Hard-won lessons building 0 to 1 inside Atlassian | Tanguy Crusson (Head of Jira Product Discovery)

Hard-won lessons building 0 to 1 inside Atlassian | Tanguy Crusson (Head of Jira Product Discovery)

Tanguy’s background (00:00:00)

  • Tanguy Crusson has been in the product management team at Atlassian for 10 years.
  • He worked on HipChat, Stride, and Jira Product Discovery.
  • Companies tend to overinvest in new products.
  • Lack of autonomy to test ideas that don't scale or respect design guidelines.
  • Difficulty in protecting new products from being killed after 6 months if they don't show immediate results.
  • One of the fastest-growing products in Atlassian's history.
  • Led by Tanguy Crusson from idea to launch.
  • Tanguy shares his experiences, learnings, and challenges in creating space for innovation within a larger organization.
  • The episode discusses the internal incubation program called Point A and provides valuable insights for fostering innovation in large organizations.

Tanguy’s journey at Atlassian (00:02:30)

  • Tanguy has been in the product management team at Atlassian for roughly 10 years.
  • He has worked mainly on bootstrapping new things, including:
    • Starting the cloud developer ecosystem.
    • Hip chat and Stride.
    • Status page.
  • Tanguy's track record at Atlassian has been 50/50, with Jira Discovery being his first big success.
  • Lack of resources: Large companies often have limited resources, such as budget and personnel, which can make it difficult to allocate sufficient resources to new projects.
  • Bureaucracy: Large companies often have complex bureaucracies, which can slow down the decision-making process and make it difficult to get things done quickly.
  • Risk aversion: Large companies are often risk-averse, which can make it difficult to get approval for new projects that are seen as risky.
  • Lack of alignment: Large companies often have multiple stakeholders with different goals and priorities, which can make it difficult to get everyone on the same page and moving in the same direction.
  • Cultural challenges: Large companies often have cultures that are not conducive to innovation, such as a fear of failure or a lack of tolerance for ambiguity.

The challenges of innovating in large companies (00:07:03)

  • Despite having 300,000 customers and a broad market reach, Atlassian faces challenges in innovating within its large organization.
  • The company has a deep organizational hierarchy but relatively flat decision-making, which can feel chaotic at first but allows for empowerment and the ability to pursue projects of interest.
  • Atlassian has access to corporate development research analysts, thousands of customers, and various customer segments, providing ample resources for exploring new opportunities.
  • Despite these advantages, many new product initiatives still fail, highlighting the complexity of innovation in large companies.
  • Lack of focus: Large companies often have many opportunities and can struggle to prioritize and focus their efforts.
  • Bureaucracy: The decision-making process in large companies can be slow and bureaucratic, hindering innovation.
  • Silos: Different departments and teams within large companies can operate in silos, making it difficult to collaborate and share information.
  • Risk aversion: Large companies may be less willing to take risks and try new things, as they have more to lose.
  • Cultural resistance: The culture of a large company may not be conducive to innovation, with employees resistant to change.

Atlassian's high bar for excellence (00:10:42)

  • For a new bet to be successful at Atlassian, it needs to have a high chance of growing into a multi-million dollar business.
  • Evaluating success for early-stage and established products should be different.
  • Monthly active users (MAU) is not a reliable metric for early-stage products because their MAU numbers tend to be low until the product is ready for a broader audience.
  • Without the right metrics and processes, it's challenging to start new things within Atlassian.
  • The company's internal incubator program, Point A, has helped provide the necessary support for new bets to succeed.

The HipChat story: successes, failures, and lessons learned (00:12:58)

  • Before Slack's existence, Atlassian acquired Hipchat, which gained popularity, particularly among startups.
  • When Slack entered the market, Atlassian invested heavily in Hipchat, rebranding it as "Hipchat Go Big" and "Hipchat Next Gen," but the platform struggled to support rapid changes and the influx of developers and designers.
  • Atlassian decided to rewrite the codebase, resulting in a new product called Stride, but by then, Slack had gained a significant lead, and Microsoft Teams had emerged as a strong competitor.
  • Slack's aggressive marketing and Microsoft's distribution advantage contributed to Hipchat's decline, leading Atlassian to sell Hipchat and Stride to Slack and exit the Enterprise Communications Market.
  • The decision to exit the market positively impacted Atlassian's stock price.
  • After the shutdown, the Hipchat team experienced a period of grief and uncertainty before transitioning and finding a new mission.

