Franck Amaury works in the information systems department of MBDA, the European leader in the aerospace and arms industry.
Franck talks about the implementation of Jira Data Center in the company and how thetool is used on a daily basis. Private cloud hosting, data security, Jira deployment: Franck gives his point of view as an IT expert in an exclusive interview with Aurélie Assouline from SmartView.
Aurélie: It's rare that you express yourself publicly, thank you for the honor you give us.
Franck: We don't put the MBDA name forward very much. It's an exercise that interests me. I'm a man of the field, not a great communicator who likes to speak out.
Aurélie: You have had multiple missions within the information systems department ("IS" in English)?
Franck: In 20 years, I have had 3 lives: PLM* [Product Lifecycle Management], then web apps and the company directory, and since the end of 2018 IT tools for our own use such as ITSM* [IT Service Management] (Helpdesk). Atlassian's Jira solution appeared because the competitor's tool was at the end of its life. I arrived just after the choice of the Jira tool. A solution was chosen but the partner stopped hosting. That's how we chose SmartView to integrate Jira.
Aurélie: What scope does Jira Data Center cover?
Franck: Jira covers the whole company, both our own use and our internal customers. At the beginning Jira was deployed for my Information System (IS) department, we are now opening its use to the whole company. Excel has its limits, we need something more stable, the tool allows us to meet the needs of our customers.
Aurélie: What about security?
Franck: The strict security rules differ depending on the type of data. We distinguish between restricted data that does not leave the datacenter and everything else.
Aurélie: Do you think about the Cloud for data leaving the data center?
Franck: Our data is hosted in a private French cloud. This data is not as sensitive. Internally, we encourage users: be careful, it's in the cloud, don't put sensitive data (URLs, IP addresses, details of security breaches, etc.). We support our internal customers to raise their awareness. Our objective remains to share information with external partners.
Aurélie: What about security for your internal data?
Franck: Internally, data is restricted within MBDA. Some internal customers have chosen a local platform ("on premise") which will not go outside the network.
All our installations go through the security officer to whom we expose our projects. It is a dialogue, we do not hide the reality.
Aurélie: What is your current challenge at Jira Data Center?
Franck: For the IS, Jira is a tool seen as innovative, which meets everyday expectations. Jira works well, it's well designed, stable and meets needs better than an Excel file. We have information at a given moment, we share the screen and we see the same thing, we share notes, comments... Jira makes the exchange between people more fluid.
Aurélie: The scope of Jira Data Center is expanding, what are you doing to support its deployment?
Franck: Today we are in a phase of communication about the tool. We are presenting Jira internally, explaining our constraints. The IS department has limited resources (budget constraints). We try not to do everything and anything. People will buy into Jira. We are offering a service to other MBDA departments: we will set up an internal subscription. We'll set up an internal subscription: "Given the size of your team, Jira services will cost you such and such an amount".
Aurélie: How do you manage the relationships with your IT partners?
Franck: We have regular peaks of activity with our partner (new instances, new particular configurations). The cycle is like a wave. Trust in our partners and their professionals is fundamental. I like that with SmartView they don't push for consumption. If it takes a lot of energy or time, they tell me: it's not worth it!
Aurélie: What motivates you to continue working with SmartView?
Franck: First, competence. SmartView has extensive knowledge of the tools. If they don't have the answer immediately, they come back with the right answer. Then the human dimension of the company: it's easier because I always have the same contact person, which is important.
Aurélie: Can you tell us more about the place of Jira Data Center within the MBDA group?
Franck: Today, Jira answers to small task management projects ("Task Management"). Users will want to go further. For example, MBDA, which has projects in India, stopped moving because of the pandemic. But thanks to Jira, they continue to follow the operations.
Aurélie: What do you think of the yearly license system proposed by Jira Data Center?
Franck: The subscription principle helps us. Our customers need support for the deployment of new workflows. SmartView can come back on an ad hoc basis to help design Jira projects for a particular entity. The challenge for the IS department is to smooth out the load so that they are not overwhelmed with various requests. Jira is going to become the equivalent of corporate messaging and certainly take the place of Excel for task management.
