Atlassian’s partner program comes of age

Atlassian’s partner program comes of age

Australia’s biggest tech success story answers the call from partners with revamped channel play

Atlassian founders Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar

Atlassian founders Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar

Atlassian has taken a prominent step to becoming a channel-focused company with the first revamp of its partner program in 10 years.

Traditionally, Atlassian has driven the majority of sales through its website, as the software vendor does not have a traditional in-house sales capability. This is due to a focus on engineering talent and a reliance on its channel to fill the role of its field sales organisation.

The company has had a channel program since 2006, which was then called the Experts program, and the company had not made any substantive updates to this strategy in the following decade, until now.

As the Sydney-based vendor has scaled, however, management came to realise that Atlassian must begin to more closely align its channel model with the way in which the company goes to market.

In his only Australian channel interview, Atlassian head of global channels, Martin Musierowicz, told ARN that, since the company’s IPO in 2015, it had become more important to make that alignment in order to complement other sectors of the business.

Atlassian head of global channels - Martin Musierowicz
Atlassian head of global channels - Martin Musierowicz

“As we grow and mature, we have customers that are making their [Atlassian software] Jira, Confluence, and Bitbucket deployments more strategic. They are growing, becoming more complex, and integrated,” he explained.

The three tier model

In answer to this trend, the company has introduced a three-tier model for its channel partners. It had previously had internal designations to compartmentalise its channel based on the bookings each partner delivered, but only one external classification, platinum.

Atlassian has now added gold and silver tiers to its channel, creating a system that Musierowicz said customers are more familiar with.

“We still understand that reselling licences is important to the partner, but we want the primary focus of our partners to be concentrating on their technical skills and aptitude," he said.

He added that the tier structure would now be based not on licences sold, but on accreditation in the organisation.

In light of this, Atlassian has also launched its new training program called the Charlie Academy. This is the company’s learning management system designed to provide training for channel partner employees, focussed on delivering training and accreditation for sales, backend, and technical professionals.

“We are not looking to build the largest channel,” Musierowicz insisted. “We are just looking to build the one that provides the most value to our customers.

“We do not want to get into professional services, we do not have a sales force so hopefully it will be compelling to the partners as well," he said.

He added that this new approach would help ensure existing partners would be skilled in the appropriate areas, but also provide a foundation for the onboarding of new partners.

“We obviously want to get [new partners] up to speed as quickly as possible and certainly to give them as much focused learning materials as we can," he said.

Starting small

Musierowicz said that, while many Atlassian software deployments begin as a pilot program in a small team within an organisation, as the customer needs to scale, partners become an increasingly critical part of the puzzle.

“But we are starting to see a different scenario now where customers are starting to go straight to our data centre product. Many people are familiar with Atlassian tools, so if they are not using them, they make the decision to enter on an enterprise grade product.

He said that it is in this scenario that partners are likely to get pulled into the conversation at the early stages.

“With Jira and Confluence, data centre usually grows out of that implementation, with Bitbucket we are seeing net new opportunities right off the bat," he said.

Distribution is not for everyone

Atlassian is still in the building stage of its channel globally and, as such, Musierowicz said there were no immediate plans to appoint distribution partners.

“We don’t want to be that far removed from the customer given our business model. In many ways distributors have the value of procurement, which we do a pretty good job of ourselves.

“It is something that we are thinking about. Channel means different things to different people and for us it is all about providing that customer value. Obviously the solution partner, the SIs [systems integrators], play a key role especially in filling the gaps in how we go to market.

"If you look at other channels, and reseller partners and distributors, a lot of them are already buying licences for their customers via our website," he said.

He said that resellers and distributors are already doing a significant amount of business through this model but officially the company wanted to focus the program on where the customer value is.

“Quite honestly, the value of a reseller or a distributor to us, at least at this point, is reducing some procurement friction which hasn’t really been a huge pain point for our customers. But we are looking at how to broaden our channel."

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Tags atlassianbitbucketJIRAconfluenceMartin Musierowiczhead of global channels

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