Enterprise

Why Atlassian is a wild card in Microsoft and Salesforce's bid to own workplace collaboration

The company is in the midst of a difficult cloud transition. But co-CEO Mike Cannon-Brookes has a plan to win.

​Atlassian co-founder and co-CEO Mike Cannon-Brookes.

Atlassian co-founder and co-CEO Mike Cannon-Brookes is leading the company's transition.

Photo: Atlassian

Atlassian has increasingly been sandwiched between two sides of the software industry: application providers that target specific job functions and platform providers that aim to support broad collaboration within an enterprise.

Now, it's wading deeper into the latter, which means taking on Microsoft and Salesforce even more directly. Its latest product releases expand its offerings outside the world of IT and begin to bring together its disparate application suite into a common dashboard.

Among the announcements the company is making at its Team 2021 conference that kicks off on Wednesday is the launch of Jira Work Management, which takes Atlassian's popular service for developers and expands it to HR, finance and other departments. It's also announcing Team Central, a repository of sorts for employees to check items like project statuses and weekly team priorities.

Combined, it's a bid to facilitate deeper interdepartmental collaboration, which is effectively what Teams and Slack are trying to own. The difference, according to co-CEO Mike Cannon-Brookes, is that those two companies will only serve as the entry point to get to the deeper work that occurs on apps like those Atlassian sells.

"These are connection applications. They're a signal that things can move through and you can do slightly more things in them," he told Protocol. "But the idea that your world of work is going to change from a browser to Slack" or Teams isn't true, Cannon-Brookes added.

It's a reflection of the next stage of the battle over collaboration software. As Microsoft and Slack angle to keep users on their respective messaging services as much as possible, application providers like Atlassian are increasingly adding native features that promise to draw users away.

But in Atlassian's case, the company has had both organizations in its sights for years. Some products are very similar. Atlassian, for example, acquired data visualization firm Chartio in February, a deal that positions the company to offer something akin to Microsoft's productivity graphs.

There's also the backdrop of Atlassian trying, and failing, to build its own messaging service with HipChat and Stride, which ended with Atlassian selling those services to Slack in exchange for a stake in the company. It's unclear how that relationship might change as Salesforce, which has some applications that compete with Atlassian's, prepares to absorb Slack.

Even Atlassian's motto — to "unleash the potential of every team" — is a hop, skip and a jump away from Microsoft's recent ad campaign.

For now, Atlassian continues to rely on Teams and Slack as key ways to reach customers. Its new conversational ticketing system it acquired last year, Halp, is built for both. And it's taking a similar approach to both Slack and Microsoft by making integration a priority, a key feature for the future as the number of application providers explodes.

"With the SaaS landscape as it is, we are all going to need to learn a lot more about integration than we ever have," said Cannon-Brookes.

Cloud transition

Part of that is due to Atlassian needing to focus on overcoming its own internal struggles. Despite a blockbuster year and a rosy outlook — the company saw sales increase 33% to $1.6 billion last year, and plans to hire 1,000 workers — Atlassian faces the difficult task that other legacy application vendors are also grappling with: how to move customers quickly to the cloud.

"Our largest investment right now is making sure we can handle all of our customers in the cloud," Chief Revenue Officer Cameron Deatsch told Protocol.

It's a journey that Cannon-Brookes recognizes will take multiple years. While Atlassian has made progress in navigating that challenge, it hit a stumbling block in its most recent quarter. Revenue in the three months through March is now expected to hit as high as $572 million, better than the company previously outlined. But a portion of that surge was due to a sharp increase in sales of on-premise licenses, a phenomenon that Cannon-Brookes attributes to the rush among users to purchase before a looming price increase and the elimination of some on-premise versions of its software.

"It's not a concern," he said. "We understand this transition is not going to be linear."

To support that transition, Atlassian spent years rearchitecting many of its products to one common, cloud-based platform supported by AWS, a move that Cannon-Brookes says enabled the company to more quickly develop new products.

A 'Soho house for techies': VCs place a bet on community

Contrary is the latest venture firm to experiment with building community spaces instead of offices.

Contrary NYC is meant to re-create being part of a members-only club where engineers and entrepreneurs can hang out together, have a space to work, and host events for people in tech.

Photo: Courtesy of Contrary

In the pre-pandemic times, Contrary’s network of venture scouts, founders, and top technologists reflected the magnetic pull Silicon Valley had on the tech industry. About 80% were based in the Bay Area, with a smattering living elsewhere. Today, when Contrary asked where people in its network were living, the split had changed with 40% in the Bay Area and another 40% living in or planning to move to New York.

It’s totally bifurcated now, said Contrary’s founder Eric Tarczynski.

Keep Reading Show less
Biz Carson

Biz Carson ( @bizcarson) is a San Francisco-based reporter at Protocol, covering Silicon Valley with a focus on startups and venture capital. Previously, she reported for Forbes and was co-editor of Forbes Next Billion-Dollar Startups list. Before that, she worked for Business Insider, Gigaom, and Wired and started her career as a newspaper designer for Gannett.

