Friday, November 30, 2007

Atlassian Steam into Europe

I have just returned from the Atlassian Amsterdam User Group meeting.
I give below my very rough notes of what happened:

Accenture Keynote: Michael Widjaja spoke. He stated that Gartner had placed enterprise wikis well to the right of the disillusionment area of the "hype - disillusionment - growth acceptance" bell-curve.

There is a company in Liverpool who are very knowledgeable regarding Confluence - can build plug-ins etc. They are very busy at the moment.

Jeffrey Walker (Atlassian) Introductions, then: Josh Wold, pre-sales support, has moved from the US to London. Can now give us support in our time zone. 37% of Atlassian's business is in Europe. They will establish a office in Europe in the next few months. They are talking to a team of independent developers in Poland who know the Atlassian products very well. They are in discussions. I predict that this team will probably become the backbone of Atlassian’s European support.

Atlassian were established 5.5 years ago. They had a 1M turnover - now 25M. They now have around 8,500 customers. They aim to always keep their costs low and the costs of products low.

The largest Confluence wiki is at SAP with around 800,000 signed-up users. An interesting customer is Pixar Animation Studios. All film production PM meetings have a scribe keying into a wiki page.

New releases of Confluence will come every 8 - 12 weeks. Features due to arrive soon are: UI improvements for Attach / Insert while in Edit; a new super user role - Manager with more powers than Admin; sorting of gallery pictures; other UI-like drop-down menus; page ordering; an easy installer.

Expect to see many commercial 3rd party plug-ins.

SharePoint Connector, which provides for Cross Search, imbedding of a wiki page in SP, wiki links direct to SP and a single sign-on.

The "Builder" product from has a tool that can turn an email archive item into a wiki page. We could use this to enable mail-in.

PIX Software produced a case study showing how a major bank had used JIRA as a large scale Bill Payment processor.

Atlassian are finding themselves adapting to the fact that their wiki is being used in the enterprise whereas at the start it was used in technical communities. This brings new requirements in the area of permission.

Lodovic Hirlimann from JOOST said that Confluence was used as their document repository globally. They found it very good for test cases and test results. They make extensive use of templates for page creation - using templates to auto-label pages. They use JIRA for their entire travel authorisation process!

Josh talked about uses for the wiki. He pointed to many case studies on their site such as BI reporting using charting plug-in.

Ideas that came from the floor: hold person-to-person brainstorming sessions involving senior managers. Get each of them to think of their (or their department's) 6 best successes / best practices then point them at a blank wiki page to write about them all.

On the wiki, build discussion trees / problem solving procedures.
Start CEO blogging using a personal space and the NEWS label. The CEO could make a physical desk visit to anyone who comments to give words of encouragement.

Use a Rate-this-page, digg style plug-in.

Second Life are big users of JIRA.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The cost effective wiki based intranet

Last Wednesday I spoke at he Intranet Benchmarking Forum’s Global IBF meeting in London.

Afterwards, I spotted Richard Dennison's post about one aspect of the event: the Financial Calculator.

Richard's post along with the single response by shaidorsai got me thinking about the cost/benefit equation of using a wiki for one's intranet.

During the meeting, while Lars Ploughmann of Headshift was giving his exelent talk, a senior figure from one of the global IBF members commented that a Confluence wiki was not that cheap. Though the licence fee was only GBP4000, the total installed cost was likly to run to 70 – 90k.

This could turn out to be true but I would argue that this expense is more-or-less a one-off.

During a typical year (for our Notes/Domino based intranet) I paid 30k for our business partner to develop an image library, 90k for a Powerpoint presentation storage and download area, and 20k for enhancements to a bespoke meeting booking system. This pattern was repeated each year as new business requirements emerged. For each requirement, a lengthy making-of-a-business-case process was needed.

Because the wiki imposes no business logic, process or work flow, once I have paid the first year cost, these types (and other currently un-thought off types) of application can emerge for free (OK, there is my salary and those of the business departments, but these would have been a factor of the old way of working as well!).

In addition, because the wiki supports self organizing, I expect business users to emerge, creating their own applications, with only a minimal amount of support from me (the central intranet management function).

If of-the-shelf commercial plug-ins, or even bespoke code is needed to support some of the more elaborate emergent apps, it should be possible to develop working prototypes for free using the base functionality of Confluence. Benefit could then be measured over a period and used to justify the additional spend as part of a phase II.

To steal a phrase from our head of corporate comms: "it's easy to get [financial] approval if the 'i' in ROI is kept small"