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The ultimate guide for getting started in Atlas
The ultimate guide for getting started in Atlas

How to use Atlas in your organization. Learn how to create projects, goals, and best practices.

Rachel Lin avatar
Written by Rachel Lin
Updated over a week ago

What is Atlas?

Atlas is a teamwork directory that connects the dots across teams, their apps, and work — wherever it happens. You can easily see what work has happened and how it is going now. The purpose of Atlas is to bring openness, context, and connectedness to work across teams.

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How does Atlas work?

Projects and goals in Atlas

What is a project in Atlas?

A project represents any piece of work that people on your team or stakeholders at your company would like to receive regular weekly updates about to stay in the loop.

Atlas projects help bring work into one place and provide just the right amount of context so that anyone at your company can understand what is being worked on, why it is happening, who is responsible for it, and how it is going. Below are some practical guidelines and tips for setting up a project.

An example project in Atlas

How is a project in Atlas different from a Jira Software project?

  • Jira Software provides a way to plan and manage tasks and issues within specific teams - typically engineering teams. Other teams might use a different tool to track and manage their work - for example, Jira Work Management.

  • Projects, powered by Atlas, are a way to bring work across all these tools into one place and provide updates on the latest progress of work.


  • A Software Engineer uses Jira Software to track the launch of a new feature

  • They encounter a bug, which means they have to delay the release date by two weeks

  • The Engineer shares a short update from Atlas on the delay - without needing to go into a lot of detail

  • A Marketing Manager sees the update and quickly gets context - without having to message the Engineer or search through their Jira Software project

  • The Marketing Manager adjusts their campaign plans accordingly and shares an update

  • The VP of Marketing and Sales sees these updates and understands within minutes why there has been a blocker

What is a goal in Atlas?

A goal represents the outcomes that multiple projects or streams of work contribute to. Goals take a longer time to achieve and can be represented by various frameworks, such as OKRs, KPIs, SMART goals, and more.

An example goal in Atlas

Best practices for projects in Atlas

When should I create a project?

At Atlassian, we create a project when a piece of work involves 2+ people for 2+ weeks.

You can set your bar higher or lower. The most important thing is to set a threshold low enough that your team will always have visibility into any piece of work that could block, impact, or have a dependency on the work of other teams.

Who is the project owner

If you created the project you will be the default project owner. For Atlas to work properly the project owner is a very important role because they are ultimately in charge of keeping the project up to date.

The project owner is responsible for:

  • Naming the project and writing the About section - what are we doing?

  • Adding the project contributors and followers- who else is working on it and who else should be aware of the work?

  • Writing the update every Friday - what happened this week?

  • Setting and ensuring the status is up to date - is it on track, at risk, or off track?

  • Setting and updating the target date when changes occur - has the date changed and why?

We will discuss the concepts contributors, update, status, and target date below.

If for some reason you roll off the project or things change and someone else will be owning that project feel free to add them as the project owner. You can make this change at any time.

Create and name your project

To create a project click the blue Create button in the top nav.

When you create a project you will be asked to do two things:

  1. Name your project. Decide on the descriptor for your project (usually by the department [MKT, RD, FIN], one for the whole org [ATLS, SHOP, etc.] and add tag line. For example RD - Improve billing API

  2. Pick an emoji. Why? Well, it makes work a bit more fun when emojis are involved 🙂 and is a simple visual indicator to help differentiate projects.

Write an About section

Every Atlas project needs an About section so teammates can quickly get context about the work. You need to write the following:

  • What are we doing?

  • Why are we doing it?

  • What will success look like?

At Atlassian, we shoot for 3-5 sentence descriptions for each question. In this section try to be succinct. Give people the cliff notes version. You can always include links to other pages, dashboards, epics, and more for folks who want to dive deeper into the details.

Project page About section in Atlas

Add contributors to your project

Atlas can’t work without your team! When you create a project add the people you are working directly with as contributors in the section below the project owner in the right panel.


If you are Product Manager on a software team building a new feature your contributors could be the engineers, designer, product marketer, and potentially program manager.

All Contributors will receive updates about the project status every Monday. They also have more control over the project and can edit or update aspects of a project. They can write the Friday update, change the status, and move the target date if necessary, which is helpful if the owner is on PTO.

Add followers to your project

You can share your project with anyone at your company. This gives them the opportunity to become a follower of your project and receive weekly updates.

Adding followers to your project is a great way to keep stakeholders and people outside of the working team in the loop. Adding followers reduces the number of people pinging you about how things are going, you might even get to cancel a status meeting, or at least use that time for more meaningful conversations.

Who should be a follower? We recommend inviting your manager, peers in your org, and key cross-functional partners to follow your project. These are all folks who will inevitably want to know how things are going, and now they will be updated automatically.

Share pop up from project page

You can invite followers by email and even connect your project to chat apps, like Slack and Microsoft Teams.

Best practices for sharing updates in Atlas

Reminders to write an update:

A project owner will get notified by email, Slack, or Microsoft Teams on Friday morning to write an update. You can also write your update earlier in the week by going directly to your project’s page and clicking the updates tab.

Goal updates are monthly, not weekly.

Writing an update

Updates in Atlas are constrained to 280 characters. They are meant to be concise, easily digestible by any stakeholder, and to the point. They happen every week, so there is no reason to write an essay to summarise this point in time.

Here are some tips:

  • Stay high level - The best updates are brief 1-3 bullets on the key progress, newly uncovered risks, or major blockers that occurred this week.

