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Atlassian and Apple.

May 8th, 2012 No comments

By Mark Fidelman

imageThere are only 3 enterprise-gradetechnology products I’ve ever seen that sell themselves. Two of them are from Apple; the other is from Atlassian. How many Apple salespeople have ever called you to sell you the iPhone, or iPad?  Zero. How many Atlassian salespeople have called  to sell you Confluence? You guessed it – zero.

If you believe as Marc Andreeson does, thatsoftware is eating the world, then Atlassian is its Chef.  Atlassian is the house of collaboration, the software equivalent of the world renown restaurant Alinea.  Where its software gastronomy, like Alinea’s food science, come together in unspoiled unison.

They serve a variety of selections, but my favorite is Confluence.  The company delivers that product to the masses, but it embodies and is prepared for the developer. They make code development seem less difficult and more like it’s being willed into existence. Its goal is to satisfy the appetites of software creators.

But Atlassian’s workmanship is better explained in business terms than in culinary ones, and no one is more qualified than Jay Simons, Atlassian’s President, to translate, “We’re growing like gangbusters because our mission is to provide a social platform that allows people to build software better.”

Have no illusions, their products may not win any design contests, but they are so easy to use that they’re flooding the world’s businesses with collaborative software. It’s everywhere. Pervading nearly every project manager, developer, and technical communicator  – seducing code, tasks, text, and images from its creators.  All functioning to swiftly collaborate, track, document and ship software code.

I asked Ellen Feaheny of AppFusions, one of Atlassian’s strategic partners about their success, she told me: “I really think their success is that they have the right product offering, right pricing, right low barriers to purchase, all at the right time,” then she added, “I know everyone makes a big deal out of the no-salesperson thing, but I believe their sales success is the result of nurturing their dedicated customer, partner and development ecosystem.”

Atlassian Culture – Everybody Loves a Winner

In business and in life, success breeds extraordinary performance and  extraordinary performance breeds more success. Nothing demonstrates that more than Atlassian’s culture. With a 100% Glassdoor ranking, Co-CEOs Scott Farquh and Mike Cannon Brooks, have created an organizational culture that nurtures employees, customers and suppliers.  And it’s paid off.

Confluence, <spanmargin-top: 0px; margin-right: auto; margin-bottom: 0px; margin-left: auto; padding-top: 1px; padding-right: 1px; padding-bottom: 1px; padding-left: 1px; border-top-width: 0px; border-right-width: 0px; border-bottom-width: 0px; border-left-width: 0px; border-style: initial; border-color: initial; outline-width: 0px; outline-style: initial; outline-color: initial; font-size: 18px; vertical-align: baseline; background-image: initial; background-attachment: initial; background-origin: initial; background-clip: initial; background-color: rgb(221, 221, 221); max-width: 100%; display: block; float: left; color: rgb(0, 0, 0); background-position: initial initial; background-repeat: initial initial; Take Web and Technical CommunicatorSarah Maddox as an example. Maddox thought so much of the Confluence product, that she recently wrote her acclaimed book Confluence, Tech Comm, Chocolate on it. How many employees have you seen that have named a book after the product and company they work for?

So what does Atlassian’s success reveal about the company ethos? When I asked Simons to describe it, he told me it was like how, “Jeff Bezos sails the ship in the right direction and the right speed whether there are quarterly earnings consequences or not. He just does the right things for the company.”

I pressed him for details, and revealed a few minor but important things the organization does to keep its customers happy.  Here are 7 of them:

1. They have a transparent pricing model. It’s always on the web, so their customers don’t need to call them. Point, click, buy and use.

2. Like Home Depot, give people tools that are easy to use and allow people to build their own solutions. Then, constantly improve the self-service model.

3. Every time a product question is asked by a customer, Atlassian engineers see it as a challenge to fix in the product or to make a quick update to the documentation.

4. Put up useful content on the web for free. They don’t use forms to slow people down. “Really good white papers will sell the product; no need for a form,” Simons said.

5. They’ve ingrained the engineering mindset in their culture. Keep things simple so that people can create software magic. Simons: “Our model doesn’t work at Jive Software.”

6. Always be testing. They  a/b test just about everything and look at conversion rates to determine if a feature, piece of content, or web page are effective.

7. Make their marketplace (enterprise app store) painless. They invested a lot in embedding the marketplace in their products for quick and easy installation.

I asked Simons if a potential IPO would disrupt the culture and Atlassian’s relationship with customers and partners.  Simons said he didn’t think so. I heard, “I don’t believe it will affect us,” — his tone said, “It’s not going to affect us”.

Maybe it’s because really great companies care about what they are trying to accomplish. They care about solving the problems of their customers without getting in their way. They care about delivering a remarkable experience without complexity. They care about open, transparent communication with their employees and partners.

That doesn’t sound like fortune cookie philosophy to me.

Article originally appeared in Forbes and is Written by Mark Fidelman

Original article available here.

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