Why you shouldn’t DIY Atlassian maintenance (and what to do instead)

Handing responsibility for your Atlassian tool maintenance and admin over to your jack-of-all-trades IT person or the most experienced Atlassian user in your organisation is certainly appealing – you’ve got a resource already in-house and can be cost-effective. However, taking the DIY route for Atlassian maintenance and support isn’t always the simple solution it seems. To help you make an informed decision about how you maintain your Atlassian toolkit both on a daily basis and in the event of major changes, we’ve outlined the pros and cons of the DIY approach and offered some options.

The pros of in-house or DIY Atlassian maintenance and support

Having someone in-house who can maintain your Atlassian environment and provide support to users is an attractive option that provides your team with:

  • quick responses to issues and questions (assuming their role is primarily dedicated to Atlassian maintenance and support)
  • a central source of in-depth knowledge about how the company uses Atlassian tools
  • the ability to micro-train people on tools and plugins quickly when they ask questions, without having to arrange external trainers

However, the success of these ‘pros’ relies on employing (or already having) someone with a high level of Atlassian experience and certifications. If you have a company dependent on Atlassian tools for a number of functions, this might be an option.  For small to medium-sized businesses who want to keep their support and administration in-house by combining these tasks with another role, this option comes with the pitfalls listed below.

The cons of in-house or DIY Atlassian maintenance and support

Yes, we’re biased in favour of having a managed services agreement with a credentialled Atlassian Solution Provider. But, that’s because we hear the following story on a regular basis: “We’ve done some of the basic admin ourselves, and have a guy in-house who did the more complex maintenance tasks. But we realised we needed an expert so brought in a consultant who jumped in and re-configured things but the tools still aren’t working well. It’s evolved a lot since we started and now we have something that looks like a plate of spaghetti.”

Unfortunately, confusion and inefficiency aren’t the only downsides of taking a DIY and/or ad hoc approach to your Atlassian maintenance:

It actually costs you more in downtime and money

In a digital age, keeping your budget balanced and profits up is contingent on the smooth running of your tech stack.  If you’ve chosen to delegate Atlassian administration to a single IT person or decentralise it to a team level, it will probably land at the bottom of a long list of tasks. This can cause unexpected and costly periods of downtime when:

  • the person responsible leaves their role or goes on holiday so there is no one to ask for support. Fixes, updates, onboarding and off-boarding simply don’t get done so projects stall and tasks get put on the back burner.
  • the person responsible doesn’t have the knowledge to perform complex tasks or they don’t know the quickest way to do something so they waste time figuring out how to do it.
  • competing work demands mean updates and patches are not installed in a timely manner causing glitches and slow run times.
  • home-made solutions to issues or new configurations and workflows don’t work and you have to engage outside consultants or IT support to fix them.

It’s also worth noting that inexperienced administrators may not be strict enough with tool governance around access. Giving people licenses they don’t need, allowing them too much access or failing to offboard people who are no longer with the company can add hundreds, if not thousands, to your license costs.

It can prevent your team from working productively and securely

Having Atlassian tools alone doesn’t necessarily ensure a high level of productivity: users need training and the environment needs to be set up, governed and maintained correctly, all of which require the guidance of Atlassian experts. Leaving these to non-credentialled IT staff, or even team leaders who have used Atlassian tools before, can lead to:

  • processes and workflows that are configured in an inefficient way, simply because no one knows how to create them to optimise productivity
  • data integrity issues caused by people setting up their own ‘similar but different’ custom fields resulting in duplication of data or delays in reporting while people cross-reference or merge data
  • missing out on using new and existing features or plugins that could significantly improve the way things are done simply because no one was aware they existed
  • inefficiencies due to problems with integrations or integrations not being implemented at all

At best, you might end up using an older version that doesn’t work as well and doesn’t have the latest feature sets. At worst, using your Atlassian tools will become cumbersome and you’ll end up throwing the proverbial baby out with the bathwater and looking for other platforms.

You’ll miss out on opportunities for continual improvement 

The beauty of Atlassian’s tools is that they are highly customisable and able to keep changing as your business grows. That said, continual improvement requires up-to-date industry knowledge and training on how best to improve the platform. Without a dedicated person (or team) with the knowledge and motivation to make it happen, you won’t have someone to drive a continual improvement plan forward.

Furthermore, when large changes are made to the environment, without an expert or centralised team heading up the project, it’s unlikely that a proper change management and consultation process is adhered to. This means that end-users could be adversely affected by the changes.

The best outcomes from using Atlassian tools come from having a dedicated team to look after them, who understand what the options are when you want to change, upgrade or add something. Experts also have a wider view of the possibilities as they see Atlassian as a total platform that works together, rather than separate tools.

What to do instead

Firstly, you’ll need to change your mindset around the cost of Atlassian maintenance, support and administration. It should be seen as an investment that will deliver a positive ROI, rather than an expense.

Secondly, you’re already paying for the maintenance – even if it’s hidden within the salaries of people you’ve delegated these tasks to – so decide where you’ll get a better return on the money you spend.

The key to this decision is understanding the value that bringing in Atlassian experts can deliver via the time they give back to your staff and the know-how they can deploy to drastically improve how you operate. For example, you might be paying $100k in hours on existing staff to do training, administration (off-boarding, onboarding, archiving), answering questions and doing basic updates or patches. However, with their workload, you’re only getting a 5% improvement in productivity for your team overall. By reallocating that money, you’ll probably receive fewer hours of support from an Atlassian Solutions Partner, but in that time, they’ll be able to configure, maintain and support your Atlassian environment in such a way that you see a 20% improvement in productivity.

Need an Atlassian expert for small jobs, but don’t have one in-house?

It’s not always possible to employ a full-time Atlassian expert, but it helps to have one on call when you need support.

With that in mind, the best choices for resourcing the maintenance, administration and support of your Atlassian environment are:

  • Limited budget: Spend your money on having experts do the installation and configuration of your platform and train your team on administration tasks, then reengage them to manage big upgrades and changes.
  • Big budget: hire a certified Atlassian expert to work in your in-house IT team, or buy a support and maintenance package from certified Atlassian Solution partners like DI.

YouTube tutorials and a couple of hours of training aren’t a substitute for an expert with years of industry experience. Asking non-experts to perform Atlassian maintenance and support is a poor use of your own internal resources: let them do what they’re good at and what you are really paying them for as it will be far more cost-efficient in the long run.

DI can tailor a managed services or ad-hoc support package to your needs and budget. Get in touch with the team to see how we can make your Atlassian platform a productivity powerhouse.

Blog post by Design Industries published on 1st of Sept 2022

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