Category Archives: Integrations

Atlassian Makes Significant Moves into the Enterprise Market

I have covered Atlassian several times on the AppGap blog (see for example – Atlassian Implementing OpenSocial within Enterprise Applications). Recently I spoke with Atlassian’s Matt Hodges, Confluence Product Marketing Manager, and Bill Arconati, Confluence Product Manager to catch up on their latest moves. We covered several topics, beginning with their increased support for large enterprises.

Matt said that with the release of JIRA 5.0 they have launched a multi-pronged effort to expand their support for the increasing number of enterprises that are adopting Altassian products on a larger scale.  First, there is now a dedicated 24/7 telephone support team to address enterprise issues.

Matt Hodges, Confluence Group Product Marketing Manager, Atlassian

This is a great move that I wish more software providers offered.  Also, included with your Enterprise Atlassian JIRA license, there is free administrator training that focuses on how to handle large instances. An Enterprise-customer-only online-support community is also now in place with quarterly input and support meetings. In addition, there are developers on the Atlassian product teams that focus only on ”Enterprise” issues. They are addressing issues like scalability (for both users and content), as well as performance.

While this increased enterprise effort started with JIRA, plans are in place to also address Enterprise-level issues with Confluence. One move to make Confluence more accessible for enterprise users was the rebuilding of the editor that was launched with Confluence 4.0, making it easier for the non-technical user. There continues to be focused ongoing improvements in this area. I can attest to this as I have been using Confluence a lot recently and I find it quite intuitive.

See screen and explanations below.

Bill pointed out that Confluence has always been aimed at the enterprise and the business user since it first started in 2004. That was one of its distinguishing features versus the open source wikis available at the time.

Bill Arconati, Confluence Group Product Manager, Atlassian

This focus has driven usage by an ever-increasing number of business users in large organizations. Logically, they have now added new layers of support and product development to accommodate them.

We next talked about adoption. Matt said that Atlassian focuses on tools for teams that build products. Its initial clients were in IT and product development groups.  But product development goes beyond IT to such areas as marketing and support, which of course subsequently expose Confluence to larger numbers of users.

Atlassian continues to add features to increase adoption by these newer audiences. The complete rebuilding of the editor is one example. Bill added that they have continued to make the design intuitive and also provide more on-boarding support. Among much others, Atlassian are working on a new solution for providing templates out-of-the-box, including business process ones to help new users see value faster.

I asked about Atlassian’s expanding customer base, as their list is quite impressive. They said from the beginning the business model has been bottoms-up adoption. They have made the product and the price points attractive to teams so that senior executive budget approvals are not required. Then the product spreads through the organizations as people find that it is easy to use and it helps them get their jobs done better.

Atlassian has focused on what their users tell them, rather than what analysts prescribe. This has been very successful. For example, when someone moves to a new role or a new job, they take Confluence with them.

I think this bottoms-up approach to sales is even more relevant today in the world of BYOD and self-provisioning, as users no longer rely completely on IT to furnish apps – users are taking matters into their own hands.

One important move for Atlassian in this direction was the release of their software as a service (SaaS) offering – an on-demand version of Confluence. Users can more easily self-provision and you can also start with a 30-day free trial of the on-demand version.

This combination of On-Demand and instant trials has significantly increased the number of trials to more than 50 a day and has lead to many new users. It has also increased the sales of the on-premise version, or still opt that direction.

We next covered their enterprise integration strategy. I think this is key since without integration across other apps that customers use daily, more silos are created and proper workflow does not occur. Matt said that they have built a platform in all their products that accepts add-on integrations and opening the door to third-party developers, like AppFusions among others, to build integrated  solutions.

The recent released of the Atlassian Marketplace at the end of May 2012 was a major move in this direction. Third-party developers can place their add-ons in the marketplace and Atlassian handles all the business issues, including payments. This is a win for all parties as customers only have to deal with one source at the procurement level: Atlassian vs. third-party developer “shops” spread across the globe. Some third-party developers report that their evaluations have more than tripled.

Bill pointed out that the integration requirements are not limited to legacy Enterprise apps. They are getting demand for integration add-ons for other cloud-based tools like Google Docs, Box and Dropbox, all of which are being met in the Marketplace.

