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CLOSED: AMA with Steve Elliott, head of Jira Align. Ask him anything! Edited

Thanks for joining us for the Jira Align AMA! We hope you found it informative and we appreciated your participation. Questions are now closed - thanks to all our participants!

Steve Elliott here, head of Jira Align (formerly AgileCraft), the newest member of the Atlassian family. If you aren’t familiar with our platform and you’re interested in taking your agile enterprise organization to the next level, I’ll fill you in: Jira Align delivers the most comprehensive software solution available for scaling agile to the enterprise. With an out of the box, robust Jira integration it transforms the way organizations enable and manage agile productivity across their enterprise, portfolios, programs. Teams love it because it connects them to the business, and vice versa. It really fits beautifully into the Atlassian offering.

We’ve had an awesome few months after joining the Atlassian family earlier this year, and I’d love to have the opportunity to talk to you about the product or acquisition. To that end, I’ll be answering questions for an Ask Me Anything in the Jira Align Community Collection starting today, October 7 through October 10. I invite you to join us and ask me anything about the product, the acquisition, agility at scale, my favorite guitars - whatever’s on your mind!

Update: the AMA is now closed. Thanks for all the great questions, and we hope to see you around the Jira Align Community Collection!

11 answers

5 votes
JiraJared Community Leader Oct 02, 2019

Hey Steve 👋 

Hope all is going well, it was awesome catching up with you briefly at Summit! 

What was the easiest thing and hardest thing about the acquisition?

Is there a new JIST being released soon?

And last but not least; Acoustic or Electric? 🎸  

 

Thanks,

JiraJared.

Hey Jared,

Everything is great!  Thanks for asking and I hope all is well with you.

The easiest thing has been meshing with the Atlassian culture.  From the outside looking in I always heard great things about the founders and teams at Atlassian.  That said, you don’t really know the true story with culture until you live in it.  I can tell you that Atlassian is the real deal.  I have been involved in multiple startups that were successful from a business perspective, but the culture clash was horrible.  Culture is often the most difficult thing to overcome.  With Atlassian, it has been awesome.  The Atlassian value system is similar to AgileCraft’s.  Both put working as a team and not taking ourselves too seriously front and center.  That alone has made the entire process a pleasure. 

The hardest thing about the acquisition is making decisions in a matrixed organization.  It reminded me of why customers value Jira Align so much.  In a large organization it’s really hard to make good decisions quickly, prioritize work efficiently and to balance running the business with growing the business.  Being part of a larger organization brings a big upside to our customers, but it does require more collaboration and diligence for each decision that needs to be made.

We have big news on the way for JET (formerly JIST).  I can confirm major changes will hit the market shortly with a new delivery vehicle to boot.  I will just leave it there but I think you will love it ; )

On Acoustic vs Electric… 100% electric.  I started playing drums and guitar in the late 80s.  Think lots of loud aggressive music and a lot of hair spray…

Steve

Like # people like this

Sim,eu gostei.Temos que aprender lidar com o diferente,pois mudanças ocorrem a todos momentos e as coisas sempre mudam e sempre iram mudar.

2 votes

What's the difference between JIRA Align and JIRA Portfolio? Will JIRA Portfolio be consumed by JIRA Align?

Hey Nick,

Good question.  Most of the answer comes down to the scale you are solving for.  Jira Align connects business strategy to customer outcomes at enterprise scale. It helps:

  • Make work visible at enterprise scale

  • Gets all teams aligned (and keeps them aligned) across programs, portfolios and the enterprise.

  • Maximizes outcomes, driving value and accelerating digital strategy

Portfolio provides roadmaps and dependencies for a single program or team of teams.  If an organization has multiple programs or portfolios then Jira Align is the recommended solution.   

Steve

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Any idea when the whole Portfolio / Align strategy will be sorted out?

At the conference, Align was dangled in front of of us.  However,  unless we are a fortune 500 co, it seems to be pretty much unattainable.

