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The Purpose of the Atlassian Marketplace

DISCLAIMER: I am writing this article as a user and I don’t have any commercial affiliation with the developers of the products mentioned below and it is just my personal perspective about the topic.

 

A little bit about the Purpose of the Atlassian Marketplace

This month we were asked to mention some Atlassian Apps (previously known as plugins or add-ons) that caused an impact in the use of the Atlassian products. However, to mention just one is really hard, so I wrote few of them on my response and I will address a couple in upcoming articles, but before jumping into the topic I would like to address the question from @Andy Barker - TWNKLS AR "Why your life sucks without Apps!". I am not sure I will meet his expectations but I will try and expand in the concept of using apps. 

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I will use as analogy the purchase of a vehicle. I am sure that before closing your purchase you did your due diligence about your needs and the car to acquire,  you probably got what you like and enough to fulfill your “initial” needs. As a matter of fact, you are happy with your selection process and final purchase.

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The car you purchased was good enough to fulfill your initial requirements. As your initial Atlassian Platform.

However, there is a moment when you discover additional needs, like you would like  to start using your bike or kayaks or tow your vacation trailer. Surely, those items were not part of the initial requirements and you don’t want to start a new selection process for a new car, on the contrary, the only objective here is to add just the accessories needed (tow hitch, electrical break, bike rack and roof rack),  enough to continue using your vehicle with valued added that will increase the Return On Investment (ROI).

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With few accessories you can maximize the Return on Investment. As with few apps from Marketplace

In other words, the Atlassian platform that you already have provides most of the features that you initially need, (as in your car), however, there are some of your specific aspects  that are no part of the main Atlassian Roadmap and probably low priority for the whole ecosystem. The good news is that those specific items are also the requirement of other users and some of them decided to develop an app to address them and therefore commercialize it to the rest of the ecosystem.

As consequence of the Atlassian openness, while they were developing a set of products, they were establishing a collaboration ecosystem, a platform that would embrace entrepreneurship and foster collaboration. I still remember my first years using Confluence and Jira (2009) and the meetings with some individuals developing exquisite apps (like @Roberto Dominguez [Comalatech]@Chris Kohlhardtfrom Gliffy,  @Tobias Anstett (K15t)and @Stefan Kleineikenscheidt [K15t]from K15t Software and @Igor Sereda [ALM Works]), today and thanks to the users’ community they have their own companies with a good number of members that are changing and empowering the whole Atlassian stack and the user experience.

So, my invitation to you when you think about apps for your platform and need to explain why they are required is to do the following:

  • Do not get discouraged and compare it with your daily life selection process.
  • Explain that, with a small investment, you will maximize the Return of your initial investment
  • Your users will fulfill their needs in one place without looking for workarounds affecting their productivity and performance. 

In this article I will provide some considerations based on my experience. To be fair, I need to mention that, because we were supporting an Open Source Electronic Health Records Community (www.vxvista.org), we were entitled to free community license for Atlassian products and Marketplace participants, it is a privileged position when you visit the marketplace, and at the same time an opportunity to explore new applications and apps. The marketplace to me was like a Theme Park.

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Here are some recommendations grouped by the phase in the process

Identifying the Business Need first:

  • Do not purchase an app because it looks promising, Think about your business need first, identify key stakeholders that will be involved on the evaluation and use of the proposed solution.
  • Perform a good research to support it and to provide hard data analyzing your current scenario and how that will change by adding a new app.
  • Consider the possibility of other users having the same business need or similar, that will help with your ROI analysis.
  • Research in the community to find out how other users addressed the same problem.
  • As soon as you get a request for a particular app, try to revert the request to be converted into a business need analysis (good requirements will facilitate the evaluation phase)

 

Evaluating alternative solutions

  • Explore if you could address the problem with the features that you already have (occasionally, additional training could save a lot of money… )
  • Test alternatives and evaluate "develop" or "buy" options, in house experts could easily solve the problem (if that is the route, please be sure it is well documented and that more than one expert is involved so you have back up support)
  • Do not underestimate the complexity of the solution, configuration and training could really impact the adoption and the total cost of ownership.
  • Always look for additional use of the app to maximize the Return on Investment (Article). Based on the license model (with few exceptions) any app purchased will have to match the platform number of users. So, despite the app will address the needs of few, try to evaluate in how you can extrapolate the use to other users as you are already paying for all of them.
  • Be aware of your configuration, Cloud, Data Center, Server. Number of users ,etc.. The marketplace offers filters to narrow your search.

