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Atlassian product expansion raises fresh integration questions

Atlassian added analytics and new Atlas and Compass apps to orchestrate work among distributed teams, but some customers still seek deeper integrations between its cloud tools.

Atlassian launched three new cloud-based products at its Team '22 conference this week, raising questions from some users about overlap with existing tools and integration gaps.

A lengthy cloud outage affecting most of Atlassian's core products cast a shadow on the announcements, but the vendor fulfilled some cloud users' requests for additional features with the launch of an early access program for a new Atlassian Analytics service and Atlassian Data Lake. On first release, the analytics services will support data queries and reporting in Jira Software and Jira Service Management, but during conference keynotes Atlassian execs pledged that more product support will follow for all major Atlassian tools.

"Unlike traditional ITSM [IT service management], where you're typically looking at one-half of the picture [using] data from your ITSM solution, we like to combine data from different tools across the dev and ops stack," said Amita Abraham, head of product marketing for IT teams at Atlassian. "So you get much richer insights to make better decisions."

The company also rebranded Team Central, an experimental cross-functional update tool, as an early access product dubbed Atlas this week. Atlas lets users subscribe to relevant project and goal updates, and get tweet-length status updates on a weekly basis. It also launched a tool called Compass, where users can track which teams are responsible for distributed apps and coordinate how these applications are assembled into services. Both tools support third-party products in the spirit of the "best of breed" strategy the company initiated last year with its Open DevOps product, which recognizes that most enterprises will work with a diverse set of vendors.

You're not going to build your company on a Swiss Army knife. Every team should be able to use the tools that are best for them.
Joff RedfernChief product officer, Atlassian

As they outlined their philosophy on supporting third-party tools, Atlassian execs this week cited statistics from Okta's 2022 "Businesses at Work" report that showed the average company has 89 apps and growing, and companies with more than 2,000 employees have an average of 187 apps.

"There are a few different schools of thought on how to tackle this problem. There's the classic one ... 'Just go ahead and standardize on our product, and all will be grand,'" said Joff Redfern, chief product officer at Atlassian, in a conference keynote. "[But] you're not going to build your company on a Swiss Army knife. Every team should be able to use the tools that are best for them."

Integration work remains as Atlassian products proliferate

However, at least initially for the Compass app, this support will extend to vendors such as GitHub, GitLab, CircleCI, LaunchDarkly and New Relic, among many others -- but not to on-premises products.

Eventually, Compass will be able to exchange data with on-premises apps, and customers can build their own integration through APIs in the meantime, but one user described the lack of on-premises support at launch as a surprising oversight on Atlassian's part.

Rodney Nissen, senior Atlassian admin, Activision BlizzardRodney Nissen

"Even if Compass is cloud-only -- which these days is the safe assumption with Atlassian -- not having a method to let it communicate with on-premises applications was a missed opportunity," said Rodney Nissen, senior Atlassian admin at video game company Activision Blizzard, which primarily uses Atlassian Data Center edition products. "Having Compass only integrate with cloud applications limits its usefulness to most software companies."

Virtual conference attendees this week also questioned in a live keynote Q&A why the cross-functional update tool Atlas, especially, is a separate product and not a feature of a different workflow tool such as Jira Software or Jira Work Management. Company officials explained that Atlas is a tool for communicating about work rather than directly managing that work, and one Atlas early adopter said that's precisely why he prefers it be separate.

"This is actually sort of the secret of why Atlas is interesting to me, and why I think it is successful, because it does a fundamentally different job from Jira," said Jonathan Nolen, senior vice president of engineering and product at progressive delivery software vendor LaunchDarkly, which has used Atlas since the early beta release of Team Central last year. "Atlas is very tightly focused on being a communication tool, not being a work tracking tool."

He said the limitation of status updates to the length of a tweet -- 280 characters -- makes Atlas work well. LaunchDarkly has replaced most of its status update meetings with subscriptions to updates through Atlas, which also allows team members to contact each other via messaging tool integrations. The tool sends subscribers a condensed weekly digest of status updates, as well as information on projects that haven't been updated recently.

"The magical thing is, is that the thing that used to happen all the time where somebody would hit you up on Slack and say, 'Hey, is that project done yet?' That doesn't happen anymore," Nolen said.

Having Compass only integrate with cloud applications limits its usefulness to most software companies.
Rodney NissenSenior Atlassian admin, Activision Blizzard

Atlassian has made significant progress with integrating its DevOps tools over the last two years, but has fresh integration work to do with these new tools, as well as some ongoing tasks to better link between its existing products. For example, users can't use Jira Query Language to search across Atlas and Compass yet. One of the company's other workflow management tools, Jira Align -- launched after the company's 2019 acquisition of AgileCraft -- has yet to integrate with Confluence. Atlassian users have asked for cross-product data analytics since 2019, which the company addressed this week, but it remains a work in progress.

The criticism that Atlassian has too many separate products is a fair one, one analyst said, but added that he has confidence the vendor will bring them together effectively in the long run.

"While I agree Atlassian has too many tools, and too many tools they integrate with as well, every enterprise has so many tools that they use to manage their DevOps, ops, incident management and observability," said Andy Thurai, vice president and principal analyst at Constellation Research. "Atlassian wants to be the common experience for all of that. ... [It's] too early to tell, but I saw and heard enough from the executive team [this week] that convinced me they are [going] in the right direction."

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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