He added that plug-ins go well-beyond simple connectivity integration issues, including also allowing for increased functionality. And these cloud-tools are not just used by consumers or SMBs these days. More and more large customers are starting to also adopt these tools, for both cost advantages and IT convenience.

I like the flexibility of their business model and the creation of the marketplace where everyone wins.

All of the moves to support the enterprise that we discussed make a lot of sense and I can see why sales have grown significantly. I look forward to seeing what happens next.

We closed with the idea of covering the release of Confluence 4.3 in early September that will have major new capabilities. You can try it now though; the early access release is available now.

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Updated 8/17/2012: Just released Open Webinar on JIRA Enterprise offering (and mentions abt upcoming Confluence Enterprise). Another valuable presentation: JIRA State of the Union, Atlassian Summit 2012

Interview by Bill Ives of the Merced Group, and who also blogs at Portals and KM.

UserVoice Enables Customer Engagement through Online Support and Feedback

UserVoice provides software to support help desks and engage customers in providing useful feedback. I recently spoke with CEO, Richard White, who said that their goal is to help Web-based companies better understand their online customers in the context of providing them with help.

They do not want to simply provide help desk support but also increase customer engagement. This is a wise move as it can only also increase customer loyalty and revenue.

Richard White, CEO, UserVoice

In the past few years there has been a significant increase in the number of companies that operate exclusively online. The relative low cost of doing virtual business is enabling smaller companies to get into the market.

The issues facing this new breed of companies are very different than traditional brick and mortar firms that set up a Web presence. UserVoice is designed to address the needs of this new breed of companies.

Richard made the very important point that companies that are exclusively online have few ways to interact directly with their customers except in help situations. Without a feedback system such as UserVoice, the only remaining form of feedback is revenue swings and companies need to stay ahead of this curve if the potential direction is downward.

These companies also face the need to support large numbers of customers with small staffs. UserVoice allows them to operate at scale with small support staffs. It offers two interrelated solutions: UserVoice Helpdesk™ and UserVoice Feedback™ .

UserVoice Helpdesk™ provides a simple, easy to use platform for customer support. Their target population for this offering is support teams ranging from 3 to 15 members so it is not overburdened with unnecessary features for this population. It is actually available for free for only one agent seat. Here is a sample support queue screen.

UserVoice Sample Support Queue Screen
UserVoice Sample Support Queue Screen

Some companies operate with one person or a rotating team of people and make full use of this free version. Others use the single seat to test it out before obtaining licenses for additional seats.

The HelpDesk is for support tickets to track customer requests. Instant Answers™ (see below) reduces the need to answer the same question over and over as it provides customers with relevant answers while they’re submitting a support request. Customers can give support staff kudos at any point in the support process which further encourages proactive customer service.

UserVoice Instant Answers
UserVoice Instant Answers

Here is a kudos screen.

UserVoice Leaderboard Screen
UserVoice Leaderboard Screen

UserVoice’s other offering, UserVoice Feedback™ makes it easy to collect feedback from customers — prioritized by votes — via a simple feedback forum. It is their more unique offering.

UserrVoice Partial Sample Voting Screen
UserVoice Partial Sample Voting Screen

Many large companies that already have entrenched and complex help desk systems still make use of UserVoice Feedback to collect customer input and increase engagement – both inside their organization’s firewall, as well as from external customers. Customers can easily submit and discuss ideas without having to sign up for a new account. Their voting system also prevents fraud and vocal minorities from distorting the true voice of the customer. Here is a partial sample voting screen.

Richard described how the Feedback management system interacts with other tools.  For example, AppFusions has built a connector with Atlassian JIRA, the widely adopted issue tracking tool (i.e., UserVoice to JIRA integration).

This allows companies to act on the feedback. Once the proper actions have occurred inside product management or engineering, then the results are passed back from JIRA to UserVoice Feedback to alert the customers of the result of their input. Here is an email notification of an update.

UserVoice Status Update
UserVoice Status Update

Richard said that this integration is key, as UserVoice does not want to be a point solution but part of an integrated customer response system. He mentioned that while most applications have APIs for connecting, it is not always easy. Having a ready-made integration tool through AppFusions makes this essential connection easy.

