Every enterprise strives for growth, but implementing an effective strategy is no small feat. Growth is challenging and complex, and enterprise organizations often have decentralized businesses with a broad range of teams and tools spanning functions, regions, and sometimes subsidiaries, culminating in an intricate and complex web.
Enterprises typically turn to technology to help detangle that web. However, it’s not just the tools an organization adopts, but how that organization uses the technology and the practices they implement. To better understand this, we sat with Sri Viswanath, Atlassian’s Chief Technology Officer, whose responsibilities go far beyond delivering products and platforms. He’s tasked with building a diverse organization, scaling our own [Atlassian] practices as we increase in size and scope, and building innovative products that deliver high value for our customers, many of whom are rapidly scaling themselves.
“The most important advice I can give here is to reduce complexity wherever possible,” Sri emphasizes, from the technology your organization runs to how your teams work together and how they utilize their tools. Here, we’re sharing Sri’s best practices (and how Atlassian uses those practices) to help organizations find new ways of introducing simplicity, in turn propelling growth.
Prioritize practices, not just tools
When considering organizational growth, most companies immediately assess whether or not their tech stack can support their future goals. According to Sri, the top three things every enterprise should prioritize to future-proof their technology are scalability, reliability, and data security. “In order to attain these, I firmly believe organizations need to develop a set of reusable patterns, libraries, and processes that are shared across development teams,” he says.
Atlassian empowers its teams to build new features and products. This is accomplished through a fundamental set of components that are designed to scale horizontally as load increases, as well as a set of practices that optimize the experience for employees. Often, organizations focus only on tools to scale while overlooking practices, but practices are often even more critical. “We focus on human-scaling; leveraging small, autonomous teams that understand their components deeply, without having to deal with the complexity of the entire system,” Sri explains. This enables Atlassian to develop our products with increasing velocity, by designing, coding, testing, and deploying faster while still raising our standards for security, observability, compliance, performance, and reliability. In doing so, we are able to continuously iterate and deliver quality products to our customers.
By reducing complexity and driving consistent technology and patterns across teams, everyone benefits. Sri says, “Our site reliability engineers [SREs] and security teams become more effective as our products become more consistent and easier to diagnose and fix when problems or vulnerabilities are surfaced. When things are consistent across teams and products, it reduces human error dramatically, eliminating the cause of the majority of reliability problems.”
The big picture
By reducing complexity and increasing consistency and patterns used across teams and tools, you can empower your employees to:
– easily move between teams with less ramp-up time
– onboard new hires faster
– reduce unnecessary cognitive load on your staff
– enable less experienced employees to work on more senior projects
In a rapidly changing remote landscape, enable end-users and builders alike
Today, distributed teams are commonplace – it’s a natural progression for any growing organization. With this evolution, technology is expected to perform and remain reliable while spanning geographies, deployments, industries, and, now more than ever, a rapidly increasing remote workforce. This is forcing a shift in organizational thinking.
The remote end-user
“Don’t picture the end-user sitting at a desk in an office. In today’s world, you don’t know where work is getting done,” Sri warns. The one thing you do always know is that employees need the right tools to get the job done. We typically expect certain conveniences while working in a traditional office, such as making quick collaborative decisions and having high-bandwidth conversations – but we can no longer take these for granted. “To successfully enable your end-users, focus on the dependencies employees have on their tools. You’ll be able to make the most impactful and strategic decisions, and turn your tech stack into a competitive advantage,” he says.
This shift will not only accelerate the adoption of software that enables remote work, but “software that enables effective remote teamwork.” This will become a must-have attribute that buyers will demand and builders must consider.
Sri predicts that, as time progresses, users will come to expect tools to be collaborative and team-based. “And as the adoption of SaaS continues as a secular trend, people will come to expect all the products they use to work well together.”
In turn, this change in the needs of end-users puts new stressors on builders, significantly impacting what they build and what they use to build it. If end-users are expecting tools to work as well at their kitchen table as they do in a meeting a room, builders need to shift their thinking. Sri explains: “One of the secrets of our success has been to develop products that are very flexible and highly customizable. Trends come and go quickly, but what endures is that teams of people need to be able to collaborate in ways that work best for them in order to do the best work of their lives.
“To achieve this, we challenge ourselves to build products that will enable our customers to be successful with the default, out-of-the-box experience while also delivering the power and flexibility required by organizations that have been using highly-customized workflows on top of our products for years.”
One of the ways we are able to blend simplicity with powerful flexibility is by equipping our products with a rich set of APIs and an enormous ecosystem of applications developed by our partners, enabling further customizations.
Simplify wherever possible
The most important piece of advice he has to offer: ‘Reduce complexity wherever possible; this includes technological and organizational complexity.” Both reliability and scalability emerge from simple components that perform basic functions that are well understood, easily operated, and designed in a way that creates resilience at every level.
– Create components and services that perform a simple function, can scale easily, and are highly resilient against the unknown circumstances of the real world.
– Ensure that every team in your organization has a high degree of ownership, autonomy, and agency while being aligned on a simple, unified mission.
– Create a culture of constant learning and self-improvement by measuring progress in line with the goals of the organization.
– Optimize your ways of working to enable your organization to develop, deploy, measure, and iterate very quickly with as few dependencies as possible.
– Implement zero-trust security practices where every component and service is designed under the assumption that it needs to operate in a hostile environment, leading to multiple layers of security.
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