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IT collaboration tool acquisition patches hole for Atlassian users

IT ops pros could get a unified platform to manage business, development and operations collaboration with Atlassian's integration of Trello.

Enterprise customers of Atlassian hope its acquisition of Trello Inc. will close gaps in its IT collaboration products around project management.

Atlassian offers IT collaboration products, such as Confluence for project documentation and Jira for ticketing and incident response. But some of its users have had to create their own interfaces for project management to run on top of these tools.

"One of the features missing in Atlassian is robust project management tools to help manage [Confluence] epics," said Theo Kim, head of DevOps for digital camera maker GoPro in San Francisco, referring to a construct Confluence uses to manage large projects. "It has always been a hole in [Atlassian's] product offerings."

Currently, GoPro uses Wunderlist to create a project management interface to organize tasks. While it offers a simple user interface to track project tasks, Wunderlist is not integrated with Atlassian's products -- GoPro has to stitch those tools together on its own.

"Anything Atlassian can do to alleviate that overhead will be beneficial," Kim said.

How much that overhead will be reduced depends on how well Atlassian integrates Trello's intellectual property into existing application lifecycle management product lines, and how well it can continue to natively integrate products such as Jira and Confluence, Kim added.

Trello offers ease of use and single-purpose tools, but lacks deep integration into the Atlassian ecosystem so far -- even though Atlassian's tools offer some touch points that tie together products. "There were times I was yearning for more ease of use," said Eric Hilfer, vice president of software engineering at Arlington, Va., company Rosetta Stone, which uses Atlassian tools in its DevOps pipeline. "It clearly wasn't the first thing Atlassian went for, but there are times, especially in project management, where the ability to do visual things would be very helpful."

Atlassian's acquisition also could expand the company's territory beyond its core field of application development. It's also done well in IT operations management with products such as Bitbucket and Bamboo, but it isn't as strong for business collaboration, according to IT pros. Trello's interface can cover all three.

"I've seen Trello quite a bit -- my customers use it," said Zubin Irani, CEO of cPrime Inc., an Agile software development consulting firm in Foster City, Calif. "They've been doing well on the business side against Atlassian."

Trello claims 19 million users, though how many of those are paying enterprise customers versus consumers that tinker with the free version of the software was not disclosed. Still, it's a hefty chunk of market for Atlassian to sink its teeth into, especially on the business collaboration side, Irani said.

This, in turn, could mean business, app development and IT ops get on the same page for collaboration. Moreover, IT ops only has to manage one platform instead of disparate tools in the future, Irani said.

IT collaboration market will see more team-ups

This and other recent deals, such as Planview's acquisition of Innotas in August 2016, portend further consolidation in this space, according to analysts. Other recent efforts, such as Microsoft's Teams, involve forays into the project management and IT collaboration market, as well, said Robert Stroud, analyst with Forrester Research. Some large IT industry players have been in the project management space for the better part of the last decade, such as Oracle Primavera.

Companies, including CA Technologies, could bolster the project management features of tools such as Rally, which CA acquired in 2015. Potential acquisition targets left in the market include Taskworld, which directly competes with Trello.

Trello potentially meets a need for Atlassian users and brings more customers into the company fold, but it will significantly affect Atlassian's balance sheet. Some $380 million of the $425 million price for Trello will be paid in cash -- at its last earnings report, Atlassian disclosed $266 million in free cash. Atlassian will not address questions about its cash flow until its next earnings call on Jan 19.

Beth Pariseau is senior news writer for TechTarget's Data Center and Virtualization Media Group. Write to her at [email protected] or follow @PariseauTT on Twitter.

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