Extending tools with Atlassian Marketplace

The success story of our adoption of JIRA can be credited to the Atlassian marketplace.  We found that almost any problem or missing capability we experienced had already been solved by someone with a plugin from the Marketplace.   As a result, our adoption of the JIRA was greatly expedited based on our ability to add functionality team’s deemed critical to migrate.  We saw a 100% adoption rate in under 6 month with an addition of 1500 user who did not use the previous tracking systems.

Adding additional capabilities to your tools

The concept of Atlassian’s Universal Plugin Manager which allows plugins to be installed without restarting JIRA requires minimal support or admin effort allows teams to add and remove plugins for testing without needing additional support from the infrastructure teams. This helped to change the development culture and promote the concept of instance feedback.  We have seen the overall turnaround on new feature requests to occur in almost real time. 

Overall, Team’s ability to test new plugins and conduct POCs has been amazingly productive and resulted in our teams adopting a stewardship approach for managing tools opposed to a central ownership model previously used.   (As a best practice, we used a test instance to allow teams to add plugins and test their business cases prior to submission of the purchase request or being installed in production.)  

Advantages for allowing teams to request and install plugins:

  • Fast turnaround for POC
  • Reduced our admin staff to facilitate pilots
  • User voice for change

Disadvantages for allowing teams to request and install plugins:

  • End users typically do not understand scalability or impact of adding plugins to system performance
  • End user typically do not consider if a plugin is supported or not; Non-supported plugins can delay upgrades if they are not compatible with the new versions.
  • Can change how teams use JIRA
  •  Limited change control and oversight

Can there only be one plugin?

Today we have over 5000 users, (not counting our service desk customers) and 600+ projects. Our users represent a diverse spectrum of teams from all areas of the organization and ironically they all work differently from each other.  While I do not recommend installing plugins with duplicate functionality as the plugins can cause conflicts with each other, we do have scenarios where we have multiple plugins to solve the same problem. For example, our infrastructure and hardware teams have a more rigorous lifecycle and progresses and prefer BigPicture for Project management while some of our software development teams prefer Atlassian’s Portfolio.    

Paying for what you need

While the concept of an App Store or marketplace is not new, I have always loved Atlassian’s implementation as we find it to simplify the administration of the tools when purchasing, upgrading or renewing licenses.   The Single Source for purchasing and renewing 3rd party plugins has helped us avoid the vendor management nightmares often experienced in large enterprises.   Additionally, we found that the cost to have a complete ALM solution was dramatically lower than other solutions we evaluated since we could pay for only the capabilities needed.  Atlassian has accomplished this by keeping their tool focused on a smaller set of mainstream features and offering rich APIs and development platforms for less common use cases.

Just like a car, you want to test drive your plugins to make sure the marketing hype actually meets your organizational needs. The Marketplace provides a 30 free trail for any plugin. However, you should be selective regarding what to install.   Plugins may modify or extend your database footprint, configurations such as custom fields, and other changes. These changes may have impact on the performance of your system long after your trail has expired or the plugin removed.

Last, before you start installing dozens of plugins please be aware that not everything has been rosy with adding plugins to our instance, we have experienced a defect in one plugin causing issues with other plugins, business logic between two plugins creating circular references, and application failure cause by plugin.   It is highly recommend that you conduct all evaluations in test environment and only install a plugin in production if you are looking for an organization wide pilot or trail (after completing testing and evaluation in the test environment). Happy shopping!  

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