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Atlassian: a case of too much content.


Founded in Sydney in 2002, Atlassian is a private software company creating products to assist project managers and software developers. With offices in Sydney, San Francisco, and Amsterdam, Atlassian boasts companies such as Facebook, Cisco, Netflix, and NASA as clients. Its myriad products assist in project and issue tracking, collaboration and content sharing, distributed version control solutions, and more, based on a foundation of openness, transparency, teamwork, and heart.


With no traditional sales department, Atlassian's primary marketing and sales tool is its website, As its array of products grew, the company's sales and marketing needs broadened, meaning it needed to easily add new content to its site. The process for adding new, dynamic web content via thousands of JavaServer Pages (JSP) was not efficient enough to keep pace with the demands of a growing business operating in an international, global market. Atlassian knew it needed to streamline the process quickly.


A privately held Swiss company, Magnolia International Ltd. was founded in 1997 and released Magnolia CMS Version 1.0 in 2003 as an open source CMS. It quickly developed into a popular product for content management based on Java and JSR-170 in community and enterprise editions. Today, Magnolia is used by thousands of organizations in 100plus countries, including governments and Fortune 500 companies such as ING North America Insurance Corp. and Michelin North America, Inc.


A growing business is never a "problem." However, keeping up with demand and continuing growth while holding true to mission and philosophy can be a challenge. Atlassian had found great success with JIRA, its issue and project tracking product, and Confluence, its collaboration tool. By 2010, with these and other products as well as the introduction of $10 Starter Licenses (the proceeds of which are donated to the nonprofit Room to Read), business had grown by leaps and bounds to 10,000 customers.

With new products in the pipeline, Atlassian constantly needed to update its website with new, fresh content. This was especially important as Atlassian operates on a self-service model for buying software, making its website its best and only "salesman." Unfortunately, the process for integrating new content, or even fixing something simple such as a spelling mistake, could take up to 2 weeks to implement. This was inefficient, time-consuming, and simply too cumbersome to keep up with the pace of growth.

"Previously our site was comprised of a series of JavaServer Pages (JSP) that were becoming unwieldy. These pages intermixed content, and presentation, and every change to our site was funneled through one developer. This slowed us down," explains Mark Halvorson, director of interactive at Atlassian. "We knew we needed to find a better solution that would grow with us."

Add to this a plan for rebranding, a complete site redesign, and the necessity to increase Atlassian's global reach by implementing scalable content translation into multiple languages, and the company knew that it was not necessarily looking at a simple process. Nevertheless, Halverson and his team knew that it was time to modernize with a content management system.


Atlassian explored a few different content management systems but decided on Magnolia's CMS in the end. Halverson was familiar with Magnolia as it is a customer through Atlassian's Free Open Source License Program.

Magnolia was designed with ease of use, flexibility, and scalability in mind. Regardless of the size of the organization, the number of languages used, or how many channels or websites are being used, content can be pushed out quickly and efficiently. With usability as a priority, Magnolia makes it possible for editors to create content at the same time that Java developers, designers, and programmers work.

In addition, Magnolia "integrates well with other key systems of record, e.g., booking engines or custom insurance policies. As such, it provides a digital bridge between the true organization--the people and systems at its heart--and its customers, members or citizens," explains Boris Kraft, chief technology officer and co-founder of Magnolia. This makes Magnolia a rather sophisticated system, despite how simple it is to use.

Because of its open source nature, Magnolia does not handle implementation of its product. This guarantees "that there is a vital source of revenue for our community, without the conflict of interest sometimes found around other open source CMS offerings," explains Kraft. Instead, implementation can be handled by an international network of qualified partners. However, as one of Atlassian's strengths lies in Java development, the company chose to oversee its own implementation.

Atlassian began its pilot phase with Magnolia's open source version, and relied heavily on the sizeable Magnolia community, which provided forums and documentation. This process took about 3 months and provided Atlassian with the benefit of being able to test the product without making an investment up front.

Following this successful pilot, Atlassian invested in Magnolia's Enterprise Edition. This afforded the benefit of Magnolia support for any issues or challenges. "We were fairly comfortable working with Magnolia after the pilot, however, with a system as configurable as Magnolia CMS, we still sometimes questioned whether we did things the 'right' way. It is really easy to read a templating tutorial and just get started, but you can quickly make some errors that are difficult to recover from," shares Atlassian's Halverson. Despite the sometimes challenging time difference of these international companies, Atlassian found the Magnolia support team incredibly responsive.

Magnolia provides a Standard Templating Kit (STK), a best practice tool to assist developers. However, as the available STK did not quite mesh with what Atlassian was looking for, Halverson's team decided to create its own campaign template that included all the components it uses throughout its site. With this template created, Atlassian was able to take advantage of the benefits of Magnolia's CMS.

The full overhaul of Atlassian's site took approximately a year, including the rebranding and a full redesign culminating in an Atlassian Launch Night, which was streamed live globally on Oct. 25, 2011.


It did not take long for Atlassian to begin realizing the benefits of Magnolia, and results have been consistently positive since implementation. Gone are the days of having to go through a single developer to add all new content or make a simple alteration or correction. Gone are long delays before changes took effect. Content owners now have the ability to access the system and implement changes directly and almost immediately; the process is straightforward and intuitive.

Because Magnolia is simple to use, Atlassian is not finding a need to invest in a great deal of training for current or new team members. "My team has to do very little explanation when on boarding new content owners. They just get it," Halverson explains.

Although Atlassian's implementation of Magnolia is complete, its site is always undergoing changes and additions, and Magnolia is operating exactly as Halverson and his team needs it to.

As two cutting-edge software companies with similar values of community and openness, both Atlassian and Magnolia hold each other in high esteem. They are pleased to be working together on multiple levels and look forward to future collaborative possibilities such as the integration of respective products being made available to the public.

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Title Annotation:case study
Author:Fastenberg, Tracy Wu
Article Type:Company overview
Date:May 1, 2013
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