How Atlassian Used Automation to Build a $4 Billion Company with More Than 100,000 Customers


Back in 2002, Atlassian launched their first product, Jira.

At the time, they didn’t make a lot of waves. The company was tiny and their product was one of many in a fairly crowded market.

Two years later, when they unveiled Confluence, they were still a relatively obscure company that was only starting to gain international attention. But over the course of 15 years, they have become one of the largest–and fastest growing–software companies in the world.

Through a combination of investment and acquisition, they have grown to offer at least a dozen separate software products and a market cap of more than $4 billion.

They became a public company in 2015, and they’ve continued to grow.

In a single quarter in 2017, the company added more than 4,000 new customers.

Most software companies would be lucky to add that many new customer in an entire year. And smaller companies would be crushed by the logistics of bringing on so much new business at once. But Atlassian took it in stride.

Despite enormous growth, the company hired fewer than 100 new employees in all of 2017. With more than 100,000 total customers, their team is lean–just 2,300 in total.

They have accomplished this because they have a clear strategy that separates them from competitors. Rather than growing in size and numbers, their team has leveraged automation to rapidly scale the business while keeping overhead low.

Instead of traditional sales staff, they’ve sold enterprise-grade software primarily through a self-serve model. Whereas most companies this size would have hundreds or thousands of employees to provide customer service, they’ve scaled customer support through AI and machine learning.

Their team uses technology to accomplish more with less.

At the 2018 Customer Experience Strategies Summit, we got the chance to discuss Atlassian’s growth and CX strategy with Chris de Vylder, head of sales strategy and operations. Through the course of our discussion, we learned about how–and where–they’re deploying automation to streamline processes.

Using Automation to Increase Revenue and Sales Efficiency

Atlassian’s rise to prominence all comes down to their ability to use automation to drive new revenue and growth.

At the core of their business, they’ve used technology to scale in 3 ways:

  1. Automating sales
  2. Automating customer engagement
  3. Automating customer service

When it comes to sales, the company has embraced the software-as-a-service model at scale.

Their entire growth, sales, and operations strategy is built around acquiring new users (generally through a freemium model), onboarding them, and converting them into customers–without human interaction.

While this is common practice for many software companies, Atlassian has made it a central piece of their strategy. They’ve seamlessly blended the self-serve buying experience with automation and intelligence that help drive sales.

Customers who appear on the cusp of signing up or upgrading their service receive a nudge from human sales staff who are available to answer questions. Meanwhile, most of Atlassian’s customers just flow through the onboarding and sales process automatically.

Rather than an army of sales executives and account managers for enterprise customers, almost everyone gets this same treatment–and it works.

Customer Engagement Drives Revenue

The second piece of Atlassian’s success is their strategy for automating customer engagement.

This piece of the puzzle neatly bridges the self-serve buying process with the self-service support model. In order to help customers engage with their products, answer their questions, and upsell them on paid features, Atlassian uses in-product automation.

As a user, you experience this through pop-ups, tool tips, and other incremental nudges within the product experience.

These small interactions are absolutely critical because they help customers learn and understand the product. For those who are using free versions of the software, this initial engagement is generally what drives an upgrade to a paid plan. But, it also reduces the demand on the support and service team by helping users with proactive support.

Excelling At Customer Experience Automation

When businesses scale, the cost of providing service and support is generally a major concern. The need to respond to requests and manage the customer experience can grow exponentially.

For many firms, this is a barrier.

For Atlassian, this is an advantage.

The company has embraced self-service support technology to help customers find answers and resolve issues quickly, without the need for an enormous customer support team.

They’re tapped into a rising tide of customers who prefer self-service support over interacting with live agents to resolve problems. Not only does this allow Atlassian to lower their support costs, it also provides quicker and better service for many of their users.

Automated self-service works because it allows customers to engage with service on their own terms. If they need an agent, they can request one. But if they just have a simple question, they can find an answer without having to wait.

Solvvy’s self-service support platform is a one key component of Atlassian’s strategy and allows them to scale service as they grow, without added overhead and expense. But it’s not the only piece of the puzzle.

Self-service support tools have come a long way in the last few years. They include technology such as:

  • Knowledge bases
  • Virtual agents or chatbots
  • Troubleshooting wizards
  • Informative videos

So long as your company provides multiple automated service channels, your customers will be able to pick their preferred channel, which increases their level of engagement as well as their satisfaction.

Scaling Gracefully

Automating many parts of your business’ core functions can flip the traditional sales and customer experience paradigms on their head.

For most companies, growth means a bigger team, new teams, and more people.

With automation, companies can grow their customer base at just a fractional rate; each new customer costs less than the last because the overall cost is spread across all of the customers that can be added through the use of technology and self-service systems.

Likewise, generating additional revenue from each customer can be automated with AI and customer engagement systems that have a fixed cost, rather than the incremental costs of adding new employees .

And automated customer service tools play the dual role of both increasing customer satisfaction and lowering support expense.

Atlassian’s success can teach us a clear lesson: It pays to automate.