17 min read

The Journey to SSO, Part V: Onboarding and Offboarding Contractors automatically with SAML Single Sign On

By resolution on Apr 7, 2021 9:45:00 AM

Blogpost-display-image_Resolution Blog Series, Pt. 5Praecipio Consulting has partnered with our friends at resolutionan Atlassian Gold Marketplace Partner based in Germany that specializes in software development and network security, to bring you a series of blog posts about how to successfully implement single sign-on (SSO) with Atlassian tools. With more than 7 million users from 58 countries, resolution is the market leader for Atlassian Enterprise User Management Apps.

In the last article of these series on the journey to Atlassian SSO, we followed the steps of ACME, a company with large instances of Jira and Confluence on prem, planning a migration from AD FS to Azure AD.  

In particular, we had a detailed look at: 

  • How users from the Atlassian directories can be seamlessly migrated into Azure AD building a no code integration with User Sync 
  • How users can be mapped between Azure AD and the Atlassian applications even if usernames don’t match 
  • How to connect users from different organizations (ACME and CU.com, a consultancy firm) each with its own Identity Providers, both for authentication and provisioning purposes. 

In order to complete the setup, however, ACME needs to add some restrictions to CU.com users to answer the following questions:  

  • Who at CU.com must have accounts in ACME’s Jira and Confluence? 
  • How long should access be retained? 
  • How should access be revoked? 

Let’s look at how to automate the process for onboarding and offboarding consultants so that these are the answers: 

  • Who should have accounts? Only contractors assigned to active projects. 
  • How long should access be retained? Only for as long as the project is active. 
  • How should access be revoked? Automatically, as soon as the project concludes. 

How to provision only contractors assigned to active projects 

Let’s quickly recap what ACME needs to set up: 

Challenges 

  • Access to ACME’s Atlassian tools should only be granted to consultants who have been assigned to specific projects 
  • Consultants have a quick turnaround. It’s important to give them access quickly and deactivate them as soon as their assignments conclude. 
  • It’s also vital to ensure that consultants only occupy licenses of the Atlassian products while they´re on an active assignment. 

Implementation steps 

The approach has four steps 

  1. The group that gives consultants access will be operated from Contractor’s Okta and filtered in ACME’s User Sync connector. 
  2. Specific project permissions and roles in the Atlassian applications will be managed locally.  This has important implications, as the Okta and local group settings must coexist and not overwrite each other. 
  3. The synchronization between Okta and ACME will be scheduled to run every night (but users will also be updated when they login, eliminating waiting times entirely). 
  4. As a result of the synchronization, consultants who no longer are on active assignments will have both their access and their licenses revoked. 

Here’s the walkthrough: 

1. In the Okta User Sync connector configured in the section above, ACME adds a filter so that only consultants in a specific group are passed and enabled in Jira 
  • Go to User Sync > Azure AD Connector > Edit > Advanced Settings 
  • In Groups mandatory to sync a user, create a new entry group filter user sync
  • Add the group active-acme-jira-project Filter by active project
2. Now we need to tell User Sync which local groups may be added locally in Jira to these contractors. These are the groups that define what projects contractors have access to, and which roles they fall under.  

It's extremely important to add this information! Failing to do so results in removing access  to Jira projects:  

  •  every time the contractor logs in 
  •  with each user sync. 

However, we can protect groups in both contexts from the User Sync connector,  

  • To protect the groups in the connector, we go back to the Advanced Settings and add all the groups used to give permission to Contractor Unlimited consultants in the Keep these Groups field. Note that you can either include every group, or regular expressions, if there are any patterns. keep groups 
3. Now, we will schedule the synchronization at regular intervals to happen every morning at 3am using this cron expression: 0 0 2 ? * *schedule user sync with cron 
4. Finally, we will tell the connector to deactivate contractors who have finished their assignments so that they don't consume any licenses.  
  • In the cleanup behavior dropdown, select disable users. cleanup behavior disable users

What does this last step mean? Consultants will be automatically deactivated in Jira and Confluence following this process: 

  • When an assignment concludes, the consultant is removed from the active-acme-jira-project group 
  • At 3am, the user sync connector runs 
  • The user is removed from the active-acme-jira-project group in Jira, together with any other changes. 
  • As a consequence, the user is deactivated in Jira. 

Bonus trick: With the right SAML setting, if the consultant logs into Jira after they have already been removed from the active group, the login will succeed but will also result in the deactivation. 

We reached our destination! 

Congratulations! You have finished the journey to Atlassian Single Sign-On! Hopefully by this time you are on your way to an implementation that will last for many years to come. 

The sample implementation in the last two articles has offered a selection of very popular options among Atlassian on prem customers. As you have seen, User Synchronization is very often a cornerstone of the implementation, since it permits to use the Identity Provider as a single source of truth to automate user on- and offboarding. At the same time, it’s compatible with multi-IdP setups and access provision to partner organizations. 

However, the example is just that – an example. And it might be very different to what you need to solve. 

How can we help you? 

If you have any doubts or need help with advanced technical issues, there are several next steps. 

  • Our friends at Praecipio Consulting will be happy to help you get up and running. We go way back with a long history of shared implementations.  
  • If you need help configuring the resolution SAML SSO application or the User Sync standalone that can be combined with the Data Center SAML, we provide free screenshare sessions every day. 

Excited to see you there, very soon! 

Topics: atlassian blog optimization practices security collaboration human-resource
4 min read

Do testers need to be in sprint planning?

By Marcelo Garza on Mar 3, 2021 11:30:58 AM

Blogpost-display-image_Why do testers need to be in sprint planning-In today’s business environment, high-speed implementation is a must. This applies to all products and services. Suppose you were using an application and got stuck because of a bug: after reporting the bug, you expect the team to fix it as soon as possible. If not, your next move is probably going to be switching to another service.

Software companies want teams working together providing quick and on point solutions to save time and resources, which can only be accomplished by the involvement of all of the teams working on a project. That’s why companies are opting for testing with Agile teams, since it allows for a greater collaboration across teams on a project. 

Agile allows a key collaboration between testing teams and developers which can’t always be accomplished with traditional approaches. It enables testers to share their perspective from the start of the sprint planning; this leads to less bugs during testing and creates a better possibility for sprint delivery dates to be met on time.

Let’s dig a little deeper to understand what this means.

The objective of Agile/sprints/scrum 

Agile methodologies were born as an alternative to traditional software development approaches, like waterfall methodology. 

The following images show the big difference between agile and waterfall methodologies. (Source)

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On one hand we can see that the traditional approach (Waterfall) aims to understand user needs and develop a product. After development, testers test the product and report bugs before deployment. The development team then works on them and fixes any errors using the best possible solution. This is progress through phases, one starts only when the previous one ends; this does not create an opportunity for proper feedback or collaboration between testing, developers and users teams.

On the other hand, Agile is mainly focused on performing constant, small deliveries of the product in order for the customer to be able to see how the product advances through the lifecycle. This gives the opportunity for testing to take on a bigger role and to get involved at an early stage of product development and throughout all the lifecycle of the product.

Agile has four important values:

  1. The focus should be more on individuals and interactions instead of processes and tools

  2. Working software is more important than comprehensive documentation

  3. Customer collaboration is more vital than contract negotiation

  4. The process should respond to change rather than follow a plan

Testing in sprint planning: The goal of sprint planning

During sprint planning, the team discusses which stories they will focus on in the upcoming sprint based on aspects like priorities, time frame, feasibility, etc.

The whole team involved in the development of the product should be involved, and if additional expertise on specific backlog tasks is required, then stakeholders can also be part of it.

Sometimes, during this meeting, the testing team can take a secondary role since the main focus tends to be on the development of the stories; this is understandable since it will set the start of the sprint. However, the testing team's' perspective can lead to some serious benefits for developers.

Why testing should be involved

One flaw of working in traditional testing (i.e. Waterfall methodology) is that during the test case design phase, although testers receive the requirements, most of the time they don't get access to the software they will test until it is time to begin the test execution phase.  It is well known that there is usually a big gap between what a requirement specifies and the actual software developed. 

This leads to a huge time investment on the testing side to reach out to both developers and users to define how the product works and how it should work in order to define the correct test scenarios and test cases.

Agile methodologies give testers the opportunity to be involved in the development of the product from the get-go. Testers can be involved in the design of the software by working closely with developers to assess and advise on testability aspects.

An Agile tester should understand the relevance of technical skills. A tester is always prepared to contribute to the technical discussions of the team. Their contribution may extend up to code reviews, user stories grooming, and understanding requirements. The Agile Software Tester gets to work with the developers when they are performing unit testing and share the perspective of testing from a tester's point of view instead of a developer's. The tester can work collaboratively and productively with the product owner and the customer to form acceptance criteria from the sprint planning itself. 