Lessons learned from building HipChat (00:20:47)

  • Validate assumptions early and often, especially when entering a new market or targeting a new user segment.
  • Understand the different needs and preferences of different user segments and tailor your product and marketing accordingly.
  • Pay attention to trends and changes in the market, and be willing to adapt your strategy accordingly.
  • Test ideas before building them, such as through research or talking to potential users.
  • Focus on serving your users well rather than reacting to every move your competitors make.
  • Learn from your competitors, but don't let them dictate your creative process or research.
  • Focus on solving problems that people have and making sure they're delighted with the solutions.
  • It's difficult to build a product and a platform at the same time; it's better to focus on winning the problem space first and then use or build the platform as needed.

Statuspage: a journey of perseverance (00:33:49)

  • Tanguy Crusson, Head of Jira Product Discovery at Atlassian, shares his experience building products at the company.
  • Crusson discusses the challenges and eventual success of the Status Page product, which provides a simple solution for teams to communicate service status to customers during incidents.
  • Transparency and open communication with customers during incidents are emphasized as key factors in building trust and empathy.
  • Crusson's personal interest in website performance monitoring and transparency aligned with the concept behind Status Page.
  • Atlassian collaborated with companies like New Relic through a hackathon to explore integrating Status Page with their products and enhance the experience for development teams.
  • The promising results from the hackathon led to the decision to build a business case for an IT team/operations product within Atlassian.
  • Atlassian considers options such as building, buying, or partnering when developing new products, with acquisitions like Trello proving successful.
  • Statuspage was acquired, and Crusson was responsible for integrating the business into Atlassian.

Acquisition challenges and lessons (00:39:48)

  • Acquiring a startup for growth can be challenging due to cultural differences and organizational silos.
  • Startups joining a larger company may experience culture shock and conflicting messages, as they lose full control over decision-making and face different expectations.
  • Integration challenges often revolve around people rather than technology or product vision, requiring careful management of internal processes and communication.
  • Acquisitions can be complex and not as simple as they may seem, so integration plans should be carefully considered to avoid disruptions and slowdowns.
  • When acquiring a company, it's important to consider how the product fits with the rest of the company's offerings and to treat the acquisition like hiring rather than just buying a business.
  • Acquiring a company with a great product and rebuilding it on the company's platform can accelerate the company's roadmap and potentially pay for the acquisition itself.

Strategic decisions: build, buy, or partner? (00:47:22)

  • Rebuilding an existing successful product with hundreds of thousands of customers is different from buying a company with some traction and rebuilding on your platform.
  • Rebuilding mid-flight is like trying to change planes while in the air, while buying a company and rebuilding is like delaying takeoff to switch planes.

Learning to articulate "why now" (00:48:17)

  • Misreading the appetite and sense of urgency for a project can lead to it being parked. A strong trigger or sense of urgency is necessary for a project to be prioritized and pursued. Articulating the "why now" and the perishability of an opportunity can help build motivation and support for a project.
  • Product managers should recognize when they are in a state of limbo and waiting for confirmation. In such situations, it's important to step back and reassess the situation.
  • Coda is an all-in-one platform that combines documents, spreadsheets, and apps to enhance productivity.
  • Coda offers extensive planning capabilities, allowing teams to manage planning cycles, set and measure OKRs, map dependencies, create progress visualizations, and identify risks.
  • Coda provides access to hundreds of pre-tested templates for various purposes, including roadmaps, strategies, decision-making, and product requirement documents (PRDs).
  • Product teams at high-growth companies like Pinterest, Figma, and Qualtrics use Coda to strategize, plan, and track goals collaboratively.
  • A special limited-time offer for startups is available at coda.io/Lenny, providing $1,000 in credit to sign up and experience the platform's benefits.

A quick summary of lessons in this episode (00:54:08)

  • Be clear about the users you're building the new product for.
  • Be careful when rewriting or shutting down a product.
  • Ignore the competition and focus on what your users are asking for.
  • Pay attention to the "white now" when making a case for a new product.
  • Don't give up if you're passionate about a new product.

