Digital teamwork is booming, so it's no surprise that there's growing demand from enterprises for help in implementing collaboration and work management solutions. This in turn is attracting investment into consulting firms serving this demand, such as Valiantys, one of Atlassian's top global consulting partners. Last month the company closed an investment from Tercera, which specializes in growth equity for cloud professional services, alongside a majority stake from private equity investor Keensight Capital. I spoke to Tercera and to Lucas Dussurget, CEO at Valiantys, about the company's plans to drive enterprise adoption of Atlassian. Dussurget says:
We're super excited about the growth journey of Atlassian, and we want to double down ... Until [a few] weeks ago, Valiantys had been 100% bootstrapped, [We] had to learn to run a profitable, sustainable business for 15 years. But we thought the time was right to bring outside investment, because of the scale of our ambitions.
Valiantys is exclusively focused on Atlassian and covers the full breadth of the vendor's products. It was one of the first to expand beyond Atlassian's core market in agile developer teams into broader IT service management use cases, and in 2013 Atlassian acquired one of its apps to become the foundation of its Jira Service Management product. Alongside its agile development and IT service management practices, Valiantys also has a cloud migration practice, and expects to use the investment to build out practices to support enterprise work management and data and analytics.
Agile processes across the enterprise
Broadening the scope of Atlassian work management to bring digital workflows into enterprise functions such as facilities management, HR and compliance is a particular focus at the moment. As well as technology implementation, helping clients adopt new working practices is an important part of what Valiantys brings, as Dussurget explains:
We are, if you want, the customer success arm of Atlassian. Atlassian produces fantastic software. But to realize the value of the software, customers really have to adopt not just a product, but new ways of working, new practices. In the software world, we talk a lot about agile, especially scaled agile practices. In IT, it's a lot about the latest versions of ITIL and having a more agile ITSM. And again, putting agile outside of IT in other teams.
The common theme is bringing agile practices across the board, and having the tools that enable those practices to scale and be successful. That's where we come in.
One example of bringing this agile approach to more general-purpose business processes is a large global insurance company that Valiantys recently helped to digitize its handling of documents for assessment by underwriters. These had previously been managed via a shared email inbox accessed by several hundred people. The process was moved to JIRA, providing improved traceability and a full audit trail, along with tracking of service level agreements, escalation paths and better reporting. As well as boosting productivity, it's now easier to co-ordinate globally and identify areas for further improvement.
Competition with ServiceNow
This type of project, along with IT service management, increasingly brings Valiantys and its Atlassian solutions into competition with ServiceNow. Dussurget says:
The key reason why we win more and more against ServiceNow [is] the time to value of the platform. ServiceNow is a powerful product, but it's a product that takes a very long time to realize the value of. It's a bit like deploying SAP — you need years of investment to have something that delivers value.
A solution based on JIRA can be implemented in just a few months, and is also easier to adapt when processes change, he explains. Having a single solution that can be used across development teams, IT and other functions is another advantage. The final factor is cost — one large customer reduced its cost of ownership by 60% after switching IT service management from ServiceNow to JIRA, he says. But he goes on to acknowledge ServiceNow's role in helping to create the market:
In some ways, ServiceNow has prepared the ground for us, because they've spoken to many IT departments about what they call enterprise service management, which is that same concept of applying workflow management platforms to non-IT workflows ...
The barrier is often that time to value. It's often the fact you've got hundreds of workflows, they are not standard. Not like IT workflows, which to a significant extent, are quite standardized by frameworks like ITIL. Here, we're talking about business operations workflows that are custom to every single organization out there.
Having a solution that provides a fast enough time to value that it justifies rolling out and investing in having such a solution for a much larger population of users, that's a challenge that [enterprises] are talking to us about.
Change management is an important part of the service offering when implementing this type of project. He elaborates:
When customers come to us, often they've already heard about Atlassian. They even already know that they want to use Atlassian. The challenge that they face is, 'How do we manage that change? How do we get our teams enabled? How do we re-engineer potentially our processes? We understand our challenge, we understand how this tool is going to help us solve it. But we still need someone to manage that change, to manage that transformation.
That's where we come in. We come in to manage those transformation programs. We advise customers on the whole change management, or even we run it for them, from training and enablement to potentially re-engineering processes or reviewing processes, to identify inefficiencies so that we get to our target state.
One further advantage of digitizing teamwork — which Valiantys is already exploring within its own virtual team processes — is the ability to collect performance data and then use that data to improve operations. He explains:
If all your processes are digitized, every single interaction, everything that happens, is a data point that you can mine, and where you can find lots of inefficiencies in your organization. Why are these people doing this? Why is this part of the process taking so long? Why are these people not following the process? You find all these inefficiencies, and you get actionable management information.
That's something that for me — because we do the same thing for ourselves — as a CEO, I love because that continuous improvement idea is great in practice, but when you have the data that you can mine to measure where you have inefficiencies in your processes, and measure also the impact of any changes you're making to your processes, it's really super-powerful.
Penetrating the enterprise market
For Tercera, the potential of this enterprise work management market means that the Atlassian ecosystem has always been on its radar to invest in. Bill Petty, Partner at Tercera, says:
When we launched Tercera 18 months ago, Atlassian was one of the ecosystems that we said, 'We want an investment and exposure to this space.' What Atlassian is doing is going to be scaling to 10 billion in annual revenue, and there's just a massive services opportunity associated with it — and they're a really partner-friendly ecosystem.
Tercera believes its advice will help Valiantys penetrate the enterprise market, especially in the US, where the company, originally established in France, is already growing fast. This coincides with Atlassian itself taking steps to grow its global enterprise sales after last year hiring Kevin Egan, a Salesforce veteran who has held similar roles at both Dropbox and Slack. The opportunity across the enterprise is one that Valiantys is well positioned for, as Petty argues:
Every business is becoming a software business, doesn't matter if you're a manufacturing business, software is becoming core. So one of the service offerings that I'm most excited about, for both Atlassian and Valiantys, is this JIRA agile at scale. In order to do that, and implement it across the enterprise, it really helps to have a service provider who has a presence globally. And there's not many Atlassian service providers that have a footprint that's global, and more importantly, have the deep sophistication and understanding of the product set to help clients deliver on the value they're looking for from Atlassian.
I've long argued that digital teamwork is one of the core application pillars of the modern enterprise, and — despite recent missteps — Atlassian is a key player in that market. I do feel the vendor should make more of the potential to measure and analyze teamwork and thus improve enterprise processes, so it's good to see that this is something the leadership at Valiantys are fully aware of. This seems like an astute investment by Tercera and one that will help Atlassian too as it seeks to expand its enterprise presence.