Before any user story is sent for development, the tester and other team members can discuss the complete user story with the team members to find out what the customer wants. Having testers collaborate with developers from the very beginning of sprint planning helps to achieve more accurate estimations and to ensure that everyone has some testing tasks as part of their responsibilities

Great testing teams know they need to become an extension of the customer and end user. Testers need to understand the customer's needs: an Agile tester should be able to describe the feature as well as the customer.

Drop us a line for expert advice on testing and all things Agile, we'd love to help your teams achieve their true potential.

Topics: blog testing tracking collaboration agile software-development
32 min read

The Journey to Atlassian SSO, Part III: 6 essential questions that will define the scope of your Atlassian SSO implementation

By resolution on Feb 17, 2021 9:07:08 PM

Blogpost-display-image_Blog Series-Pt3Praecipio Consulting has partnered with our friends at resolution, an Atlassian Gold Marketplace Partner based in Germany that specializes in software development and network security, to bring you a series of blog posts about how to successfully implement single sign-on (SSO) with Atlassian tools. With more than 7 million users from 58 countries, resolution is the market leader for Atlassian Enterprise User Management Apps. 

In Part 1 and Part 2 of this blog post series, we saw the main symptoms of a password disease that can be healed when applications are secured with single sign-on. We have also taken inventory of the core identity assets involved in an SSO implementation -- including web applications, SSO connectivity, user directories, and opportunities to deploy identity providers. 

In other words, we’ve looked at where you are. It’s now time to look at where you want to go 

A part of that journey involves making a final decision about what will be the home for your user accounts once you move away from Active Directory. Will it be Okta? Azure AD? Or some other vendor? 

Another part of that journey relates to extremely specific requirements that you will need to analyze to make sure that the implementation of single sign-on in Atlassian applications makes all stakeholders happy.  

In this article, we'll spell those requirements out. 

Write them down. These are the most important questions that you will need to answer in full detail before evaluating specific SSO solutions for your Atlassian applications. 

Question 1: Do your Atlassian applications support SSO out of the box? 

blog_sso-pt3We saw this already in the last article, but it’s worth revisiting. 

Your options depend entirely on the type of hosting of your Atlassian products, as you can see in the summary table. If you are on Server, you will plan a migration to either cloud or Data Center in the next couple of years, so that's where you should look. We won't consider SSO solutions for Server applications in this article, although the answer is easy: go to the Atlassian Marketplace. 

If you are on the Atlassian Cloud, your options can also be spelled out with 2 words: Atlassian AccessThe good thing is that you need to search no more. The downside is that Access can be quite expensive, and there is no competition. 

In terms of functionality, Access has everything you can ask for. In fact, it does much more than just SSO, making it a high standard against which other solutions can be measured.  

Audit log, directory syncs, and lifecycle management are components that go beyond the basic SAML SSO functionality and towards a comprehensive Identity and Access Management framework on the Atlassian stack. 

If you're already on a Data Center license or planning a migration in the next couple of years and before the Server End of Life in 2024, then you do have (or will have) SAML SSO out of the box. But the Data Center SSO offering is far away from Access. Which takes us to the next question.  

Question 2Will Native Data Center SAML SSO be enough for you? 

Here are some facts:  

  • Atlassian started providing native SSO capabilities with the SAML protocol in 2019. Originally as a free app, it’s now a preinstalled app for any Data Center customer. 
  • While more functionalities are being added to the SAML based authentication, the app is still behind. You can check their roadmap here. 

What this means is that if you have a simple need and a simple infrastructure, Data Center SAML SSO may work for you. Otherwise, you should look for a commercial alternative. In this article we will look at how common additional requirements are covered by resolution’s SAML SSO apps, with over 7 million users in 58 countries. 

Let’s have a quick overview of what the Data Center SAML SSO can do before we look at how additional requirements can be solved with resolution’s SAML SSO. 

A quick overview of Data Center SAML SSO: 

First, we'll cover the main functional requirements that Data Center will solve. 

At a high level, the Data Center SAML SSO app can: 

what-can-data-center-saml-do

  • Authenticate users into Jira, Confluence, and Bitbucket Data Center on behalf of an Identity Provider. Spoiler alert: you will need exact username matches on both sides (see question 3). 
  • Create users into the Atlassian applications during their first login, without the user being prompted to enter their Atlassian password. This is commonly called Just-in-time provisioning and happens with the information that the Identity Provider sends in the SAML response. 
  • Update the information stored in the local Atlassian directory. This also happens during login exclusively and applies to the group memberships that define user permissions and access. 

There’s no question that these three functions alone are powerfulHowever, a more detailed examination is needed to ensure that you can effectively implement Data Center SSO with your current infrastructure. 

The following two questions are aimed at clearing that part of the dilemma, before we embark on additional functional requirements. 

Question 3Do you have different naming conventions on the Identity Provider and in the local Atlassian directories? 

If the answer is no, then Data Center SAML SSO will accommodate you right away. You can skip to the next question. 

For example, if you are implementing Azure AD the UserPrincipalName attribute will be populated with user emails. If you also have email addresses in the Atlassian username, the match will be perfect. naming-convention-saml-1

But if the answer is yesit will not work. When the usernames don’t match immediately on either side, it will be impossible for the Data Center SAML SSO to identify which user in the Atlassian database is trying to log in. 

This will happen, for example, if instead of the example above, there are full names in the Atlassian usernames. naming-convention-saml-2

This will give you two workarounds: 

  • Modifying all the usernames in your Atlassian applications to align them to the naming conventions in the IdP (Identity Provider). 
  • Modifying usernames on the IdP side to align them with Atlassian (but potentially disrupting the rest of your connected applications). 

But if you want a more elegant solution, you can use the user-mapping and transformation features in resolution’s SAML SSO.  naming-convention-saml-3

In our example, there are two different strategies to create a match with resolution's SAML SSO: 

  1. The UserPrincipalName is mapped with the e-mail attribute, which can be then selected as the attribute that is looked up in the Atlassian database for authenticating users. 
  2. The UserPrincipalName is transformed into the username by simply stripping the email domain.  options-for-saml-resolution

Note: No-code transformation options are quite varied. 

Question 4: Do you have to connect Atlassian applications to multiple identity sources? 

Enterprises rarely have a single, monolithic user directory. For historic and legacy reasons, but also because IT governance models give a lot of autonomy to geographic regions, it is most common to have a few user directories, even from different vendors. 

But even in more centralized approaches, large organizations tend to have separate user directories for different types of users, even if those directories are provided by the same cloud vendor. For example, Jira users and Jira Service Management agents could be stored in different instances of Okta. And it's even more common to separate customers and employees. 

If that is your case, then you won’t be able to use the Data Center SAML SSO app. 

On the contrary, in resolution’s apps, you can setup multiple IdPs and decide when each of them is triggered based on multiple methods: 

  • The user’s decision on a selection page 
  • The user’s email domain 
  • Specific information included in the http request headers 
  • Priority scores (by weight) multiple-identities-saml-1

Note: Atlassian has put this feature on their short-term roadmap, but it’s unknown what will be possible with it and whether the setup will support dynamic IdP selections. 

Question 5: Do you want to centralize user management from your Identity Provider? 

In an enterprise setting, there is not a right or wrong answer to this question. It can make sense to manage users in every application locally. This usually happens when the IT team has the right expertise, and the company is small enough that change requests don't swamp the workload. 

But on a larger scale, a decentralized user management framework can become a major issue.  

What happens when user management is centralized? As employees are promoted, change department, or are assigned to a new project, permissions can be changed directly from the Identity Provider alone. Then, they propagate immediately to all connected applications. 

The technology behind this benefit is a one-way synchronization from the IdP to the connected apps via API. Once set up, the sync will update users’ group membership at regular intervals and therefore automatically modify their access rights. 

Data Center SAML doesn’t have the ability to sync with IdPs, which exists both in Atlassian Access for cloud applications and in resolution’s SAML SSO apps. 

As you can see in the image, resolution’s User Sync functionality provides connectors with most commercial IdPs. Connectors can then be configured so that they align to your group management practices and nomenclature. We will show a practical example of this in the next article. multiple-identities-saml-2

Question 6: Do you want to automate user on- and offboarding? 

User syncs are vital if you want to automate user management throughout the entire lifecycle.  

Besides the satisfaction of having the power to control every detail, few administrators enjoy onboarding new users into every application. They understand it’s a job that needs to be done. They also grasp the urgency of removing access to applications when an employee leaves the company. But sometimes they might be too busy to put that task at the top of their list or to double check that every access was effectively disconnected. 

User syncs can automate the three key on- and offboarding jobs: 

  • When a new employee joins the company, they have immediate access to every application without even having to login for the first time. 
  • When an account is deactivated on the IdP, all accesses are immediately blocked. 
  • Deactivate users temporarily when they don’t access an application like Confluence for specific time (for example, 3 months)  

For the third job, it’s even possible to create a specific connector that takes care of the automatic deactivations. deactivate-users

How to evaluate your answers 

Until now we have looked at the main requirements that you must consider for your SSO implementation. It's vital to have a clear answer to all these questions before making a final decision.  

