Prior to the announcement I spoke with Bill Arconati, Confluence Product Marketing Manager. I got a good background on the evolution of Altassian as well as preview of Confluence 3.0. I was very interested, as I have known about them for some time. As a disclosure, one of my business partners, Helix Commerce, is a Canadian reseller of Confluence but I have no direct Atlassian connection.
Atlassian was founded in 2002 and is headquartered in Sydney Australia. It has grown through its own direct revenue without VC help. Their first product was JIRA, a tool for issue tracking and it remains their largest seller. In 2004 their wiki product, Confluence, was released. Bill said the two tools complement each other and often led to cross-selling opportunities.
The complementary relationship of JIRA and Confluence makes sense as JIRA provides a more structured issue-tracking tool while Confluence offers the more open wiki collaboration platform. Bill gave the example of a development team that might use Confluence in the product design phase and then add JIRA in the product development stage to track issues. In both cases the product is often introduced into an enterprise through a technical team and then expands to business units as the value is seen. Many large enterprises, like Accenture or Sun, have sanctioned Confluence as their IT approved wiki standard. Customers frequently use Atlassian’s Universal Wiki Converter to migrate other wikis to Confluence.
Confluence comes in both on-premise and hosted versions. The hosted version has two levels. You can get your own server for more control over configurations and plugins. There is also a low cost shared server hosted where you have less control.
Sample use cases include intranets, team collaboration, business dashboards, knowledge management, web publishing and external communities. Atlassian is staying with the wiki concept for their promotion and branding as they believe the collaborative philosophy associated with wikis to align with their desired image for the tool.
Atlassian has recognized that a wiki interface can be a challenge to some business users so Confluence 3.0 introduces a new easier to use interface. They also added a Microsoft Office connector in version 2.9 last Summer. You can start a document in MS Word and then bring it into the wiki. You can also edit wiki pages in Word. In addition, they have made their wiki text editor more similar to Word. Their goal is to lower the barriers to content creation.
With Confluence 3.0 Atlassian is providing an enhanced plug-in environment. First, it lets users add over 80 bundled extensions or ‘macros’ including charts, image galleries and task lists to their pages in just a couple clicks through a drag and drop capability. They call this the ‘macro browser.’ In addition, Atlassian is rolling out a dedicated website (plugins.atlassian.com) that gives both plugin developers a venue to showcase their products and customers the ability to easily find, download and review over 325 plugins created by third party developers.
I asked Bill about these plugin developers. He said there is a core of about 15 firms who have developed a business around this. Others have offered plugins they developed for themselves on a free Open Source so others can improve on what they did. One developer,Peldi Guilizzoni, left his software job in the US and moved back to Italy to build Balsamiq Mockups, a plugin to create software UI mockups directly inside of Confluence. He is now making a good living through his Confluence plug-in offerings.
The third major component to Confluence 3.0 involves new community features. You can better connect with others, follow their activity and readily discover relevant content. There is an enhanced user profile as seen below.
Users can hover over a name and get information on the person and also navigate to that person’s profile. Below is an example of user hover.
There is a twitter like status update with a 140 character limit. I like this feature and think that Twitter like features work best within the enterprise if they are connected with a comprehensive platform like Confluence, rather than acting standalone. Below is a sample of Status Upates.
Atlassian also recently offered their own Stimulus Package. You could purchase $5 licenses for JIRA and Confluence, with all proceeds donated to charity. They hoped to raise $25,000 for Room to Read and ended up raising over $100,000. This was a great idea and I am pleased it was rewarded. Room to Read will be able to build 25 libraries for children in developing nations with the money.