  • Progressively disclose info- Enable followers to dig deeper by linking to relevant materials directly from your update.

  • Use a variety of content - Make it engaging for your audience by including videos, emojis, polls, or whatever it takes to get the feedback you need.

  • Drive action - Use your updates to mobilize your followers with clear asks, decisions, actions, or @mentions.

Also, all updates are stored in Atlas so you can go back in time to see what happened and any decisions that were made.

Looking for more help writing an update? Check out this helpful guide from our Product Manager, Rachel!

Updating status

What do the status settings mean in Atlas? Here are some suggested definitions of status. These are only a starting point please feel free to customize them for your organization.



Off Track

The project will not deliver on time with respect to the original target date.

At Risk

The project may not deliver on time with respect to the original target date. A project at risk may prompt a conversation to ensure were monitoring status and providing support.

On Track

The project is expected to deliver on time with respect to the original target date. No further action is required.


The project has not yet started. This can be a placeholder for a project that hasn’t kicked off.


The project has been put on pause. Perhaps the work has been deprioritized. It is not at risk to missing a delivery date.

Completed 🎉

The project is complete, and no further work or updates are required.

Relationship between status and date

Status and dates are both controlled manually. Any change will be reflected in the project timeline. If you do change the project’s status or date you should state why in the weekly update.

Best practices for receiving updates in Atlas

Updates are automatically sent to contributors and followers each week and are delivered on Monday morning.

Your teammates are notified and can consume updates through several different channels based on their preference (via email, Slack, and MS Teams).

Responsibilities of contributors and followers

Yes, they need to show they are engaged. We recommend that every contributor and follower of a project react via an emoji to every update on a project they follow to show they are paying attention.

Even better, you should comment on updates! A comment could be as simple as telling the project owner that they are doing a great job or asking for clarification if you have a question about the update.

Comments on a project update in Atlas

Best practices for goals in Atlas

When and how should I create a goal?

You can create goals depending on the planning cadence in your organization. Some companies plan by year, others by quarter. Depending on the organization’s size, there can be team, department, and company-wide goals.

Goals can have sub-goals - as many as needed. Functionally these are the same as Goals - they just stack when you're looking at the Goals page. To add a sub-goal, simply choose the + button on the right panel on any goal page.

You can also create goals depending on the framework you use. For example, the OKR framework (Objectives and Key Results) is one of the most common goal frameworks.

  • Objectives are what you want to accomplish - they should be significant, concrete, action-oriented, and inspirational.

    • Limit the number of company-level Objectives to between 1 to 3. Anything more than that will lead to confusion among teams and department heads.

  • Key Results are specific, time-bound ways you reach those objectives - the how.

    • Limit the number of Key Results to between 2 to 5 per Objective. Less than 2 KRs doesn't make sense, and anything more than 5 can be hard to achieve and manage.

Who is the goal owner

A goal has one owner, and teams are linked to goals based on the projects that contribute to them. Goals are updated on a monthly basis by the owner.

If you created the goal you will be the default goal owner. Goals in Atlas do not have single contributors because they are bigger than projects. Instead, goal owners can add Teams to goals to show who is delivering work that is driving the outcomes.

The goal owner is responsible for:

  • Naming the goal and writing the About section - what are we doing?

    • Adding the teams to the goal - which teams are responsible for ensuring this goal is achieved?

    • Adding followers - who needs to know the latest progress towards achieving this goal?

  • Writing the update every month - how did the goal progress this month?

  • Setting and ensuring the status is up to date - is it on track, at risk, or off track?

  • Setting and updating the target date when changes occur - has the date changed and why?

Create and name your goal

To create a goal click the blue Create button in the top nav.

When you create a goal you will be asked to name your goal. Decide on the descriptor for your goal, and include the level of your goal - e.g. O / KR, etc. and add tag line.

Write an About section

Every Atlas goal needs an About section so teammates can understand why it’s important and how it helps drive outcomes for the business. We suggest including the following:

  • Background/high-level overview of the goal

  • How success will be measured

  • Metrics tracked and where to find them

How should I connect projects to a goal?

For simple setups, one project could map to one goal - but as a company grows, there can be projects mapping to team, department, and company-wide goals.

You can view the projects that map to a goal from the Goal page in Atlas, to quickly understand their latest status.

Contributing projects on a goal in Atlas

To connect a project to a goal, go to the project’s homepage and choose + next to Contributes to goals. Search for a goal to connect, or add a new one.

How do goal updates work?

Goal updates are similar to projects, but the main difference is that goal updates are monthly, not weekly.

What is goal scoring and how should I use it?

Goal scoring is a paid Atlas feature and typically works best for those using the OKR framework to set and track their goals.

OKRs are scored on a 0.0 to 1.0 scale and allow companies to measure performance towards top priorities.

  • A score between 0.0 or 0.3 means the company is off-track and not making real progress

  • A score of 0.7 or 1.0 indicates an OKR is on track and progressing as planned

  • 0.7 is the sweet spot and what we consider our target goal. Anything more is knocking it out of the park.

Setting challenging and achievable goals is key to the success of OKRs. While easy goals are uninspiring, setting overly ambitious goals creates low motivation. It's important to find a balance and to review and refresh goals on a quarterly basis.

At Atlassian, we have a standard template that prompts OKR owners to share the narrative behind the scoring, including the why, what was learned, risks, data points, and mitigation plans.

Want to learn more about how to use OKRs in your organization? Check out this helpful guide from Nicole Tang.

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