But now that you have your answers, let’s translate them into realistic options. 

 The table below summarizes your options, mapping combinations of answers with the most suitable SSO solution.  

To find which product we recommend for your use case, simply find the row that contains your answersblog_sso-pt3-2

As you can see, there are three main possibilities: 

  • If you don’t have any of the requirements listed in questions 3 thru 6then Data Center SAML SSO might do the job 
  • If you answered yes to question 3, question 4, or both, then it seems like resolution’s SAML SSO will be your best shot. 
  • If you answered no to 3 and 4 and you still want to automate user management, then you have two alternatives  
  • The simple alternative is to go for a complete product like resolution’s SAML SSO. This will simplify your implementation and the number of touchpoints with support experts. 
  • The cheap alternative is to implement the existing functionality in Data Center for the basic SAML, and resolution's Users and Groups Sync to automate user management. This will make you the advanced features you need to manage users and groups, but at half of the prize of the SAML SSO app. 

Now you know what’s your basic fit.  

Make sure to complete your evaluation going over all your additional requirements as instructed in the next paragraph. 

Continuing your evaluation  

We hope that our attempt at boiling down your implementation project to its essentials was successful and your scenario is realistically captured in the options above.  

But beware! These six questions leave out many details. To quickly cross-reference your feature wish list, we have published a full tour of customization options and how they compare to the Data Center defaults.  

Here’s a high-level preview. blog_sso-pt3-3

But if you want to learn how it workshave a look at the in-depth comparison we have prepared for you. 

spot-the-difference-resolution

What’s Next 

In this article we have reviewed the native SSO capabilities of Atlassian products depending on their hosting type and doubled down on what Data Center SAML SSO can do. We have then focused on three major requirements that cannot be solved with it: username mapping and transformations, multi-IdP setups, and user management automations. Finally, we have taken stock of the combined requirements and presented the best solutions for each of them. 

The next article will conclude the journey to your Atlassian SSO, going even deeper into how to address these requirements with resolution’s SAML Single Sign-On. We will go over the implementation project of an imaginary company that has decided to migrate out of their Active Directory into a cloud Identity Provider. We will identify their challenges, understand the value that the implementation will create for the business, and offer reproducible how-to steps to solve their case. 

We've got you covered with more tips on advancing your journey towards a successful single sign-on for your Atlassian tools with the last installment of our blog series. Stay tuned! 

Topics: blog saas security support collaboration data-center resolution
4 min read

How To Run D&D Campaigns With Trello

By Luis Machado on May 29, 2020 12:45:00 PM

2020 Blogposts_How Jira helps your team work remotely copy 3

It’s 2020, and the reality for a lot of folks has seemingly changed overnight. Working from home, remote meetings, a whole slew of new tools to learn and master. It’s a strange new world, and not just for our professional lives but our personal lives as well. So how do we make the change? How can we adapt to this new frontier?

I’ve been playing games with friends on the internet for several years now, way before social distancing practices became the norm. Even though we live hundreds of miles apart, I can still lead a group of close friends through the dark, dangerous lairs and pitting them against frightening creatures, all for glory and the pursuit of the almighty gold coin. There are a plethora of tools available that allow people to play tabletop games without the table, such as Roll 20, D&D Beyond, Discord, Skype, among several others. But there is a distinct lack of tools available for the person running the game, the game master, the dungeon master, the decider of fates, and facilitator of adventure to keep it all organized.  

When running a game there is A LOT to keep track of: monsters, treasure, characters, towns, plot points. If you’re using an old school pen and paper, you’re going to need a mighty large binder. Naturally, the desire to digitize this content has led to some creative methodologies. The one that has stuck with me is using a site that falls right within my wheelhouse: Trello.

At its core, Trello is a tool that helps you manage lists for collaboration. You create a list and then populate it with cards. The title of the card shows up in the list, clicking on the card lets you see an expanded view with more detail. You can also add custom labels to create color codes.

I first came across this idea from a post on Reddit called "DMing with Trello". This method gives you easy access to a board for the DM (as in Dungeon Master!) screen to have frequently referenced rules and definitions handy, a way for tracking combat, and board for managing campaign-specific content.

Campaign Content

dd1

While I'll breakdown how I manage my campaigns, how you organize your lists can vary. I started with making a list for the town Daggerford, where the players interact with each other. Each special location within the town has is its own Trello card. These locations, like a blacksmith, inn, or tavern can be listed for easy reference and the numbers in my list correspond to locations indicated on a map. The use of the built-in labels lets you categorize cards within a list, and the sorting view lets you filter the list with a specific category. So, if I’m looking for just blacksmiths, for example, I can filter the list for just that category.

dd2

dd3

Clicking on one of the cards brings up a larger, more detailed view where you can keep your notes.

dd4

Cards can also be formatted using markup to let you get as fancy as you want.  You can also extend functionality if you’re using Google Chrome by installing a browser extension: Trello Card Optimizer.

dd5

Combat Tracker

dd6

The combat tracker is a series of lists. The first list is where I set the turn order (top to bottom). Each subsequent list is a round of combat, numbered accordingly, and the players and monsters are all cards. You can arrange them all in turn order and then advance them to the next round when it’s their turn by clicking on them and dragging them to the next list. 

Keeping track of combat can be particularly tricky in an online situation. Using Trello gives you an easy, straightforward way to do it.  In this setting, I use the labels for various statuses and ailments. Poisoned by a snake? Petrified by a basilisk? There’s a label for that! Lastly, I keep a card or two at the top of the initiative list for easy access to the music links I use.

DM Screen

dd7

Last, but not least, is the DM screen. Set up in a similar manner to the campaign content, this board offers you the ability to quickly reference game rules that you frequently have to look up. How does grapple work again? What happens when a character is blinded? All these questions and more can be answered here, and you don’t have to worry about accidentally bending or tearing your rule book between sessions.

The DM screen is available as a public board that you can copy to your own account, allowing you to customize it to suit your game. I highly recommend using the Trello Card Optimizer with Chrome because it adds a lot of visual organization to your cards and board. 

Now get out there (and by "out there", I mean exploring the world of Trello from your home), and take a shot at organizing your game. As a final note, when the time comes to reunite with your players for an in-person session, you can travel light with just a laptop and have all your hard work available at your fingertips.

For more information on Trello and the Atlassian suite of products, reach out to your favorite Dungeon Master...er...Platinum Solutions Partner. Happy gaming!

 

 

Topics: collaboration project-management trello atlassian-products
3 min read

5 Reasons You Should Add Atlassian Confluence to your Mix of Tools

By Praecipio Consulting on Dec 11, 2018 2:20:00 PM

Atlassian Confluence is a wiki platform that allows document creation, collaboration, and management. It is a one stop shop for document storage and knowledge sharing. It integrates seamlessly with Jira, has powerful add-ons, and enables knowledge sharing, storing, and managing within teams. Confluence allows teams to create spaces for their area of focus while also giving visibility to content from one team to another in an organized manner.

Remember that really important document your colleague sent you months ago that you thought you didn't need? Or at least you thought you didn't need, until a new team member joins the organization and you're asked to provide that exact document for them to get insight into the work being done. As you navigate through your inbox, it begins to feel a lot like traveling through a vortex of information where that really important document just can't seem to surface. After wasting valuable time searching your inbox, you find that the document is actually stored in another location outside of your email. Confluence can save the day by reducing the wasted time fishing for knowledge based documents.

Here are the most common reasons why Confluence should be added to your mix of Atlassian tools:

Confluence and Jira Software are a meeting of minds

Capturing product requirements is part of a product’s lifecycle. Confluence's product requirements blueprint helps define, scope, and track product or feature requirements. Within the blueprint, teams can collaborate on gathering user stories in a table format specifying the changes needed and any additional notes. Once the table is filled out, the user stories can be highlighted and, with a click of a button, create issues directly in Jira. This allows converting ideas into trackable pieces of work in Jira. Each time the associated Jira issue is updated, teams have a dynamic report into the current state of each user story in their Confluence product requirements page.

A space for your teams to collaborate

As organizations grow, cross-functional teams become more apparent. For example, before development teams make software updates in Atlassian's software development tools, they collaborate on new features with product managers to assess what's feasible from a software development aspect. As these teams work together to meet the same organizational objectives, collaboration becomes the key to ensuring knowledge and ideas are shared.

Add-ons provide extended functionality

Atlassian products are well known for their powerful add-ons that allow for more features and Confluence is no different. Add-ons extend additional features outside of the native functionality of Confluence. If there is a feature you want, there's probably an add-on that provides you with the functionality you need. Add-ons allow you to optimize content inside of Confluence with dynamic reports, diagrams, data forms and much more.

