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Atlassian Integrates Confluence and JIRA for Agile Best Practices

Enterprise software toolmaker Atlassian this week announced tighter integration between its JIRA issue tracking application and its Confluence team collaboration platform. The closer JIRA linkage is part of the Confluence 5.4 release and a continuation of the company's ongoing effort to support a more complete Agile software development process -- a "single flow" -- that streamlines the planning and tracking of releases, allowing teams to standardize requirements, maintain traceability and continuously improve the process itself, according to the company.

With this release, Atlassian is "connecting the dots around Agile development," said Giancarlo Lionetti, group product marketing manager for the company's development software products.

"When you think about software development, you think about developers, testers, maybe dev leads," Lionetti told ADTmag. "You think about the people involved in writing the code. But if you look at the whole process, there are lots of other people involved: product managers, designers, usability testers, all the sales and marketing teams involved in coming up with the idea and eventually selling it. Software development really is a whole company effort."

In other words, modern enterprise software development is an intensely collaborative process involving several teams, all touching each other at various stages, said Confluence brand manager Ryan Anderson. And the inherent friction of those interactions thwarts the Agile process.

"We are huge supporters of Agile development," Anderson said, "but it can be hard to actually be Agile in an enterprise. We built the JIRA integrations in Confluence 5.4 with the purpose of reducing that friction and making Agile best practices easy to practice."

Confluence 5.4 aims to bring the non-code-writers into the software development process, Anderson said, making it more of a unified experience for everyone involved. In particular, this release targets product managers, who define and collaborate around requirements in Confluence, but also development managers, who generally seek to maintain a bridge between product managers and developers.

In this release of Confluence, JIRA is a first-class citizen, Anderson said. JIRA issues are automatically embedded in requirements documents as they're created. And product managers get a single, dynamic view of the sprints, epics, and issues related to requirements. And Confluence pages (requirements, technical specs, design guidelines, etc.) are automatically linked to epics and issues in JIRA. "Agile developers can get the context they need without breaking their flow," he said.

This release comes with new Blueprints, which are templates designed to simplify the way Confluence users create and share their work. Blueprints, which the company introduced last April, also provide instructional "placeholder" text and an automated structure for organizing content once it has been created. The new JIRA Report Blueprint allows dev teams to create an ad-hoc status report or a change log in Confluence. "You can answer all those questions about the progress of the current release that drive developers crazy before you even get them," Anderson said. The new Retrospective Blueprint is designed to simplify a key Agile practice: reflection for improvement. It gives scrum masters, for example, an easy way to kick-off a retrospective in Confluence with one click in the JIRA Agile add-on.

"We want all Agile software teams to be able to run retrospectives," Anderson said. "By uniting JIRA and Confluence, we can encourage this Agile best practice, which leads to better software."

Along with JIRA and Confluence, Atlassian's product catalog includes Stash, an on-premise distributed version control systems (DVCSs) for enterprise teams; Bitbucket, a cloud-based DVCS hosting service; SourceTree, a desktop client for the Git and Mercurial DVCSs; and Bamboo, a continuous integration (CI) server. The company maintains offices in Sydney, Australia, Amsterdam and San Francisco.

OnDemand free trials of JIRA and Confluence are available on the company's Web site here.

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