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Atlassian Jira ITSM sways IT pros with pricing, integrations

Since its first release a year ago, Atlassian Jira Service Management has closed competitive feature gaps and captured adoption, although some key features remain in development.

Atlassian customers have begun to jump on board with a Jira ITSM tool released last year, citing cost savings over larger vendors' products, ease of use and service management flexibility.

Atlassian Jira Service Management (JSM) replaced a previous IT service management (ITSM) tool, Jira Service Desk, in November 2020. In April, the company made the tool significantly more competitive with industry incumbent vendors such as ServiceNow, BMC and Ivanti by integrating a configuration management database (CMDB) based on its acquisition of Mindville Insight in July 2020. Also in April, Atlassian acquired ThinkTilt, a low-code/no-code specialist, and plans to make a simplified form design UI available over the next month, closing another significant feature gap.

Competitors, especially ServiceNow, continue to dominate the ITSM space, according to analyst estimates such as the Gartner Magic Quadrant, which has ranked ServiceNow's ITSM product at the top of its list of vendors for the past eight consecutive years. However, the 2021 edition of that report ranks Atlassian as a "visionary" in the category, the only vendor with that designation. Atlassian has stated that more than 35,000 customers now use Atlassian JSM, up from 25,000 users of the Jira Service Desk product.

Atlassian JSM has also outranked ServiceNow and other incumbent competitors in strategic vision in the past two quarterly ITSM Wave reports from Forrester Research.

Charles Betz, Forrester ResearchCharles Betz

"They have rectified a number of shortcomings that they have had over the past several years [in ITSM] and, at this point, they are approaching parity with the best in the market," said Charles Betz, an analyst at Forrester who prepared the firm's ITSM Wave reports. "They're not quite there yet, but they're getting there very rapidly, and they have a compelling strategic proposition [for customers] in that they have a fully integrated DevOps pipeline."

Atlassian ITSM defectors cite integrations, price

Between the Atlassian Bitbucket DevOps pipeline and Jira software issue tracking tool, Atlassian has an established beachhead from which to expand JSM usage among existing customers. Here, it can dangle built-in integration with JSM that automatically syncs with the tools customers already use.

The vendor didn't specify how many JSM converts were already Atlassian customers, but each of the reference customers the vendor presented during a virtual event and made available for press interviews this week was already using Jira Software, and in some cases Atlassian products such as Confluence, before switching to JSM. All the reference customers said the integrations between JSM and other Atlassian tools were among the most compelling reasons to switch.

"We replaced another ITSM product, [Freshworks Inc.'s] Freshservice, which is fine, it's just that it was disconnected from how our software and IT teams work," said Bruce Kozuma, senior group product manager at Ginkgo Bioworks, a biotech company in Boston that started using JSM in June. "They use Jira for Agile stuff, and we essentially had two ticketing systems, and unless you looked at both, you missed things."

A JSM convert who replaced ServiceNow ITSM with the Atlassian tool said price was another major impetus for the change. ServiceNow does not publicly disclose pricing for its products, but officials at Saint-Gobain Distribution Batiment France, a multinational manufacturing company based in Paris, estimate the company will cut its ITSM licensing costs by 70% in its first year of using the on-premises Server edition of JSM.

Rachid Laghzaouni, Saint-GobainRachid Laghzaouni

"I took advantage of the pandemic," said Rachid Laghzaouni, head of project management office (PMO) tools at Saint-Gobain. "I had a real good window to convince my management to say, 'Hey, I'm not even talking about processes. I'm talking about license fees.' And the ratio was very, very simple."

Atlassian ceased selling the Server edition of its on-premises software tools in February, and raised prices for its remaining Data Center editions. However, Laghzaouni said the license fees for JSM Data Center would still work out to about 40% below the cost of the company's ServiceNow licenses, and the combined costs of the overall Atlassian Data Center suite would be roughly even with what the company was paying for ServiceNow ITSM.

Still, the tradeoff for license cost savings, and the advantage Saint-Gobain had in approaching its migration, was a highly skilled internal team behind the scenes that could heavily customize Jira and JSM and quickly update IT ops practices to keep the transition between systems hidden from end users. This included putting together the company's own migration database and integration with the Elements Connect app for Jira to automatically replicate data fields and auto-fill features between ServiceNow and JSM. The internal team also created a homegrown single sign-on link between JSM and the company's Active Directory identity management system.

"My team is extraordinarily skilled," Laghzaouni said. "We have done a lot of customizations ... to make the migration completely transparent to end users, and with less risk."

Atlassian has its own integrations with Active Directory and its own single sign-on tools, but Laghzaouni said this custom work was done specifically to replicate a ServiceNow communications system with minimal end-user disruption. That system automatically sent ticket status updates via email, while maintaining established corporate access controls and password management policies.

Jira ITSM users await data management, KB updates

Atlassian has closed ITSM feature gaps quickly with JSM, but it still has more to come on its roadmap and areas where it doesn't precisely match what some other vendors can offer, such as IT operations management tools for observability. Atlassian customers could, however, use Opsgenie's incident management tools, which integrate with third-party observability partners.

The addition of Mindville Insight, now called Atlassian Insight, for digital asset management, is key to keeping up with competitive CMDB products. But Ginkgo's Kozuma said he's waiting for JSM support in the Atlassian Data Lake for Jira Software, which is still in early access. Kozuma also said he's waiting on native cloud support for a Jira Server edition asset discovery feature called Device42, without a workaround as required today.

"What we're using Insight for is what we have defined," he said. "Device42 scans your network, finds what you've got and downloads the configuration of those items, and it can tell you when things are changing."

Saint-Gobain's Laghzaouni said he plans to hold off on using the JSM Knowledge Base feature, which is based on an integration with Confluence, until it can offer some of the advanced features he's used to with Confluence on its own, such as the ability to share versioned attachments.

Atlassian officials said direct integration for Device42 with Atlassian JSM in the cloud is in the works; sharing versioned attachments through the Knowledge Base is something product managers will take into consideration, according to a company statement.

Beth Pariseau, senior news writer at TechTarget, is an award-winning veteran of IT journalism. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @PariseauTT.

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