Hey everyone! Dan, the agile TAM here. Many of you know me as a frequent author here on atlassianblog.wpengine.com, where I’ve written about Jira, agile, Jira Agile, and software development best practices. I joined Atlassian as the Agile Evangelist three years ago, and recently made the transition over to our Technical Account Management (TAM) team.
Marian, our Enterprise Product Marketing Manager, is on a mission to introduce our TAM team to the world. So I sat down with her to share a little bit about my new role at Atlassian. (If you find yourself asking “Wait, what’s a TAM?”, check out the first & second blogs in this series.)
Q1. When did your love of Jira and the agile methodology begin?
A1. I’ve had a long history of issue tracking. Over my career I’ve built two issue trackers and managed a host of off-the-shelf solutions. I started using Jira about seven years ago, where my focus was to build a CRM portal using Jira, Confluence, and Crowd. I was impressed with how flexible the Atlassian toolsets were through the tools themselves, the marketplace, and the extensible API interface.
As we began to build custom interfaces to Jira, the development team readily embraced an agile culture. Having only worked on waterfall projects up to that point, it was definitely a learning experience for me. What impressed me about agile was the focus on candor and decision making throughout the development cycle. Rather than long development cycles where nobody believed in the schedule (leading to cynicism across the team), we delivered in shorter increments getting feedback from the business and making incremental adjustments as needed.
The other key learning was that agile isn’t just scrum. There are core development processes like continuous integration, automated testing, and branching strategies that truly enable a team to be agile.
Q2. What resource are you most proud of making during your three years as a Senior Agile Evangelist?
A2. The Agile Coach is Atlassian’s handbook on agile. At the outset, we wanted to create something that explained agile in plain language to all parts of the organization. I’ve seen “agile” at a number of organizations, which was really “waterfall plus standup.” I wanted to create something that spoke to all parts of being agile: development fundamentals, team dynamics, running programs, and scaling across portfolios.
It’s a great site for those new to agile, wanting to check some assumptions, to learn how to tune your organization and really get the most out of agile, or looking for new ideas.
Q3. What motivated you to recently make the move over to a Technical Account Manager (TAM)?
A3: Being a TAM allows me to work with a few key customers and go deep into not only their Atlassian usage, but the team dynamics of the organization as a whole. Atlassian is about making software to unlock the power of teams.
A TAM works by going deep with their customer(s) and understanding the successes and challenges of the organization and its individual teams. TAMs are not about selling software. Instead, we’re a trusted advisor who’s there to help make the right decision for the organization. That’s a really freeing relationship for both parties. It really comes down to being a partnership between the customer and the TAM to deliver success.
Q4. Has moving away from an agile-centric position allowed you to focus more on Atlassian’s other tools?
A4: Actually, no. Being agile is more than just using Jira Agile. If anything, becoming a TAM has broadened my focus on agile, but narrowed my focus to the key customers with whom I work. Being a TAM isn’t just about Atlassian tools. When working with a TAM you get to ask questions such as “why is this item important?”, “what are your goals?”, “how does your business recognize success?”. We dive deeper than just having a conversation, for example, about Jira, Confluence, and Stash. We focus on what, why, and how for our customer goals.
As a TAM, I spend more time focusing broadly across the Atlassian toolset. I also spend time having key conversations with my customers about their larger team and development goals.
Q5. Are there specific goals you have in mind that you’re looking to achieve with each of your customers?
A5: Each customer in the TAM program is unique. In the first part of the engagement, we focus on understanding the customer, address any immediate pain points, and plan how engineering culture and tooling will evolve over time.
As a relationship progresses, a TAM becomes more embedded within the customer’s organization. You become known as “the Atlassian” and have the flexibility to work broadly across the company. Oftentimes we find ourselves connecting disparate parts of a large company to create a more harmonious ecosystem.
In the end, our goal is to make development culture more fun, sustainable, and engaging at the customer site. Atlassian tools provide an unparalleled level of transparency (yes, my marketing hat is coming through). When an organization can see development end-to-end, trust builds between the development organization in the business. And that, is when developing software becomes a team sport.
Q6: Is there a common pattern that you’ve seen as a Senior Agile Evangelist and TAM that successful enterprise customers follow?
A6: The most successful companies embrace the engineering fundamentals and the cultural concepts of agile at scale. They invest deeply in the health of the individual teams ensuring they are using things like continuous integration, automated testing, branching strategies, modular release patterns, and minimizing technical debt.
Successful enterprises have a culture of candor and trust across the organization. Agile is all about iterative change management. Companies that realistically look at schedule, customer feedback, and engineering realities to plan a path forward do significantly better than ones that just wave their hand and say “make it happen.”
Q7: What’s the most challenging aspect of being a TAM?
A7: You’re the jack of all trades. Customers ask you all sorts of questions: product configuration, infrastructure resourcing, development culture, training, purchasing, third-party integrations, etc. Atlassian has a huge ecosystem, which empowers a wide variety of use cases at our customer’s sites.
TAMs have access to all parts of Atlassian, with the addition of our Atlassian Experts, marketplace vendors, and contacts at partner companies. The TAM is your central point of contact for all parts of your Atlassian investment.
Q8. If there was one tip you could pass along to help enterprise customers in becoming more agile, what would it be?
A8. In large organizations, it’s easy to lose sight of individual team strengths. When undergoing any sort of change such as a new engineering process, transition to agile, or adding continuous delivery, it’s important to keep strong relationships with individual teams. It’s crucial to watch out for breakdowns in culture at the individual team level.
At large organizations it can also become easy to over specialize. The more learning that happens across the team or in between teams, the easier it is delegate new projects across the organization. Teams which have overlapping skill sets deliver more predictably as no one becomes the critical path.
I’m going to add one more as I think it’s equally important… celebrate success at all levels of the organization. Friday demos, sprint reviews, and giving kudos recognize achievement and protect morale across the organization.
Q9. You’ve been extremely active on atlassianblog.wpengine.com over the last three years – is there one blog in particular you’ve most proud of? Why?
A9: I really enjoyed writing the series on agile ceremonies: standup, sprint reviews, sprint planning, and sprint retrospectives. Ceremonies are part of the heart of agile teams and these articles stress the importance of communication, efficiency, and a team approach to work!
Join us at the end of the month for another TAM meet-and-greet with Tim Wong. You may have had the pleasure of working with him during his 7 years as a Senior Support Engineer. Not only does he make one mean mojito but as a TAM is constantly focused on moving clients from tactical operations of Atlassian tools to strategically focused conversation. To learn more about the TAM program, get in contact with our Enterprise Advocates.