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  • Evaluate the product documentation and the support services provided by the vendor. Contact the vendor to find out if they offer a jump start process to facilitate the initial configuration. Some vendors offer a couple of hours as part of their initial service.
  • Verify if there is any additional hardware needed to run the app, do not assume that all the app are plug and play. In some cases you will need additional servers, memory or other resources to maximize the use of the app. Of course, each one of those will increase the total cost of ownership.
  • Interact with local Atlassian User Group members and ask about it. You can contact the AUG leader and request this topic to be added to the agenda. (Marketplace participants are allowed to do presentations during AUG meetings but they need to be focused on functionalities and not in the commercial aspect of it. Besides, in an open presentation you have other AUG members as your allied on the evaluation process)
  • Take all the time needed to test it in your dev or stage environment, most of the marketplace participants offer full functionality trial license (Don’t be surprised if you find apps where they limited the time and some key functionalities, I don’t like that scenario because if we are going to trust them with the purchase of their product, they should trust us with all the functionalities for a short period of time for evaluation purposes. Of course, it is just my personal opinion). See FAQ 10 from Marketplace below.

FAQ 10. Can apps make my product slower?

Sometimes, yes. It's possible for an app to cause performance problems. For this reason, we recommend learning all you can about an app.

You can evaluate an app in a staging environment before deploying it in production. You can also use the customer reviews to learn what other users have to say. Visit the website of the app vendor and review any support materials they have.

If you suspect an app is causing a problem in your Atlassian product, try disabling the app to see if the problem goes away.

  • Be careful with the description of the app, sometimes there are different meaning for the same word, be sure that you test it based in your own context and not on the description of the vendor.
  • Involve other team members on the evaluation process and try to find, since the beginning, additional usage of the app to better justify the purchase.
  • Functionalities overlap among Atlassian products and apps could be a disappointment for users as they could get confused, try to identify them in an early stage and be sure it is clearly communicated to your team members. (evaluate the possibility of disabling the feature that overlaps and keep the best option for the users)
  • While you are searching for a solution to the problem, pay special attention to the marketplace classification and the level of risk that you are allowed to take. Parameters that could assist you during the selection process could be: Number of installs, other products developed by the same company, signature add ons (like the ones from @Bob Swift [Bob Swift Atlassian Add-ons] ), Trusted vendor seal, reviews, etc. On the other hand, if you have the amplitude, try to give a chance to the new ones as well as they are dedicating their entrepreneurial spirit on a new endeavor. (verify Marketplace FAQ for more information)

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FAQ 6. Can I trust third-party apps?

The Marketplace gives you visibility to see if an app is reliable. We provide resources like the following so you can make informed decisions about the apps you use.

From the app details page:

  • Look for the Top Vendor icon, which indicates that the app vendor meets Atlassian benchmarks for app traction, timely support, and vendor reliability.
  • Read reviews and ratings on the Marketplace.
  • Check the number of active installations to assess popularity.
  • Some of the apps vendors provide the light version, just enough to get some flavor and then the full version to go to the next level (Automation for Jira lite and full version could be an example of that)

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  • Be cautious with free apps as they could probably be just the gate to another product or platform that is not free. They are really good and the integration is wonderful, but your total cost of ownership will be impacted.
  • Open Source apps are great, however, check if the solution is supported or unsupported and of course, consider the risk level that you are able to take based on the support structure.
  • Don’t get too excited about solving all the problems with apps, you might end with a huge unstable platform that will be hard to be upgraded.
  • Avoid the "App Overdose", it could happen and you are going to get trapped in a hard to maintain platform, too many apps might delay your upgrade pace and in some cases get stuck for a while until one of the vendors decide to update their products. Healthy balance is recommended while you decide about your next step.

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The Marketplace is like a candy store, please avoid the "sugar" overdose and keep your instance of Atlassian products healthy.

Implementation and Adoption

  • You need to increase the level of internal documentation when using apps that allows you to develop scripts or empower some functionalities. It will help you with the resolution of business needs, but at the same time, if the solution is not well documented and the expert that did it is not longer with you, the happiness of the resolution could be turned into a real nightmare.
  • Be fair with the apps developer community and provide reviews and feedback so they can improve their offering. Other community members will really appreciate that.
  • Involve original stakeholders on the initial phase of the roll out being sure they are satisfied with the selected solution and champions of the apps selected.
  • As soon as it is up and running engage users and train them as needed so you can maximize the adoption rate. It is very common that users get discouraged when the app requires some additional effort. Despite of knowing that the new feature will facilitate their job in the long run, they could stay with old habits or way of doing business by using workaround or poorly designed processes turning down the desire of boosting their effectiveness. 
  • Assist the users and provide additional assistance, by identifying champions that master the app you could help with the generation of best practices and case studies.
  • Do not get discouraged with complex apps without measuring first where the impact will be. Some products are heavy on the configuration side, but really simple and low impact for the end user and the benefits and value added is priceless.  (Insight for Jira or EazyBI are good example of that, where the Admin could do the initial config and then the users get all the benefits with little effort)

