With 25,000+ customers, a popular line-up of software development products and a busy marketing schedule, it’s a fair call to say that our friends at Atlassian are a busy bunch. Nonetheless, we spent a moment with their email team to find out what kind of workflow they use to keep their teams – design, marketing, events – working in sync on their email campaigns.

In my previous life working on direct marketing campaigns for clients, our agency’s workflow from project brief to post-campaign report was well, primitive. We had an Excel spreadsheet on a shared drive which was updated by a dozen people – often at the same time, with disastrous results. As there was no version control, ensuring that changes were made – and stayed – was often a matter of catcalling between cubicles. “Hey guys, I’m updating the schedule!” “Okay, as long as you don’t go on to assign project x to me, I’m already rammed with y.”

While this worked 60% of the time for 10, it certainly couldn’t scale to hundreds of people across multiple teams. After a point, you need a defined process for gathering requirements and assigning responsibilities, while providing full visibility at every stage of the email lifecycle. That’s right, when you start dropping phrases like “lifecycle” and even “pipeline”, you mean business.

Email planning and scheduling on steroids

It didn’t take much time with Atlassian’s email team to realize that these folks are rock-solid planners. Not surprisingly, they use their own project management tool, JIRA, extensively throughout their workplace. But instead of using it solely for software release, or bug tracking like many organizations do, they also use it to manage their outgoing email queue, which includes their monthly newsletter, product updates and marketing emails from their events team. By creating a new ‘issue‘ for each campaign that’s scheduled to go out and adjusting its status to reflect where it’s at in the email lifecycle, email campaigns are treated no differently from, say, anything in their software products that requires development work. Here’s a glance at their email queue from last week, with email campaigns spread across different statuses:

Outgoing email progress in JIRA

Now you’ve seen their queue, here’s how an email campaign progresses from one status to the next:

Simplified outgoing email workflow

From the ‘Open’ to ‘Analysis’ issue statuses, tasks connected to each issue can be assigned to the various teams that collaborate on any one email campaign. For example, marketing may open an issue (email ticket) and include a summary of the campaign’s purpose and success metrics (Open). Once some copy is written, a task of creating a header image is punted over to the design team (Content). The ticket, which has now collected all the required assets, enters the ‘Build’ status where the email team codes the email. Lastly, the ticket goes through approvals, is sent and reported on (Build – Analysis).

Using JIRA, it’s also possible to see what tasks are already assigned to people on their teams, making it easier to gauge workloads and allocate resources accordingly. In fact, their email team have noted that since adopting this workflow, it’s cut the time they spend on administrative tasks in half. Pretty sophisticated, hey? It certainly puts our old spreadsheet method to shame.

Figuring their approach to campaign planning could help others, the email team have made their workflow available to JIRA users on the Atlassian Marketplace. You can also read more about it on their blog. However, regardless of what software or method you use, it’s possible to adopt a similar flow when managing email across your own teams.

How do you manage your outgoing email?

Huge thanks to Kevin, Morgan and Mike at Atlassian for taking the time to show us their industrial-grade email setup. Now we’ve looked at how a large company does it, what’s your process for managing outgoing email campaigns? Do you have a workflow when sending for yourself, or for clients? Let us know about it in the comments below.

  • James Lamb

    Yep, we’re using JIRA to handle our email production, too. It’s great because it allows our internal customers (the marketers) to add assets, targeting and additional details right onto the ticket.

    They submit their initial tickets with the targeting instructions and drop date, their best guess as to the size of the drop and then add additional elements as they get them. Based on the size of the drop and the intended target, they get a numeric 1-9 ranking. When a developer is ready to start a new email, they consult the prioritized list for their next start. Once started, the goal is to work it through to complete to hit the drop date, so it’s pretty Kanban-ish.

    After the send is deployed, we go back and add in the actual drop size and other details and close it out.

    The best part is that self-service nature of the marketers being able to update tickets. While we gave up a couple of things moving from our homegrown system to JIRA, not having to update the tickets ourselves every time someone has new information to add to their request – that’s been a huge timesaver and made the marketers more of a partner and made us less of a “onsite vendor” and that’s helped them to become more informed about the process.

  • Perth Email Marketing

    Very interesting. A very integrated, albeit organised approach to email marketing. I’ve recommended the same structure to a number of clients who’ve found it highly beneficial, as opposed to collating an Excel document continually. Great tips.

  • Marcel

    Great tips will definitely be adding JIRA to my email marketing arsenal

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