Collaborative Software for IT Teamwork? Atlassian Leads the way
The market tor IT project software continues to sizzle as the drive to launch more and more innovative products puts particular pressure on IT teams.
Why the spike in new software? It turns out that the IT project team approach to product development has simultaneously created an environment of collaboration. This collaborative approach, combined with the complexity of many projects, is not well served by many of the traditional software tools. For example, many older legacy products talk only to their own proprietary products suites and do not integrate easily, it at all, making it difficult for teams to adapt the tools to their needs.
One thing seems certain: Atlassian—founded in Australia in 2002 as an innovative software developer for IT project teamwork—has become a leader among the relatively new enterprise software companies that emphasize collaboration. Indeed Forbes notes that “Atlassian is the house of collaboration”, with the goal of making simple collaboration software for teams.
Elsewhere, Tech Crunch observes that the “digital economy” has shown a sharp trend upward, creating a need for more and more developers—and “Atlassian has been at the heart of this shift.”
Although their products are primarily aimed at software developers, Tech Crunch notes that their products also support marketing, legal and other departments that play a role in collaboration on software development. The result? More and more companies around the globe now use Atlassian’s products.
There is a lot to the Atlassian Product suite, and we will be covering the products in other articles in the future. To get started, this article provides a summary of some of the products with links to reviews that provide more information.
JIRA to simplify and turbocharge collaboration
Atlassian developed JIRA to boost the productivity of IT project teams and encouraging collaboration. In Jira every work item is called an Issue. You can have bugs, service requests, stories, requirements, test cases, or anything that requires someone to do some work. Workflows can be associated with the work items. But Jira goes one step further. To improve collaboration it has adopted some of the principles of social media by incorporating activity streams and the ability to follow items of interest.
Atlassian and third-party developers can and do offer JIRA-compatibIe products and plug-ins, both commercial and free. For example, when paired with Atlassian’s Jira for Agile plugin, JIRAs power to integrate online collaboration activity makes it the go-to choice tor Agile developers.
TechWorld reports that it’s not just used to fix bugs; two-thirds of the software’s users deploy it to manage non-software development projects.’ Its product review is a detailed, glowing apprasal. When Atlassan released Jira 6 last year, IDG’s TechWorld noted that it “comes with performance improvements and the first interface designed specifically for mobile clients.” And in another review, Tech Crunch reports that more than 70 percent of Fortune 100 companies have jumped on the JIRA Bandwagon. Atlassan has made that an easy call: “Customers with 500 or more JIRA users can now receive 24/7 phone support, end-user training, and administrator certification…”
Confluence for seamless information sharing
Confluence is Atlassian’s tool to manage information sharing in one place in real time. It provides a single place where people can find, share, and collaborate on the information they need to get their work done. It is based on the concept of a wiki, but Atlassian have taken this to another level, by introducing social collaboration features, such as @mentions, live activity streams, and the ability to follow others and like their content.
A TechRepubIic blog takes readers inside Confluence for a look at how it works, and concludes “Confluence…excels in the areas where I’ve seen wikis and other collaboration tools get wrong such as editing, document conversions and administration.”
Most recently Atlassian launched Confluence Questions, and add-on for Confluence aimed at helping enterprises share knowledge. Over at ZDNet, Confluence group product manager Bill Arconati described the platform as “Quora for your enterprise where it’s a platform that gives employees one place to ask questions and quickly get answers”.
But what really sets apart Confluence from other enterprise social collaboration tools is the degree of integration with Jira. Not software teams have a way to track their work items (Jira), collaborate on information (Confluence), and seamlessly switch from one to the other. In Confluence you can report on progress of items by building status reports and sharing them.
Stash and BitBucket for Code Collaboration
Although Jira and Confluence can be used by any project team, Atlassian also produce a range of tools aimed exclusively at software development teams. These products include Fisheye, Bamboo, Bitbucket, Stash, and Crucible. Don’t worry we aren’t going into all of them.
With the software development community another collaboration force is at work. The adoption of Git as a source code control tool has revolutionised the way many software development teams work. Git embodies a recognition that software development is essentially a distributed activity, punctuated by collaborative work. It allows development teams to create a workflow that suits, and Atlassian have gone to great lengths to support Git within their development tools.
Bitbucket is essentially a direct competitor to GitHub enterprise and provides cloud-based source code control, whilst Stash is a similar Git-based source code control system that can be hosted on-premise.
More recently, Atlassian has been upgrading Stash, its code management tool. Wired reports that “more collaboration tools, such as Twitter- and Facebook-style @ mentions’ and finer-grained permission controls” have been added. Tech Crunch reports on another upgrade: Pull Requests and in-line commenting. IT teams can now collaborate on and review code changes early in the process and comment quickly on code changes both before and after they are incorporated into the codebase. Tech Crunch recognizes that “this improves the accuracy and auditability of the codebase which has to be tracked due to the constant update that happens during development.
One of the great benefits of Stash is again the degree of integration with Jira that can save developers hours when managing code and switching between issue tracking, code repositories, and development environments. For example, with this integration developers can simply assign themselves an issue and within Jira create a feature branch from their Git repository. There is no need to go to a separate Git client, and by default the branch will be named with the issue in question. In Stash when someone browses through the code history that can see what issues a code change relates to and click a link to go directly to that issue in Jira. This provides tremendous traceability and accountability.
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