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Summary:

How two large enterprises (Atlassian and Zoho) use web working culture to their advantage.

Back in October, I had the pleasure of attending O’Reilly Media’s Web 2.0 Expo Europe, at the Berliner Congress Centre in the heart of East Berlin. One of the more interesting conversations I had was with Jeffrey Walker and Laura Khalil of Atlassian, creators of the Confluence enterprise wiki software.

In describing the company and product’s history, Walker and Khalil indicated a corporate culture that was very much based around the notion of web working. While this isn’t completely unheard of for a large corporate, web working is a style that’s more closely associated with freelancers, startups and smaller organisations.

Khalil pointed me to a post on the company’s blog that discusses some of the cultural and technological adjustments the organisation has made as it needed to manage offices in Sydney and San Francisco:

  • Internal communication is oriented around the Confluence wiki product: bringing together product management, HR, marketing, business metrics, template emails and PR.
  • Task and project management, such as customer requests and bug reports, are tracked and managed using the company’s own JIRA product.
  • Email is discouraged as a collaboration tool, being displaced by Confluence and JIRA, but still employed for 1-to-1 and “broadcast” communication.
  • Lightweight tools such as Flickr and, notably, Delicious bring other collaboration and knowledge-sharing capabilities.

Interestingly, the company’s internal and external blog authors number around 160: an extraordinarily high figure for a 200-person company, with 80 percent of its staff publishing and sharing their work.

Also at the Web 2.0 Expo, I ran into Rodrigo Vaca, Zoho‘s director of marketing, responsible for leading efforts to promote the popular web-based office suite.

Like Atlassian, Zoho’s  solution to geographically distributed staff in many different timezones is to employ its own products and services as a component of the company’s culture. More so perhaps, with a thousand staff in offices from India and the U.S. to Japan and China, the web-based foundation of the company is critical. Vaca related how even the company’s COO works from home in order to minimize time wasted in physically commuting.

What both Atlassian and Zoho’s utilization of web working indicate is that it’s a working pattern that’s very much suited to large, mainstream, multinational organization – something we discussed a while back in Telecommuting Trends and our coverage of the emergence of Smart Work Centres.

Read more about Atlassian’s web worker culture and tools in An Insiders Look: Part 1 of 2 on how we (Atlassian) collaborate.

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  1. We began using Jira and Confluence early 2007 to begin integrating our geographically distributed offices together.

    We’re a b2b publishing company with it’s roots firmly planted in the print mentality, so it’s been a difficult transition to get the rest of the company on board.

    The biggest challenge now is to have the teams use just Jira on Confluence for their collaberation efforts instead of email or even a mix of email and jira.

    The one issue I have is that it’s geared towards the tech oriented crowd and alienates much of the business and editorial groups. So, it’s a work in progress…

  2. @Imran thanks for the kind mention and accurate depiction of Atlassian’s web-working culture. I’m relatively new at Atlssian (~6 months) and it’s been an eye-opening experience to be immersed in a company culture that embraces the completely transparent, wiki-way of working.

    @troy Thanks for sharing your story. Some of the early adopters of our products were technical teams. Hopefully you’ll notice that we’re building our products out to be more accessible to users of all technical proficiencies. For example, we announced the Office connector back in Aug-08 which allows users to edit Confluence pages in MS Word (an editor most business users find familiar) and import Word documents as wiki pages. We built a connector to SharePoint (another commonly embraced business user app) so that users can embed SP documents and lists inside of Confluence and vice-versa. We delivered the widget connector back in December so users could embed YouTube videos, Flickr slideshows and other rich web content into their Confluence blogs and wiki pages. And in Confluence 3.0 we’ll be announcing some features that will make it even easier for your business users to contribute and stay engaged. Stay tuned and thanks for using our products!

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  4. @bill
    Thanks for the note!
    We’re currently working on updating to a newer version of both software apps.

    First and foremost, I love the software. It’s been a god-send with keeping up with all our projects in and outside of our Digital Media Group.

    The issues really aren’t around the confluence wiki… but, more within the Jira app. We’ve been trying to integrate the editorial team as much as possible into the workflow, however… many get confused. Especially when it comes to the workflow steps.

    But… like I said, it’s a work in progress.

    Keep it up!
    Troy

  5. Company culture is important because it can make or break your company. Companies with an adaptive culture that is aligned to their business goals routinely outperform their competitors.

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