What is MARS? (And how to pick the best apples!)

August 23, 2021

At Blended Perspectives we have a lot to offer: from our Synthesis™ Solution Blueprints to our fleet of certified Atlassian consultants. However, another aspect of our organization that is perhaps less well known is our Marketplace Analytic Research Service (MARS).

While many partners out there focused on making their own apps, we believed that we could bring greater value to the Atlassian ecosystem by creating a quantitative and objective database covering every facet of the Atlassian Marketplace.

Therefore, in late 2017 we created MARS.

Since then we have been consistently updating MARS with the latest Atlassian Marketplace data and discovering new ways to use our unique Marketplace insight to help our customers.

Why is MARS Necessary

First and foremost, MARS is necessary because of the staggering number of amazing apps that are available on the Atlassian Marketplace. All of the app vendors out there do an incredible job creating and consistently working on improving all of the apps that add so much to all of our Atlassian products. However, despite the unbelievable amount of value out there on the Atlassian Marketplace, we often found that users struggled to find and know what they were really after. The main function of MARS, therefore, is to maximize the value that our customers are able to extract from the Marketplace.

Marketplace Size

The first barrier to optimal utilization of the Atlassian Marketplace is the sheer size of it: with over 2,000 vendors, 4,000 apps, and 1.6M active installs there is a lot to sort through when you have no systematic way to do so. Obviously the size of the Marketplace is an incredible asset, however, for many users it does not feel that way since they struggle to find what they’re looking for among the mass of applications.

Self-Categorization

The issue of Marketplace size is exacerbated by the second reason why we believe MARS is necessary: app self-categorization. When vendors put their apps on the Marketplace they are able to self-select multiple categories from Atlassian’s Marketplace category list. While this is democratic it has resulted in app over-categorization. For instance, an app with any element of reporting in it will self-categorize as reporting (amongst other things). While this works for the vendors, as a customer it can be confusing when you look for a reporting app and apps that do not have reporting as their primary functionality come up.

For instance, in Figure 1 we did a sample search for “Reporting apps” on the Marketplace. While all of the apps here are brilliant apps in their own right, we believe that only Table Filter and Charts and eazyBI are truly Reporting applications.

Reporting apps Blended Perspectives

Figure 1: ‘Reporting Apps’ in the Atlassian Marketplace

Not being able to easily see all of the options is a consequence of self-categorization by vendors.  Many customers struggle with this because they are not getting the full picture of what options are available to them.

The Marketplace as a Fruit Market

Strange as it may sound, we like to compare the Atlassian Marketplace to a fruit and vegetable market. Most markets are great and there is usually too much produce to know what to do with–but herein lies the problem.

Say you want to bake an apple pie and you go to the market to find the best apple for your pie. All of the apple sellers will tell you “my apple is great in a pie” because it probably is. However, you’re looking to really impress your friends with this pie so you want the best apple for the pie. How do you make an informed decision about what will really make your pie stand out? If you’re looking for which apple to put in your pie then you can use pickyourown.org and if you’re looking to make an informed decision about which Atlassian Marketplace app to buy you can use MARS.

atlassian marketplace

Figure 2: The Marketplace → MARS

How MARS Helps

Marketplace Size → 500 Club

Early on in our study of the Atlassian Marketplace we discovered that it follows a Pareto effect. In analyzing the Marketplace from a top down perspective we discovered that 15% of apps generate 83% of all active installs. The common feature of these apps was that they all had over 500 installs. These apps now make up our “500 Club”.

The 500 Club is important as it enables us to focus our energy and resources analyzing the apps that customers are using the most and most want to know about. This isn’t to say that we ignore all of the other non-500 Club apps but that we just pay a particular attention to apps with over 500 instances. In fact through MARS we can see all instances of Marketplace apps and many unique insights, such as fast moving smaller apps which will likely be widely used and popular in the future.

Generally though, the 500 Club helps us ensure that our consultants have knowledge in a wide array of widely used applications and also to assist customers wade through the noise of the Marketplace.  In addition, most importantly, we have carefully assigned our own categories to all 500 Club apps…

Blended perspectives 500 club

Figure 3: The 500 Club

Self-Categorization → Meaningful Categorization

As we’ve noted before, Atlassian Marketplace categorization is not sufficient for Atlassian users looking to find applications to suit particular needs as apps are over-categorized. Therefore, we have put a lot of effort into creating our own categories and assigning every 500 Club app to one.