Sponsored Content

Great products are built on strong patents

Experts say robust intellectual property protection is essential to ensure the long-term R&D required to innovate and maintain America's technology leadership.

Every great tech product that you rely on each day, from the smartphone in your pocket to your music streaming service and navigational system in the car, shares one important thing: part of its innovative design is protected by intellectual property (IP) laws.

From 5G to artificial intelligence, IP protection offers a powerful incentive for researchers to create ground-breaking products, and governmental leaders say its protection is an essential part of maintaining US technology leadership. To quote Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo: "intellectual property protection is vital for American innovation and entrepreneurship.”

Keep Reading Show less
James Daly
James Daly has a deep knowledge of creating brand voice identity, including understanding various audiences and targeting messaging accordingly. He enjoys commissioning, editing, writing, and business development, particularly in launching new ventures and building passionate audiences. Daly has led teams large and small to multiple awards and quantifiable success through a strategy built on teamwork, passion, fact-checking, intelligence, analytics, and audience growth while meeting budget goals and production deadlines in fast-paced environments. Daly is the Editorial Director of 2030 Media and a contributor at Wired.
Fintech

Binance CEO wrestles with the 'Chinese company' label

Changpeng "CZ" Zhao, who leads crypto’s largest marketplace, is pushing back on attempts to link Binance to Beijing.

Despite Binance having to abandon its country of origin shortly after its founding, critics have portrayed the exchange as a tool of the Chinese government.

Photo: Akio Kon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

In crypto, he is known simply as CZ, head of one of the industry’s most dominant players.

It took only five years for Binance CEO and co-founder Changpeng Zhao to build his company, which launched in 2017, into the world’s biggest crypto exchange, with 90 million customers and roughly $76 billion in daily trading volume, outpacing the U.S. crypto powerhouse Coinbase.

Keep Reading Show less
Benjamin Pimentel

Benjamin Pimentel ( @benpimentel) covers crypto and fintech from San Francisco. He has reported on many of the biggest tech stories over the past 20 years for the San Francisco Chronicle, Dow Jones MarketWatch and Business Insider, from the dot-com crash, the rise of cloud computing, social networking and AI to the impact of the Great Recession and the COVID crisis on Silicon Valley and beyond. He can be reached at bpimentel@protocol.com or via Google Voice at (925) 307-9342.

Enterprise

How I decided to leave the US and pursue a tech career in Europe

Melissa Di Donato moved to Europe to broaden her technology experience with a different market perspective. She planned to stay two years. Seventeen years later, she remains in London as CEO of Suse.

“It was a hard go for me in the beginning. I was entering inside of a company that had been very traditional in a sense.”

Photo: Suse

Click banner image for more How I decided seriesA native New Yorker, Melissa Di Donato made a life-changing decision back in 2005 when she packed up for Europe to further her career in technology. Then with IBM, she made London her new home base.

Today, Di Donato is CEO of Germany’s Suse, now a 30-year-old, open-source enterprise software company that specializes in Linux operating systems, container management, storage, and edge computing. As the company’s first female leader, she has led Suse through the coronavirus pandemic, a 2021 IPO on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange, and the acquisitions of Kubernetes management startup Rancher Labs and container security company NeuVector.

Keep Reading Show less
Donna Goodison

Donna Goodison (@dgoodison) is Protocol's senior reporter focusing on enterprise infrastructure technology, from the 'Big 3' cloud computing providers to data centers. She previously covered the public cloud at CRN after 15 years as a business reporter for the Boston Herald. Based in Massachusetts, she also has worked as a Boston Globe freelancer, business reporter at the Boston Business Journal and real estate reporter at Banker & Tradesman after toiling at weekly newspapers.

Enterprise

UiPath had a rocky few years. Rob Enslin wants to turn it around.

Protocol caught up with Enslin, named earlier this year as UiPath’s co-CEO, to discuss why he left Google Cloud, the untapped potential of robotic-process automation, and how he plans to lead alongside founder Daniel Dines.

Rob Enslin, UiPath's co-CEO, chats with Protocol about the company's future.

Photo: UiPath

UiPath has had a shaky history.

The company, which helps companies automate business processes, went public in 2021 at a valuation of more than $30 billion, but now the company’s market capitalization is only around $7 billion. To add insult to injury, UiPath laid off 5% of its staff in June and then lowered its full-year guidance for fiscal year 2023 just months later, tanking its stock by 15%.

Keep Reading Show less
Aisha Counts

Aisha Counts (@aishacounts) is a reporter at Protocol covering enterprise software. Formerly, she was a management consultant for EY. She's based in Los Angeles and can be reached at acounts@protocol.com.

Latest Stories
Bulletins