The Challenge Atlas: Managing with Atlassian

The Challenge Atlas: Managing with Atlassian
Is it true that as a company grows, the assessment of its organizational culture declines? Can we prevent this? How can technology positively impact relationships within a team? That’s Hanna Dziubińska-Kopka talked about with Artur Kozaryn, Atlassian Business Solutions Consulting Team Leader at Hicron.
You will find a transcript of the conversation below.

Date: 18.10.2023

Interviewees: Hanna Dziubińska-Kopka and Artur Kozaryn

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Transcription: Summary

Read the entire conversation or click on the selected topic and go to the issue you are interested in.

Connection Atlassian products with SAP solutions.

Hanka Dziubińska-Kopka: Artur, we have already met once in the HiTalks studio. We talked about the introduction of Atlassian products to Hicron’s portfolio. Tell me, after one year, how popular Atlassian products are at Hicron and whether this Hicron-specific combination of Atlassian products with SAP solutions... Is this really an interesting value on the market?

Artur Kozaryn: Yes, we talked a year ago, and from that perspective, as an organization, we know it was a very good move. Clients are looking for stable, familiar partners. We have long proven this partnership – that we are a company that supports its clients – by being a well-known partner of SAP. You are asking about the portfolio – there is indeed interest on the market, there is also a lot going on in the Atlassian world, so clients are looking for partners to guide them through the migration process, the implementation process, and the configuration of new products.
. This combination with SAP is also very interesting, because it is absolutely possible. Some may not be aware of this. We are now working internally on a new application that we want to make available to our clients, which will help integrate the JIRA system with SAP. Very often, the SAP system is the last place for controlling and billing in an organization, and the data from JIRA is a very important piece of the puzzle. We want to make it possible to transfer some of the information from JIRA directly into SAP in a simple, user-friendly way.
Example – employees use JIRA to report their working hours. Of course, this is just one part of a whole range of functionalities that JIRA can be used for. We want these working hours to show up directly in SAP, without any additional effort on the part of the user, so that these systems talk to each other, so that the same information is always present in these systems on both sides. I think there will be more information on that soon.

Hanka Dziubińska-Kopka: In other words, as few clicks as possible, that’s what we strive for.

Artur Kozaryn: Yes, of course.
Challenges inside the company in project managers eyes
Hanka Dziubińska-Kopka: When preparing for this talk, I tried to find reports concerning project challenges. And I found something very interesting, a report called “What’s Eating the PM?”, prepared by Zero Bullshit Management. The data for the latest version of the report will be collected until the end of 2023, but we can use the data from the previous report for the purpose of our conversation. In the area of internal challenges, PMs cited issues such as communication, management board and boss, lack of common goals, prioritization, and lack of knowledge and skills. These are very general points, but tell me, are they in line with what you hear from clients every day? Are these the areas that companies want to work on?

Artur Kozaryn: They are in line, and communication is certainly the element that comes up most often in these types of reports. When something changes in an organization, we introduce a new product, we change a process, people want to be informed about what is changing and how it will directly affect their work. The report itself says that. Lack of information causes frustration not only for PMs, but also for the entire workforce, whether they are involved in the project or, more generally, will eventually be affected by the change. We must never forget about this communication. It must always start at the beginning, so that people know what to expect and when. So, building a good communication plan, very often with teams responsible for internal communication in organizations, is certainly one of the points that can offset this negative effect of lack of communication, for example, throughout the project or throughout the life cycle or development of a product. We mentioned the boss and the management. Clients often talk about it too. That is, they don’t feel the commitment of their bosses, their management, to the project or to the product they have to deliver. That’s changing, and I’m very curious to see how it’s going to be reflected in this year’s edition of this report, because I’m seeing more and more situations where it’s the board members or the bosses who are getting involved in projects, getting involved in communication, so that communication is actually coming from the very top. You also cannot forget about the goal. An organization needs to know what it is striving for, and its employees need to know what the organization’s goal is.
Communication and prioritization
Artur Kozaryn: This helps them better understand where some changes are coming from. Whether they are the result of regulatory changes or someone having an idea that may simply improve the organization’s operations. So we keep coming back to communication. Without communication, people will not understand where this goal really comes from. Prioritization also has an impact on this, because if we have some tasks... we do some work or projects in parallel – again, without communication, we will not prioritize these activities. We won’t know when an element needs to end or whether one element affects another. It seems to me that communication was at the top of the list for a reason, and Atlassian tools can certainly help with that communication.
Confluence as support for change management
Hanka Dziubińska-Kopka: We’ll get back to Atlassian tools and communication in a moment, but I want to emphasize here that I often talk to IT experts who argue that implementing a tool is not the same as implementing a solution – that the tool needs to be followed by change management, preparing people for it, and so on. Tell me, do Atlassian tools help with this communication and preparing people for the changes that are coming?