Keep your teams’ process progressing forward

Confluence coordinates and aligns your team as work is being done. Whether you're iterating changes in your code in Bitbucket or deploying code in Bamboo, Confluence gives you a single platform to populate your technical documentation. If a new team member joins your team, they have insight into the work that's being done; reducing friction in knowledge sharing while keeping your team moving forward.

It can make your team smarter

Every team has a unique style of sharing knowledge. Confluence allows you to share knowledge in a variety of formats, helping create a more versatile experience for users consuming the content. Whether you're creating runbooks for technical processes or simply creating a table for a team schedule, Confluence supports the format you wish to create. Additionally, Confluence streamlines knowledge sharing by allowing you to standardize your teams’ documentation process, which reduces the friction in searching and learning for team members.

Confluence gives teams the freedom to store, share and manage knowledge in a single platform. Documents no longer have to live in separate areas, breaking down communication barriers and knowledge sharing among teams. Please contact us to learn more about Atlassian Confluence.

Topics: confluence collaboration
7 min read

Seen It, Solved It: Jira Service Desk for ITIL

By Praecipio Consulting on May 4, 2016 11:00:00 AM

Growth Through Change 

"Organizations that do not or cannot evolve will not last." In the business world, change is constant and necessary, especially when it comes to meeting the dynamic needs of customers. ITIL, or Information Technology Infrastructure Library, is a methodology that helps organizations effectively manage change while putting the customer at the center of the process. ITIL prescribes processes to ensure the customer's needs and requests are handled with ease – from acknowledgement of an issue through the application and evaluation of the solution. One of the greatest values of the ITIL methodology is that it embeds continual improvement into the process. The ITIL framework can be leveraged by anyone, including non-technical teams, to better manage change and serve customers. Atlassian's fastest growing product, Jira Service Desk, facilitates ITIL adoption in an organization by encouraging traceability, collaboration, and reporting. 

As business process experts certified in ITIL, we leverage the ITIL methodology in unison with Jira Service Desk to institute best practices for our clients. Here are 5 real-world examples of how Praecipio Consulting helped our clients implement lasting organizational change by embracing key ITIL concepts of automation, visibility, knowledge base, change management and evaluation, and continuous improvement. 

Automation

"Using service automation to streamline both simple and more complex workflows of course impacts the overall efficiency of the organization... it also allows for a much better end-user experience for everyone at the company." - ITIL beyond IT: What is Service Automation & Service Relationship Management?

Problem: A major utility company powering the U.S. Eastern seaboard was manually reporting security equipment issues and coordinating with external vendors to fix the issues. This manual process was prone to errors and didn't allow for tracking of service level agreements (SLAs), which would determine which vendors were breaching their contracts. The company was using spreadsheets to track these crucial assets and their maintenance. The spreadsheet system was inefficient and created duplicate versions – leading to confusion, frustration, and waste. Furthermore, the spreadsheets could not track SLAs for Acknowledgement or Resolution for vendors.

Solution: To reduce redundancy and enforce SLAs, our experts implemented Jira Service Desk for the major utility company. By replacing their spreadsheets with Jira Core and Jira Service Desk, we helped them add a level of automation to their workflow. This reduced waste of time and resources, allowed for better communication with third-party vendors, and created a clear path for escalation. The custom configuration we created for the company maintained their security, while also allowing vendors to be a part of of the conversation. Furthermore, reporting features from both Jira Core and Jira Service Desk allowed for a central point of truth. The utility company could check the status of service tickets and see how well vendors were adhering to their SLAs. Through the process of improving their security equipment reporting and vendor coordination, the company found other areas of improvement and have chosen to continue working with us to maximize those workflows. 

Visibility

"It can be very difficult to know the health of your service desk, run reports, and find way to improve your support if you don’t have the right data." - The ABCs of Jira Service Desk: measuring success

Problem: A major U.S. waste management company wanted to adopt a more structured reporting system, replace an old enterprise software application, and incorporate the ITIL framework into their organization. The company's goal was to standardize tools in order to improve communication and rally around a consistent project management methodology. The waste management company desired a suite of tools with the ability to integrate functions across IT service areas, leading to better service for the end customer.

Solution: In addition to implementing several other Atlassian products, our experts helped the company leverage Jira Service Desk to achieve their business goals. We helped them create a central application with the ability to distinguish request types through a structured workflow. This included a more robust user interface to better triage issues and send them to the appropriate teams. The ability to categorize requests and label them with levels of urgency allowed the company to have better reporting, leading to improved enforcements of SLAs. 

Knowledge Base

"[A knowledge base] gets [customers] the help they need at the speed they’ve become accustomed to – i.e., in the time it takes to swipe around on their phones – and it frees service desk agents from stressing out while anxious customers wait on hold or answering the same question over email for the 10th time this week." - 4 tips for getting started with knowledge management

Problem: A large, private U.S. university wanted to revamp an old software application and replace it with a more robust and dynamic knowledge base. The university's goal was to increase usability for both their students and faculty regarding technical and campus-related questions, deflecting tickets by providing requesters with FAQ's and other resources to help them self-serve to find their answers. 

Solution: Our experts helped the university leverage Jira Service Desk and Confluence to achieve their goal. Combining Jira Service Desk with Questions for Confluence (a Confluence add-on that provides a knowledge base inside the already powerful wiki tool) allowed the university to implement a centralized knowledge database. Jira Service Desk allowed for better help engagement using queues and other helpful functionalities. Questions for Confluence empowered external users to help themselves by accessing a database of pre-answered questions, without tying up service desk agents with redundant problems.

Change Management and Evaluation

"Listening to your customers is the single most important thing you can do for the health of your company." 5 tips to transform your IT team from zero to superhero

Problem: The largest provider of support services to general and multi-specialty dental groups in the United States needed the ability to receive and respond to client feedback in addition to handling client issues. They did not have a clearly defined process for patients to interact with the organization and to raise issues. Their marketing team was searching for a new software tool that would manage feedback in a way that led to issue resolution and change management. The team's ideal tool would be able to enforce and report on multiple SLAs through issues submitted via the company's public website.

Solution: Our experts helped the dental corporation adopt Jira Core and Jira Service Desk to manage issue tracking and change management. With Jira Service Desk, the company was able to cleanly sort through client feedback and create a workflow to address issues that arose. Beyond managing client feedback, the dental corporation also used these tools for clinical tasks, billing, and other activities that needed life cycle tracking. In addition to tracking, the Atlassian tools helped the organization evaluate the effectiveness of their changes and quantified the improvements made – empowering all teams, not just marketing, to better serve their customers. 

Continuous Improvement

"With a single-product approach, configuring an SLA or modifying a workflow is easy, because they share core processes." How Jira Service Desk approaches ITSM 

Problem: A major U.S. insurance company was using three different software applications for code management, issue tracking, and service desk management – leading to inefficiencies and miscommunication. Their use of three separate applications resulted in duplicate tickets and the inability to enforce SLAs across the organization.The insurance company wanted to improve these processes and embrace ITIL's practice of continuous improvement. 

Solution: Our assessment encouraged the company to adopt a single application, Jira Service Desk, to provide a single source of truth. With Jira Service Desk, there was a common point of collaboration for issue management. This reduced duplicate tickets and saved valuable time and resources. Leveraging entities, workflows, and issue linking, we helped the insurance company align their processes to make reporting and enforcing SLAs easier, more efficient, and more effective. By strengthening their ability to track what changes are needed and to act upon those needs, we helped them develop a cycle for continuous improvement.  

ITIL for One, and ITIL for All 

"Just because one service desk streamlines the IT and service departments, it doesn’t mean that other teams can’t also benefit from them." - 5 tips to transform your IT team from zero to superhero

These real-world examples from our clients highlight how ITIL and Jira Service Desk can help organizations evolve and change – without the growing pains. ITIL concepts of automation, visibility, knowledge base, change management and evaluation, and continuous improvement aren't just for IT teams. These powerful ideas also provides immense value to other parts of any organization, technical and business teams alike. At Praecipio Consulting, we excel at leveraging the ITIL methodology and Jira Service Desk to help organizations do what they do better. Want more proof? Contact us to learn how we can help your organization evolve and do your best business. 

Topics: jira atlassian blog scaled-agile automation business confluence process standardize workflows traceability collaboration continuous-improvement integration it itil itsm jira-service-desk operations reporting white-paper
3 min read

HipChat Connect: Your New Mission Control

By Praecipio Consulting on Nov 30, 2015 11:00:00 AM

Imagine you work in an office with a room for every job you do- each project, each team. However, there is no communication between rooms- so you have to walk from one to another if you want to share project information or ask questions. This seems ridiculous in real life, but yet business teams still fail to leverage integration of tools due to disparate legacy systems (“IT uses Product X while Business Teams are on Product Y”), lack of customization options (“I’m in HR. Why should I use the same tools as our dev teams?”), and disappointing functionality (“I have to use Product A for reporting, but it’s not in real-time and it leads to lots of email chains to track the conversation.”).  

