Today, I have Christina Amiry, head of M&A Strategic Operations at Atlassian. Christina currently leads M&A integration across Atlassian where she was the first hired employee dedicated to integration nearly two years ago. She was previously at Salesforce and various roles and other industry leading companies and consultancies.
Also joining me, Steve Elliot, head of Jira Align at Atlassian. Steve is an established software executive with 20 years of technology experience in a variety of industries and was the founder and CEO of AgileCraft now called Jira Line, a software company based in Austin, Texas that helps companies scale their agile planning and portfolio management.
Today's discussion is going to focus on how to facilitate a successful integration from both sides, the acquire and acquiree's perspective. Steve is a serial entrepreneur who sold companies four times in his career, most recently to Attlassian in April.
Now he said he wouldn't talk about the first three exits, but he's happy to talk about the most recent one that actually went well. And we're going to learn from Christina and Steve on how to run a successful integration.
So with that, what made the acquisition and integration lasting successful? How was it different from your past experiences, Steve?
Steve Elliot: I kind of think about it in phases, in the early phases when we first started talking to Atlassian and we were talking to other companies as well, some of the things that we most valued were our culture, we had won awards for culture.
Our people were really happy, we won the Fortune Best Small Company To Work For in America actually. And I've been through some acquisitions that were tough from a cultural perspective and from an incentive perspective.
So I was very focused on, can we find a culture that fits? So those early conversations and relationships were really important.
Another thing we had a 10 year BHAG and we put so much of our energy into getting everybody lined up behind this one big goal, a 10 year goal, massive thing for us to go out and accomplish.
One of the cool things I was looking for is we need to find a place where we can continue that work. Somebody who embraces up work because it's going to be really hard to say, "Hey, we're five years into this journey and now we're going to do something different."
Maybe the third thing, on the early stages for the people, making sure that those people who had worked so hard over five years could have a good financial outcome which can be a complicated part of an acquisition, but just making sure that there was a way to do it.
Where we maximize reward for the employees, for what they'd done so far and also a future reward for what we were going to go do in the second phase of the company.
Trying to line all those things up was a big focus for me in early conversations. When I met Atlassian for the first time that's what I had in the back of my head. Like these are the things that I want to make sure that are solid. They started telling me about their values and their culture and really good alignment to what we were doing and our values.
And one thing that was interesting on the first day we announced the acquisition, the president of the company came in and he said, he had mapped the Atlassian values to our values and said, look how close these are, look how well aligned this is.
Those may not sound like big things, but those are huge for making that journey continue in a strong way. I think we've only had one or two people leave on their own over a year. It's been a really positive journey from that perspective. And I think what made it work was it was open, it was transparent, very collaborative.
In the early stages, Atlassian made sure that I met anybody I wanted to. So I met somewhere in the neighborhood of 70 to 80 people before the acquisition, which is a ton of access. They let me talk to CEOs who had just gone through an acquisition with Atlassian, they let me ask him anything I wanted. And that was super helpful because if you have questions as a CEO, I was a first time CEO, so there was a lot I didn't know.
Talking to other CEOs who just went through was huge. So all that openness, that culture fit, that was the early stage stuff I was looking for. And then when you start getting into the, "Okay, how's this still really going to work? What kind of that mid stage planning?"
One of the things that the M&A team did really was come in and take a really open role to what's going to happen to people's roles. How are these products fit in? So we were looking for product fit and roadmaps and where products overlap. And I was impressed with all of that planning.
A lot of times in other acquisitions, we had some idea about what would happen, but there was like, we'll figure the rest of it out later. Really thinking through how this affects people's careers and where things were going to go, not just six months in, but 18 months in, 24 months in, like we did some of that high level thinking through the vision and not making hard plans.
I think that would be an anti agile pattern, but just laying out is this good product fit, is this good people and culture fit?
One thing that was interesting, there were a lot of times what's hard for an acquisition I think is, what do you do with a CEO? Like myself, like you bring somebody in, they've been making all the decisions. They're usually serial entrepreneurs. How do you give them a career at a company who's already got CEOs? Had open conversations about that, look we want you to run this part of the business. We want you to have a career here. The last thing was like, we want you to be here, pasture besting.
