Welcome to the 4th episode of IntegratiON interviews.
Today, our guest is Paul Renshaw, the Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) at Clearvision, also known as Chief Conversation Officer. Paul is originally from Manchester (well Stockport really) and is passionate about solving problems, technology, financial history, music, and football (particularly Man Utd). He has 5 children and DJs in his spare time, playing House & Jungle. With over a decade of experience in the Atlassian Ecosystem, Paul has been instrumental in helping Clearvision grow from a small UK-based 10-man team to a globally respected Atlassian Platinum Solution Partner in Europe and the USA.
Clearvision, as an Atlassian Platinum Partner, specializes in Cloud Migrations, ITSM, Agile & DevOps adoption, and provides the world’s only dedicated Atlassian contractor network ClearHub.Tech. They operate primarily in the USA and the United Kingdom.
Jacek: Paul, I’ve noticed that you record videos yourself and publish them on LinkedIn and the Clearvision website, often from your car. Can you share with our audience the idea behind it and what these videos are usually about?
Paul: The buyer’s journey has evolved and changed significantly. To help illustrate this, I often use the analogy of your personal experience in buying something expensive, like a house or another major purchase. Nowadays, most people conduct research online, especially senior buyers.
It would be naive to assume that people will read lengthy posts on LinkedIn. So, how do you capture their interest and build trust? That’s the key question. Trust plays a crucial role in the decision-making process. For instance, when I recently purchased an Apple product, I conducted thorough research and based my decision on the information I received, which built my trust in the product.
Clearvision shares a similar view. We don’t aim to force products upon you. Instead, our goal within the Atlassian community is to inform, educate, and showcase our expertise. We hope to provide valuable information for your business, and if it helps anyone, that’s perfect. If you find our content useful, it may influence your decision to choose Clearvision for your future needs in the Atlassian space.
In terms of grabbing attention in the online world, it’s like a race to get noticed. We’re not just competing on LinkedIn but across various platforms like TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and more, for information, entertainment, and engagement. So, how do you create engaging content that can hold people’s attention for a few minutes and provide informative value? We came up with an internal idea inspired by James Corden’s famous interviews with celebrities in a car, where they sing and dance. One of our managers owns a Tesla, so we thought it would be fun to drive around in it and record YouTube videos. That’s how our journey started.
At Clearvision, we have a team of experienced professionals, and instead of publishing lengthy whitepapers, we decided to share expert content in a concise and engaging manner that makes sense to our audience.
Jacek: You work with Jira for 10 years. Why do you like Jira, what makes it unique?
Paul: As I reflect on my journey with Clearvision and my transition from the traditional HP and Cisco world to the Atlassian ecosystem, I realize how much I value the trust I have in my CEO, Gerald Tombs. Over 10 years ago, when I first met him for just a few hours, I knew I could trust him, and that trust has been the foundation of my career with Clearvision.
When I joined Clearvision, we were the first Atlassian enterprise partner in the UK, and Atlassian was still a small company. Back then, Jira Cloud didn’t exist, and it was all about Jira Server. As I learned about Jira and the agile methodology, it all made sense to me. I picked up the phone and started reaching out to potential customers, and the response was overwhelmingly positive. Unlike my experience in the HP and Cisco world where partners were constantly competing and offering discounts, the Atlassian ecosystem was different. People were genuinely pleased to hear from me because Atlassian had no salespeople and the value we offered was appreciated.
I remember attending my first Atlassian Summit in San Francisco in 2013, and it was an eye-opening experience. There were about 100 partners present, and I was particularly impressed by Martin Seibert from Seibert Media, who gave honest feedback to the leaders of Atlassian. The whole atmosphere was like Silicon Valley, and I was inspired to be a part of it.
As my role at Clearvision progressed and we grew, I saw how Jira evolved from being a tool used primarily by software developers to becoming a strategic tool for organizations. Today, with the shift towards SaaS platforms, Jira has become even more powerful and user-friendly. With features like service management and improved reporting tools, it has become a one-stop solution for businesses to manage their projects collaboratively and transparently. Compared to competitors like ServiceNow, I appreciate that Atlassian’s platform approach allows organizations to start small and gradually build up their solutions based on their specific needs.
One of the things I love about the Atlassian ecosystem is the passion and dedication of the founders, Mike and Scott. Despite their success, they haven’t retired to a beach somewhere, but continue to be actively involved in driving the company forward. The focus on employee happiness and fulfillment, and the belief that great work comes from a positive work environment, resonates with me.
I also recognize that the way business teams work is changing, and Atlassian’s business teamwork platform is well-positioned to cater to those changing needs. While there are other competitors in the market, such as ServiceNow, Monday, and Asana, Atlassian’s head start with their Fortune 500 customers and their strong financials and leadership inspire me. I am excited to be a part of the Atlassian ecosystem and contribute to its continued success in helping businesses collaborate and achieve their goals.