That’s where Atlassian comes in.

Making software for teams of all types and sizes, Atlassian enhances collaboration by providing easy to use, dynamic tools that move at the speed of your business. With this ethos in mind, Atlassian has released HipChat Connect to the world in order to encourage teams to “live in” HipChat, integrating with all their other tools and endless add-ons. HipChat is now your control pit for everything your team needs, all in just clicks.

The week of November 9th marked Austin Developer Week, hosted by Atlassian and Capital Factory. During the week, developers (and even some business teams) were challenged to learn the HipChat Connect API and create their own add-on. On Friday, add-ons were demoed, and while most were only in their beta versions, excitement was stirred with the expectation to see many of these fan favorites on the marketplace soon.

Uber for HipChat

Why did we not have this at Summit? When you and your team want to grab a bite, simply order the Uber inside HipChat, Determining location, estimated time of arrival, and cost, your team has the info they need to hitch a ride- and they can! Easily “join the ride” to save your seat and, within minutes, you’re on your way to your destination. Props to Atlassian's Julien Hoarau for this awesome add-on, which he demonstrated live by ordering his Uber to the airport (which arrived speedily as planned).

Graphic Annotation

Presented by a developer for a design team, this add-on has functionality for your marketing department to your IT crowd. With built in annotation options for graphics- including text, circles, arrows (all the must-haves!)- it’s never been easier to point out an issue in a performance report, identify an area of improvement on a presentation slide, or circle your own face so you can be spotted in the latest company photo. 

Props via HipChat

Part of Atlassian’s appealing culture is their open sharing of kudos across the company. Everyone likes to be appreciated and, by integrating a reward notification system like youearnedit.com (based in Austin, TX), you can give public shout outs over HipChat. Give points to team members for work well done and track past kudos given in the side panel. Increase your instant karma and share the love across your organization!

…and Many More!

Austin Developer Week was only the tip of the iceberg for add-ons to come for HipChat Connect and, with the API made public on atlassian.com, it’s only a matter of time before the marketplace explodes with amazing possibilities for HipChat functionality. With ideas already spinning up around customer service, business team use, and culture-building, we can already see HipChat becoming our home base. 

Want a Custom Add-On?

Our innovative, inspired custom dev team loves a challenge. They’ve built add-ons for startups and enterprise organizations alike, working across the Atlassian product suite to enhance functionality, increase adoption, and maximize efficiency. Tell us what we can develop for you to keep your business running on all cylinders!

Topics: atlassian blog best-practices hipchat collaboration culture developers marketplace-apps bespoke
3 min read

Introducing New HipChat Server

By Praecipio Consulting on Feb 9, 2015 11:00:00 AM

Effective communication is critical to the daily operation of your organization. Whether it's alerting your dev teams to the status of their latest release or brainstorming ideas for the next Happy Hour venue, your team needs a way to talk. With more companies operating disparately, the idea of around the watercooler conversations is now defunct and people look to technology to help them connect. It was this exact need that Atlassian sought to address with their chat platform, HipChat. 

During the lifespan of HipChat, 3.7 billion messages have been sent, 25 million files have been shared and 23 million video minutes have been logged, making it one of the most widely used chat tools on the market. Responding to the popularity and demand of HipChat clients, Atlassian has expanded the product offering to now include a host of features and functionality that propel HipChat into an elite, unmatched realm of chat tools that bring simplicity and reliability.

Meet HipChat Server

Behind the Firewall

With the increased capacity for file sharing and features like private rooms for sensitive conversations, the need for security in your chats is paramount. Now with a Server option, you can run HipChat behind the firewall for the utmost security to keep your private conversations truly private. HipChat Server is also ideal for those unable to run cloud applications, allowing HipChat to run on your own server (or outsourced server hosting, as offered by Praecipio Consulting!).

Increased Integration

Link your HipChat Server up with other Atlassian applications like Jira, Stash and Confluence to increase communication between teams and keep everyone up to date on projects. Is your team's latest build ready for release? With a DevTeams room in HipChat, Stash will notify your team! Tag a co-worker to review a document in Confluence? HipChat will let them know. Integrate with the HipChat bot lab (or build your own) to sync your HipChat Server instance to an unlimited number of applications for maximum traceability. 

Enhance Culture & Collaboration

HipChat makes it easy for teams to communicate, boasting features that make the platform your organization's key resource for staying in the loop on work happenings from presentations to co-worker's birthday plans.

  • File Sharing- No more asking "Did you e-mail me that file? Or did you share it with me in the drive?" Just HipChat co-workers your images, presentations and important documents. They'll have it at their fingertips in an instant!
  • Video & Phone Chat- With teams spread out all over the world, sometimes it's nice to hear the voice or see the face of a teammate you don't often encounter in your home office. Use HipChat's video and audio chat to stay in touch and up to date!
  • Team Rooms- Need a space to brainstorm? Get a room! Create rooms for group needs to discuss specialized subjects like Marketing or hold a private conversation for more sensitive information like HR.  
  • @Mentions- Get peoples' attention with the @mention feature in HipChat to let them in on the conversation. Additionally, using @all notifies everyone in a room of a conversation. 
  • Emoticons- Why lie? You know the awesome emoticons are the real reason you use HipChat. With HipChat Server, you get all your favorites: (mindblown), (allthethings) and, of course, (celeryman). 

New HipChat Server brings you all the functionality you know and love, from file sharing and video chat to those ever-entertaining emoticons, but with the added benefits of running behind the firewall. Interested in HipChat Server (or any other Server-versions of Atlassian products) but don't have the bandwidth to host yourself? Let us host for you! At Praecipio Consulting, we provide Atlassian hosting to companies of all sizes to ensure you get the instances you need without the organizational strain that comes from internal hosting. With Atlassian and Praecipio Consulting, you can bring your teams the tools they need to achieve their best collaborative practices (and play with some fun emojis while they're at it). Contact us to learn how we can bring new HipChat Server to your company!

Topics: atlassian blog best-practices hipchat collaboration culture hosting integration
5 min read

Expert Tips to Enhance Collaboration

By Praecipio Consulting on Oct 30, 2014 11:00:00 AM

While I may have seen Lord of the Rings, I've recently become keenly aware of my overall lack of knowledge around the ins and outs of the franchise. After creating a would-be "one does not simply" LOTR meme related to a new Atlassian product release, I HipChatted the idea to a co-worker for review. The following is the actual conversation that ensued:
 

 

Aside from the fact that I apparently need to re-watch the Lord of the Rings trilogy, my big take-away from the conversation was- thank goodness for Atlassian! At Praecipio Consulting, we leverage the collaborative power of the product suite for everything from content review to coming up with new ideas and innovations for our client work. Even with resources located across the country, I still get the input I need from our team with tools like Confluence, Jira and HipChat.

As an international company with offices from Australia to Austin to Amsterdam, Atlassian knows the importance of remote collaboration across disparate teams. With a product suite that facilitates communication and documentation, Atlassian helps organizations worldwide increase productivity with tools like Jira, Confluence and Stash. One could write code in Asia, then have a team member in South America review and merge it. Marketing initiatives begun in England can be aligned with corresponding product releases developed in Iceland with Jira Portfolio. The Atlassian line of products, designed for maximum collaboration, allows remote team members to bring their expertise to projects to achieve best results. Besides using the Atlassian tools to prevent misappropriated movie references, we also collaborate in other ways.

Everybody Needs an Editor.

While spell check has done wonders for catching errors, it is always good practice to have someone review your work before pushing to production. Jira and Confluence track activity by users, alerting page and issue watchers to edits made and keeping the general population abreast of developments via the activity feed. This allows your team to see changes made and weigh in with comments. If you have Confluence 5.7, you get even more editing power with the ability to leave in-line comments on documents and attachments for the most specific, efficient method of feedback. At Praecipio Consulting, our best collaborative practices include color-coded copy edits that delineate areas for re-write, removal of copy or verification of content accuracy. Using our colored copy system, it is easy to provide specific feedback during collaboration that the content owner can efficiently incorporate into the document.

To further standardize our review process, we created a custom Marketing Communications issue type in Jira with its own workflow. We now have the ability to track the progress all our content from In Progress to QA (review) to Publish. By assigning the issue to the user responsible for each step in the process, the reporter (the person who ultimately owns the project) can easily see when to expect the next content release. With reports and customizable dashboards in Jira, we can easily view our communications schedule to ensure that content is on track throughout the In Progress and QA phases for on-time publishing. Not only does this help us thoroughly review content before publishing, but it also streamlines our processes by avoiding multiple individual sub-tasks and instead tracks the workflow within the main communications issue for best collaborative practices. 