Aurélie: Do you use agile methods for project management?
Franck: Our innovation department advocates agility. But we realize that it doesn't work everywhere. The SI is in project management modes between the traditional V-cycle and agility. We use agile methods on specific projects of smaller scale.
We are in a business where the life span of a product is 30 years. So we're a long way from the consumer market for smartphones with one new product per month!
Internally, I made a presentation in Kanban mode and someone wants to work on agile.
I know the principles of the agile manifesto. But I have not yet implemented agility in a project. I know that Jira integrates features to manage an agile project (Kanban and Scrum).
Aurélie: What do you remember from your years of collaboration with SmartView?
Franck: We trusted SmartView with our license management. In July 2019, your advice Aurelie was: take 3 years because Atlassian is increasing its rates. We did our utmost to make 2 years for the new order of licenses. We could have said: "we don't believe you". I appreciated your benevolence on the contractual part with the price change. You put the customer's interest first. You told me: in your context, here are the changes, pay attention to these details. It's almost gospel, your goal is not to sell as many Atlassian licenses as possible. Licensing is a bit of a jungle for those who are not specialists in the subject.
Aurélie: MBDA uses only one plug-in for Jira Data Center and that's great. That's what we emphasize at SmartView.
Franck: I've experienced this. The more plug-ins you add, the less obvious it is. When you choose to implement a plug-in, you have to measure its impact (cost, maintenance).
Aurélie: Isn't it difficult to say no to recurrent requests for plug-ins for Atlassian? Coming from software development, aren't you afraid of the complexity while others go as far as writing scripts?
Franck: We are fighting even internally.
The Jira tool is very rich and very well designed. It has its own concepts (e.g. Advanced Roadmaps), and I learn from them every day. SmartView helps us demystify. It's a toolbox. People say, "We'll take the Jira tool," but it needs to be configured. Others tell us: "I know Jira but I didn't find the functionality" because a plug-in was installed! The solution in place is perhaps not the one known in other companies. On a daily basis, "Jira is easy"... Yes, but the tool can do everything. And when you start doing workflow, it becomes complex. I personally need to build governance around the tool itself. SmartView helps us understand all these concepts.
Aurélie: Have you also explored other Atlassian tools such as Confluence?
Franck: We use SharePoint. It is the company's policy to use Microsoft with a team dedicated to its operation.
Aurélie: What do you remember about SmartView?
Franck: I am very happy with the partnership with SmartView. I hope it will last for many more years. The Jira tool is very good. You have to understand it, accompany the users internally in the company, you can't give them the keys "just like that". The most obvious example is Dashboard and Board. If you don't understand them, you can't do anything with them.
Aurélie: However, dashboards have a real use in the company...
Franck: To our internal customers, we have to say: we can create Dashboards, but we need to understand your business. We are already in the agile mode to explain because we have no choice. I hope that we will continue for a long time with Jira without Atlassian increasing its prices too much, otherwise it will harm us all!
Aurélie: How do you see the future?
Franck: The deployment of Jira is going to be crescendo. We have installed Jira in the Cloud and internally in France, the United Kingdom and Italy. There is a strong need to support all users through training. This is the challenge for the next few years. We'll be watching for new versions. I don't intend to use too many plug-ins. We will also interface Jira with the test management tools.
Aurélie: Do you have a logic for using Jira Data Center at the MBDA group level?
Franck: Working in the defense sector requires the MBDA group to have separate IT infrastructures. So each country has its own Jira instances.
Aurélie: Do you see any risks in standardizing Jira worldwide?
Franck: I'm thinking of custom application development. We support our customers who share their user experience: "the button must be at the bottom" for example. Be careful, we can't do just anything with these tools. We don't want to twist them!
The business is changing. Twenty years ago I was doing development, now I'm not. Partners like SmartView will bring their skills. I rely on partners. We need to trust them.
Aurélie: I learned a lot. I am very happy. I thank you very much Franck!