Jacek: It’s amazing to see how the Atlassian Marketplace grows. From a sum of relatively small companies, with Owners personally involved in the business, to companies employing a lot of people now. I remember Roberto from Comalatech, who was preparing and leading the wine tasting during the Summits, on each booth you could meet the real people behind the apps. I miss those times a bit. I believe people are choosing Jira also because of the apps. The quality of them, variety, and possibilities they offer to customize Jira are great. Other tools have their Marketplaces too, but oftentimes they offer free apps, which means the quality is poor, and support is not too responsive.
I couldn’t agree more with what you’re saying. Meeting people who have started their own small organizations and built successful businesses locally, all over the world, is truly inspiring. I’ve seen firsthand how these entrepreneurs have grown their businesses and even sold them to companies like Atlassian or Appfire, which is a tremendous personal achievement. From a business perspective, it’s amazing to see how these successful entrepreneurs reinvest their profits back into their businesses, showing their passion and commitment, and ultimately leading to more quality and support for their customers.
The success of the Atlassian Marketplace is truly unparalleled. Other ecosystems have tried to replicate it, but none have been able to match the variety of offerings and the revenue generated that we see on the Atlassian Marketplace. The numbers are astonishing, especially when it comes to usage and customer satisfaction.
One of the things that makes the Marketplace so special is that it provides opportunities for new starters and startups. Entrepreneurs like Chris Cook, who used to work for me and now runs his own business, Old Street Solutions, are a prime example. Chris and his partners started from scratch and built their business by solving a common problem with Jira and Confluence – reporting style issues. Their success is truly inspiring and showcases the power of innovation that comes from small startups.
We need more of this kind of innovation in the business world. Small startups are often the ones that come up with fresh ideas and solutions to existing problems. Seeing the success of these entrepreneurs on the Atlassian Marketplace should inspire others to pursue their own ideas and make a positive impact on the market. Innovation is the lifeblood of any industry, and it’s incredible to see how the Marketplace has fostered an environment that nurtures and supports this innovation.
Jacek: Our story as getint is quite similar. We were working for another Vendor, who is now a part of Appfire, and after some time we decided to do things ourselves. Even though, in the integration business, we were third, or fourth in the Marketplace. We knew we had to try harder and build a better product. It was a bit of an experiment, since others were bigger, and existed from the moment the Marketplace was launched. We didn’t know what to expect. Now, we have more than 1,000 customers, and people from those older tools like TFS4JIRA, ConnectAll, and Exalate are migrating to us saying it’s a simply better tool. It was possible thanks to the Marketplace – the two people could start a company, get their first clients, get feedback, and grow.
Paul: Yes, the customers you can interact with, it’s inspiring! That aligns quite nicely with this idea of platforms. You can have a stand or shop on the imaginary high street. That’s what Amazon did for retail. So anybody can start a business, and get noticed.
Jacek: Why do you think people integrate Jira with other tools like Azure DevOps, ServiceNow, or Asana?
As a business owner and someone who has seen the success of small startups, I truly believe that innovation comes from these small organizations. I’ve met entrepreneurs who have built their own businesses from scratch, operating locally in various countries around the world. They have grown their businesses and even sold them to big companies like Atlassian or Appfire, which is truly inspiring from a personal perspective.
From a business perspective, what’s impressive about these startups is that they make money and reinvest in their businesses, showing their dedication and passion for what they do. This results in higher quality products and better support for customers. The success of the Atlassian Marketplace, for example, with its variety of apps and astonishing usage numbers, is a testament to the power of small startups.
One of the reasons why larger organizations tend to adopt more expensive solutions like ServiceNow is because these products are already embedded within the organization and are often executive decisions. Organizations don’t want to throw out existing tools without careful consideration. However, in my view, it’s not always about displacing these tools, but rather finding ways for Jira to work alongside them and complement them. Jira has great integration tools that allow it to coexist harmoniously with other products.
I’ve noticed that when teams have the option to choose between Jira and other tools like Azure DevOps or ServiceNow, they tend to naturally gravitate towards the tool they feel more comfortable with. These decisions often have political aspects to them, especially in larger organizations. However, I believe that integration is key, and finding ways for different tools to work together is crucial in today’s distributed work environment.
I also think that the rise of tools like Monday and Asana during the COVID-19 pandemic was largely driven by the need for remote work solutions. Businesses quickly adopted these tools to adapt to the new normal of remote and hybrid work. Now, as things are returning to normal, businesses are reevaluating their software stack and looking for ways to streamline and optimize their tools, which makes integrations even more important.
Microsoft’s dominance with Azure DevOps is also worth noting. Many organizations heavily rely on Microsoft products, and with the free integration options they offer, it can be challenging to compete. However, I believe that the value of integrations goes beyond just cost savings, as it allows different tools to work together seamlessly and enhances overall productivity and collaboration.
In conclusion, I believe that small startups drive innovation, and integrations between different tools, including Jira, Azure DevOps, ServiceNow, and others, are crucial in today’s business landscape. Finding ways for different tools to coexist and complement each other can lead to better outcomes for businesses and teams.