And that I thought was super refreshing, I was like, that's great. That's what I want. I don't want to, I think for serial entrepreneurs a lot of times I think, they'll build something and sell it.
One of the tips I've learned over the years is if you're building something, you need to be very prepared mentally to have three to five years after you sell it to hand it off and to get it on a growth path at a minimum.
What was refreshing about this, we were talking like, maybe there's a path beyond three to five years even. That was refreshing..
And then just a couple more points just on the late stage. When you start getting into the thousands of details around how to put a deal together, term sheets and all that stuff.
In prior acquisitions, we had earn-outs. They were like, "Hey, 18 months in if you guys hit X revenue goal or some sort of goal, then you'll get more money." And we talked about that early in and one of the things that I thought was impressive is they're like, "Hey, we're not going to do an earnout because that's not really a good agile pattern."
And I fully agree because the business will shift, we'll learn and we don't want to be fixed on a goal that may not be best for the business.
Not doing an earnout and figuring out other ways to make sure people were incentivized to get in and learn together and drive the best outcomes we can but not try to set in stone what the world's going to look like 18 months out is really important.
So that was a good example. If we would have set an 18 month goal, we wouldn't have known about Covid. There's a whole slew of other things. In product decisions, other acquisitions, we wouldn't have known about the plan for. That plus the open transparent term sheet, I don't know how many of you were aware of this, but Atlassian actually put their term sheet out there for other entrepreneurs to see.
So if you're ever going to be acquired by Alassian, their terms are out there in the public domain, which I think is pretty rare. They were in the process of putting it out when we were going through acquisition and they were like, "Oh look, this is what we do, we're not gaming you here. This is how we operate."
All of that was just fantastic and then, I know I'm going on here, if you want me to talk a little bit about post acquisition and kind of an agile approach to the post acquisition, the M&A team a lot of times in prior acquisitions. When the M&A team did their job, they'd hang around for a few months, six months, whatever, and try to make sure it's transitioned and then we're off to the next one.
The team here was smart enough to realize it's going to take 18 months to really get this thing integrated well and off and running. So they were in it with us, but when we decided how we going to do this going forward, we looked at it with a very agile approach. We're going to learn as we go, but we're going to learn together.
So we've got full executive sponsorship on that steering committee, the M&A teams and the steering committee, the business teams are in the steering committee.
So just looked at it month to month, looking at where problems are popping up and solving them in an agile way.
So I think the best evidence that it's working is, I'm still really enjoying my work and having a ball. And a lot of times, 12 months into an acquisition, that's not the case, so I could go on, but I'll pause there. The long answer, but you asked me a hard question.
What would you say Atlassian specifically did to make the integration process as smooth as possible?
Steve Elliot: I think there was quite a bit in there. One was, we took a really realistic look at resourcing. When you're looking for triple digit growth from a business, we did a nice job of thinking through what we really need to scale the business in terms of human capital. I think that's another area where in other acquisitions we've tripped up.
So the integration team was actually, they were the champions for us to get the right amount of head counts. To get extra resources at least in the first 12 months to make sure that we were scaling in a healthy way. Not trying to just say, "Hey, we're going to do double the amount of business, but we're going to keep the head count slowly growing."
They did a good job of recognizing that as a startup, we were running really thin .Thinking, "Hey, we're going to help you put an extra layer in there of people to make sure that not only can you handle the integration, but you can also keep growing the business." There was just a lot of recognition of that.
And I think it was an experienced M&A team between the folks that we have, who had done a lot of acquisitions. So they just realize those things.
So part of what they did was just, they took the long view and said, "Look, if we're going to get to this goal in three years, we got to really overinvest in the first year." That was one thing we did that I thought really helped us get off to a good start. And then the rest of it was just, we used the Atlassian toolset internally, which was really good for just making sure that we had really transparent communication.