Unlike Marketplace Categories, our categorization is based on primary functionality and utility. As we can see in Figure 4, apps that we have categorized as “Reporting” really are reporting apps. You can also get some insight into just a few of the data points available in MARS.

Reporting apps MARS

Figure 4: MARS Reporting apps

Our “meaningful categorization” makes it easy to find apps that will work for the particular needs of our customers. Furthermore, for broader categories, such as “Publishing” or “Integration” for example we have assigned “Secondary Categories” that further break down categories and make it even easier to find and compare apps that provide a particular functionality.

Overall we have around 20 categories that are loosely based on the Atlassian Marketplace’s categories. In Figure 5 you can see how these categories break down in terms of their 2021 % Growth and size. This gives us a broad picture that while Integration, Workflow, Test Management, and Planning Apps have been excelling this year, Code Management, Email, Scripting/Automation, and Business Analysis apps haven’t in general done as well.

MARS categories

Figure 5: MARS Categories

What MARS Can Do For You

MARS has the potential to help our customers in numerous ways and has proven to be a quality asset for them:

Platform Leverage Reports (PLRs)

In our Platform Leverage Reports we assess our customers’ app utilization and profile versus the Marketplace as a whole. Through out powerful top down view of the Marketplace and our meaningful categorizations we are able to provide a tailored and  detailed report on their individual app portfolio detailing areas that could be strengthened, areas where apps could be consolidated, and fields in which customers aren’t following best practices. We provide one personalized PLRs free of charge to all of our customers annually and customers have found them to be incredibly valuable when it comes to making sense of what apps they have and generating a focused and structured approach to app selection.

Much app selection is still done on user requests and while this method can have its upside, we recommend following a strategic app selection approach.  By leveraging PLR reports, our customers are able to select richer apps better suited to their needs more efficiently and cost effectively.

Cloud Migration

With Atlassian accelerating the journey to cloud more and more Atlassian users are shifting from server and data center. On top of the standard difficulties around cloud migrations, users often struggle with the fact that a significant number of 3rd party apps are either not available on cloud or are on cloud but with significantly reduced functionality. MARS can help hugely in this regard. By combining our meaningful categorization with MARS data on key metrics, we provide customers thinking about or going through a migration with a modified PLR that will assess their app portfolio through the lens of cloud migration. We’re able to provide detailed analysis on how the customer can best adjust what applications they have when needed and ensure that their move to cloud is as smooth and as painless as possible.

App Selection

Beyond PLRs, we also provide individual reports to customers to help them select best of breed applications for particular use cases that they have. While many Partners have a solid qualitative grounding in the Marketplace, we are unique in our ability to match our qualitative consulting expertise on the Marketplace with our MARS qualitative analysis.

We ensure that our customers are aware of all of the options out there based on their specific needs as well as providing valuable insight into version releases, recent growth trends, and much more to help them ensure they’re finding the app that’s best for them.

Synthesis™

At Blended Perspectives we provide an array of Solution Blueprints for business needs such as PPM, GRC, HR, Procurement (you can find all of our Synthesis™ Blueprints here)

A blueprint is a formula and preconceived set of templates made up of issues/items, workflows, 3rd party apps, and industry best practices and Synthesis™ is our integrated suite of solution blueprints based on Atlassian products. Synthesis™ establishes a single source of truth across the enterprise for real time collaboration and reporting.

Synthesis methodology

Figure 6: Synthesis™ Methodology

3rd party apps provide a key foundational layer to our Synthesis™ Blueprints and customers can be sure that through using MARS we have optimized our app selection and that they will be getting the maximum value possible from their Synthesis™ Solution.

Synthesis Blended Perspectives

Figure 7: Synthesis™ How Everything Fits Together

If you would like to learn more about MARS, Synthesis™ Solution Blueprints or any of our other offerings then get in touch with us at hello@blendedperspectives.com.

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