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How to Find Just the Right App - An Escapade in the Atlassian Marketplace

Atlassian, Jira, Atlassian Add-Ons

"Easy... Secrets? Wait. What's that?... Oh, oh, ok. Excuse me. So it's Easysecrets, one word? Got it, but still. You've got to be kidding me!"

As a trusted, Platinum Atlassian Partner we get asked all the time for input on an array of topics, but hands down, the number one inquisition is all about the apps and vendors in the marketplace. Easysecrets is one such vendor. They make a nifty little free app called Related Issues for Jira, but we'll get back to that thought in a moment.

Most learn about the marketplace rather early in their Atlassian journey... and then are teased and taunted by it for a bit before feeling comfortable while basking in all its glory. For some, the existence of the marketplace is exciting because they see their investment in Atlassian products as a venture into an entire eco-system, one that won't pigeon-hole their team into working around the confines of the product's out-of-the-box functionality.  Then again, others are wary and fear marketplace nickel-and-diming (or gouging, rather) to get the job done, especially during demo time when their line of questioning is repeatedly answered with "Yes, but you'll need an app from the marketplace to do that".

I've evaluated many a marketplace app, but there is no evaluation that sticks out in my mind more than the one that landed with Easysecrets. Even now writing this I cringe at the name, but I was certainly judging the book by its cover. The following is an escapade of do's and don'ts and of following my own advice, judgements and all.

Cool-But-Why - Know Your Problem

Before you even so much as think about googling up a solution, know your problem. Know. It. That said, sometimes the only lead you'll get is someone's idea of a solution, but that's ok. Just don't stop there. Get curious. Discover the problem. It will save you from wasting time with the wrong solution and spare you from scrambling last minute WHEN it's time to present your case to management, make trade-off decisions or even roll out an announcement to your end users as to why the app has been purchased and how they'll benefit from using it.

Here's how it went down in my Easysecrets for Jira Service Desk scenario:

  • Client: I need to see the last 5 issues that the customer submitted.
  • Me: Um, cool. Sounds nice. Tell me why.
  • Client: They (the agents) need to see what else is going on, and from the same screen. Not from an issue search.
  • Me: Cool. Cool. Cool. Cool. How come?
  • Client: Cause it could be that they've (the customer) submitted the same problem over and over again and we've already got the answer for them in another request.
  • Me: Ok. Any other reason?
  • Client: I want my agents to have as much context about our customer's interaction with the Customer Portal as possible so that they can deliver stellar customer service. Seeing the last few requests they've sent in gives them that context. Also, my boss said so. He wants it.
  • Me: Cool. He digs the idea, huh? Do you know why?
  • Client: He loves it and I told him we're doing it, so its top priority.
  • Me: Got it. To recap. The problem we're solving with this is less than excellent service due to lack of easy to find contextual information, like the reporter's ticket history AND satisfying management's expectations. Cool?

Now mind you, we'd already established a "cool-but-why" relationship status. Meaning, he was accustomed to my "cool, but why...yeah cool but why... but why... uh huh that's nice, but why" line of questioning. It's a good thing too because if he had said that he wants to see the last five issues to make sure that reporters are generally serviced by the same agents that resolved their previous issues, well then, that would have been a totally different cool-but-why conversation. And it would have ended with a different problem and very likely a very different solution.

The Cool-But-Why To Do's:

  • Know the problem that you're trying to solve, may require one or more a cool-but-why discussions
  • Understand the benefit your teams and organization will get from solving said problem
  • Write it down, Confluence page, email, bar napkin, something!
  • Understand if this is a nice to have, business critical or somewhere in between. Again trade-off, budgetary decisions, etc.
  • Bonus points! Track a supporting metric for before and after the app.....ooooh yeah (in my best Kool Aid man voice).

Deal Breakers - Know Your Boundaries

The biggest deal breaker is availability for your deployment option. If I'm on Jira Cloud and the app is only available in Server and Data Center, I'm out... don't even read further. Stop. Click away. That is unless you're shopping for more reasons to move to another deployment option. The next biggest is often budget. Know your budget or get really clear on your business case... see cool-but-why above.