It's a lot of what our tool sets focus on is just ultra communicative. At first it was actually overwhelming how much information was coming our way. And then after a few weeks of working in that kind of an environment, you're like, "Oh okay", it's just the flow of consciousness of all the things going on, all the things people need, and anybody can jump into those strings and talk.
I think just keeping it open and having a long view were some of the key things I think made the integration get off to a good start. Also, like I said we just kept the cadence. Like we didn't get six months in and say, "All good." Things were going good at six months in, but we didn't stop.
We know there'll be new growth challenges as this thing scales. So we're going to stay on it longer than most, in my experience.
When you go through an integration of a growth company, there's a big challenge because the company already is enduring growing pains, but then you're also trying to integrate the company and manage that big order of change management, how you create an environment that fostered success for both sides.
Christina Amiry: There's a lot of great things that Steve mentioned. One of the ones that he just started to talk about was around having the long view.
I think being the first person in Atlassian to focus on integration, there's a reason why M&A integration is not my title. It is Strategic Operations because we really want to look at these acquisitions in more of a partnership mode and helping them to stand up their operations and grow roots in the company long term.
That just requires a different strategy around, not thinking of it as just integration, but building that right foundational layer for them to be able to flourish in a company.
So one is having that agile and adaptable integration approach. For Agile Craft what Steve didn't really show what was behind the scenes was, Agile Craft was meant to be a much more difficult acquisition than it actually was. We're headquartered in Australia, but we have presence in 13 countries.
Our products are around project and work management. So JIRA, Trello, Confluence are some of the key ones in JIRA Line now, but we have traditionally been a completely flag no base or self service based set of tools, so no sales team. JIRA Line came with a full sales lead motion team.
Then we're primarily remote. We were primarily kind of office then center of excellent space. They were focused on enterprise customers, we were focused more on individuals and selling teams. And they were Microsoft shop and we're like the complete opposite of that and all of these key pillars, we were going, "Wow! This is going to be some interesting mix of things and how are we going to do it."
But we put it on what I call The compatibility matrix but I don't know Steve if I've ever showed you this, but it was like these bars are we said, "What are the things that we think are part of our secret sauce about Atlassian? And where's JIRA Line where we and where do we hope to be together?"
And we just put that on the table for even orienting Atlassian to welcoming Agile Craft. And we put a lot of focus first on getting the mindset right on Atlassian.
Once we got that set in our mind, we were ourselves more open to change. They're going to help us establish new processes we've never had.
They're probably going to contradict or create some friction maybe of how we do the deal process or how we kind of work through some of our business with product practices, but because we were ready for that, we were more okay.
And we were able to adapt and be more agile in our integration approach. That was one of the key things that we did first.
The second, as Steve mentioned, was being part of the team.
We really try to learn the people, understand the challenges of the business. Help them navigate and even advocate maybe behind the scenes. Steve may not even know a lot of the side conversations we're having, trying to help champion some of the resources or alignment and things that need to clear the path for him and his team to be successful.
I think by immersing yourself in the culture and not being bombed to a fixed timeline or what you're going to get in and out of the integration really helped us adapt to, what the needs were and what the team needed from us.
I hear a lot about, "Oh first hundred days and that's what our integration plan covers." And then it starts to taper off. And I believe the complete opposite, which is as long as I can stay with the deal and continue to add value, that's how long I'll stay. So I think it's been about a year now and I just started slowly more fade to the background because I feel like they've been solid and good and they have roots now that can help them thrive.
Part of that is also, our product set. So Atlassian's product set is about managing work in information. And our mission for the company is to unlock the potential of teams. When they come in and they're using our products that we sell to the market, we're able to share information freely and are able to make decisions quickly.
That has helped build a lot of transparency and trust, where I think typically there's a lot of that information not being readily available to everyone. Especially for a team that's coming off of Microsoft email, Microsoft teams, the whole new stack and into this world. Just feeling like, "Oh wow, they're starting to learn all these new things."
I think for them, it was too much information at the beginning, but then once they got through an initial hurdle of just learning how to use things, it really helped accelerate their onboarding and knowing who do I contact for what purpose.
