discovered critical security vulnerabilities. The new Jira Work Suggestions tool helps automatically understand and add these to a common to-do list arranged based on a pre-determined set of rules.

Prince explains:

When a team member completes a task, there’s often the temptation to pick up a new task from the board or backlog. Work Suggestions step in to surface things that need attention and might not be prioritized or even appear on the board or backlog. This could be broken builds or pull requests to review. Work Suggestions feature helps ensure that high-priority actions and blockers are surfaced to team members as they consider the next task.

Atlassian has been testing the tool to speed up its own development velocity. For example, by surfacing pull requests that need a review as work suggestions, they were able to reduce pull request cycle time by 6% and reduce bottlenecks in their systems.

Improving compliance

Atlassian previously supported compliance checks of software updates against a static list. However, many organizations require that all codes pass a specific set of security rules that could differ depending on the language used, the deployment environment, and other factors. Developers would need to be informed of all the rules and how these rules applied to each repository that they worked with. The developers must also be trusted to follow those rules and not bypass them deliberately or accidentally. There was no process to enforce these kinds of nuanced and complex requirements.

These new custom checks allow customers to define complex business rules via code, and then have those rules enforced in their developer workflows. However, there are challenges with hosting, security, authorization, and authentication when running in a multi-tenant SaaS platform. To address these challenges, Atlassian built custom checks using its Forge app development platform, which scales on demand and is provisioned, managed, and monitored by Atlassian.

Prince says:

With custom checks, customers can code these rules in Forge and have it show up as a custom check in the Bitbucket UI. It works the same way as a native merge check and can be enforced on any code being merged into a repository. If the check fails, the merge will be blocked and an error message shown to the user.

My take

New AI copilots for improving software development are all the rage these days. However, coding is just one small yet arguably the most important part of a developer’s job. Improvements to the other aspects of a developer's job, such as surfacing information, prioritizing tasks, and automating and enforcing code compliance, are likely to have an even greater impact on productivity and less prone to hallucination.  

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