mitch.pngI had an opportunity to speak with Mitchell Harper, Co-Founder and Product Manager at Interspire, the other day about their use of Atlassian tools. In just 8 months they purchased five of our tools and improved their development speed a whopping 30-40%! It goes without saying that it’s a story we needed to share.

Interspire at-a-glance

  • Founded: 2004
  • Number of employees: 35
  • Number of offices: 3
  • Number of customers: 40,000
  • Products used: JIRA, GreenHopper, Bamboo, Confluence & Crowd

    The Interview

    Tell me a little about your company. 

    We were founded in early 2004, initially building content management software (CMS) in PHP. We started with a model very similar to Atlassian based on perpetual licensing. Our customers install our software on their own servers and they can modify it because it’s open. After the CMS product, we built our Interspire Email Marketer product. After that we built a few more tools, including our most popular product, Shopping Cart, which has about 9,000 installs. Earlier this year, we released a SaaS version of the Shopping Cart called BigCommerce.com. We have about 40,000 customers worldwide.

    When did you start using Atlassian tools?

    We started using your tools around March of 2009, beginning with Bamboo and then moving onto the rest of the product suite over the next few months.

    Wow, that’s pretty fast adoption.

    We have fairly small and nimble teams so we don’t have the bureaucracy around making purchase decisions. We had a fast rollout period and we’re really happy with what the products have done for us.

    Why did you pick Atlassian?

    Initially, we went with Atlassian because you had a strong product offering, and as a Sydney-based company ourselves, we like supporting Australian companies. You guys just fit the bill.

    And you started with Bamboo?

    We were looking at CruiseControl, but it was pretty weak as far as its feature set. Being a software company ourselves we know you can sell on benefits but you can also sell on features. So, we downloaded a trial of Bamboo. We built about 65 scripts on our shopping cart product, tied them into Bamboo, and in about 2-3 weeks we could really see the results of our builds on Bamboo.

    With Bamboo, we could see when the builds were broken and who broke them, and they could be fixed in 10 minutes. Before Bamboo, we’d have no idea which commit broke the build, we’d have to look into Subversion, look at the commits, run some diffs – it was just too much effort. Bamboo cut that time from an hour or two a week and made it into 30 seconds.

    How did you move from Bamboo to the other products? 

    We were using Redmine internally as our bug tracker. It was your basic internal bug tracker and project management tool. In the last few months, however, we’ve really shifted to becoming transparent. We were getting a lot of requests to see roadmaps and what we’re working on, but it wasn’t something we could do easily with Redmine.

    So I had a look at JIRA and at what you guys are doing [on jira.atlassian.com]. I discovered we could have a public area where clients could see our product roadmaps and the issues we’re working on – all while keeping customers’ bug contributions private. That’s why we chose JIRA.

    We were able to import everything from Redmine. It took me two days with our lead engineers to learn JIRA, and they then trained their staff. Now it’s public at track.interspire.com and gets around 5,000 customers per day logging in and looking around. It gives us transparency so we can tell our customers that we’re working on something — they can now see progress as time gets logged against projects. Before, they didn’t believe us when we said we were working on something, and now they can see it for themselves!

    System Dashboard - Interspire Development Portal.jpg

    You’re also using GreenHopper, Crowd and Confluence. How did those tools get adopted?

    Initially, we saw GreenHopper and how it had been integrated with JIRA. That’s what got us on JIRA and GreenHopper. Then we purchased Crowd because we had also switched to Google Apps and we needed single sign-on across our internal systems and development tools. Once we had Crowd in place, we were looking to replace our intranet software. We had been running Ning, but it was too basic. We came across Confluence. Our sys admins pushed on myself and my co-founder to use it. We started taking our marketing and partner meeting notes in Confluence and then we got hooked. We decided to push that across divisions and groups; that’s pretty much how we began using most of the Atlassian tools.

    Why and how did you decide to move to agile development?

    The original idea was to move from an ad hoc development methodology to Scrum. We had Bamboo and then we decided to go agile. One of the reasons we’ve been able to grow so quickly is that we don’t have the hierarchy for decisions. We keep the company flat. We know how to make quick decisions in terms of the systems and make the move to agile. We’re not all the way there yet, we’re still feeling our way around Scrum.

    Just to give you an example, the last release of BigCommerce.com took us 3 months from having nothing to having it out the door. The release before that had a similar feature set and took us about 7 months. Of course we have better developers and better tools from release to release, but your products have slashed at least 30-40% off the release time.

    We’ve rolled out the Atlassian tools across two of our products and eventually we’ll roll them out across the others.

    Thanks for your time, Mitchell!