Jacek: It’s similar to what we’ve learned. We see, that companies are usually integrating corporate tools like ServiceNow – Jira, and Azure DevOps – Jira, and migrating from smaller tools like Asana, or Monday to Jira. It’s like when they have learned how to work remotely, and how to use Jira, and when they scale they decide they need something else.
Paul: I think these tools did a great job of explaining how to organize work in a way that’s not just a list in an email, not even necessarily in an agile way. The idea of tickets moving through some kind of workflow, like Kanban, is a powerful tool that helps people track their work and say, “I’ve got something to do, I’m doing it, I’ve done it.” They have simplified the way we work, and we should all be thankful for that. I saw Monday.com’s impact everywhere from a marketing perspective, and I give them kudos for that.
We’re now slightly post-2022, and some companies are asking, “This is great, but is there something more?” I’m not saying other products can’t do what these tools do, but when they realize that a company is already using Jira, they say, “It makes sense. All we need to do is get a few more licenses, train people, and then they are empowered.” We see more migration than integration.
Jacek: Right, let’s not forget Trello. As a free tool, which was widely used for personal things, it taught people about Kanban too. I did an amazing job. Thanks to Trello, it was easier for people to enter the agile, well-organized world.
Paul: Yes, true. One of my managers planned his wedding in Trello. You’re right, about introducing people to those different ways of working. That simplification of things that seemed hard really helps us all.
Jacek: How to choose the best Vendor/tool for integration?
Paul: Reputation is obviously really important. What does the world say about a tool? That aligns well with everything I was saying previously about how we make purchases. We do research before we buy. Another crucial factor is cloud security. The number of downloads, customer references, and feedback are all important. It’s also essential to try the software, check the features, ease of use, and setup process. The cost is another critical consideration. All of these factors apply to all software.
Jacek: Right. I think that the number of downloads themselves can be misleading. It favors the old vendors. It should rather be the number of downloads in a given period of time or the speed of growth.
Paul: Yes, right, that’s a fact.
Jacek: How about support, the human-to-human approach, and the customization possibilities? Do you find it helpful?
Paul: I think there are many factors that customers consider before making a decision. The final 20% comes down to trust. Do you trust the organization? Do you like the people you’re talking to? Do they share your values? At Clearvision, we put a lot of effort into matching our values with those of our customers. We believe in building relationships based on mutual respect, shared passion, and the ability to have challenging conversations. Ultimately, customers need to feel that they can trust us and that we have a good reputation.
Jacek: Time for a last question – can you share some story, related to Jira integrations or migrations?
Paul: We’ve been performing Jira cloud migrations for several years now, and it’s become a significant part of our business. Through these migrations, we’ve learned many valuable lessons. One of the most important things we’ve learned is the need to conduct a risk assessment, which is now part of our standard process for all migrations. The first thing we do is assess the risks and present our findings to the customer. We have an honest discussion about the integrations the customer has with other business systems, the apps they are using, and the risk involved in moving those apps and data. We also conduct a live go-live test migration to ensure everything is working as it should.
Migrations can be as simple as a few days or weeks, or as complex as 18 months or more. For example, a straightforward migration would be for a customer with only 50 users using Jira Server with only a few apps and no integration with other business systems. Such a move to the cloud is a logical and relatively easy undertaking that can be done by the customer or with the help of a partner due to time constraints or other pressing business matters.
On the other hand, we’ve handled large and complex migrations involving over 10,000 users and a customer with multiple Data Center and Server instances located all over the world, which we migrated to a single cloud instance. This type of migration requires a different approach because the business must continue to run while the migration is taking place. We cannot conduct a risk assessment that may only result in a migration six months later, nor can we dip in and out of the project. Instead, we must be fully embedded within the organization’s team, and it’s essential for the customer to be just as involved. They can’t adopt a “just move us” attitude.
The beauty of having done this for several years is that we now know how to answer questions about the migration process. Our solution architects are equipped to respond honestly to queries, and their answers are brilliant. For example, one architect talked to an airline and was asked, “What would you do differently?” He replied, “We would pick off each migration individually and assess the risks as we go, since things change in the customer’s business over time.”
From a personal perspective, you’ve probably heard the phrase “build it, and they shall come.” Suppose you want to create a new world for your various teams, especially global teams. In that case, you should build that environment and begin migrating teams or projects with a high appetite for change. This approach shows the other teams the new world, and they deliver projects more quickly, which results in happier teams. The business can then showcase this success to other teams.
The most challenging aspect of migrations is always the people. It’s important for leaders who want to embrace the new world to start small, build their nirvana, and then bring their teams across gradually, growing the nirvana. This approach helps people emotionally as they make the transition.
Jacek: Great story, thanks! It’s also very important not to make the new tool, look like the old one. Migration is a great opportunity to simplify, to rethink some things.
Paul: Yeah, I’m going to paraphrase Nigel Buddy, he’s a wise man: “When you move houses, you don’t take all the crap that’s in your closet, loft, or basement with you. So, don’t do it with migrations.” Pretend you have a blank sheet of paper. Design the new environment and then bring people across.