Artur Kozaryn: I think the best tool to support communication is Confluence, which is one of the best known products in Atlassian’s portfolio, along with JIRA. It has been supporting clients around the world for nearly 20 years. Confluence is a workspace, an internal knowledge base, a place to store documents, an internal or external Wikipedia of a given organization. It allows you to post articles, links, knowledge bases, and instructions. You can create blogs to share specific information with users. Any change in Confluence can alert the right people that a new article has appeared or that there has been a new update to a particular piece of information. Again, a properly configured tool is very important for the creators, because it shows how often people are viewing these materials and which materials are the most popular. So using Confluence as a tool to support change management is certainly very, very useful, for example, to publish instructions for a new process to the entire organization or guidelines on how to use a new product that is coming into the organization. It’s the last place that’s always up to date, and if something changes in the meantime, that’s where people in the organization will find the most up-to-date version of how they’re supposed to use a given element.
Flagship products from the Atlassian portfolio
Hanka Dziubińska-Kopka: So maybe we should start by putting it all together, because we discussed Atlassian products... you already talked about Jira and Confluence. What other products are in this portfolio and maybe which ones are the most popular?

Artur Kozaryn: We actually have a lot of products. They support the work of developers, support the work of project teams. I would list three flagship products here. The first one is Confluence, which we have already talked about. The second product is JIRA Software, which supports the work of project teams, solution delivery teams. And the third is JIRA Service Management, which supports product maintenance, so working on two JIRA systems is a natural element in some organizations. The first one is typically used for product implementation, for project works, and the second one for maintenance works, contact with clients and recipients, so here we are talking about JIRA Service Management.
Challenges in working with clients in project managers eyes
Hanka Dziubińska-Kopka: Well, let’s stop and focus on working with clients, because we discussed the challenges of PMs within organizations, but the report also talks about the challenges of working with clients, and there PMs mentioned issues such as changes introduced during projects, understanding the client’s needs, lack of client involvement and decision-making power, and unrealistic client requirements. Can Atlassian products help with these issues? Or do they function more internally?

Artur Kozaryn: They are for internal and external use, and in fact we, as the people who use them or provide the product, can decide what content is visible to the client, what content we collaborate on, for example, and what content is typically internal – again, to ensure proper communication. So I think the answer to all of these points again is communication, communication, and communication.
There are certainly a lot of myths about working with clients, and let the one who has never said a bad word about a client cast the first stone. This often comes down to the beginning of the project when we work with the client to determine what needs to be delivered and how we can deliver what the client wants. Because let’s not forget that in the IT world, while nothing is theoretically impossible, in practice it sometimes turns out that not all of these things will work the way the client wants them to or simply be effective. So creating this concept at the beginning, understanding the needs of this client, writing it down, putting it in Confluence, showing it to the client – yes, this is the version we have been working on, here we have all the assumptions – is definitely going to be a very big addition at the beginning, which will certainly eliminate and mitigate the things that might come up later in the life of this project.
Jira as support in decision-making
Artur Kozaryn: We can also solve the lack of decision-making power with JIRA, by implement an acceptance process for a given functionality or an acceptance process for what actually needs to be changed in this system or what can be configured. So we can definitely use the full range of capabilities of these two products to make sure that such a project is well communicated from the beginning, well organized, and also so that everyone knows who is responsible and what needs to happen at what point.
Implementation of Atlassian products
Hanka Dziubińska-Kopka: We talk about how these Atlassian products, such as JIRA and Confluence, help implement various projects. And what does the implementation of these products look like? How do we guide the client through the implementation path?

Artur Kozaryn: : I’m smiling because I’m going to talk about communication again, because we’re actually starting to talk to the client. What do they need? We need to know which product to choose for them. When we talk about JIRA, whether it’s going to be JIRA more for project work or JIRA for maintenance work. On the surface it would seem that this is JIRA and this is JIRA, but that’s not quite the case. So here we really start with the basics. Then we talk about the client’s needs in terms of what they want to use, or what limitations the organization places on them in terms of how they want the system to work. For example, will it be in the cloud or on the client’s servers? This is also important because Atlassian products work differently and offer different configuration options depending on how the product is hosted. Then we build a concept with the client, and this may seem counterintuitive, but this is the longest and most fruitful part of working with the client, because this is where we determine what processes the client wants to include in the tool, how they want to use those processes, what they want to happen when they are using it. We determine if the client needs post-implementation support and to what extent they will manage the product on their own. We can also provide not only the implementation, but also the maintenance of the solution that we have delivered to the client.
So there really is a lot of work at this conceptual stage to determine what the client needs, whether the Atlassian products alone are sufficient as a base, whether we need to include other known third-party solutions, or whether we need to build our own custom solutions.
Atlassian products and lockdown
Hanka Dziubińska-Kopka: Atlassian products are often associated, by both companies and individual users, with the lockdown period. It was a boom for these types of solutions. Tell me what it looks like now. What’s the main focus in developing these tools?

