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Protocol | 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.

Protocol | Enterprise

Alphabet goes deep into industrial robotic software with Intrinsic

If it succeeds, the gambit could help support Google Cloud's lofty ambitions in the manufacturing sector.

Alphabet is aiming to make advanced robotic technology affordable to customers.

Photo: Getty Images

Alphabet launched a new division Friday called Intrinsic, which will focus on building software for industrial robots, per a blog post. The move plunges the tech giant deeper into a sector that's in the midst of a major wave of digitization.

The goal of Intrinsic is to "give industrial robots the ability to sense, learn, and automatically make adjustments as they're completing tasks, so they work in a wider range of settings and applications," CEO Wendy Tan-White wrote in the post.

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Joe Williams

Joe Williams is a senior reporter at Protocol covering enterprise software, including industry giants like Salesforce, Microsoft, IBM and Oracle. He previously covered emerging technology for Business Insider. Joe can be reached at JWilliams@Protocol.com. To share information confidentially, he can also be contacted on a non-work device via Signal (+1-309-265-6120) or JPW53189@protonmail.com.

As President of Alibaba Group, I am often asked, "What is Alibaba doing in the U.S.?"

In fact, most people are not aware we have a business in the U.S. because we are not a U.S. consumer-facing service that people use every day – nor do we want to be. Our consumers – nearly 900 million of them – are located in China.

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J. Michael Evans
Michael Evans leads and executes Alibaba Group's international strategy for globalizing the company and expanding its businesses outside of China.
People

To combat disinformation, centralize moderation

There's more to content moderation than deplatforming.

In addition to interplatform collaboration, big tech companies would also benefit from greater collaborations with academic researchers, government agencies or other private entities, the authors argue.

Image: Twitter

Yonatan Lupu is an associate professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University. Nicolás Velasquez Hernandez is a lecturer at the Elliott School of International Affairs and a postdoctoral researcher at GW's Institute for Data, Democracy and Politics.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' signing of a bill that penalizes social media companies for deplatforming politicians was yet another salvo in an escalating struggle over the growth and spread of digital disinformation, malicious content and extremist ideology. While Big Tech, world leaders and policymakers — along with many of us in the research community — all recognize the importance of mitigating online and offline harm, agreement on how best to do that is few and far between.

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Protocol | Fintech

Marqeta turns to a fintech outsider

Randy Kern, a Salesforce and Microsoft veteran, is taking a plunge into the payments world.

Randy Kern is joining Marqeta after decades at Microsoft and Salesforce.

Photo: Marqeta

Marqeta has just named a new chief technology officer. And it's an eyebrow-raising choice for a critical post as the payments powerhouse faces new challenges as a public company.

Randy Kern, who joined Marqeta last month, is a tech veteran with decades of engineering and leadership experience, mainly in enterprise software. He worked on Microsoft's Azure and Bing technologies, and then went on to Salesforce where he last served as chief customer technology officer.

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Benjamin Pimentel

Benjamin Pimentel ( @benpimentel) covers 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 Signal at (510)731-8429.

Protocol | Policy

What can’t Jonathan Kanter do?

Biden's nominee to lead the DOJ's antitrust section may face calls to remove himself from issues as weighty as cracking down on Google and Apple.

DOJ antitrust nominee Jonathan Kanter's work as a corporate lawyer may require him to recuse himself from certain cases.

Photo: New America/Flickr

Jonathan Kanter, President Joe Biden's nominee to run the Justice Department's antitrust division, has been a favorite of progressives, competitors to Big Tech companies and even some Republicans due to his longtime criticism of companies like Google.

But his prior work as a corporate lawyer going after tech giants may require him to recuse himself from some of the DOJ's marquee investigations and cases, including those involving Google and Apple.

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Ben Brody

Ben Brody (@ BenBrodyDC) is a senior reporter at Protocol focusing on how Congress, courts and agencies affect the online world we live in. He formerly covered tech policy and lobbying (including antitrust, Section 230 and privacy) at Bloomberg News, where he previously reported on the influence industry, government ethics and the 2016 presidential election. Before that, Ben covered business news at CNNMoney and AdAge, and all manner of stories in and around New York. He still loves appearing on the New York news radio he grew up with.

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