What are the different processes and how do we help navigate organizations? With that focus on tools, also came the focus on people. And that's I think the most important part we started out first.
Even before the deal closed, Steve met somewhere between 75 and 80 people. And what we did also as an integration team was we had a leadership kickoff for summit in San Francisco.
We brought all of our functional leaders together with their counterparts in JIRA Line and just started to get to know each other for a week.
From the start, even before the deal closed, people knew who they were going to be partnering with, what their teams were like, what goals they were focused on and started to define together what that joint success was. And even to this day, Steve has commented that he's still really surprised by how much tight partnering there is just across the company.
People willing to reach even outside of their team and help each other and I think a lot of that was just set from the start of defining the vision together even at the team level and then building those goals and targets together.
Steve Elliot: Can I add a little bit of color just to put a cherry on top of that? One thing that impressed me, like you would expect the M&A team to learn about the product that they're acquiring. And they absolutely did that. But then after the acquisition, we had these two week bootcamps. So we book partners through and that literally trained them to fully configure, implement, run, train on the product. So this is two weeks of crazy training, like deep training all day, Christina signed up for it and sat through it.
She was in it learning the product, learning the customer pain, learning challenges the partners are going to have with rolling this out. Just that level of immersion into what we were doing was, that was impressive to me.
Because then it's not just superficial integration stuff, they were in there to understand the business as well. It was a good partner. I hadn't seen that level of understanding what we were doing before.
Christina, how do you drive an open and collaborative work environment? Are you like the fun cousin? Are you the one that really straightens people up when you come around?
Christina Amiry: Oh I'm the fun one for sure! Jira Line just come with such energy and such passion about the deal, it's infectious. So it's easy to be that way.
How do we drive it? One ,I think as Atlassian our operating mode is default open. Our products are designed that way. So Confluence, which is like our information content offering management system is default open. And so when you come into the company, any page you create is open for anyone to see.
And that seems like a small thing, but it's just such a different mind shift to know that you're writing something, you save it, you close it.
Someone will get a ping or start commenting on your page, "Hey, where'd you get that data? Or can you share this with me?" And you're like, "Wow. Oh my God, this is really open."
This person's from Australia, I don't even know them, but they're interested in this topic. That helps me pave the way for how I design our integration strategy overall.
Prior to Atlassian, I was at Salesforce and trust was their number one value. And they were very open but this level of openness was just on a different level. It seems like we are part of the fabric of the company. So one, is just our product lends itself that way.
Two, we're very much an open and sharing culture, so that really helps. But I think also we got a little bit lucky with JIRA Line because being an agile company, they were really pretty oriented to be agile and transparent and open.
When we came with, "Hey, here's our product strategy and the vision, but part of this, maybe 20%-30%, we're going to have to define together." They were open to us partnering together to come up with the actual plan and the details around that.
We use a couple of ways of our products, like I said partnering people up together with their partners and having shared goals amongst them, saying your defined success is what you're going to achieve together.
From this customer support side, from sales, from services and enablements. All the way down to the technology integration and security compliance all the way down the road. And then, we have just a lot of the typical integration program, kind of governance checkpoints that we do. We have a weekly integration leads meeting.
Steve was part of the steering committee with all of the functional heads of sales support, the deal sponsor, etc, which was really great because I found out that helped clear the way for a lot of quick decision making, which is also an agile pattern and very quick alignments.
The downsides of having products and tools, where you can create a lot of information and disseminate it to the masses is that sometimes that slows down decision making.
Because there's so much consensus building and commentary that you feel like you have a need to respond to. This just accelerated it to a strong really tight knit leadership team that just kind of worked through things rather quickly.
Was there anything else specific to get alignment between the acquirer and acquiree?
Christina Amiry: One thing we did that was new with JIRA Line seem to do a little bit was we did a really tight handoff between the deal model, our deal team and integration side. So we did almost like translating the deal model into an operating plan.
What are our revenue targets we need to fit, what are key things that we need to bake into this integration strategy in terms of how much our partners are going to contribute to bookings, how many quota carrying sales reps are we going to have, how much has the head cap going to grow.