The Marketplace of Ideas

In 1859, philosopher John Stuart Mill raised the idea of "the marketplace of ideas" - a community of open, transparent discourse to find truth. Why not create a Marketplace of Ideas for your teams to share information and gain knowledge? 

With Atlassian tools like Confluence Questions, your entire organization has access to a centralized source of standardized information. Allowing users to easily search for answers, team members can add their own responses and up-vote the answers of others to make Confluence Questions even more robust. Identify experts in your organization with leaderboard reporting so you find your best resource for each project.

Jira Portfolio, Atlassian's most exciting new offering, brings disparate teams together through initiative setting to align all projects to your business strategy, from your marketing department to your dev team. The skill field for each resource gives you even more granularity when searching for the right person, allowing users to set competencies from UI to QA. 

We don't think John Stuart Mill was the one who coined the phrase, "two heads are better than one," but Atlassian users agree with it just the same. Introducing tools like Confluence Questions and Jira Portfolio bring best collaborative practices to your organization as your team begins sharing and learning together. 

Members Only

Getting others' feedback can be helpful, but sometimes you only want input from certain users. With permission setting capabilities across the Atlassian product suite administrators can determine the visibility of information to control who can edit and view data. For additional security for your most sensitive information, Praecipio Consulting's Secure Content add-on for Confluence brings you the ultimate encryption with a secure yet simple user interface. 

Need to discuss something with a specific team? Get a room! A HipChat room, that is. Security settings in the real-time chat software gives you the ability to create your own chat room inside your organization's lobby. Add permissions to decide who gets invited to the room and a lock icon will appear next to your HipChat room to let everyone know you're having a private party.

Atlassian's security and permissions settings give you the power to choose your collaborators and keep that secret project - whether a new hire or plans for the boss' birthday party - under wraps until release.

Secure Content provides an easy to use, secure location for your most sensitive information.

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

Atlassian facilitates best collaborative practices and your best processes with their entire product suite. You gain the full benefit of your team's expertise as they contribute to the CMS, share knowledge and align business strategy. Atlassian gives you the utmost transparency so everyone stays "in the know" and interacts in real-time. Getting efficient and documented feedback, you can seamlessly track user stories to stay involved in the collaborative process from ideation to release. As Atlassian product and process experts, Praecipio Consulting offers services around the innovative suite of tools to help you achieve best collaborative products and practices. We get you what you need - from process optimization to product licensing - to facilitate your best collaborative practices. The greatest ideas come from inspiration through collaboration. Harness the full brain power of your organization with the Atlassian product suite and Praecipio Consulting's best collaborative practices. 

Topics: jira blog best-practices confluence implementation process-consulting questions-for-confluence collaboration consulting-services jira-service-desk marketplace-apps
5 min read

Collaboration Best Practices - 3 Reasons Why Email Hurts Your Productivity

By Praecipio Consulting on Dec 12, 2012 11:00:00 AM

The following content was taken from Atlassian.com:

One of the turning points for communication in the workplace was the invention of email. Historically it’s been the easiest way to make contact in any business relationship – short, pointed conversations with the teammates you work closest with, or quick messages to people you’re communicating with for the very first time. You could say it changed the way we all work. Since its inception, however, the notion that email is also a good channel for team collaboration is what’s holding us all back.

Email is great for communication, but not collaboration…

 

Email is an effective means for communication, but when it comes to collaborating with your team on projects and getting work done, it’s a major hindrance to your team’s productivity.

  • Group conversations grow unwieldy too quickly
  • Keeping track of the most current version of an attached document is the modern-era’s needle in a haystack
  • It’s nearly impossible to maintain clarity about what needs to get done, and by whom

At the end of the day, when it comes to collaborating with your team, email wastes A LOT of your time.

Don’t get us wrong, email is not all bad. It’s really effective at quickly and effortlessly communicating with others, but it just doesn’t scale. When it comes to productively working together with your team, it fails to help you get the job done. Here are three reasons why we feel email is killing your productivity.

1. Your email inbox is a lot like quicksand

You receive a ton of email each day (yeah, like you didn’t already know that!) – some of it’s important, some actionable, some is SPAM, and some is unavoidably pointless. As a result your mornings go wasted in your attempt to reach inbox-zero. It’s a losing battle. Each time you take a step forward, you take two back. You’ve likely tried all the organizational features your email client has to offer to control your inbox – labels, filters, multiple inboxes, smart inboxes – but at the end of the day, your morning consists of at least an hour of unavoidable email ground-and-pound. You also probably manage emails when you get home at night and even first thing in the morning when you wake up just to keep your head above water. I’m preaching to the choir here, right? The fact is that this is the norm these days and hardly leaves you anytime to get real work done.

Pro-Tip: Use the ‘Four D’s of Decision-Making’ model

According to a article published by Microsoft, of the email you receive:

  • 50% can be deleted or filed
  • 30% can be delegated of completed in less than two minutes
  • 20% can be deferred to your Task List or Calendar to complete later

With this in mind it’s good practice to decide what to do with each and every email you receive – you have 4 choices:

  • Delete it
  • Do it
  • Delegate it
  • Defer it

2. Your email inbox silos your team’s tacit knowledge

Email is regularly used to share and discuss work, but that doesn’t mean its supposed to. Attaching files and documents or linking to them via shared network drives makes for a complete mess. Countless versions of shared files and relevant follow-up conversations are trapped in email inboxes everywhere. Your inbox is a graveyard for valuable tacit knowledge, knowledge that gets buried deeper and deeper every minute of every day. It’s truly criminal.

So, what’s the real problem? Email is a tool that best serves simple communication, not discussion, and certainly not collaboration either. When you send an email asking someone to review your work, the most valuable piece of information being transferred is not the file itself, but the ensuing conversation. Regardless of the fact that it’s incredibly difficult to find this email in your own inbox later, no one else outside of the email thread has the opportunity to benefit from this transfer of knowledge, keeping stakeholders in the dark.

3. Switching context between work and email wastes a lot of time

The rate at which most people check their email is astonishing – it’s practically become a nervous twitch. Just like Pavlov’s dog, your email has you trained incredibly well.

The problem with checking your email so much is that you rarely have a solid block of time to get any real work done. Take into consideration that if you’re actually checking your email 36 times an hour, and it takes 16 minutes to refocus after handling an incoming email, your workday is basically non-existent.

Switching contexts is distracting, if not annoying, and your email is the number one culprit – destroying the focus you need to get your job done well.

Pro-Tip: Practice Timeboxing to increase personal productivity

Thanks to email, staying on track at work is nearly impossible. Timeboxing is a time management technique that limits the time during which a task is accomplished. Start with 25 minute intervals. Work on a task for 25 minutes, take a 5 minute break, then commit to email for 25 minutes, and finally take another 5 minute break. Repeat. Focus. Flourish.

If 25 minutes sounds like a lot of email time, it sure beats checking your email 36 times in a single hour. At least with Timeboxing you can put all of your energy both into your work and email respectively.

Is there a solution?

We’ve outlined the major problems with using email to collaborate with your team, and even provided a few tips to help avoid the daily snags of collaborative emailing, but these are just simple workarounds. They don’t necessarily get at the core of your problems, which is that email is not the best solution for team collaboration.

OK, we are Atlassian Experts so we’re obviously biased, but we encourage ut clients to use Confluence and HipChat, Atlassian’s team collaboration and group chat tools, as means to reach decisions faster with less email and fewer meetings.

Topics: atlassian blog business confluence efficiency enterprise management optimization process project technology value collaboration information
2 min read

Jira: Not Just for Software Development

By Praecipio Consulting on Aug 17, 2012 11:00:00 AM

Jira’s an issue tracking application, but its core flexibility and strengths mean it can become much more than a tool limited to a development group. Jira’s incredibly adept at helping teams track and accomplish tasks. Jira also has a masterful ability to manage life cycles - and it’s found great success in numerous use cases.

Use Cases

The following use case guides are meant to explain a bit of the details related to using Jira for a specific use case. The info you’ll find in here highlights much of what we’ve learned from working with clients in a variety of different industries, as well as our internal expertise and use of Jira.

For each of these use cases, we’ll attempt to highlight:

  • Particular Jira functionality specific to the use
  • Related plugins we’re aware of
  • Customization and tweaks
  • …and sometimes a sample file to help get you started

General and Non-Software Uses

Agile Software Development

Project Management

HelpDesk / Support / Trouble Ticketing

Test Case Management

This can be done by using either of the following approaches:

Requirements Management

Change Management

Topics: jira atlassian blog scaled-agile austin automation business efficiency enterprise issues management process services technology value tracking change cloud collaboration computing continuous-improvement incident-management information integration it itil itsm operations
6 min read

7 Ways Social Enterprise Apps Are More Than Just Talk

By Praecipio Consulting on Aug 1, 2012 11:00:00 AM

by Ashley Furness

CRM Market Analyst, Software Advice
June 27, 2012

Until recently, I might have called Microsoft crazy to drop $1.2 billion on social enterprise app vendor Yammer. The business case for replicating popular social networking functionality in a corporate environment seemed dubious at best. Would there ever be a return on investment?