Will any of the Align tech / thinking make it into Portfolio?

BTW, great product. Really liked what I saw.

Hi Tim,

We are working on harmonizing our approach to Agile@Scale across Align and Portfolio as we speak.  We realize that we have work to do in this area (especially when factoring in the premium offering for cloud).  I hope to have better clarification on our longer term strategy shortly.   I can promise you that we are working on it.  It comes up in our conversations with our customers all the time.  

I am glad you like the product!  

Steve

Like Shana likes this

@Steve Elliott I'd like to second this.

As a Cloud customer we see Portfolio development as essentially stalled.

While there is still activity for Jira Server, we are left with the impression this is no longer a going concern for Cloud Customers and that our only hope is that Align will one-day downscale to the point where we can integrate it with our medium-sized business (~250 staff). 

Virtually the entire feature list for Align is desirable for us (cross-program alignment, upstream ideation and roadmapping, etc, etc), but we were essentially advised against it at Summit due to scale. 

Greatly looking forward to the long term strategy reveal, it's a big hole at present. 

Thanks, Iain

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Hey Iain,

Understood and appreciated.  We will have an answer on that in short order.  Thanks for the feedback. 

Steve

Like Iain McCarthy likes this

So far the only materials I've seen show Align connected to Jira. Can we see what it looks like connected to another application and even better how it looks with Jira and another application both feeding into it?

Hi Majken,

Our technology was designed from the beginning to federate across multiple tool sets to make all work visible.  We enable customers to use the work management and devops tools they have in place today.  Customers even have the ability to mix and match tools across teams.  T-REX (our federation layer) is proprietary technology that gives teams the power use the tools they prefer while still being able to talk apples to apples at the other layer of scale. 

You can read more about the connecters here.  https://agilecraft.com/connector

Cheers,

Steve

Is there any link for this event to register?

Bridget Community Manager Oct 03, 2019

Hey Pushpkant! The AMA happens right on this thread. Keep an eye on it form October 7th-10th and feel free to comment with your questions for Steve beforehand :) 

Like Stephanie Grice likes this

Pushpkant,

We are off and running!  Let me know if you have a question.  

Thanks,

Steve

Like Stephanie Grice likes this

As I understand, Jira Align is costly and designed to target big companies. Are we doing anything for small market players to extend the functionalities of Jira Align across domain and company size? Many companies want to use Jira Align but couldn't afford it.

Like # people like this

Hey Pushpkant,

Thanks for the question.  We are actively considering a scaled back entry point for align that is fully self-service.  If successful, this will reduce the cost to deploy and total cost of ownership significantly.  It is good to hear from folks like yourself as we build a case for this.  

Regards,

Steve

 

Like # people like this

Let's talk about price...

Hey Paul,

Happy to talk price.  We find that the investment for Jira Align is nominal when compared to the power of better decision making and more rapid feedback loops.  The return on investment is very rapid IF a company is serious about adopting new ways of working that center on lean / agile principles.  We also see competitors in the space charging more for less.  That said we are investing in better self-service options and additional packaging options that may bring the price down over time.

Steve

Like Adriana Mys likes this

Hi Steve, I am new to Jira Align, but in simple words, how do you see fit Jira Align with a Software Services company where we have multiple teams serving multiple projects for multiple clients, at the end we have multiple products. We have a 10M revenue goal this year. How would you make a case to consider Jira Align to the top executive team? What number do I have to crunch in?

Hi Martz,

I would tie my answer on this back to several of the conversations above on price point.  The problem statement you are describing is something Jira Align can solve (Align works great for services scenarios) but currently we do not have a mid-market pricing model that makes sense when the scope is only a few teams.  Jira Align is currently priced for larger footprints with multiple programs.  Our Portfolio product is focused on helping a few teams get on the same page with a lower cost of entry. 

Have you tried Portfolio yet?

Steve

Hi Steve,

We are an aggressive team that uses EAZY BI dashboards in Agile process.