The success and pain of launching Jira Product Discovery (00:55:40)

  • Atlassian recognized the need to start building new products internally.
  • The Point A internal incubator program was created to foster innovation.
  • Jira Product Discovery was one of the successful products that came out of Point A.
  • The incubator program provided Tanguy with the time, budget, and resources to form a team and conduct research.
  • Tanguy was able to tap into Atlassian's research, corporate development, and analyst teams for insights and collaboration.

Incubating new products: the Point A program (00:58:10)

  • Point A program was created alongside the first bets that went through it.
  • Point A gave credibility to ask for help from everyone in the company.
  • New products were a top company priority, and the company was willing to invest in them and reassess them every three to six months.
  • The psychological safety of everyone's job was safe with access to all the resources from the company.
  • Jira Product Discovery (JPD) started four years ago with research and had the full support of the company.
  • The first line of code was written three years before the official launch.
  • The company played the long game and did not focus on when they would get their dollars back.
  • The key was to see how the teams were answering the right questions along the way and whether the company was still excited about the bet.
  • JPD launched a year ago and has 8,000 customers, making it one of the fastest-growing products in Atlassian's history.
  • Reminding people that the product was still in alpha or beta and not ready for production use.
  • Balancing the need for speed with the need for quality.
  • Getting people to understand that the product was not just for them but for a broader audience.
  • Dealing with the fact that the product was not always the top priority for the company.
  • Managing expectations and communicating progress to stakeholders.

Failure is the most likely outcome (01:00:13)

  • Failure is the most likely outcome for new products.
  • The company tends to overinvest in new products.
  • Positioning new bets as likely to fail helps manage expectations and secure autonomy.
  • Emulating a startup environment within a large company creates a sense of urgency and scarcity.
  • Reminding stakeholders of the high chance of failure helps prioritize processes and resources.
  • Creating scarcity and urgency is essential for fostering a startup-like environment within a large organization.
  • Autonomy is crucial for testing and validating new ideas quickly.
  • Avoiding lengthy planning processes and negotiations allows for rapid experimentation and customer feedback.
  • Emphasizing the potential failure of new products helps keep the organization from getting too invested in them.
  • This approach protects teams from excessive pressure to succeed and allows them to focus on testing concepts and prototypes.

Atlassian's four-phase approach to launching new products (01:04:15)

  • Point A is a structured process at Atlassian for building new products from scratch. It consists of four stages: Wonder, Explore, Make, and Impact.
  • The Wonder stage involves identifying and validating a problem area with a clear market opportunity.
  • The Explore stage entails exploring potential solutions through customer feedback and validation without building anything yet.
  • The Make stage focuses on building and iterating on the solution in stages, starting with an alpha and then a beta.
  • The Impact stage is reached when the product is ready for general availability, and its impact on the business can be measured.
  • A six-pager document is created to present relevant information and seek approval from stakeholders and founders to move from one stage to the next.
  • The founders and leadership of Atlassian participate in decision-making meetings, ensuring visibility and alignment across the organization.
  • Point A has facilitated over 100 projects, with some being discontinued or merged into other products based on feedback and evaluation during the process.
  • Failure is a common outcome, and complacency can contribute to it.
  • Learning from previous experiences is crucial for success.

Breaking rules without breaking trust (01:09:20)

  • To successfully innovate within an established organization, teams must challenge norms while maintaining stakeholder trust.
  • Accumulating social capital and trust is essential for taking risks and making tough decisions.
  • Atlassian's transition from big projects to investing in new bets was a significant change.
  • Tanguy Crusson and his team operated autonomously, questioning rules and selecting only those that aligned with their mission.
  • They aimed to create a user-centric space for testing prototypes and developing products ready for launch.
  • Their location in Europe, away from the company's headquarters, facilitated rapid progress due to reduced engagement from other teams.
  • The success of their methods led to their institutionalization within Atlassian, enabling other teams to adopt similar practices.

Early success and team autonomy (01:16:16)

  • One of the key factors for success was creating a highly autonomous, siloed team.
  • This allowed the team to work independently and make decisions without interference from the core business.
  • The program was set up so that new teams could operate with autonomy within the organization.
  • Despite the perception that creating a siloed team is a common practice, it often isn't executed effectively.
  • Tanguy Crusson took extreme measures to ensure the siloed team could truly operate independently, even breaking rules to allow for its existence.