“Social is more than a trend, it is a revolution that is changing the way we work and collaborate. Powerful social tools, such as Chatter, help employees work faster and more efficiently—making it a strategic piece of the workforce.” — Dave King, Chatter Product Marketing Director

But then I talked to some corporate AtlassianYammerChatter and Jive users, all of whom claimed measurable gains from these tools in a variety of areas. Here are seven ways they derive value from social enterprise applications.

1. Streamline Project Management

Software developers at PerkStreet Financial use Yammer to facilitate scrum meetings, a key component of the agile software development methodology. Rather than hold their daily morning standup meetings in person, each member of the 37-person team posts “what I did yesterday,” “what I will do today” and “barriers to moving forward” using the hashtag #scrum.

Praecipio Consulting has helped in.gredients, a package free micro-grocer, leverage many of Atlassian’s products into extremely powerful tools for project management. Jira and Confluence for example, are used in conjunction to inform teams or others externally on goals, tasks, progress, and results. Confluence makes it easy for their teams to collaborate and share knowledge of Jira roadmaps, workflow, and tasks, or to document work, allowing users to delegate tasks with the “@”symbol.

The tag in Jira and Confluence allows users to quickly see what everyone is working on and chime in when appropriate. Similarly, Yammer can also delegate tasks to others with the “@” symbol. With Jive, users can also employ shortcuts such as an “!” to pull information into the thread from CRM and other enterprise systems.

2. Augment Transparency and Accountability

Since PerkStreet hosts all conversations on Yammer rather than trapped in someone’s inbox, management has continuous insight into the team’s progress.This also prevents work duplication and redundancies because everyone is literally on the same page.

“If you look at someone’s scrum over time, you can see whether they actually accomplished what they said they were going to,” PerkStreet COO Jason Henrichs notes.

Similarly, Jira and Confluence have allowed for Praecipio Consulting to increase its clients’ transparency and accountability even in the case of telecommuting among employees, who at times live in different states. Christian Lane, Managing Partner of Praecipio Consulting said, “the ability of the Atlassian product suite to increase transparency and establish accountability has allowed our business to grow and operate seamlessly across borders.”

3. Increase Communications Efficiency

HipChat, the newest member of the Atlassian family, is similar to Yammer and Jive. It’s a hosted group chat service that helps teams, or entire companies, collaborate in real-time. HipChat has a powerful API and comes loaded with integrations to Atlassian’s most popular products - JiraConfluenceFishEye and Crucible. These integrations allow you to get targeted notifications from products into the relevant chatrooms for your teams.

Salesforce surveys show enterprise wikis can reduce email by 30 percent and meeting by 27 percent.

FlexJobs founder and CEO Sara Sutton Fell said Yammer drastically cut down on her need to email, call or schedule a meeting to check in.

4. Find Experts Faster

Centerstance Inc. Managing Partner Greg Lueck says Chatter helps sales staff answer deal-specific questions expeditiously. He recalled one situation where a partner needed someone certified in Cast Iron software integration who spoke Mandarin. The resource manager working with the partner posted the query in Centerstance’s news feed.

“They had an answer within 30 seconds… in Mandarin,” Lueck remembers. In this and similar scenarios, the employee would have otherwise “relied on a central repository of all company’s experience that is located in one person’s head, or nowhere at all.”

Jive surveys show sales win rates increase an average of 23 percent, and time to find experts falls 34 percent.

5. Better Leverage Information and Insights

Social enterprise vendors have invested heavily in social and adaptive intelligence. These sophisticated algorithms suggest articles, files and experts based on the user’s position, connections, group memberships and resources they’ve previously accessed.

“Chatter knows what you care about based on your activities, making it’s value immeasurable,” King says of Chatter, the salesforce.com social layer. As a result, employees are better informed and can answer questions before they even know they have them.

“Imagine you have 10,000 people in an enterprise. Sales materials, RFPs are constantly flowing through system… Jive makes the most of this information by channeling it to the right people,” according to Jive Product Marketing Director Tim Zonca.

Additionally, HipChat stores full conversation history, so anyone new that joins a room can catch up and participate in the discussion.

“HipChat is incredible – perfect for product teams but fantastic for any team. Its use absolutely exploded at Atlassian, demonstrating the viral adoption potential of a modern communication system for teams,” says Mike Cannon-Brookes, CEO and co-founder of Atlassian. “Connecting and sharing ideas in real-time helps teams move faster, and HipChat does this better than any other product I’ve used.”

6. Generate More, Better Ideas

Yammer provides several means for employees to contribute ideas–from responding to queries and surveys, to posting ideas in a group discussion threads. Users receive gratification when co-workers and leadership “like” their contribution. Then, they are continually rewarded as they watch project teams bring the idea to fruition.

With one advertising campaign, for example, Deloitte CEO Peter Williams asked employees for their ideas for a tagline. More than 38 groups formed that submitted 1,184 original concepts.

7. Boost Employee Recognition and Engagement

In the four years since Deloitte AU implemented Yammer, the turnover rate for active users has fallen to two percent annually–about 10 times less than for employees who don’t use it. Leadership attribute change to employees feeling more engaged and recognized for their work.

“In a company with 180,000 people, most employees rarely interact with leadership,” says Frank Farrall, national leader for Deloitte Australia’s Online Consulting Practice. “Yammer breaks down those barriers.”

Deloitte leadership uses Yammer to pull reports that identify employees with high engagement and positive feedback. The more a user interacts with groups, downloads articles and responds to queries with the same keywords, the more they are distinguished as thought leaders on a subject.

“This is one key way to rise up in the firm–get recognized as someone who drives connectivity,” Farrall added.

Deloitte layered gamification elements into Yammer to further drive engagement and recognition. Using the behavior platform Badgeville, Deloitte awards “badges” when employees report milestones in Yammer, such as completing segments in Deloitte’s Leadership Academy. Users can monitor their rank on a leaderboard that shows what they need to do to surpass the person immediately ahead, encouraging them to do more.

 

Topics: jira atlassian blog business confluence efficiency enterprise management practices process tips tricks value collaboration continuous-improvement operations
5 min read

Meet the New & Improved Bamboo OnDemand!

By Praecipio Consulting on Jul 17, 2012 11:00:00 AM

If you’re a Bamboo OnDemand subscriber, you could be forgiven for feeling a stab of jealousy every time a new batch of awesome features comes out for the on-premises Bamboo offering.  ”When, oh when, will it be my turn?”, you pined.  Well, if you logged into your Bamboo OnDemand instance this morning, you already know that the wait is over.   Bamboo OnDemand is now roughly on par with Bamboo 4.1.  ”Roughly”, because there are still a few differences such as not being able to install plugins or use commercial version control systems.

The collection of features now available in Bamboo OnDemand is large enough to fill a book (regular readers know I’m not one for brevity!).  My strategy here today is to call out the biggest n’ bestest of ‘em, and point you to resources that’ll take you deeper in. So bookmark this page.  Reference it.  Love it. Repeat.

Better AMI Support

You’ll need to update custom any custom AMIs used by your build agents to make them compatible with today’s upgrade, but going forward this won’t be necessary.  In addition, BoD now offers a stock image for building on Windows as well as support for EC2 spot instances.

Read more about AMI & Agent Support here: Atlassian OnDemand Release Notes – July 2012

DVCS & External Repo Support

 

The people have clamoured for it, and so the people shall have it!  BoD can pull code from external Git and Mercurial repos hosted on Bitbucket, GitHub or on your own network.  That goes for SVN repos on your own network, too.  Using Git submodules?  No problem. Want to pull code from a hosted SVN repo and a Bitbucket Mercurial repo into the same build? Done.

Read more about DVCS & multiple repo support here: What’s New in Bamboo 3.3

Tasks

All your builders and post actions are belong to us Tasks.  Tasks are the granular steps that make up your Plan: checkout source code, call MSBuild, execute a script… etc.  Your existing builders were converted to Tasks as part of the BoD upgrade, and we think you’ll find it to be a great usability improvement.

Read more about Tasks here: Configuring Tasks

Manual Stages

Many users’ workflows require a set of requests and approvals for deploying code to an environment.  And many many users would like to compile, test and deploy to a QA env with each commit –but deploy to production much less frequently.  Manual stages let you construct a single pipeline, and add “gates” or “valves” to satisfy those use cases.  You’re welcome. 

Read more about Manual Stages (and other cool features) here: Bamboo 3.2 Release Notes

Plan Branches

For a couple of years, the developer community has been complaining that using short-lived branches to build new features simply doesn’t play nicely with continuous integration.  We’ve taken a big step toward proving them wrong.  As soon as Bamboo knows there’s a new branch in your repo, it will clone any associated Plans and point them at the new branch.  Branches are automatically discovered in Git & Mercurial repos, with auto-discovery for SVN coming soon. Très facile!

