“Appfire’s Workflow and Automation (W&A) Solution made our lives easier by automating everyday manual tasks. It provided quicker resolution times and a user experience that measurably improved productivity.

Dan Tombs, Atlassian Architect at Inmarsat

In the fast-paced world of satellite communications, every moment counts. The ability to swiftly execute engineering and operational tasks can make the difference between seizing opportunities and missing out. Recognizing the importance of this aspect, one pioneering satellite communications company embarked on a transformative journey to revolutionize its operational efficiency and successfully slashed the time spent on executing engineering and operational tasks by an astounding 400+ hours per month.

Just like skillful operators guiding a satellite through space, Jira administrators are equipped with a multitude of controls and levers. But, as the Atlassian stack expands in scale and complexity, the gravitational pull of the administrative black hole grows stronger. So, how do you navigate this ever-expanding space and maintain control over both your team and all your projects?

In this article, we delve into the remarkable story of how Inmarsat broke boundaries — overcoming challenges in vulnerability management, data retention, and compliance with Appfire’s Workflow and Automation solution.

3 challenges to conquer

Vulnerability management

Inmarsat employs a central security team, responsible for maintaining the overall safety of their operations. Equipped with multiple scanning tools (such as CrowdStrike) the team had to face the ultimate challenge; navigate various platforms to identify vulnerabilities, then return to Jira for work planning and execution. This fragmented approach was highly inefficient and disruptive, particularly for software development teams.

Data retention

Inmarsat’s next challenge involved managing large stores of data — six environments with +2,000 users, i.e. hundreds of active/inactive spaces and projects within Jira and Confluence. Not only did this bring about potential vulnerability issues, it also drove up the costs for compliance checks given the massive amount of data. Unfortunately, the existing process for keeping their instance lean and performant was simply too time-consuming for administrators, who had to manually monitor and clean up projects on a quarterly basis.

Regulatory compliance

Compliance with regulations such as SOC, SOX, HIPAA, or GDPR presented yet another challenge for Inmarsat. Across the company, numerous teams adhere to their own review processes and policies, which are stored in Jira and Confluence pages alongside their day-to-day work. Regulatory compliance requires a complete audit trail whenever these processes and policies are updated. This means that over time, managing and auditing these pages became too resource-intensive, necessitating a more scalable solution.

How Inmarsat resolved all 3 challenges with W&A

To address these time-consuming, manual processes at scale, Dan Tomb — Inmarsat’s Atlassian Architect — turned to automation. The ideal solution should not only address current challenges but also remain applicable and effective as the company (and its usage of the Atlassian stack) expands. After careful consideration, Dan turned to Appfire’s Workflow and Automation solution.

Solution: Vulnerability management

To streamline the process, Dan began integrating external scanning tools with Jira, and consolidating the information into a single platform. Additionally, Inmarsat implemented Jira Miscellaneous Workflow Extensions (JMWE) to facilitate ticket escalation and ensure that vulnerability tickets remained up to date.

JMWE’s Shared Actions enabled Inmarsat to close the gap between security and resolver teams.
JMWE’s Shared Actions enabled Inmarsat to close the gap between security and resolver teams.

Under the hood, Inmarsat took full advantage of JMWE’s Shared Actions feature, which allows users to greatly simplify maintenance by reusing the same workflow configurations in multiple workflows and transitions.

With Shared Actions, Inmarsat was able to ensure that information gets dynamically updated between the original ticket and newly linked issues. An event-based listener would capture any new issue comments and update the central vulnerability tickets accordingly. “That way, we always made sure there’s a single source of truth,” comments Dan.

Solution: Data retention

To adhere to Inmarsat’s data retention policies, Dan set up an automated monthly review process with Power Scripts.

A simple SIL (Simple Issue Language) script helped Inmarsat scan through all active projects, and identify those which hadn’t been used for over three months. To keep all stakeholders informed, Power Scripts would send a customized email to the project lead to tell them that the project is going stale.

Inmarsat turned to Power Scripts to automate the cleanup of jira and Confluence data.
Inmarsat turned to Power Scripts to automate the cleanup of jira and Confluence data.

If the project hadn’t been updated in six months, an email would get sent to all project admins and project lead to inform them that the project would soon be archived. After 18 months of inactivity, projects would get auto-archived, ensuring a clean instance without any data accumulating in the background.

Customizable emails sent by Power Scripts notified team leads of any unused projects.
Customizable emails sent by Power Scripts notified team leads of any unused projects.

Also, running the automation on the last workday of each month ensured that Inmarsat would free up system resources — which enhanced overall system responsiveness by maintaining a clean and organized instance, with only current projects.

Solution: Regulatory compliance

To create standardized compliance processes, and implement workflow-like automation and approval steps for their documentation in Confluence, Inmarsat adopted Comala Document Management.

This allowed Inmarsat to streamline the necessary review process, send notifications to approvers, peer reviewers and managers, as well as require e-signatures to ensure the integrity and authenticity of the signed documents.

Comala Document Management bolstered Inmarsat’s compliance efforts with e-signature capabilities.
Comala Document Management bolstered Inmarsat’s compliance efforts with e-signature capabilities.

Comala Document Management’s workflow activity and document report provided Inmarsat with a detailed audit trail of the approval process (including notes, timestamps and status updates), ensuring compliance and easy tracking of documents within the space.

According to Dan, the ability to provide detailed audit trail reports to governing bodies was integral for Inmarsat: “It just gave us that real sense that things were properly being managed.”

The results of automation

By taking advantage of Appfire’s Workflow and Automation solution, Inmarsat not only achieved enhanced data governance and compliance, but also experienced tangible productivity gains. Across a team of 20 security engineers, 60 developers, and 15 operations members, Dan estimates that Appfire’s Workflow and Automation solution helped them cut 400+ hours per month of redundant, repetitive, and error-prone tasks.

Lessons you can apply in your organization

Keep your teams aligned

Reduce context switching and the chance of errors by creating a central source of truth for different teams. With Jira Misc Workflow Extensions (JMWE), Inmarsat accelerated its critical incident response rate by closing the gap between security and resolver teams.

Don’t overlook your data in Jira and Confluence

These platforms can become huge stores of data over time, incurring high performance and legal costs. Inmarsat automated its data cleanup process and implemented a clear audit trail with Power Scripts and Comala Document Management respectively.

Build with scalability in mind

As your Atlassian stack grows, the automations you have set up will grow along with it. “Consider how the automations will need to behave in the future to keep the processes scalable and relevant,” advises Dan.

About Inmarsat

Inmarsat is one of the world’s leading satellite communications companies, with a fleet of cutting-edge satellites that operate in geostationary orbit, providing impressive coverage worldwide. From broadband to telecommunications, Inmarsat ensures seamless connectivity — even in the most remote corners of the globe. In times of natural disasters, their dedicated team promptly repositions satellites to guarantee uninterrupted communication for emergency services.

Last updated: 2023-07-31

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