Putting customer input into JIRA also has the added benefit of letting engineers and product development people see what customers really want. Those responsible for product upgrades can see the actual numbers connected with requests to help guide their decisions.

Many studies have shown that customer involvement in product development increases the possibility of product success. This has also always been my personal experience too.

Understanding the voice of the customer has become an increased market need in the past few years. UserVoice addresses this need for online companies, providing a means for ongoing customer engagement at both the daily service level and for product improvement.

If you have additional questions on UserVoice or the JIRA integration, please do not hesitate to contact AppFusions at info@appfusions.com and we’ll help you – or get you going on a trial asap!

Interview by Bill Ives of the Merced Group, and who also blogs at Portals and KM.

The Business Value of Application Connectors

There are a number of terms for the approach to collaborative business enabled by the new breed of software tools such as enterprise 2.0 and social business.

Emphasizing connections, McKinsey uses the term, the networked enterprise when they reported on the economic benefits of using what they refer to in 2010 as “collaborative Web 2.0 technologies.”

They found many quantified benefits in 2010 (see The rise of the networked enterprise: Web 2.0 finds its payday) and more in 2011 (see How social technologies are extending the organization). I am sure their next results will show continued growth in benefits in 2012.

For example, in 2010,

  • 77% said the tools increased the speed of access to knowledge,
  • 60% said they reduced communication coats,
  • 52% said they increased speed of access to internal experts,
  • 44% found a reduction in travel costs, and 40% found increased employee satisfaction.

There were similar results in 2011.

A significant foundation for these benefits is connectivity between the rising number of new tools and the established ones. I think another useful term for the new wave of organizational change is the connected enterprise.

Without connections, the benefits are not possible.

I still like to go back to McKinsey’s 2006 paper, The next revolution in interactions, to reflect on two quotes:

In today’s developed economies, the significant nuances in employment concern interactions: the searching, monitoring, and coordinating required to manage the exchange of goods and services.

They said that traditionally the focus of business and IT investments has been on production rather than interactions and added the following.

Social media, with its focus on interactions, is ideal for the new economy based on the connections between these interactions. Six years later, enterprises are now starting to invest in supporting interactions with the new breed of social tools.

Currently, jobs that involve participating in interactions rather than extracting raw materials or making finished goods account for more than 80 percent of all employment in the United States. And jobs involving the most complex type of interactions—those requiring employees to analyze information, grapple with ambiguity, and solve problems—make up the fastest-growing segment.

However, as I wrote in Putting Social Media to Work, to be effective these systems that support interactions have to integrated with the systems of record that support transactions. The social tools also need to be integrated with each other or companies are simply creating more silos of disconnection and benefits are not realized.

Another interesting finding from the 2010 McKinsey study on the networked enterprise was that higher operating margins correlated with the “ability to make decisions lower in the corporate hierarchy and a willingness to allow the formation of working teams comprising both in-house employees and individuals outside the organization.” Connections are again the foundation for these cross-enterprise interactions.

Research from the Altimeter Group (see Social Business Readiness) points to the current need for the technology integration to enable these connections. Altimeter found that many companies have an inability to integrate social data into existing technology systems.

In the companies they looked at, 74% do not have a process in place to support these connections. They struggle with a fragmented technology.

Altimeter states that establishing proper connections is one of steps to becoming an advanced user of social tools. However, this can be a time consuming and costly customer project.

  • What not bypass this effort and bring forward the benefits of the connected enterprise by using out-of-the-box plug-in connectors?
  • Why invest in custom integration efforts to realize the benefits of social business when plug-ins offer a fast and low cost alternative?

Connectors are a major key realizing the business benefits of Enterprise 2.0 and off-the-shelf plug-ins can allow for a major breakthrough in establishing these connections quickly and efficiently.

This is one of the main focuses of this blog. We welcome your input to this conversation.

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Post by Bill Ives of the Merced Group, and who also blogs at Portals and KM.

Where AppFusions Fits – Connecting the Enterprise

Before we describe the place of AppFusions in the new world of Enterprise 2.0, it is useful to go back to look at the Enterprise 1.0 world which is still current for many.

