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These Atlassian customers are adapting to change with team innovation

Michelle Swan Profile picture for user Michelle Swan September 20, 2017
Team innovation at Compuware and Kaiser Permanente illustrate how enterprises are using Atlassian collaboration tools to adapt to change

Change is hard. Some brains are wired to adapt to change, but for the vast majority of us it’s exceedingly difficult. It requires embracing the unknown, or giving up habits and practices that have become ingrained in us over years, sometimes decades. Unfortunately change is a constant in today’s digital age. Few things operate the same way they did ten years ago, and if you can’t embrace and adapt to new ways of doing things you’ll quickly face irrelevance.

The way teams work is a perfect example of how things have changed. It used to be that teams all sat in the same building. Now they are in different locations, different time zones, and often work for different companies (or for themselves). It used to be that decisions were made at the top, by the boss, who people generally assumed was the smartest, most well-informed person to make that decision. Information and decisions were then filtered down through multiple layers in an organization, through conference calls or long emails. All that took time, and by the time those decisions reached the people who had to take action on them, things had probably – you guessed it – changed. Or it was the wrong decision in the first place because it was made by a small group, far from the customer, devoid of the most recent data.

Companies are finding new ways to adapt to this new worker experience. Some are breaking down hierarchies and creating flat organizations or segmenting workers into independent 'squads'. Some are clamping down on remote workers or subcontractors altogether, mandating that employees come back into the office or luring them back with free food, free massages and other perks. Most companies are turning to tools. Collaboration tools have been around for decades, but next generation tools like Google Apps, Dropbox, Slack, and the Atlassian family of HipChat, Jira, Trello and others, make a good case for how they can create more connected, more productive teams – however employees are organized, or wherever they sit.

I attended Atlassian Summit last week to see some of these tools in action, and hear how companies large and small are using these newer collaboration tools to work faster and smarter. Given Atlassian’s mission is to “unleash the potential of every team,” there were plenty of customer stories to hear. Here are just two of them.

Compuware goes agile to deliver faster

When the new CEO of Compuware arrived at the mainframe software company in 2014, it had been in a serious dry spell. According to an interview with CEO Chris O’Malley, the company hadn’t launched a new product since 1999. O’Malley knew the company’s pace of innovation had to change if it was to get back to being a growth company and stay relevant. He went on to promise customers that Compuware would deliver new products or major updates every quarter. That was a major change from how the company had been delivering. The mandate was clear – the company needed to become way more agile.

David Rizzo, Compuware’s VP of product development, has been at the company for 20 years and talked to me about how his team, put that mandate into practice.

People are always the hardest part about any change. We have a diverse workforce. At the time we had one developer who had been with Compuware for 40 years, one who had been there four months and everything in between.

Transitioning from a very regimented process and getting people motivated was hard, but we were all in the same boat. That helped. At both ends there were people who jumped on who embraced the new methodology.

Rizzo says the Atlassian tools were critical to his team’s shift to agile, and how the team engages with customers and the broader organization.

We knew we needed a tool to help us manage all of the projects in a meaningful way. To work at that new pace ... We needed to get more input from customers.

We can develop faster, but product delivery has to be at the same speed, marketing and our teams in the field have to be able to consume things every few months, not few years. Even contracts need to move faster. We changed the culture of the company. We changed how people feel about what’s going on.

The company is using Atlassian’s BitBucket for code collaboration, Jira for the agile development process and Confluence for idea sharing and content collaboration. Rizzo and his team have also introduced a great deal of automation into the new processes. So far, the results speak for themselves.

We made a commitment to deliver new functionality every 90 days. We’re meeting that commitment for the twelfth time.

According to Rizzo, the company has delivered five new products since it went agile and cut the time to delivery by two-thirds. It has also seen a two-fold increase in developer productivity, and has reduced customer-reported defects by 7% year-over-year.

We put a product idea in Confluence on a Thursday, and by Monday we had 150 comments on that idea which shaped what the product would eventually become. We delivered a brand new product for our mainframe customers 84 days later, which our mainframe customers were able to implement in 45 days.

Kaiser Permanente breaks down silos to work smarter

Kaiser Permanente, one of the United States’ largest healthcare delivery organizations, is developing its own analytic knowledge sharing system in a quest to improve communication and collaboration between the organization’s 2,500 analysts. Speaking at the Atlassian Summit, senior director and lead for this project, Brian Sikora, explains:

We have a small army of analysts, and we’re drowning in information, but we don’t have the right tools.

We cover routine care all the way through lifetime events ... We have 11.8 million members, 42 hospitals and 680 outpatient centers. We’re a very data rich organization because of this spectrum of care and our global reach.

The organization has more than 10 petabytes of data and 36 million records in its Electronic Medical Record system. The insights from that amount of data can not only make the organization operate more effectively, it can help the medical teams and researchers provide better care to patients.

Unfortunately, the analytics team wasn’t taking full advantage of this data. Analysts currently sit in 60 decentralized teams, using dozens of different tools, with no consistent intake or tracking process, and no consistent metrics. “Transparency was a major challenge,” says Sikora.

Kaiser Permanente is using Atlassian’s Jira product as a foundation for its new Analytic Knowledge Management Ecosystem, which is essentially a one stop shop for all analytics requests. It is meant to connect all the different teams across the organization to streamline data requests, increase code quality, share best practices and foster analyst coordination for faster progress. The team is still in the midst of rolling out the new system to its first 300 analysts, but given the previous maturity of analytics within the company, it should have a solid impact.

My take

The value of teamwork can’t be overstated as we all become much more connected in our working lives. As basketball great Michael Jordan once said, “talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.” Whether it’s a large scale transformation such as Compuware has seen, increasing the transparency and collaboration of critical functions as at Kaiser Permanente, or small, simple ways to make teams more connected to each other, these new collaboration tools can help all companies adapt to a new way of working.

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