Just what the Doctor Ordereddoctor-with-stethoscope.jpg

A year ago, our product marketing team started creating Health Checks for each of our products. The review would include a reading on each product’s vital signs including; sales data, competitive landscape, challenges and opportunities. As product marketing was still a new discipline at Atlassian, our first intention was to show that the marketing team had a commanding knowledge of market trends and each product’s performance. What started out as a credibility building experiment for one team has turned into a standard practice that involves nearly the whole company. Here are five reasons you should adopt health checks too.

1) Address Problems Early:

Health Checks have given us the ability to see the basics with a fresh set of eyes. While we look at sales performance data weekly, we don’t always capture the trends. When we examined JIRA sales data about a year back we spotted a slight softening that we didn’t want to persist. We responded with a surge of marketing activities like the Atlassian Stimulus Package and Cash for Clunkers that kept momentum going until the new release of JIRA 4.0 has taken the market by storm. Now, we are back to hyper growth rates as we addressed our problems early on.

2) Discover the Undiscoverable:

Most product marketers have a love – hate relationship with Health Checks. We HATE the data collection and pedantic efforts to tighten all of the data into a single slide deck. The mental exercise to assimilate all of the data is both fatiguing and time consuming. Meanwhile, we LOVE the understanding we get from uncovering a big pile of stones. Tangible example of opportunities unearthed in Health Check sleuthing include: spotting growth opportunities across different regions, determining the differences in sales cycles across the portfolio and understanding the sales demographic we used to build up our Starter license campaign.

3) Build Accountability:

We have set the expectation that Health Checks are also intended to drive action. In our mind, even the most thorough presentation should open up as many questions as it resolves. So we consider it a success that after dozens of hours of preparation, we still walk away with a pile of new action items. The extra work provides a great opportunity for accountability and now we start each Health Check with a review of how we have accomplished action items from last quarter. Our follow-through has created a great accountability mechanism for the company as a whole.

4) Connect to Your Developers to the Market:

Initially, we started presenting all of the findings to the management team as they were the most eager to consume the info. After our second round of health checks, one of our founders suggested that we also deliver the presentations to our developers so that they get the same wake up call. Doing so is a big commitment as our 100 developers can churn out a lot of code in the 30 minutes we devote to the Health Checks each quarter. The results have been positive though as it has made developers more aware of how their core work and 20 percent time projects can impact tangible business problems.

5) Engage Your Company:

Other teams at Atlassian have begun to embrace the Health Check concept. Both our sales and technical support teams have begun automating quarterly reports that they can include in the Health Checks. The result is a more unified view on the health of each of our products. Finally, good, bad or ugly our health check presentations and findings are always published publicly to the whole company inside of our Confluence wiki. This transparency engages every Atlassian to be involved in collective opportunities and challenges.

I’m curious about your perspective about the successes and failures of Health Checks. Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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