Enterprise 1.0 – “A Single System For All”

In the Enterprise 1.0 world, large ERP systems claiming to be  a “single system for all” integrated many (if not all) departments and functions across a company into a single computer system.  They attempted to serve all the different department needs, running the business, successfully in some places, and not so successfully in others. These systems bridged the needs of products, customers, employees, and suppliers. (Below image from this excellent slideshare by Samuel Driessen.)

Credits: Samuel Driessen

For many years, this cross-functional single-uber-system was thought to be the ultimate glue to solve all problems: the silver bullet solution to propel corporations fast forward in their business success.

However, despite best intentions, these lofty goals were hard ones to meet in a single system, given many mixed audiences and purposes between departments.

  • Cross-functionally, departments wanted to control (customize) their workflow.
  • While ERP systems were configurable out of the box – to a point – in most cases, they required costly customization SLAs to develop or configure the workflow exactly how a department wanted it.
  • Data integrations to other systems were extremely expensive ($50K – $200K+), given the reliance on niche technical knowledge in closed systems.
  • All integrations were like “black magic”, requiring ongoing support and vendor reliance without a natural support path.
  • Integrations where time-consuming and costs could be as much five times the software fees.
  • Over time, specialty purpose-driven or “rogue” systems crept into organizations (large or small), as department heads rebelled against the rigid IT uber-system, and shopped for their own systems to meet their department needs.

For the companies that succeeded in their ERP deployments, they paid dearly in implementation costs, yet also they got bigger and faster with these large system infrastructures. For a while, they enjoyed a competitive edge in their locked-down systems.

Credits: Bertrand Duperrin

In such organizations [2], the general top-down management attitude was:

  • this is how it will be,
  • we do not really want to hear your opinion, and,
  • no, you cannot change the process or system (without an enormous amount of additional churn, cost, pain – to which we have no more money to expend).

Employees were forced to adopt the new inflexible systems, a change that often felt like steps back even from their slower, yet functional desktop processes.

Compounded with normal human resistance to change, the new systems were not always warmly received. People had to conform to rigid systems, rather than having flexible systems built around how people worked best.

The enormous level of cross-functional process coordination upfront, as well as the long term support for these systems, was often more crippling than helping. The systems had the potential to control corporate data in a better/faster way than previous manual ways, but it held employees hostage in so many other ways, and caused new problems organizationally.

Politics and internal fights evolved to ever high levels as employees felt duped when the new systems didn’t really do everything that they thought it would, and no customizations were allowed. If a department absolutely required customizations, they’d have to take the heavy cost hit in their departmental budget (not ITs), let alone the time-hit to implement (e.g., another 6 months often, assuming it got done before some other organizational crisis hit).

Companies would endure the growth of excessive politics, mistrust, and infighting causing systematic morale issues and lower productivity. Employee dissatisfaction grew at a higher than normal rate, as well as distrust for management who forced the new monster system on them in the first place (even if it was justified at the time given where technology was at).

In short – it was a vicious and often ugly cycle, especially for large corporations enduring these growing pains.

Outside the Enterprise 1.0 World, the Beginnings of Enterprise 2.0 Technology Moved Forward

Meanwhile, the open source movement had gained “officialness” in 1998 thanks to Netscape (Mozilla), and during the 2000s, the open source trend and collaborative engineering mindset grew more popular with the growth of Linux, further proving the value of both iterative agile engineering, open APIs, rapid development methodologies, and at the communications level – transparent collaboration.

Concurrently, the Internet was taking off well beyond the Silicon Valley, thanks to Yahoo! (1995), Google (1998) going big/global (as well as Microsoft with Internet Explorer). For the Enterprise, early pioneers Jive Software, SocialText, and Atlassian Software were founded in 2001 and 2002, respectively – three corps that would become pioneers in the Enterprise collaboration tools space in the years to come.

Atlassian also would become a leader in many of the open source stirred trends, namely agile development, ALM, engineering tools, and issue tracking, while boldly treading on common industries lead by big heavyweights like IBM, HP, and Microsoft, among others.

Overall – the timing of these new Enterprise collaboration businesses couldn’t have been better, overlapping with early social sites like MySpace (2003), Delicious (2003), Facebook (2004), Digg (2005), Twitter (2006), FriendFeed (2007), and a strong new-way-to-business Millenials culture pushing into industry with all their might.