All of these things in the deal model were translated into an operating plan which became a set of OKRs metrics, and then also walk Steve and his routine through it, all of us together on both sides. And we found in the past that that has been a bit of a black box.
When the integration team goes, "I know the vision," but I don't actually know what we're being measured on in terms of success. And we were being very transparent about that and that forced a lot of alignment because people knew where the goalposts were and then it was up to them to just figure out that plan together and how they're going to get there.
I know one thing we talked about previously around Agile is having that level of agility, being highly responsive and iterative in terms of the way you plan things. How did you enable an iterative live plan?
Christina Amiry: We started at the same time that we were occuring Agile Craft. This concept that you and I talked about, which is our playbooks, our game plans and plays.
So we have plays for any given functional, whether it be process integration or systems integration, like a play that we define that says, here's how we're going to get there from A to Z.
And then based on the Agile Craft acquisition we had pulled together a series of plays to become that game plan.
With Agile Craft it was a little different than some of our other acquisitions that are from our marketplace, where we know the recipe, it's repeatable, it's something that we can get in and out of very quickly because they were creating almost like a net new part of our business model.
We were defining a lot of that for the first time, so how we did that was just a lot of a tight collaboration with them. And also a lot of patience on their part because I think they had probably felt some frustration of, "Why Atlassian don't already have this?" What we really try to explain to them was that a lot of this, you were helping to define our future vision together.
We enabled it, I think just by writing the book together. A lot of these things we didn't have on, like, how are we going to enable an enterprise sales team, how are we going to truly unlock the channel on this type of very new complex products?
Those are things that we did together and so we had a structure of good governance at the functional team level that then rolled up to our overall kind of integration leadership team. We would do things like monthly OKR and metrics reviews together as a leadership team while having that weekly steer co.
Steve still had his Jira Line leadership checkpoints as well. So there were, for us which is a highly matrixed company, there were a lot of different checkpoints that these intersections of teams just really trying to hash out problems together and move forward on progress. And then all along the way, we were sharing information and just continuing to iterate on our clients together.
What tools and techniques have you used to improve communication and information management?
- JIRA to capture our OKRs and some of our work, the technical work, where we're in the process of transitioning to JIRA Align for our company wide OKR management, and we'll eventually move there to our whole portfolio management
- Confluence for creating all of our reach documentation, and kind of dashboards for company and project progress.
- Trello so a lot of those kinds of lighter weight teams were tracking less complex projects or using Trello as well. So we've got a pretty rich tool set that kind of contributes to that.
At any point, does Steve suggest using Agile Craft for Managing Integration?
Christina Amiry: Oh yes! Absolutely, that's part of why I attended the bootcamp, was I said there will be a day where we are using JIRA Line for integration and we're starting, I think in a couple of months with getting the company on it, to start with our top level goals and objectives. And then once we get that motion going, it'll be no doubt we start tracking there as well.
Kison: For those of you not familiar with the JIRA Line, it's taken Agile really designated for small teams, but allowing a series of teams to be able to roll up for a larger enterprise.
Steve Elliot: Yeah. Just taking all the work that's happening across the organization and trying to map it to the outcomes that you want to achieve. So taking your OKRs, your goals or whatever the company's driving and making sure that the work that's happening is lined up towards one of those goals.
And then measuring, is this work we're doing actually moving the needles that we want to move, right? So we're doing this work. We think it's going to help us get revenue, increase adoption, increase customer satisfaction.
The idea is, if we can understand the correlation between the work we're doing and the goals we have, we can halt, pivot or persevere on that work much faster.
We're not allocating work for quarters on end or for the whole year. We're going in with a learning opportunity saying we think if we do this at work and then rapidly delivering work and understanding, is it driving the value we thought?
And if not, we have the ability to pivot resources, funding, whatever, towards as much value as possible. It's enterprise agility is what we're trying to help companies get to with the alignedproduct.
How do you see a company culture change during integration? Did you implement any Agile principles specifically at that time?
