“Dispassionate objectivity is itself a passion, for the real and for the truth.”
In an age of “fake news” where it seems harder and harder to be sure of the facts, we think it’s more important than ever for clients to receive independent, objective advice for their tools. Now, of course, we’re biased in general to the Atlassian stack, that’s true, but with 135,000 customers and counting, our goal is to provide independent advice to an already very large market. In the 3rd party apps space there are small useful apps that are as simple as creating traffic lights for instance, ranging to fully featured portfolio planning tools. It is no trivial task understanding the pros and cons of these apps especially with multiple competing products. Further the consequences of an IT platform decision like this can be fateful for IT and other teams that are working very hard to increase the quality of products their companies sell or the effectiveness of their organizations.
Jira – the market leader
We have previously mentioned that Jira has by far the largest market share in the tools space, supporting Agile teams. What is also not always well understood, is just how many third party apps there are and the sheer speed and volume of innovation these apps generate. Whether it’s testing, planning, DevOps, Service desk or time management – there are often multiple and solid options to select from. That’s why Blended Perspectives has developed an analysis framework called the 3rd Party App Excellence Matrix or APEX™, for short. A recent example of this is below – with a link to a more detailed explanation in the relevant white paper. We did this assessment in the Testing segment of apps just to give you an idea of the methodology, which mainly uses two drivers; “mesh” with the Atlassian platform (does it leverage core features?) vs. feature rich offerings. The circles below reflect the number of active downloads, as a surrogate of proportional market share.
Clarifying Partners and what they do
It may interest the reader to know that the Atlassian Platinum “solutions” market is made up of Partners that;
a) build and sell apps and consult,
b) mainly build apps and
c) those that only consult.
It is our contention that if a partner builds and sells an app in a particular segment, that there is little to no chance you, the customer, will receive independent advice in that segment. For a partner to say their consultancy is independent of their app, is not enough. With so much invested in say, a fully featured app, we simply don’t believe that consultants will recommend competitive products. Remember that many of these apps are fully featured complex products requiring significant investment and support.
Even more so, that the best talent in those companies building/supporting these apps is going to that resource requirement and not to consulting. There are actually only a small number of genuinely independent advisers in the markets around the world and we actively encourage clients to keep this in mind when choosing a partner. One argument we have heard is that some partners only operate in one segment and so are independent in others. The counter to this is that once a partner becomes dependent on app revenues – they may thirst for new avenues for income. So be wary!
The Market size of Third Party Apps
The good news is that Atlassian provides download statistics so you can get a better sense of the popularity of these apps. Nevertheless, the bad news is that there are so many of them – where do you start?
|Segment||Count of Apps|
|Jira Service Desk||914|
Atlassian, themselves, segment the market calling them categories:
|Admin Tools||Blueprints||Build Management|
|Charts & Diagramming||Code Quality||Code review|
|Continuous Integration||CRM||Custom Fields|
|Dashboard Gadgets||Dependency management||Deployments|
|Design Tools||Document management||Documentation|
|Integrations||IT & HelpDesk|
|Reports||Repository Connectors||Repository hooks|
|Security||Shared Workflows||Source Code|
|Tasks||Testing & QA||Themes & Styles|
These categories are somewhat “gross” and it’s our intention over the next while to create our own categories. An example of this is that “Charts and diagrams” includes charting such as Draw IO and story mapping tools – we regard these as quite different segments.
Yet within these categories the search criteria are fairly general. To properly understand the success of an app – it is important to look at a number of factors;
- Number of active instances – check this on the app store. A few things about this, in general it’s about 30% short of the true total because it only includes apps that can be found via the internet, i.e. not behind the firewall. This is counterbalanced by the fact that it does include trials. So, in fact, for quite the wrong reasons it may not be far off. Also, this is generally the case for everyone from a comparative basis.
- Age of app (when was the first release? simply go to the vendor support release home page). Make sure the app is mature and has at least 3 major releases. Further that the app has recently released a new version even with fixes within the last month or so.
- Version support – make sure the app is supported for your Atlassian deployment option; cloud, server or data center. NB data canter is a newly supported category for apps – if its supported on server it may work on data center).
- Feedback (number of reviews above).
- How the app works in the context of the underlying Atlassian product. If all a third party app does is create a new customized issue type, then it’s worth simply configuring this yourself, hence understanding the structure of the app and what it does for you, is very important criteria in terms of understanding value add.
How to proceed
We recommend that most clients, especially server based clients have a development instance so they can “road test” new apps without risking performance impact on their main system. We actually provide sand boxes for clients to do exactly this. If you are running Atlassian cloud – simply set up a parallel smaller instance with say just 10 users and use that to experiment. A second benefit of this approach is that there is no risk that a small group of users will “cling” onto the app once the evaluation is complete. Some apps leave a residual effect also and that needs to be cleaned up. Once the green light is given we also strongly suggest that training is procured and made available on a continuous basis if a large number of users might use the system. Documenting recommended use cases in conjunction with user sponsors is also a great way to ensure early and successful adoption. Finally, tracking new releases and versions of apps is important to ensure you are making the best use of the various apps going forward. We’ve mapped the steps out for you below.
Finally, it is our experience that the successful adoption of Atlassian tools goes hand in hand with a well thought out and liberal use of 3rd party apps. We encourage clients to acquire apps and to really get the most out of their Atlassian investment.
If you are looking for an independent, objective assessment of the apps you have today and those that you are considering please call us!