This continues a series of guest columns from practitioners and bloggers I respect. The category - The Real Deal - describes them well.
Jeff Walker, a fellow Enterprise Irregular, recently announced his company, Altassian (which makes wikis and other collaboration software) had passed life time revenues of $100 million in revenues (- revenues for this year are running at $40 million).
So I asked him how that was any different than that of so many other companies before them that had crossed the milestone. His response “we have had more fun building it than anyone else before” Now, I was intrigued – how could a company with the weight of the world on its shoulders (the name is derived from Atlas) be “fun”?
So I invited him to write a guest column, and as you can read there is a much deeper meaning to his idea of “fun.” Not surprising for someone who has beaten cancer twice now and has learned to balance work, life and fun as few of us can imagine.
“At Atlassian, we talk about creating something different. Not for the sake of it. Because we’re never convinced norms should be accepted. Even our own could change. At the risk of simplification, these are my three Deep Lessons I have internalized over 3.5 years in this company.
1. Open Up Your Company
Why do software companies hide prices? Why must I call a sales person to get them? Why must I fill out an order form to get a goddamned PDF of half-baked content? Why don’t more companies treat customers with respect and develop trust through openness? Sounds straightforward, but this is the cat-and-mouse game that enterprise software companies persist in.
We think open pricing, open license terms, open bug and issue tracking of our products, and licensing our source code are what people, like us, want. We ask ourselves: would we buy this crap? How do you want to be treated? That’s a good test for how transparent you are.
2. Affordable Prices
Mike Cannon-Brookes (one of our founders) pounds on the table regularly about the price of entry. He is always trying to figure out how to make it easy for the next developer, the next IT manager, the next knowledge worker to not hesitate. Once we have a product we would use, then we have a fist fight over keeping the prices low. The low price principle was most striking when I met Mike and Scott Farquhar, the other founder.
They are, let’s say, frugal Aussies. They had that shining spirit from Down Under which is an authentic Aussie practicality that was refreshingly unconventional in Silicon Valley. Funny thing is: even though the founders are no longer quite so frugal, our prices have rarely changed. Keep your prices low, Mister Software Man.
3. Anal-Retentive Analytics and Metrics
Scott is our Super Metrics Warrior. Scott got us measuring Net Promoter Score. Scott quizzes for so much detail and facts about the business, people leave the room dizzy and frustrated because they are starting to realize what they don’t know.
We don’t have the systems and analytics yet to measure up to some great large companies, but for a $40 million/year business with 185 employees, we’ve pretty damn good. We analyze the shit out of everything. We are constantly writing queries and dashboards on our internal wiki running Atlassian Confluence. This is our form of Lighting Business Intelligence, without any traditional BI software overhead. It’s also one of the hidden gems in our wiki.
Every team has a dashboard, but more important, every team is pissed their dashboard isn’t better. Continually unhappy with the gaps in our data, and searching for that Last Shaker of Metrics, we are on a Forced March for more data. This is a Mission from God I am still learning.
I could rant on about what we think a different kind of software company should be, because we’re still not there. We’re trying though.
And having our version of serious fun -)”
Jeff can be reached at Jeffrey AT atlassian.com