How Federal Agencies Can Get the Most from Their Atlassian Tools

Atlassian offers a powerful suite of tools to manage software development, DevSecOps, data collection, workforce management, ITSM/ESM, data analytics, and more.  Agencies often face challenges in configuring these tools to create the value they actually need for their organization. 

There are two paths for tailoring Commercial off the Shelf (COTS) software like Atlassian to fit an organization’s specific requirements: 

  1. Out-of-the-box solutioning
  2. Custom-Coded environments

Out-of-the-Box Solutioning
This approach provides users the functionality they need by adding third party plugins, also called apps or add-ons, to Atlassian tools. These plugins address issues such as insufficient calendaring macros and widgets, limited group management capabilities, or difficulty formatting content within your Atlassian products. They can also add extra features such as expanded reporting options or connecting to external applications that agencies may need to access given their mission or compliance requirements. 

Plugins address problems recognized by the market and are easy to install and configure. Agencies simply need to acquire a license, download a .jar file, and install the application in their Atlassian instance. Because plugins and other third party apps solve problems recognized by the market, they may not address organization-specific issues. However, the breadth and scope of plugins on the Atlassian marketplace make this problem rather uncommon. 

Pros and Cons of Out-of-the-Box Solutioning

  • Easy to acquire
  • Configured for Atlassian
  • Updated and Maintained by third party
  • Large library of plugins


  • Upfront License costs
  • May not address highly specialized needs

Custom-Coded Environments
In this approach, developers make code changes to the out of the box features present in the core software to give users and admins increased functionality. This requires a development team that understands Atlassian products and has intimate knowledge of the entire user base’s needs. 

Custom coding allows agencies to fix specific problems with tailored software that may not have a solution on the marketplace and adds unique functionality that their organization needs. The biggest challenges with custom-coded environments are the development and O&M commitments required to maintain functionality and security of the platform. When an organization decides to create custom solutions to their own problems they are assuming all the risk with that solution including future technical debt, changes by Atlassian to the platform’s core software that may have harmful impact, or even potential security compliance problems that may present issues during a FedRAMP audit. The risks associated not only pose a problem for users who come to rely on the platform and its solution, but also to the product owners and managers who run the platform on a daily basis. 

Pros and Cons of Custom-Coded Environments

  • Provide specific solutions to unique problems


  • Technical debt
  • Difficult to maintain
  • Requires expertise
  • Security Risks
  • Greater cost over time

For most Federal agencies, out-of-the-box solutioning is the fastest, most reliable, and most secure route to Atlassian implementations. As stated earlier, Atlassian has a large library of in-house as well as third-party applications and plugins that can provide the functionality they need without customizations to the Atlassian software itself.

This post is an excerpt of a white paper from TCG subsidiary GovCollab, a FedRAMP Atlassian hosting platform.You can read the entire white paper at

Brendan O’Meara leads TCG’s Atlassian Capability and supports business and product development for GovCollab, a TCG subsidiary, and managed service provider of Atlassian hosting. For any questions about customizing Atlassian products, licensing, or migration options, contact Brendan at or give him a call at (202) 355‑9491.