For Us this seems to be a great tool , we need to explore a little more in to the JIRA-Align.

As an Admin i will be responsible for all the requests( SPECIFIC FEATURES ) from the users.(1000+)

So Do you have a dedicated team that work on all the all the errors or blockers if any , like adaptavist.

Hi Siva,

We have multiple teams that focus on extending our ability to connect with the ecosystem and on performance / quality.  We rotate teams onto the customer desk every sprint so during each sprint anywhere from 1 to 3 teams are completely focused on removing blockers and tackling customer enhancements.  This keeps the teams very close to the customer's needs and mindset.  We find it to be highly valuable.

On solving the ad-hoc questions from your user community with Align... We have a product called Leo that is highly flexible (it works with any BI solution).  Leo exposes a robust tabular data model that makes it easy to mash up data, build custom reports and much more.  You can learn more about Leo here: https://agilecraft.com/bi.

Thanks for the question!

Steve

@Steve Elliott 

This question isn't really about JIRA Align but hopefully you can point to the right direction. While I was exploring the possibility to have SSO in Bitbucket, the solution requires to sign up of a 3rd party service with a monthly subscription per user. What I didn't quite understand is that why should one be charges or more of send to a 3rd party service if there is already an existing Atlasssian license? Why isn't Bitbucket SSO be under the same setup as the Atlasssian Account for SSO. The idea here is to have a centralized IAM capability of who and how can one access repositories.

Thanks,

Alain.

Hi Alain,

I did some digging with assists from the Bitbucket PM team.  Customers can use Atlassian Access for SAML/SSO.   SSO allows a user to use a single set of credentials to log into multiple applications securely. Admins prefer this arrangement to prevent their users from re-using passwords for multiple applications which is a big security risk.

In order to setup SSO, Admins need to have an Identity provider (IDP) like Okta or Azure AD to manage their users’ credentials centrally (this is the 3rd party service with a per user subscription). Admins then connect this IDP to all the applications (aka service providers), like Bitbucket, their users use and enable Single Sign-On (SSO). The applications are required to support SSO integration for this setup to work. This why we state that Bitbucket supports SSO. Once this arrangement is done by the admin, the users can login once into their IDP account and then be automatically signed into all the applications connected to this IDP.

If you are referring to Atlassian Access, that is an Atlassian maintained / internal product.  Some customers had assumed this was a third party component.

Thanks,

Steve 

Like Monique van den Berg likes this

Thanks, Is there a way to enforce users who access the Bitbucket team to only sing in with via SSO provided?

Also, what's the purpose of this app https://marketplace.atlassian.com/apps/1217045/saml-single-sign-on-sso-bitbucket?hosting=server&tab=overview?
It might misleading a little bit. 

Hey Alain,

Sounds like you are on cloud.  Check this out and let me know this clears it up: https://www.atlassian.com/software/access?_ga=2.236213826.255786716.1570549294-1905836306.1570549294 

Steve

Hi Steve, 

Thanks for making yourself available! Morningstar is excited about the acquisition too and is curious to learn about future plans/direction as these 2 systems tighten their integration...

One thing  our new users instantly find confusing is any conflicting terminology or semantics across systems, from language to objects (i.e., "sub-tasks" in Jira are "tasks" in Jira Align; "epics" in Jira aren't "epics" in Align or SAFe). It's mentally taxing and creates unnecessary adoption friction. Are there plans to align these systems so that information cleanly translates across systems? 

Another friction point is not having as robust filtering/querying freedom in Jira Align as are enjoyed in Jira. Flexibility for querying, pivoting, grouping data is important for the spectrum of business questions that come up. It seems Jira is stronger in offering different ways for users to interact the the data. as opposed to precanned reports (via JQL's flexibility, dashboarding, add-ons, etc.). Are there plans for Align to offer similar flexibility? Will the data generated in Align be more accessible in JQL (and therefore other Atlassian functionality) in the future? Will the objects in Jira Align become more available in Jira?