Steve Elliot: We were already in like a pretty agile way of thinking, the longest range that we would talk about was usually three quarters. And it was now next later planning and then the now version is "Hey, we're 80% sure in this next quarter, this is what we're going to do." But we reserve the right to adjust based on what we're learning.
The next version, so what we're going to do the quarter after this one, we're 50% certain on that. And in the quarter after that, we're 25% certain on that one.
Enforcing with our customers and the whole planning process that we're not setting out in stone what we're going to be doing. We're going to learn. We're going to go out, take every hypothesis that we have and validate it as fast as possible. And then the work will fill in from there.
And so we took that approach from the beginning. That's something we were driving before. It became a lot more powerful as a large public software company.
As a start up, some things are just much easier. Moving into that matrix organization, those Agile practices of how we think about planning became a lot more powerful because we needed them to survive with that level of information flow and an agile company like Atlassian, there's a lot going on.
So just lining it all up and making sure that the products and the visions and the roadmap all line up. All of that stuff that we've been selling to customers became something we needed. Even in a much more intense way than we did before when we were a hundred people, basically.
How'd you see Agile techniques improve the integration process?
Steve Elliot: So those techniques of this kind of looking at everything with a hypothesis and a learning approach. It's perfect for integration because integrations never go exactly the way you think.
Even the example I was talking about before, like you come in and then we acquire something else and there's all these moving parts, right?
So it's a prime candidate for agile thinking. It's really hard to just set in stone.
And I think that mindset and that way of planning gives you enough flexibility towards those who have become like showstoppers that frustrate the team because they can't get anything done.
You just go into it, expecting that level of uncertainty and change. And you're basically built for change at that point.
It was that two week case of delivery, the quarter, the level of planning, the being clear that we're not trying to set in stone all of our plans and having that variability as you go out, all those ways of thinking that we brought, helped us integrate I would say just from a process perspective.
Christina, I'm curious about your thoughts because of the way I hear from Steve, a lot of it comes back to mindset at the end of the day, less so much of an emphasis on tactical techniques.
Christina Amiry: Yeah, that's right. Whatever tool you have, if you don't have willing participants and people that are open to that type of working model, it's not going to work.
Other acquisitions that I've been a part of where they're not used to open feedback, open discussing, debate, sharing of ideas and status and things fluidly.
Where it's seen as additional overhead, why do we need to do that, they don't see the value in really trying to bring openness and alignment amongst teams. I've seen those acquisitions not go as well on the integration side.
So constraining the other parts of the deal. But I think when you have people that understand that even a simple thing like providing status or sharing your roadmaps or sharing latest customer support kind of incidents that you've had sharing that across the teams and cross-functionally, we have been able to get everyone to elevate their thinking about what they understand about JIRA Line and other acquisitions that has helped us build more of that agile and open transparent mindset of.
You need to not just care about your function, but you also need to understand what you affect around your world and how other teams and part of the world are affecting you.
I think that's part of what Steve is also seeing, the benefit of that partnering and people being able to be stronger leaders by being more informed and having that holistic view. So I think mindset is one, but also just driving home the value that even individuals in the integration team can provide by opening up their mindsets about the importance of it.
Can you walk me through a game plan and plays and how that works in context of M&A?
Christina Amiry: We haven't fully built them all yet, I'd say one that helped JIRA Line standing up our whole go to market process.
So if our game plan is, "Hey we need to pull a game plan together because we're acquiring a company and they're a sales led company whose largely targeted towards enterprise customers."
We can pull off the shelves these individual plays that we created with JIRA Line, which is, and I'm going back to like right after the deal last year, where Steve and his team's hair is on fire, trying to close deals because it was our end of fiscal year, and at the same time we were going through our large customer conference.
And so we created a play, a series of things, set teams in motion for standing up a deal desk. Making sure we got accounting lined up with sales, operations lined up with legal, made sure we're ready to take orders, and started pumping them into kind of our back office.
And then at the same time, the team that is focused on sales in that fiscal quarter going forward, they're already starting to build the enablement plans, aligning all the target customer accounts, starting to work with the channel of what partners we could have. Start working to get them trained on JIRA Line.