What about the existence of helpful, keyword there and worth repeating, helpful documentation and support? The level of deal-breakerness depends on the business case. For business critical pieces of the application, it is most certainly a deal breaker. Especially if you don't already have a good relationship with a trusted partner (wink, wink, insert shameless plug for Isos here) who can help you navigate the gaps between the vendor's support and industry best practices. Having that extra edge or foot in the door from a partner-app vendor relationship can save plenty grief if the going gets tough. If we're talking a nice to have kind of app, then ok, maybe mediocre documentation could be acceptable especially knowing that you've always got the Atlassian community to crowdsource some help in a pinch.

I was certain that a vendor by the name of Easysecrets, who is probably just a developer dude in Romania or Brazil, was certainly going to be a deal breaker for my client. I was hesitant to even tell them about the app for fear they'd laugh me out of the room and take away my consultant card for even suggesting the possibility. Turns out I was wrong. You may not be so lucky, so you'll want to know what your internal procurement or vendor vetting policies are before you get in too deep. Do you need to vet out vendors or apps based on specific security or compliance requirements or can a dude in a country over seas whip you up a free plugin and everyone's honky dory?

Troll, Tuck, Fuzzies -  Know Your Stuff

Guys, c'mon. You know. Right? Your partner/wife/boyfriend has done this to you before? I'm talk'n, taking a curiously detailed mental note from some obscure encounter and tucking it away for just the right moment to use it against you. Simple, yet only slightly less diabolical in the case of qualifying marketplace apps. For this one you gottsta read. Troll it up, starting with the app's marketplace listing. Search out those details that alone may not answer the question if this app is right for you, but pile them together and you've either got yourself some warm fuzzies or a funny smell cause you just stumbled on some schnizz.

  • How may times has this app been installed? Would I be one of the first to vet it out or is this something that a ton of other people out there have also take a chance on?
  • What are the ratings? I generally like to see more than 3 stars.
  • What are the reviews saying? I like to see some honest reviews of what works well and what was a surprise, especially if the rating is low.
  • What kinds of questions are people asking about this app out in the Atlassian community?

It was a colleague of mine who suggested the Related Issues app by Easysecrets for my client. I was appalled at first as you may have guessed from my blog opener. However, the warm fuzzy that got me over the hump to install a trial was that this dude in Brazil or Romania or wherever had been supporting this free app for three years. Atlassian hadn't kicked him (the vendor) out the and although the reviews critiqued the app people generally seemed happy with it. Plus it was free, how much room do they have to complain really?

Take it for a Test Drive - Know Your App

You did your homework, it passes the deal breaker and warm fuzzy stage and now it's time to see what it's all about.

Most apps in the marketplace come with a 30 day free trial. No obligation. It's great, so be sure to take advantage, but don't go all wild at first. Install this puppy in a non-prod environment and then let loose.

For our dear Cloud friends, unless you have multiple cloud instances, you're more apt to skip this step but heed this caution: users may fall in love with an application and if you're not sure that you'll purchase and instead end up taking it away from them.... boo on you. Like, serious boo on you.

Bonus! Working on a project and need more than a 30 day free trial? Working with an Atlassian Partner will get you that luxury. How's that for a warm fuzzy?

Martha Stuart That BidNezz - Know How to Do it Yourself

DIY, my peeps! If you've jumped through all these hoops and you're just not getting what you need, then by all means, look into what it might take to make it yourself. Get your technical crew, or that one trusty developer on your side with all the technical documentation from Atlassian to knock it out.

Isos, in fact, has made several custom apps for clients ranging in effort from a few hours to several days. We deliver the app right to the client, and bypass the marketplace altogether. So just because you don't find what you're looking for in the marketplace, doesn't mean that your best solution isn't found in your own custom app.

All's Well that Ends Well

In the end my Easysecrets escapade turned out to be a success story. This unassuming and rather narrow focused little ditty hit the problem square in the face, the price was right, there were few alternative and elegant solutions and the vendor triggered 0 red flags, that is if you don't count their name. What does Easysecrets even mean!? Why can't I let that go? I'm sure the answer to that, my friend, is a topic for a whole 'nother kind of blog post.

Cheers, and happy shopping!

TAGS: Atlassian, Jira, Atlassian Add-Ons

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