The Curious Case of Atlassian

There’s a company in Australia that’s growing at a tremendous rate, but isn’t receiving enough mind share  in the business world. So far I’ve read about three business practices employed by Atlassian that stands out from the typical company.

No Sales Force

One of the the fastest growing enterprise software companies, Atlassian earned $105 mm in revenue for 2011, an increase of 35%, with no sales force. They’ve also had 40 consecutive quarters of profitability. Instead of employing a sales staff, Atlassian relies on marketing and good customer service to ensure its users have “a great experience with the Atlassian brand”.

According to co-founder Scott Farquhar:

Instead of a sales guy calling them up and saying ‘When are you going to buy?’ this week, next week, the week after, we allow all our customers to evaluate the software themselves.

We’re at the end of the phone if they have any questions but we’re not going to badger them, trying to get them across the line.

Most businesses don’t provide enough information about their products, instead hoarding information so customers are forced to consult sales staff. By publishing the price, customers know exactly what it’ll cost. thereby, alleviating the need to rely on sale tactics like discounts. The company could then just focus on  making the experience and the product easy to try and easy to buy


Motivating Employees

[youtube]http://youtu.be/u6XAPnuFjJc[/youtube]

This video adapts Daniel Pink’s talk at RSA and is based on his book, “Drive,” an exploration on what truly motivates us. When expounding on how to get employees to add value, Pink uses Atlassian as an example.

Similar to Google’s 20% time, Atlassian allow their developers for once a quarter, on a Thursday afternoon, to work on anything they want, any way they want and with whomever they want. The only requirement is that people have to show what they’ve created to the rest of the company at a fun and spirited meeting 24 hours later.

Financial incentives result in a negative impact because they are extrinsic, external and materialistic.
The reason Atlassian gives their employees 24 hours of free mental stimulation is because it fulfills their intrinsic motivation. This in turn gives gives them free time during work hours to create whatever their heart tells them to. The secret to high performance isn’t rewards and punishment, but that unseen intrinsic drive (what’s inside of you). Intrinsic drive is the drive to do things for their own sake the and the drive to do things because they matter

Atlassian calls these sessions “FedEx Days” because people have to deliver something overnight. These one-day bursts of autonomy have produced an array of fixes for existing software and ideas for new products that might not have emerged otherwise. This isn’t management through carrots and sticks. It’s innovation through autonomy.

Self-Analysis Instead of Peer Reviews

According to Atlassian’s HR director, traditional performance reviews cause anxiety for all parties and act as a demotivator. Instead of discussion about how to enhance people’s performance, the reviews caused disruptions and anxiety, and demotivated team members and managers.

Atlassian abolished official performance reviews two year ago, and replaced them with a brief weekly self-analysis that employees complete online by dragging a dot along an axis in response to questions.

You can read a more lengthy explanation on why they decided to replace the peer review system here.

  • Sergey B.

    Don’t all internet companies have no sales force