At many organizations, software developers get to have all the JIRA fun. Development and support teams use JIRA to track bugs, features, and tasks while non-technical teams are stuck trudging through an organizational swamp of to-do lists, spreadsheets, email client calendars, and other task management methods that lack JIRA’s powerful tracking, commenting, and collaborative features.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Sales, marketing, finance, legal, technical writers, business development, executives, and more can use JIRA for their day to day work.

In fact, at Atlassian, JIRA manages interactions between pretty much every team, from doc writers to designers. To illustrate how our non-technical teams use JIRA to collaborate, allow me to tell the story of the new Atlassian Marketplace Newsletter.

In the beginning

There was the Atlassian Marketplace. A single stop for over a thousand add-ons for JIRA, Confluence, and many other Atlassian products. It was (is) awesome. And it gets awesome-r every single day as talented developers and companies around the world contribute new free and commercial add-ons that solve problems and add features for our customers.

One of the challenges we faced was how to tell our customers about all the new add-ons that were coming into the Marketplace. So several smart Atlassians bumped their heads together and said “Ow!” And then they decided to introduce a Marketplace newsletter to highlight great add-ons in the Marketplace, give some love to the top-sellers, and feature new add-ons that had been contributed recently.

Step 1: A Confluence Page

With an idea as revolutionary as pretzel M&Ms, we took the logical first step and created a Confluence page. We used Confluence to document the goals and metrics for success of the newsletter, note who the audience was, and plan out the content we would include.

Step 1b: The First JIRA Issue

Simultaneously, Atlassian marketing guru Jon Silvers created MKT-5251 in the Marketing team project on one of our company JIRA instances, which was a ticket to do an initial mockup and brainstorm for the newsletter. Jon also used Balsamiq for JIRA to create a mockup for the email.

Using Balsamiq’s sweet plugin, I built off of this mockup and contributed my own. Jon admitted to having “mockup envy.”

We added some other examples of email newsletters for reference and discussed them in more detail in the comments.

Step 2: The Shortest Meeting Ever

When we had our first meeting about the email, we made decisions that could have take hours and instead made them in seconds. Because all of the issues regarding the design of the email, at least from the Marketing and Marketplace team’s perspective, had already been hashed out on the JIRA issue, much of the initial planning had taken place efficiently and effectively. The Confluence page served to guide the meeting–it reminded everyone of our purpose and goals and allowed us to quickly validate all of the decisions that had already been made. We embedded our final mockup on the page and the project had the stamp of approval from Marketplace product marketing, product management, email marketing, and the marketing team director.

On to design!

We were ready to hit the ground running with our mockup. In order to make our idea come to life, we needed help from one of Atlassian’s awesome designers. We took our mockup and created a new issue for our design team. We added some examples for context and including a description of the project in the issue to give the design team the context they needed.

As Jimmie, one of our designers said,

As a visual designer, getting the most out of my day is top priority and JIRA really has been the product that helps me do just that. When you’re working on numerous projects at once, communication can be as challenging as the project it self. JIRA has eliminated that problem 100%. No more carbon copies, endless email chains or lost attachments–JIRA lets me spend more time on creative and less time buried in emails.

Collaborating using JIRA issues eliminates many of the inefficiencies that frequently hover over interaction between marketers and designers. JIRA cut through much of the back and forth that typically bogs down the design process. Communication and interactions were centralized in one place – no more confusing email chain, and everyone knows the project status.

The Result

Collaborating over JIRA allowed Marketplace product marketing (me), Jimmie (our designer), and Kevin (our email marketing manager) to nail our design. But we weren’t done yet. Kevin still had to set up Jimmie’s design in ExactTarget, our email program, and run test sends. I still had to aggregate all the new add-ons, write the text, and define links for all the buttons.

Yet another Confluence page

I created a new Confluence page as a child page of the main project overview. I added the icons, names, links, and text that were to be included in the email. Confluence helped keep this page in context with the rest of the project, and allowed other members of the Marketplace team to check which add-ons were to be included and look for errors. Once I was done, I shared it with Kevin. And now we’ll have an easy to find resource for what we used last time as a starting point for our next email!

And one more JIRA issue

After the original mockup issue and the design teams issue, we created one more JIRA issue in our Marketing project to manage the email send. Jimmie attached the final design and Kevin and I fine-tuned the email through multiple test sends in the comments. Having one comment thread for the issue kept everyone who was interested in the project on the same page. One channel of communication eliminated many of the redundancies if everyone had send Kevin feedback separately. Using a JIRA issue allowed us to have our discussion in context.

Once we had our final email ready to send, we continued to track the progress of the email after we sent it to the first batch of 8,000 customers, then the remaining 80,000 customers. Our IT staff could watch the issue to know when the email was going to go out so they could be prepared for a traffic spike. They even added our splunk logs to the issue to document the traffic.

With just a few Confluence pages and JIRA issues (all linked together of course), 7 Atlassians from 4 different teams were able to collaborate efficiently and deliver akiller email newsletter to 88,000 customers, producing the largest traffic day ever for the Atlassian Marketplace and big spikes in evaluations for the add-ons we featured.

Conclusion

If you’re considering promoting the adoption of JIRA and Confluence by your non-technical teams, remember these three things

  1. Even though it’s named after a monster, JIRA isn’t scary. JIRA isn’t too complex for marketers and designers to coordinate tasks and projects, attach mockups and images, and collaborate with comments and @mentions.
  2. JIRA and Confluence work better together. Bouncing between JIRA issues and Confluence pages is easy when issues are embedded and pages are linked to from the issues.
  3. Good collaboration depends on everyone relying on the same source of truth–if you’re using JIRA and Confluence to collaborate, don’t allow yourself to fall prey to bad habits and get stuck with a case of D.E.F.

Interested in learning about more cool add-ons every two months from the Marketplace team? Make sure you’re subscribed to the “Special Offers” list in the Communications Centre on My.Atlassian.com

P.S.

Of course, this isn’t the end of the story. After we sent out the email, we created a Confluence page to collect, visualize, and discuss the results. We included Google Analytics and Marketplace evaluation data, as well as click data from the email itself. It was a good opportunity for those of us who had worked on the project to reflect and get input from executives.

If you’re interested in learning more about using Confluence for collaboration, check out this webinar from our Confluence team on Collaboration Best Practices.