Maintenance

  • Monitor the vendors release cadence and try to organize your upgrade process so you don’t get behind. Keep on eye on the versions gap to minimize the impact in your platform and users.
  • As soon as you upgrade the apps, run a comprehensive test and verify key pages or projects where those features were used to ensure they are behaving on the same way as on previous versions. It happens, what used to work is gone after the upgrade ;) Lesson Learned in the hard way.
  • Adverse reaction: Some apps don’t play well together and could cause conflict with other installed ones. So, when you do an upgrade, check the health of the overall platform and communicate to your team that they need to report ASAP any abnormal issues they might find during the use of the products.

Monitoring

  • Perform regular evaluation of the use of the app, being sure it is used as intended.
  • Identify and encourage one or more of your team members to be familiar with all the additional features added with additional apps, this will assist addressing other business needs by increasing the use of the functionalities instead of adding additional apps.
  • Do not measure the success of the app just by the number of users, some of them are for specific type of users. So. before deciding the removal of it, check if the original key stakeholders are still using it.
  • In the case you decide to remove or replace one of the apps, do a full research of the potential impact and implement a game plan for removal from pages where is used (Confluence) or projects (Jira).
  • To conclude and going back to the initial step: “the business need that trigger the purchase” you should always monitor the usage of the add-on for, at least, the initial team that requested the solution. If they are not using it (probably too hard to adopt it or use it), find out if there are any other team members using it. If you sadly discover that it is poorly use, encourage the team to revisit the business need and evaluate if the app should be disabled.
  • At the end, it is all about how your team can improve their performance and productivity, be alert and help them discovering what is available for them right now. Any help will be much appreciated by each one of your colleagues.image.png

 

Time to enjoy the treasure hunt...

Bottom line, be cautious, complete due diligence and take a good time, don’t rush the purchase without evaluating alternatives with what you already have. Trust your own experts and their workarounds to address similar business needs. Document any customization or app configuration. Have fun and enjoy the Atlassian Marketplace treasure hunt!

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BTW…

If you go to the Summit, contact the Marketplace vendors share your experiences and provide feedback. They want to be sure you have a good experience with their products , and if you get a good swag, enjoy it as well! (Don't mention to them that I told you about the swags , but they are very good, keep empty space in your luggage if you are attending to the Atlassian Summit!)

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Here is the Lucid backpack with us on the Palm Spring Tour, our first 51 miles bike ride. The goal that my wife and I had for this year ;). The bike rack and this swag were the perfect "app" for our ride. lol (BTW... I am not a professional rider and we are just discovering this amazing sport)

 

11 comments

What a post! The ‘complete guide about how to select apps’ is amazing Fabián. Thank you for sharing all the knowledge you‘ve acquired through ten  years, giving back tons of insights

Like # people like this

@Fabian A. Lopez -ACL -Mentor- - nice that you mentioned the good old days :)

Here is a continuation of this article, in this case using an App as example in how you can maximize your Return on Investment on a purchased app by looking for additional and alternative usage.

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@Fabian A. Lopez -ACL -Mentor- : YEAH ! ! ! This is exactly what I needed. 🤓👍💖


Great article. 🤘🥇 It's gone into the Bookmarks for safekeeping so I always have it as a reference.
I have been enjoy all of the Marketplace articles this month. ‼😎

A most successful community theme. It's really helped inspire us to think properly about why we need them and what value they deliver.

Case in point: two days ago my boss (CEO) said for the first time ever... "Oh... tell me more about that App!" and a moment directly influenced by the knowledge sharing on Community.

#BabySteps. #NeverGiveUp

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Amazing post @Fabian A. Lopez -ACL -Mentor-! I'll definitely quote it a couple of times in my future articles :)

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Great article, Fabian!

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@Fabian A. Lopez -ACL -Mentor-  Thanks for that deep overview article :) 

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What a great post! Thanks for sharing @Fabian A. Lopez -ACL -Mentor- and giving us Marketplace app Vendors some insight into the process from Business Case to Implementation - definitely helps us as App developers to develop empathy around the entire decision making process. 

@Teagan Harbridge  Thanks. I am glad it is useful. At the end, the most important aspect is the user experience and helping them finding the right fit is a good endeavor 

Good one! Thanks for writing and sharing this!

What a post !
I will use tit as my guidelines on "apps decision making"

We are lucky having you in the community!


Antonio

Like Guillermo Montoya likes this

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