 

Automatic Merging

Because automatic branch discovery wasn’t enough.  We wanted more!  With each commit to a branch, BoD can now grab code from a second branch, merge the two, run your Plan against the merged code, and if successful, push the merged code to either branch.  Great for ensuring longer-lived branches don’t drift to far from the main line, or for two developers collaborating on a feature using their own feature branches.

Read more about Automatic Merging here: Using Automatic Merges

Test Quarantine

When I was a test engineer, I would’ve killed for this.  But you don’t have to!  No more commenting out tests or dorking around with your suite.xml file.  Just click a button to neutralize a busted test.  It’ll still get run so you can see when it’s fixed, and you’ll see your count of quarantined tests on each build result summary so you don’t loose track of them.

Read more about test quarantine here: Putting Tests in Quarantine with Bamboo 4 (Yes, the zombie apocalypse has indeed arrived.)

Jira Issues

BoD has issues.  And how!  Forget all that inefficient context switching, and create Jira issues from any build results page in Bamboo.

Read more about Jira Issues here: Top 5 Reasons Creating Jira Issues from Bamboo Makes Your Team Awesome-r

Broken Build Tracking

Team leads and scrum masters have better things to do than hound people to fix the build.  With broken build tracking you can assign one person to be the default owner of broken builds for each Plan, or have responsibility assigned to users who made changes since the last passing build.  Bamboo will nag them on your behalf until the build is green again.

Read more about Broken Build Tracking here: Bamboo 4.1 Announcement Blog

Failed Stage Do-Overs

Everyone needs a do-over sometimes.  Maybe a build config needed tweaking.  Maybe your QA environment down just as you were deploying to it.  Re-running only the Stage that failed can save you a whole lot of time.  And time is money, so… yeah.

Read more about Failed Stage Do-Overs here: Bamboo 3.2 Release Notes

Onward!

Bamboo OnDemand is now resting on a more stable platform than before, so expect fewer stability hiccups going forward.  We’ve also made custom AMIs for your build agents easier (even updated the templates, so you might not need to customize at all!), and made Windows images available by default.  Très facile (redux).

But it’s also the end of an era.  This is the last announcement I intend to write about BoD upgrades.  Why?  Because they simply won’t be a big deal anymore.  We’ve retro-fitted our upgrade process such that BoD will be upgraded with new versions of Bamboo at the same time, possibly even before, those versions are available for installation behind your firewall.  This is one “good bye” I think we’re all happy about!

Topics: atlassian blog bamboo business enterprise management practices process technology collaboration information it lifecycle
1 min read

Information Economics and Confluence: Putting the I Back into IT.

By Praecipio Consulting on Jun 27, 2012 11:00:00 AM

When it comes to IT, why do most organizations focus more on the T in technology than the I in information? The purpose of a good IT infrastructure’s to prevent information asymmetry and the implications that come with it. By properly managing your company’s information network you can create value through better decision-making.

Information asymmetry occurs when one party has more or less information than another. This can result in bad decision-making, and at times, unethical decisions. Regardless of the industry you operate in, treating information as an economic resource allows your business to yield higher than expected payoffs, resulting in a competitive edge.

The need for better collaboration both within and across business processes is a problem our clients come across often. Luckily the solution’s one we pride ourselves on offering.

Atlassian’s Confluence serves as an organizational wiki, connecting employees to information and each other. Confluence allows users to create, share, discuss, and discover documents, ideas, Jira issues, specs, mockups, projects – anything. By connecting your entire business in one place, Confluence allows for better integration. We love it and so do our clients!

Topics: atlassian blog bpm business confluence enterprise management practices process technology value collaboration information it
5 min read

Stash 1.1 Released: Simple, Secure Git Repository Management for the Enterprise

By Praecipio Consulting on Jun 19, 2012 11:00:00 AM

Seven weeks ago the world met Stash – a centralized solution to manage Git repositories behind the firewall. Stash 1.0 was a huge launch! Atlassian’s been deluged with great feedback and already have small agile teams and large enterprises adopting Stash for their Git development.

Atlassian’s just getting started, and today Stash’s future begins! Stash 1.1 is here with more features focused on making your behind the firewall Git development simple, secure and fast.

SSH Support

Developed from the ground up with enterprise level security as a #1 priority, Stash now supports SSH in addition to HTTPS. Use standard HTTPS authentication or set up your public keys and connect to Stash via SSH, it’s your choice. This resolves Stash’s #1 feature request focused on adding security options to support SSH.

 

For those of you who chose to go the SSH route there can be some benefits for your team (depending on your setup):

  • Increased security
  • Ease of configuring automated systems, such as build and deployment servers (e.g. Bamboo)
  • Restricted access to pushing and pulling from Stash without compromising passwords

Developers are able to manage their own SSH keys. For those using multiple machines to work with their Git repositories or several automated systems pushing and pulling from Stash they can add as many keys as they see fit. And, have no fear Stash admins, you still have full control over SSH keys with the ability to grant or revoke the SSH keys of any user.


Do you understand your Git error messages? No matter what flavor of authentication you choose, Stash makes sure you know what’s going on when things go wrong. Unlike standard Git error messages, which can be confusing and contribute to the steep learning curve, Stash will provide you with user-friendly messages.

Standard Git error message when a repository does not exist

fatal: https://stash.atlassian.com/scm/STASH/nosuchrepo/info/refs not found: did you run git update-server-info on the server?

Stash Git error message when a repository does not exist

fatal: https://stash.atlassian.com/scm/STASH/nosuchrepo.git: Repository does not exist
The requested repository does not exist, or you do not have permission to access it.

Fast-er Browsing

Time = money, and who doesn’t like to save a few bucks? Stash 1.1 vastly improves productivity by providing a faster experience for you and your team to work with Git repositories. Development delivered fast and efficient!

Diff Power

Atlassian’s development teams consist of back-end coders, front-end coders, QA, performance testing, product management and even designers. They’re all part of the development process.

The designers on Atlassian’s team were looking for a way to utilize Stash to compare images. They posed questions like “Have you ever tried to find the subtle difference between two images? That difference may be small like a text change or as large as a page redesign. In many cases it is not obvious.” So, from Atlassian’s designers to yours, we introduce the interactive image diff viewer (careful, it’s hypnotic!).

Maybe not as exciting, but definitely useful is ediffs. When viewing a diff it can sometimes be difficult to distinguish textual changes. Stash solves this with the addition of ediffs to clearly see what textual changes were added or removed when comparing two revisions.

Recent Repositories

There’s a new item in the Stash header, Repositories, that shows you the few repositories you usually work with, even though there may be hundreds set up across your company. For those developers who work with several repositories and want to avoid several clicks to get back to those repositories meet Recent Repositories. Quickly navigate to the repositories you recently visited and save a few seconds in your day.

 

Mouse-less Productivity

Atlassian wanted to make it faster for their development team, and yours, to navigate Stash (Stash was developed with Stash ). When viewing changesets, browsing directories or jumping through your commit list simply press ‘J’ or ‘K’ to move from next to previous. Less mouse, more keyboard!

Check out the other time-saving keyboard shortcuts by clicking the image.

 

Simple-r Permissions

Git’s great, but administering access control to your repositories isn’t! For those organizations with complicated user management (especially in a corporate LDAP), Stash simplifies Git administration. Stash keeps you and your developers productive by providing a way to structure your repositories and manage permissions all in a matter of seconds.

  • Global permissions – delegate administration of projects to developers and provide them the freedom to create and manage repositories; no more requests to IT to create Git repositories.
  • Projects permissions – use the project structure to grant a simple set of project permissions to users and groups to control access to repositories; you can have confidence that the right developers have access permissions to a project.

The new permission screens provide an at-a-glance overview of who has access to your projects and makes managing permissions even faster. Without further ado – the new permissions screen…

Meet Stash 1.1 – 25% off for 12 more days

If you haven’t met Stash yet, now is the time. Be one of the early adopters of Stash and take advantage of the introduction offer of 25% off for new Stash licenses. This long-standing offer will expire in just 12 days (June 30, 2012).

Stash – Git Repository Management for Enterprise Team. Git going!

 
                

Questions & Feedback

Have questions or feedback about Stash? Drop us a line or log feedback on Atlassian’s public Jira issue tracker.

Topics: atlassian blog bitbucket bpm business efficiency enterprise groups management process technology user value collaboration continuous-improvement information operations

Praecipio Consulting is an Atlassian Platinum Partner

This means that we have the most experience working with Atlassian tools and have insight into new products, features, and beta testing. Through our profound knowledge of Atlassian environments and their intricacies, we can guide your organization as you navigate these important changes.

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