My last feedback is more philosophical. We get negative feedback about forcing Features (Jira epics) to be timeboxed. If a firm is truly hybrid in it's project management methodology (as indicated in Platform Settings), I wouldn't expect the functionality to force epics to be timeboxed to get the Roadmaps functionality and other related reports to work. I would think that having their work strategically aligned and scoping their Features to user value (instead of a Program Increment) is enough while also removing some overhead that's perceived as unnecessary as a firm that doesn't practice SAFe fully. Is there appetite for change here?

Thanks! 

0 votes
Steve Elliott Atlassian Team Thursday

Hi Nick,

Thanks for reaching out.  I am really excited about partnering with Morningstar.

I agree that terminology is a very tricky aspect of transformation.  The Epics question comes up all the time.  cPrime has a tool in the marketplace that can rename the Epic to feature.  Several customers have reported that this has worked in their environments.  Even better, the Jira team has this on their roadmap so all customer should have the ability to re-name epics natively in relatively short order.  I will do more digging on sub-tasks.  I know there are options there as well but not sure what they are.

In terms of query ability, we continue to improve native filtering, saved filters, etc.  For robust needs we have a product called Leo that is highly flexible (it works with any BI solution).  Leo exposes a robust tabular data model that makes it easy to mash up data, build custom reports and much more.  You can learn more about Leo here: https://agilecraft.com/bi.

In terms of forcing timeboxes … Many teams do not understand why the timebox exists.  In fairness to teams who push back on time boxes, without the linkage to outcomes and the desire to learn from each increment it does feel like extra busy work.  The timebox is not there to try and jam work into a timeframe or create extra estimation rigor for the teams.  The timebox should be used to force a measurement of progress against the desired outcome where the teams can make better decisions.  The time box should force teams to evaluate if it is time to halt, pivot or persevere with work in process.  We should look at the hypotheses we had for each feature at the begging of the timebox and see what we can learn for the next timebox. The goal is to place better bets more frequently.  That is the essence of driving a learning organization that can innovate faster than they could with old ways of working. With new ways of working smaller batch sizes drive rapid learning and when done properly creates a HUGE strategic advantage for any organization.   That is why scaled agile is designed to drive more frequent measurement, learning and plan adjustment at time-boxed boundaries.   

Once that foundation of WHY is well engrained for timeboxes... the ability to right-size work becomes important for predictability.  The concept of stories being bound to sprints and features / Jira epics being bound to quarters helps with meeting commitments and ensures that work is broke down to a level that will reduce risk and force understanding.  Only those two work items must be bound to an increment.  All other work breakdown can span increments like solutions, capabilities, epics / initiatives, products, etc. to provide a view of the long-term orchestration and realization of value.

Great questions and I look forward to working with you and your teams!

Steve

Thanks so much, Steve! I appreciate your thoughtful response and will work on the change needed to get to that point. 

One terminology thing I left out that hope is in scope in near-term is the "states" in Jira Align being different from workflow statuses in Jira. That is always a point of confusion when showing a Jira Align to new users and taxing to keep remembering and translating.

Also, please please keep investing in Roadmap functionality enhancements. Roadmaps are THE cornerstone lens of transparency for us and help us story-tell all of the building blocks that SAFe requires of our users and make sense of them too. If the roadmap is clean, the data should nicely feed the reporting functionality.

Roadmaps were a bit weaker than we hoped, but the potential is all there (enhancements that would move the needle include: grouping by ANY data point, multiple levels of grouping, filtering roadmap by ANY data points, multiple squad/programs/portfolios on 1 roadmap at once, saved roadmap states you can come back to or send as instance - EVERY detail of state, customization of milestone iconography & colors, custom coloring of roadmap bars, more differentiated roadmap UI especially between levels of hierarchy, auto-saving changes, parity between Calendar & PI view, Roadmap logic pulling ANY epics with you stories at squad-level, etc.).

Looking forward to working with you too! 

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