The collective force was a perfect storm, landing down on a smug and controlling decades old proprietary industry and decades old command-and-control management styles.

By late 2009, open collaboration and social networking was no longer an idle idea.

It was a fast moving trend and way of the future, that had proven the beginnings of enormous business value for getting things done faster in the Enterprise. Concrete data began to emerge on the quantified value of these new approaches (see The Business Value of Application Connectors).

However, to be successful in the new world, people-centered Enterprise 2.0 apps need to connect with the old world transactional-centered Enterprise 1.0 systems. They needed to connect to each other to avoid establishing even more silos within organizations.

While AppFusions does not really believe in the legacy gigantic one-size-fits-all system ideal, at the same time we know that in most cases, these systems are largely not going away.

The new social systems of engagement still need to connect to the old world transaction systems to get work done.

AppFusions Bridges the Gap with Enterprise 2.0 Content Management Integration Connectors

We believe that business information and process management should be handled by a collection of systems that make up a whole. To make this happen, connectivity is the key driver. It is the glue that makes real work happen. It brings the benefits of social systems to work processes.

Modular system architectures in the Enterprise – from the same vendor or many vendors – provide greater flexibility, while also allowing organizations to pick and choose the best-of-breed systems for their purposes.

There are reasons for purpose-built systems, and a collection of many we feel is stronger than a single rigid system, especially if you can connect the strengths (data and workflows) of the different systems with common use case connectors vs. getting on an endless customization path.

Our integration connectors (current and future) bring together workflows, data files, and information between Enterprise systems for your collective purpose-built Enterprise 2.0 corporate solution of many systems. They allow companies to quickly and cost-effectuvely create the needed connectivity without going through the old-world pain of massive, costly, and time consuming integration efforts.

These connectors provide the means to close the gap between old and new, enabling the promise and opportunity within the capabilities of the new people-centered, social systems.

This blog will become the vehicle to tell this story and provide use cases demonstrating the essential nature of connectors.

Post by Ellen Feaheny, CEO of AppFusions

Welcome to the AppFusions Blog – Connecting the Enterprise

We are re-launching and renaming the AppFusions Blog to reflect its expanded focus, Connecting the Enterprise.

This blog will bridge concepts and technologies in both business process areas and agile engineering worlds, which we feel are inextricable. Today in business, software is a part of everything – and you can no longer separate business processes without talking about software, technologies, or engineering.

The blog will discuss Enterprise 2.0 (also called Social Business) integration use cases and the endpoint systems and platforms for which they connect. We are excited about the opportunities that come from connecting enterprise applications (see – The Business Value of Application Connectors).

A significant foundation for the benefits of Enterprise 2.0 is found through establishing connectivity between the rising number of new tools and the established ones. This needs to be done in a flexible and dynamic manner as there is not a single perfect answer for what is the best Enterprise 2.0 system collection.

There are only similarities in topologies of systems, with common needs by all corporations. Keeping a flexible modular IT infrastructure and system architecture is the key to being nimble. Supporting this goal is our aim and AppFusions’ mission:

We will build ready-to-deploy, reasonably priced connectors to solve the most common Enterprise system-to-system data and process integration problems.

Companies must work smarter inside and outside of their organization. From customer input to product management to engineering development to release planning – none of these processes are immune to another. They are all dependent processes, yet they are also all independent too.

Social Business is a runaway train, and we believe that with Social Business comes Social Engineering.
The world is changing fast, with no slow down in sight. Having optimized processes with efficient system to system integrations are more critical than ever.

One objective of the blog is to promote conversations about the value of making application integrations, as well as uncovering new use cases.

Another is to introduce our latest AppFusions moves, as well as offer commentary on the market and relevant events.

While we offer our own AppFusions view and news, this blog is open to the broader discussion of all aspects of application connections and how they can change an organization. We want to hear from you and welcome your comments, stories, and questions.

We encourage you to browse our categories and not just look at our latest content. The categories contain the archives of our past posts. Many of these posts remain useful as we will discuss issues and not simply provide current news. Also use our search field. Often good blog content gets buried as it moves off the front page.

Again, if you like what you find here, please join the conversation through our comment fields.

Gratefully,

The AppFusions team!