Atlassian might not be the first vendor to spring to mind when you think channel, and while the Sydney-born software company does go to market primarily through direct sales, Atlassian actually has more than 250 partners around the world.
The vendor is picky about who it appoints as partners, according to the man who runs the local partner program, business manager Paul Conroy. Speaking to CRN, Conroy said that the company's partner program sometimes flies under the radar because they don’t use the term ‘partner’. Atlassian calls them ‘Experts’.
“Atlassian partners are an integral part of our business. We say ‘let’s get an Expert to do that’, so to some people, it might sound like we’re talking about an Atlassian internal team,” said Conroy.
Atlassian develops tools for software developers, led by flagship product JIRA along with messaging platform HipChat and coding collaboration tool Bitbucket. While these products are largely sold direct, high-touch customers – such as those with lots of staff, a broad geographic reach or complex IT environment – will get support from an Expert.
Atlassian Experts can deploy software in the customer’s chosen infrastructure environment, provide ongoing managed services and even integrate Atlassian software into the customer's own platform.
“We don’t have a direct sales force, we don’t have consultants that do professional services, nor do we have any solutions architects,” said Conroy. “Any time a customer wants something like professional services, architecture design sessions and account managers, we refer them to Experts.”
Atlassian does things differently thanks to the Silicon Valley-like culture it brought to Australia, said Conroy. “Our founders had a very independent way of doing things, and neither of them had spent time in a professional services company – so I think that’s where they got this unique attitude.
“They were very successful, so you can’t argue with that. Their go-to-market strategy has also been successful. Customers like how we do business and having the final decision,” said Conroy.
Picky about partners
The Expert program only enlists a select amount of partners that demonstrate prowess across the range of Atlassian software. There are only 10 Experts in Australia, and 250 worldwide.
“We politely decline applications in the vast majority until prospective partners have the backgrounds skills and we have the confidence that they’re at such a high level that we can call them Experts,” said Conroy.
There are three tiers to the program: Expert, Enterprise Expert and Platinum Expert. The most advanced, Platinum Experts, have a high-level of expertise across the entire Atlassian software stack along with qualification through a rigorous accreditation process.
Given the high expectations to become a Platinum Expert, there are only two in Australia. One of those is Sydney-founded ServiceRocket, which was established by Rob Castaneda in a Sydney garage in 2001.
ServiceRocket started working with Atlassian founders Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar in 2003 in the early days. The company now has more than 200 employees in Australia, Malaysia, Chile and the US.
“We were there straight away whenever a customer needed something. Mike and Scott threw them our way and we leveraged their products to help the customer achieve success,” Castaneda told CRN.
“What’s special is that we didn’t just take on a large company. We kept with the Atlassian mindset to help the customer be successful.”
Now headquartered in Palo Alto, ServiceRocket has worked with a number of high-profile customers such as Cisco, Adobe, Polycom and Nimble Storage.
Australian biotechnology company Cochlear went to ServiceRocket to implement Atlassian’s flagship software JIRA and collaboration tool Confluence. Cochlear is best known for its hearing implant devices, which now run software using JIRA. While testing products, Cochlear’s teams create trackable issues in JIRA to test and resolve. JIRA is now used by Cochlear’s IT, marketing, quality, regulatory and regional teams.
“Not only did they completely fulfil our training needs for Atlassian products, but they also assisted in tackling the challenging task of testing, verifying and documenting the Atlassian products we are using for use in a medical device environment,” said Cochlear R&D software department manager Victor Rodrigues.
Cochlear’s other Atlassian supplier is Glintech, an Australian Platinum Expert.
Founded in 2001, the application developer now has hundreds of customers in Australia and offices in Sydney and Melbourne. The application developer began working with Atlassian in 2004 and became an official licence reseller in 2011.
Founder and director Dimitri Spyridopoulos told CRN that Glintech has been using Atlassian since 2004, but only got serious about software licensing in 2011 following the global financial crisis.
“As an organisation, [Atlassian] is happy to listen to ideas from businesses. They have a flexible structure and partner team ready to listen,” said Spyridopoulos.
“We get a lot of support from the company in general, in terms of getting an understanding of partners in workshops. They have a great attitude in trying to understand where their software is being used and how they can improve.”
Much like ServiceRocket, Spyridopoulos said it was a tough journey getting to Platinum Expert status. “You have to be a partner for two years and build up a base of US$250,000 in licensing sales to be recognised for the program.
“We then had to sit through various tests to qualify with long answer responses that are specifically meant to be tricky scenarios. On top of that, we had to provide customer case studies and a go-to-market strategy.”
A number of Experts are attending Atlassian’s AtlasCamp conference in Barcelona next week. The conference is aimed at developers with sessions from companies such as Docker, DevOps, Advanced Git and CI.