(This article, written by Matthew Finnegan, appeared first in Computerworld)

Work management tools such as Atlassian’s Jira make it easier to track the progress of projects but can lead to repetitive and time-consuming work for teams that are constantly creating and moving task cards.

To reduce some of this manual work, Atlassian has added “no-code” workflow automation capabilities natively across its Jira Cloud portfolio, which includes Jira Software, Jira Service Desk and Jira Core.

Users can set up their own automation rules in seconds via an in intuitive ‘if this, then that’ drag-and-drop interface, Atlassian claims — an approach the Australian software vendor hopes will further broaden the appeal of Jira beyond its developer base to business and service teams.

“This is truly no-code; it is not low-code. You don’t need to be a developer,” said Sean Regan, head of growth for Software Teams at Atlassian. “It opens up automation to everybody; you just drag and drop the rules without having to ask a developer to help you.”

The automation capabilities are the result of its 2019 acquisition of Sydney-based startup Code Barrel, which was responsible for the popular Automation for Jira app previously available on the Atlassian Marketplace.

Prior to the acquisition, Automation for Jira was used by around 6,500 customers. By incorporating the features into Jira Cloud products, the capabilities will now be accessible to ten times as many users, Atlassian said, with 65,000 companies using Jira tools worldwide.

The automation features are now available for teams at no extra cost across Jira Cloud’s standard and premium payment tiers — as well as the free version introduced last year — with no limitations on the number of automation executions. However, wider use across an organization will be metered.

According to Altlassian, 97% of respondents to a survey of Automation for Jira customers noted time savings, with more than half claiming to have recouped over six hours each month.

For instance, a developer can set up a rule with a trigger that automatically notifies a support team when a bug fix is marked as ‘done’ in Jira Software. Integration with third-party applications mean that if, for example, an urgent issue is raised by a senior technology leader, a Slack or Microsoft Teams message can be sent to the support team and an SLA set.

“Project management as an industry and planning as a function has always felt like you work for the product tool. You need to update your status. You need to update the project, you need to move the issue, or else you’re not doing your job,” said Regan.

“We are trying to change the script in the whole project planning and work management space to make it feel like Jira works for you. I love the fact that I can focus on the work I have to do, rather all of the cross-functional updates, and that’s what automation in Jira really unlocks.”

Automation everywhere

Atlassian is not the only collaboration software vendor to add automation to its platform. Slack recently introduced the Workflow Builder feature for similar purposes, while Microsoft has a separate tool, Power Automate (formerly Microsoft Flow), to automate processes in Office 365 apps such as Teams.

Rival work management platform Asana also has workflow automation built-in, and Atlassian has even added automation capabilities to its task management platform Trello, following the acquisition of Butler in 2018.

These moves by vendors reflect the growing demand for automation from end-user organizations.

“Workflow automation is a common area for companies to look at as part of a digital transformation exercise,” said Thomas Murphy, senior director analyst at Gartner. Often the initial focus for such organizations is on optimization rather than full-on transformation of their operations, he pointed out, and is an area where automation can play a role.

“Workflow automation is key to this, because you are looking for things that you do over and over and over and trying to a) make them consistent and b) make them efficient,” he said.

“Workflow impacts everyone in an organization, so there are lots of different angles on this and ways to do it. So I think of [Atlassian] adding workflow being part of a common trend that we see in a lot of products, and yes, it enables people to build more efficient time-saving processes.”

There are benefits for Atlassian too, said Murphy, by enhancing its ability to cater to a wide range of use cases. The automation features will let Jira users “meet their own needs and take some pressure off Atlassian to deliver every feature itself. This is especially true when you start to look at things that may be niche or industry specific.”