All of that was happening in motion, but those are things that we have created as individual plays and strung them together because of the situation that JIRA Line was in and the specific goals we have for the integration.
Kison: I liked the way you explained it, because it's getting away from long checklists and more into here's actual techniques to handle these situations and M&A.
Christina Amiry: Yeah. It's like a library we're building of individual techniques and tactics.
What are some of the other plays have you found useful?
Christina Amiry: The leadership Kick Off play that we also developed with JIRA Line, which was, it's not always possible with a given deal, but where we have some buffer between sign and close.
We had a couple of weeks there where we could actually bring the leadership teams together and bring more people into the tent than what we have.
So I think it was only maybe Steve and two or three people while we were going through diligence that were involved on his side. But as soon as we signed, we could bring in the rest of his leadership team and they could start to meet with their counterparts.
That is a play that we now just codified as like a best practice, like where we have that time. You should really start to build those relationships early because that just pays dividends down the road and that feeling of trust and relationship building.
How do you see these plays and improve integration?
Christina Amiry: The plays that improved in that we're getting faster, we are building more trust I think. We're helping to even identify areas within Atlassian where we were probably weaker or not as mature from an operation standpoint.
So I think JIRA Line exposed a lot of the areas where we were getting by, because we were serving in different part of the business, but based on their deal cycle, the types of enterprise customers they serve, it really helped us to open up to a lot of different areas that we not looked at before.
So the plays have been a good way for integration to identify other parts of the company that we can help improve. And then that feeds into those team's roadmaps and then future plans or enhancements and evolution.
What were people's reactions when new plays were introduced? Was there resistance? If there was, how do you handle it?
Christina Amiry: We're not really as formal in that process. It's just fluid, it just happens. We haven't really had a very brunch structure on phase, but people know now that, hey from my team, we need to get ready because acquisitions are a key growth strategy on Atlassian.
And so they know that there needs to be investment.
They've seen the benefits that having these things predefined can help accelerate, in terms of the team success. And smooth out some parts of the integration and that it also serves as a good way for them to get these contracts approved or contracts, working contracts, with other teams solidified on.
So that when a new acquisition comes in and of course it's a surprise it's coming in the middle of the fiscal year. So people aren't playing around it. It's less of a, "Oh my God, let's get ready, let's figure out how to solve this up more. Hey, we got this, we got to play around this. You know what we need to do. So let's just, much more calmly than before figuring out just how to get it done."
What's something you didn't know about integration or underestimated going into that acquisition you wish you had been more aware of?
Steve Elliot: Oh! Yeah. Underestimated is probably easier than didn't know. I tend to be pretty optimistic, "we got this" kind of person. So I think we probably underestimated a bit how challenging it would be to come into a flywheel type business with an enterprise piece of software and do business.
I thought business model wise, I thought we would be able to make the changes we needed to make to go faster than we were going.And honestly, probably for the first six months, it was harder to do business than it was before. Pretty dramatically harder, honestly,
Because there's just a lot of details, just compliance and legal and security. There's a lot of things that were just different. I definitely underestimated it. I knew it'd be a process.
I wasn't completely naive, but it was a bigger process than I thought. And to what Christina has been alluding to, hopefully most people at Atlassian would agree that because of us coming in that our whole company is stronger in some ways like we've got more tools in our arsenal of how we go to market, right?
So we've got the power of our flywheel, which will always be kind of the center of gravity for us. But we also have some of those bigger enterprise motions that help us get adoption faster up at the executive levels of a company. But it was a process so I did underestimate that. It was a good learning experience going forward.
Sometimes we laugh like did we change Atlassian more or did Atlassian change us more, and I think it's a combo. And the good news, and it's probably a sign of a good acquisition, I think most of those changes on both sides are healthy changes. That's probably the biggest one that comes to mind for me.
Christina Amiry: One that we're still wrestling with a little bit, I think is on the broader strategy alignment across the company. I think we talked about before how being an agile company, it sets in motion different teams to go chase after and accomplish the goals and what's right for their customer set.