Innovating without disrupting existing customers (01:17:22)

  • Created a dedicated space within Jira for experimentation to prevent disruptions to existing customers.
  • Implemented the "incubate-iterate-integrate" approach, inspired by successful products like Instagram and Twitter.
  • Designed a new user interface specifically tailored for product managers, emphasizing speed, visual representation, and flexibility.
  • Employed the "safety funnel" concept to gradually introduce the new product to a limited group of customers, minimizing negative experiences.
  • Shifted the focus from traditional metrics like monthly active users to prioritizing a positive experience for the target audience.

The Lighthouse Users program (01:23:17)

  • The Lighthouse Users Program involves working closely with a small number of customers for an extended period, divided into three stages: 10 users, 10 to 100 users, and 100 to 1,000 users.
  • At each stage, specific success criteria are defined, and progress is measured qualitatively based on user feedback and interactions.
  • This approach helps manage stakeholder expectations, prevents premature scaling, and creates a direct feedback loop with customers.
  • Atlassian recruits 10 customers and involves them throughout the development process, fostering collaboration between product managers, designers, engineers, and customers.
  • Engineers should be exposed to the right user context to become product engineers, enabling them to empathize with customers' problems and take ownership of product development.
  • Despite having 300,000 customers, Atlassian embraces their biases and makes decisions based on feelings and reactions to specific customer experiences.

Protecting and nurturing new ideas (01:30:00)

  • Internal communication is crucial: Be transparent about progress, challenges, and learnings. Use data and customer stories to convey the product's value.
  • Create a sense of momentum: Share regular updates, demos, and customer snippets to showcase progress and maintain interest.
  • Balance internal and customer feedback: Prioritize customer feedback while keeping internal stakeholders informed.
  • Focus on team judgment: Initially, people judge the team more than the outcome. Demonstrate a strong and capable team.
  • Iterate and show progress: Deliver tangible results within a reasonable timeframe to gain credibility and support.
  • The team consistently demonstrated progress to stakeholders by sharing regular updates and progress reports.
  • The first usable prototype took five months to develop and underwent several months of design improvements before it was ready for release.

Balancing innovation with personal well-being (01:36:14)

  • The journey from idea to Alpha took about a year, with 5 months spent in Alpha.
  • Despite Atlassian's resources, there were still challenges and struggles along the way.
  • Constant processes that needed to be adjusted and people wanting input from the team created ongoing challenges.
  • The team managed to navigate these challenges gracefully and gained admiration from other teams for breaking the rules and getting away with it.
  • Hearing from customers who feel suffocated by current processes, the speaker hopes to inspire more teams to take risks and innovate.
  • The speaker expresses interest in learning more about how other companies handle incubation and plans to delve deeper into those programs.

A reminder to look after yourself (01:38:17)

  • Balance pushing for change with self-care.
  • Choose an environment that welcomes and supports change.
  • Consider alternatives if the environment is not conducive to your success.
  • It's a common question in product management about the extent of one's impact on company culture and change.
  • The speaker's experience suggests that finding a company like Atlassian, which fosters innovation and incubation, can make a significant difference.
  • Surrounding oneself with the right people and environment is crucial for personal and professional growth.
  • Be aware of the impact the environment can have on you and have the courage to make changes if necessary.

Lightning round (01:42:06)

  • Tanguy Crusson, Head of Jira Product Discovery at Atlassian, recommends several books, including "Who: The A Method for Hiring" by Geoff Smart and Randy Street, "Hakim's Odyssey" by Fabien Toulmé, and "Vivre avec la Terre" by Pierre Rabhi.
  • Crusson's favorite interview question is about what past colleagues would say about a candidate, revealing authenticity.
  • He recently discovered and enjoys hydrofoils, which allow him to "fly" over the water while kitesurfing.
  • Crusson emphasizes the importance of focusing on work and not getting caught up in self-doubt or imposter syndrome, suggesting that individuals give their best effort without taking themselves too seriously.
  • Ranked fourth worldwide in freediving, Crusson explains that the sport involves swimming underwater without fins and that most people are naturally gifted at it.
  • Through freediving courses, individuals can extend their breath-holding capacity to two to three minutes and reach depths of 20 meters by the end of a weekend.
  • Crusson shares insights on building products from scratch within large companies, highlighting the need for a clear vision, effective communication with stakeholders, continuous learning, adaptation, and embracing risks and failures as growth opportunities.
  • He encourages individuals to connect with him on LinkedIn to share ideas, feedback, or success stories related to his product.

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