As readers of this blog already know, Atlassian makes a lot of videos! Our YouTube channel grows larger with every company event and product release, and one of the tools we use for screen capture style product demos is Screenflow, made by Telestream. We love Screenflow, and recently Telestream asked us to participate in a case study. Because Telestream is an Atlassian customer as well, we asked if we could reciprocate, and so here it is: the Telestream case study! I recently spoke with Reuben Cohn, a QA lead at Telestream, and Silas Brown, engineering lead, to learn more about how Telestream uses Jira and Fisheye to reduce QA response time and connect development to the rest of the org.
Telestream specializes in products that make it possible to get video content to any audience regardless of how it is created, distributed or viewed. Silas leads the largest engineering team, and Reuben leads the QA team for the Episode product.
“I really see it as a tool to gauge the quality of not only our products but of our processes, test suites, procedures. That brings a lot from an executive and high level point of view to get that information without having to rattle peoples cages, talk to people manually – they can just continue working, and management can get a view of what they’re working on without taking them away from their actual work.”
Several years ago, Telestream had been using TestTrack, but their engineering team felt very limited – the tool was difficult to expand and maintain, and it felt ‘clunky.’ Flexibility was lacking and was a high priority – the existing toolset made it increasingly difficult to grow as a company.
Reuben: “I’ve come from a background in QA where we’ve used Excel spreadsheets, access databases – I’ve seen systems where its very difficult to get any kind of information out of the back end other than just the number of bugs that are open. It would be very difficult to do my job without Jira…with other tools, its much harder to get a handle on the state of any particular issue, or to assign out tasks.”
Silas originally brought in Jira to replace several older tools. His litmus test during evaluation of a few issue trackers was to investigate functionality with each candidate, asking ‘I wish it could do this’ – and Silas found that Jira could, every time. Flexibility, growth potential, and richness of information stored were all important factors. Silas was looking for something ‘well supported and commercial, but affordable,’ and Jira fit the bill. Adding other Atlassian products that complement Jira was a smooth experience for his developers. Silas initially started Telestream with Jira and Fisheye, and recently added GreenHopper for helpdesk backlog management. Reuben uses Jira every day, and the QA team enjoys the Fisheye integration as a kind of ‘bug fix explorer.’:
Reuben: “We have just a nice little link – if I’m looking at a bug that is supposedly resolved and I find that its not resolved, I can go into the Fisheye view and actually see what was changed in the code – maybe I can see that the check in didn’t happen, or that something was done incorrectly, I can actually see who tried to make the fix, so I can email that engineer directly and I can ask what the fix was supposed to do…I find that very nice, to be able to see the actual code itself and what happened, because sometimes the engineer just says ‘the bug is fixed’ and doesn’t say necessarily how he fixed it. Then I can go back and get a good view of how he attempted to fix it, and then I have a better understanding of how to approach either reopening the bug, testing the bug, or talking to the engineer about the bug. Again, its something that saves them a lot of time so I don’t have to go over to their cubicle and bug them. It saves me time, saves them time, and saves headaches.”
Silas noted that Jira increases visibility for customer-facing teams, giving them more insight into what engineering is doing, and enabling them to more easily fix a problem or make a feature better. Reuben boiled Jira’s impact on Telestream down to three points:
- Enhanced communication, transparency, and visibility
- Saves ‘tons’ of time
- Increases the quality of products & processes
With engineering split between their Northern California and Stockholm offices, Reuben also pointed out an increase in communication with remote engineers that would otherwise be difficult due to differences in time zone.
Silas also summed up his thoughts on Jira’s impact: “The richness of information stored is the main benefit. Jira is a key critical thing to answer customer questions and address customer requirements.”
While it’s hard to measure the chunks of time lost and headaches caused by tracking down information spread across various mediums, it’s clear that Jira has saved Telestream time, money and lost communication by keeping everything in one simple, central place.
Reuben: “The work between engineering and QA is massively improved…it saves a lot of time in walking down the hallway, talking about a new feature to implement – now you can just put it directly into Jira and ‘set it and forget it’ into the normal workflow. It has saved countless hours in effort, meetings, walking down the hallways talking back and forth…I know we’ve saved probably millions of dollars in lost engineering time spent working with our old tools.”
“From a QA point of view it saves me around 2 hours a day that I don’t have to spend manually sorting through information about what happened the day before, or overnight in the case of our Stockholm team. That’s 10 hours a week of lost productivity saved on one team alone. We release this particular product around every 3 months, so that’s 15 work-days of time saved per release, and around 45 work-days of time saved per year on just one of our many products.”
“Jira brings a lot in terms of a ‘social networking’ feel, in that you can track people’s interactions…I live in Jira, I love Jira, I’m in Jira every day. Without Jira, I wouldn’t be able to do my job nearly as efficiently, and in some cases at all without Jira.”
The Last Word
Silas and Reuben agree that Jira is a great tool for QA, engineering, and customer-facing teams – but Jira goes beyond those individual users, serving as a powerful information center for management. Jira isn’t just the center of product development, providing insight into the status of the organization as a whole; but rather, Jira sits at the very center of the entire company, and serves information about product development up to management and executives.
Reuben: “I think of Jira mainly as a ‘quality management’ system. What I would want executives to take away from it is that they can use Jira to get a high level overview of where our various products are in both their lifecycle and in terms of a quality point of view. We have a dozen (at least) development projects going on, so its difficult to get to a nuts and bolts level to figure things out. You can look at a Jira dashboard and quickly get a sense of how each project is proceeding, how many bugs have been entered, tasks complete, tasks pending for any given release. So it can very quickly give you insight into the engineering team and how they’re working and who’s working and how much time they’re spending. Otherwise it would be very difficult to get that information, maybe even impossible, and it would be sort of a black hole. Jira really opens that up and makes it very transparent what’s going within the QA and engineering teams, and even in customer support.”