And I think because we've been so inquisitive and we're always changing conditions, right? Of what our solution strategy is, product strategy, looking at editors and conditions in a market.
We're always iterating on that.
And so for a high growth company and product like JIRA Line to come in and try to rationalize here. Are you building that or we're building that? There is a little bit of overlap here, everything from how the products are named, to the different feature sets, to the data model, all of those things.
I didn't fully appreciate how challenging that would be in the midst of integration, while other teams are still running a hundred miles an hour. So I think that's something that we will probably build more plays around and a new set of gameplans around. So that's one.
If someone was interested in transforming from a traditional approach to Agile. What would the overall integration process look like from a high level? And if you can walk me through where you would actually start the integration process and those steps?
Christina Amiry: I'd say integration starts even during diligence. I think for us, that was something that was a huge benefit as well of Steve and I getting introduced, even while we were doing diligence and explaining my role, explaining kind of about the high level of what this integration strategy we think is going to be.
Kison: How would you set it like an agile tone, like really distinguish it as more of an agile approach or process? If you're looking back at some of your previous roles, as some of your colleagues that still follow more of a traditional plan driven approach.
Because I think you're right, it needs to come in early for companies that want to take away in terms of "Hey, we've been doing this the same old way."
When people talk about agile, there's vague definitions around it, but how would you define that for a company that's looking to transition?
Steve Elliot: I think it's more nuance. I know that may be frustrating, but like the mindset is a lot of it. I was thinking of examples of some of the things in prior acquisitions there were like, "Here's a list of things we're going to do during diligence. And being on both sides of the table. Here's things we're going to do once we make a decision that we want to move forward from diligence into a serious relationship. Here's things we're going to do post."
With the Agile mindset we were fluid. Before we had the deal done, we were doing deep work on branding. What do we name this? And how should it work and exchanging ideas and some things were less structured. It was more about we were just intent on moving the thing forward. One of the cool things about that is, it built momentum.
Like I was getting to work with marketing and product leaders and people. We were moving forward in an agile way.
It felt like we were already together even though there was no ink anywhere that said we were together. To me, those are mindset things like it's just that Agile approach to problem solving where we just jump in and start solving and learning.
It's hard to distill it to a set of practices. It really is a mindset. And then once the mindset's there. The tools and practices are like the enablers of the mindset. It really is that approach. So with the acquire being an agile mindset and the acquiree having an agile mindset, things just got done faster.
We actually spend less time on thinking through the process and more about, let's just be very results driven. Let's just focus on the result, jump in and figure out how to solve things. And so it's a more fluid way of working.
Sometimes it feels a little more chaotic or overwhelming with the amount of knowledge flow, but stuff happens way faster.
For me, one of the things I like about that approach to M&A, from an Agile perspective, is it just, it just builds up momentum. Because it feels like you're already rowing together, even though you might not end up permanently being rowing together.
So that's a great, it's a great test. Like we're already starting to dig into some of these problems and we're not even one company yet. That's my thought on it.
Kison Patel: It's almost like the first companies, the initial staff is just getting comfortable with that level of transparency, as it seems like you need quite a bit of it to do that where you're describing?
Christina Amiry: I think transparency and then also just having those clear goals upfront. If we were to think about it as being like, we're taking a release, as an agile release and breaking that down into smaller increments and units of work.
I think we eventually broke it down to what's the first thing to go tackle. The first one I think was like launching a summit. Like how are we going to launch the brand and how this giant coming out and announcing together.
So we took the top level deal goals and broke that down into the major release and then broke that down into work. And the cross functional teams together, that's another kind of Agile approach is we don't work in silos of like just the support team, just the marketing team. Like we are all cross functional groups together. And we're meeting daily, we're meeting weekly and just starting to break down that work. So what you see in the TMC is a finished product, not individual functions with their different tasks and deliverables done.
And then he's got to figure out how that all adds value to the business. So we're very like gold base, very cross functional team base, and then taking those top level goals and just breaking it down to just this small of shrinkable increments as possible.
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