Artur Kozaryn: : Lockdown and Covid are both topics that have been discussed a lot, just like the fact that Atlassian tools were very helpful in this Covid situation. The report that we are talking about for a reason lists Jira as one of the tools that support the work of PMs or project teams. First of all, JIRA and Confluence give you the ability to work remotely – from anywhere in the world, for any number of users – so they really support communication.
Live preview for the client and the design team
Artur Kozaryn: . We are talking about Jira all the time, so maybe I will talk a little bit more about that tool, because it has actually been around for more than 20 years, along with Confluence, and it supports processes, mostly implementations. Simply put, JIRA allows you to break down an entire project, or an entire implementation of a process, into small components. It allows you to assign a responsible person to each of these components, choose when this part of the process is to be completed, what impact it has on other people, who is involved in the implementation, who needs support, what it looks like from the management point of view. This means that the PM sees on an ongoing basis which tasks have been completed and which tasks need to be completed. The client has the same preview, so they do not have to ask the PM: “Hello, is task X done yet?” The client also sees that from their point of view. All consultants also see that. So the frustration of the PMs and sometimes the frustration of the client, the project team, can be quickly eliminated with this JIRA Software, precisely because everyone can see in real time what is going on at any given moment with any given project cycle. JIRA also provides ad hoc reporting capabilities, such as how many requests were created recently and how many of those requests were resolved. The functionality is actually very broad, and all of these elements simply allow you to see what is happening in a given project in real time.
So, without a doubt, whether it was after the lockdown or during the lockdown, these were the tools that greatly aided communication and eliminated the lack of information or the inability to meet face-to-face and talk, even in the proverbial hallway – “Hey, what’s the status of your task?”.
Restricting access to data
Hanka Dziubińska-Kopka:This gives many people access to the same knowledge at the same time. But I suspect that this access can also be regulated.

Artur Kozaryn: Of course. In a system of this class, it is possible to introduce access restrictions. This means that we, as creators, choose who has access to a particular request in Jira or page in Confluence, who can edit it, who has access to the entire space, who has access to what specific content, and what content they can share with other employees.
When a company grows, does the assessment of its organizational culture decrease?
Hanka Dziubińska-Kopka: : In this report, I was very interested in one of the conclusions from the correlation matrix, and this is a controversial question that I asked at the very beginning of our conversation – is it true that as a company grows, the assessment of its organizational culture declines? Because this correlation appeared in the report. Tell me, can Atlassian solutions somehow prevent this?

Artur Kozaryn:: The report shows this, so I am curious to see what the new version of the report says, where we are already after the lockdown, richer with the experience of remote work. Company atmosphere or organizational culture are actually very complex concepts.
For me, one of the most important elements of organizational culture is communication. And I hope that I proved in the earlier part of this conversation that communication is important, but we also have tools that we can use to improve that communication inside and outside the organization. So, in my opinion, the tools from the Atlassian family can improve organizational culture by supporting one of the key elements of any organization, which is communication. However, I think that organizational culture as a whole is a topic for a separate conversation.
Who are Atlassian products for?
Hanka Dziubińska-Kopka: Of course. And tell me, where do the requests for Atlassian products that Hicron receives come from? Are these large organizations that can face such a negative assessment of their organizational culture, or are these also smaller companies?

Artur Kozaryn:It really depends on what the client wants to use JIRA or Confluence for. I don’t think I can categorize these clients and say there are more of these or those. These requests are really different in terms of what the client expects, what tools they need, whether it is tools that simply support the solution standard, because that is the case all over the world, the client simply works in the Scrum methodology, for example. Or maybe it is an internal methodology that has been developed in the organization for several years and is a living part of the organization that simply needs to be incorporated into a tool. However, I can say without a doubt that a large part of those interested are our clients, people to whom we have already proven that we are a reliable partner in every situation, both before and after the pandemic.

Hanka Dziubińska-Kopka:So our clients who want to expand their portfolio often come back to Hicron.

Artur Kozaryn:Exactly.
What convinces companies to implement Atlassian products?
Hanka Dziubińska-Kopka: And tell me, what challenges are they facing, if you had to give me three examples – what makes them want to reach for solutions from the Atlassian portfolio?

Artur Kozaryn: First of all, access to information is probably the most important thing. And this most often comes up in inquiries about Confluence because, as I said, Confluence is most often used in organizations as an internal Wikipedia. Very often internal departments use them as guides for employees, organizing the beginning of their work, telling them what to do, what to learn, what to remember in these first days of work. These are also very often systems that support the work of teams already during the life of a project. This is where employees can find documentation, for example, all the information about projects and products that particular clients have in their portfolio.
However, when it comes to JIRA, clients most often decide to implement this type of solutions to have insight into processes, to have insight into the status of individual tasks, the status of individual product implementations for specific clients to help them better cooperate with the people they work with, and above all, to facilitate the work of employees. Because, as I said earlier, JIRA simply gives you current insight into everything that is happening in a given organization.

Hanka Dziubińska-Kopka: Well, this is probably a very nice summary of this conversation, that we are implementing these products to facilitate the work of employees...

Artur Kozaryn:And make it more productive.

Hanka Dziubińska-Kopka: Of course, thank you very much for the interview. And to you, ladies and gentlemen, we wish that this is indeed the case, and that your work becomes even more convenient and effective. And, as Artur pointed out, let’s not forget to communicate. Thank you and remember to join us for the next HiTalks interview.

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