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Don't settle for software that tries to serve everyone

Posted by Paul Lynch on March 8, 2017 09:35:07 AM

edwin-andrade-158050.jpgI’ve always been amazed at people’s habitual purchasing habits. As a child growing up in Dublin, there were certain items that were always on the shopping list like Campbell’s vegetable soup, Kellogg’s corn flakes or Nescafe instant coffee and although always present, the reality was that there were far better available alternatives. Week after week, month after month these items continued to be purchased and consumed not because they were loved but because they were familiar. This habitual purchasing trend is iminently clear when we look at any product or service including SaaS products.

 Although SaaS products have been around for some time, the SaaS market continues to grow with an expected growth rate of 20% in 2017. What does this mean? As more SaaS products enter the market, users are continually bombarded with more options. Once you’ve learned how to use a SaaS tool and your team has  invested time and resources using the tool, it makes it harder to move even if there are better options out there.

When it comes to project management software, although many choices, JIRA has become the de facto choice and it has done so not by necessarily being great but by being familiar. Companies continue to adopt it for reasons that don’t include being cost-effective or simple to use. In fact, you can look in many tech forums and see complaints of the complexity and bloatedness of JIRA’s user interface.  Users adopt it because it’s familiar. Users adopt it because it’s safe. But does going with safe cause more complexities in your workflow? Does going with familiar take you further and further away from simple?

When Simple and Complex Meet

Recently, Atlassian, creators of JIRA, acquired Trello. What does this mean? From my perspective, this is the SaaS equivalent of Rolls Royce purchasing Tesla because it woke up one morning and realized it was old, stuffy and unfashionable. If you’ve ever tried Trello before, you know it’s an incredibly simple tool to use – almost the exact opposite of JIRA, actually. This to me looks like a realization from Atlassian that their main tool has become overly complicated and they needed to go back to simple. There exists no common ground between the parties and unfortunately, after the champagne corks have finished popping, the backs have been slapped and the honeymoon is over, the two need to find a common thesis on what success looks like, this is a tough ask from two tools on opposite ends of the spectrum.

JIRA tips the scales too far to the side of complexity and Trello tips the scales too far to the simple side of things. It’s fine for certain projects or teams, but developers in particular will find themselves wanting more capabilities at their fingertips. Trello doesn’t offer developer tools (code repositories for example) and its simplicity ends up being limiting. All this being said, this post is not intended to be a hatchet job on Trello.  As my former chairman used to say, “Business is simple… stop trying to complicate it.” What Michael Pryor and his team have built over there is indeed simple; it just serves a user base that is very different to the one served by JIRA and I look forward to seeing how these very different bedfellows co-exist..

Teams are, by their nature, are a mix of personalities and roles. You have developers, project managers, content writers, designers, and executives all working together, but JIRA is too complex for most of them and Trello is too simple for the rest. I’d like to think there exists a category in the center for a business such as Assembla. We’re nearly as simple to use as Trello, but have the tools developers need to maximize their efficiency. You don’t need to spend five hours having to learn how to use a complex Italian coffee machine but we’re more sophisticated than shaking some granules into a cup and adding boiling water.

The Sweet Spot

The truth is anytime you use a new product or service, there’s going to be some time spent getting used to the platform – that’s natural. However, there’s a fine line between getting your feet wet and facing a steep learning curve. When you have to hire someone to set up your project management tool or have to pay $30K+ year to get support for the software, those should be clear indicators that maybe the tool you’re investing in will be a much larger headache down the road.

Although Assembla does not have all the features JIRA offers, Assembla does have the right features for software development teams. Our code repositories for SVN, Perforce and Git are native to the platform and we don’t push integrations or charge you to add a repository.  More importantly it’s fairly easy and quick to get started on the platform and start managing tasks and code. There are different SaaS pricing models out other and we’ve designed our pricing on a per user basis, starting at teams of 10. Contrary to JIRA, our price per user scales down as teams grow.

As I’ve already stressed, there are always better alternatives to habitual purchasing.  You don’t need to settle for instant coffee, try looking at the rich roast filter options. Put down the can of processed soup and choose the organic. Don’t blindly, without thinking it through, simply purchase JIRA because it’s what you’re familiar with or what everyone uses.  There might be better options like Assembla out there waiting to be experienced.  Please, rather than voicing frustrations time and again with a complex product, why not use something that is simple and yet provides all the tools you need at a fraction of the cost? We appreciate making that kind of move is a thorough process, so we offer free consultations on the best way to migrate from JIRA to Assembla. Get in touch with us and see how much better work can be when it isn’t so complicated.

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About the author

Paul LynchCEO of Assembla

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