Learn how to build a Project Central in Jira Software

May 2, 2019 2:00:00 PM

Learn how to create a Project Central in Jira Software by contrasting two alternatives to do it: Atlassian’s Project Central and Deiser’s Projectrak (formerly Profields). You might find a solution to your needs by creating a Project Central in Jira Software.

How to build a Project Central in Jira?

  1. What's Atlassian’s Project Central?
  2. Stakeholder communication every Friday
  3. The MVP: A project of Jira projects
  4. Projectrak's Project Central: Centralizing project data
  5. Some quick benefits of Projectrak's Project Central
  6. Implementing Project Central with Projectrak

Jira Software allows you to achieve the same goal in different ways (in this case, to build a Project Central); in this blog post, we'll show you two different options on how to build this important part of your projects in Jira:

What's Atlassian’s Project Central?

When you decide to use your product internally, you're doing two things. Internally, your team will examine its weaknesses, driving changes and innovation. Externally, you are endorsing it, demonstrating that it’s reliable and robust, and showing how it can be used in original ways. This is what Atlassian named dogfooding over a decade back—and their Project Central is a great example.

Atlassian's project central allows better communication

One of the main consequences of dogfooding is that you get creative and start using the product in ways that its designers didn’t initially think of. To our example, Jira is not designed for tracking the progress of projects. But Project Central is just that.

So, what Project Central exactly is? It’s actually quite simple:

  • A project of projects in Jira Software, where every project is represented with an issue
  • A set of simple questions for tracking progress in each initiative
  • An email communication configuration

Basically, every project involving at least two people and taking a month or more must be created in Project Central. Doing so involves updating the answers to the following six questions weekly, and every Friday, an email summary of each project is sent to subscribed stakeholders.

The 6 questions to ask before starting building an Atlassian’s Project Central
  1. What are we doing?
  2. Why are we doing it?
  3. How do we judge success?
  4. How are we tracking?
  5. What stage are we in?
  6. Who is the full-time owner?

These questions are captured as custom fields in the issue type “project”, which is linked to the actual project where all the issues live.

You can find more information online. Although Atlassian has talked publicly about Project Central, the information is a bit buried, and a search on Google won’t help much. The best resources are on this presentation slides or Mike Cannon-Brookes’s high-level explanation from 20:00 onwards on this Atlassian Summit video:


Stakeholder communication every Friday

This is the big win, as simple as it is: everyone subscribed to a project in Project Central gets an email every Friday with the actual response to these six questions.

Atlassian’s Project Central is an excellent communication mechanism for breaking silos across teams that wouldn’t otherwise have opportunities to share knowledge.

Of course, it has some limitations:

  •    Project Central is not a product! Customers can’t buy it. If they want that email notification, they’ll have to develop it themselves.
  •    Project Central doesn’t support project roles: it’s not a project management tool, and it does nothing beyond facilitating communication with stakeholders
  •    Projects are segregated from Project Central and mapped with only a link
  •    Project data is stored in issue custom fields, impeding cross-reporting with the two levels of data.
What is Atlassian’s Project Central? What is Atlassian’s Project Central NOT?
  • A communication tool.
  • A central location for all projects.
  • A common language for company initiatives.
  • An ad-hoc configuration of weekly emails.
  • A project management tool.
  • An Atlassian product.
  • A feature in Jira Software.
  • An out-of-the-box option.

When communication is not the main problem, and you need to support your business processes, you may need stronger projects. In that case, a more organic alternative is required.

The MVP: A project of Jira projects

Atlassian is not the only organization with a Project Central in Jira. Many companies have either followed their example or come up with a similar solution themselves, usually without the communication settings, which leaves them with a bare project of projects.

In fact, it’s very tempting to solve the lack of project data in Jira by creating issues that stand for projects and then adding custom fields with project data inside those issues.

Many companies following this method don’t realize they are missing out on a lot of reporting potential they could gain if their strategy was to strengthen project entities instead of representing them in a different project.

Let’s now examine the second approach for Project Central, and these limitations will become much more apparent.


Projectrak's Project Central: Centralizing project data

Watch projects in Jira with profields, an Atlassian app

The second approach to Project Central also uses Jira Software as a platform and supplements it with Projectrak to create stronger projects.

  •    The email notification comes out of the box: Since Projectrak 6.5, anybody can watch projects and receive updates when they change.
  •    The project of projects makes no sense in Projectrak: it’s substituted with a full-fledged Project Navigator that can accommodate as many sections and slices of your projects as you need.
  •    Thanks to Projectrak's core feature, project custom fields, the set of questions, or any other project information can be created inside projects.

Have a look at this table for a comparison between the two approaches:

Map-based Project Central (Atlassian) Projectrak Project Central
Notifications not out of the box Watch projects with a button
A project where each issue represents a project Project Navigator for organizing projects
Stores project information in issue custom fields Stores information in project custom fields
The only relationship with the Jira project is a link Project information is embedded within Jira projects
Is a workaround around Jira projects Expands Jira projects in Jira's own tracking terms
Creates a project taxonomy at the issue-level Creates a project taxonomy at the project level
Data at the issue level (JQLs) Can combine issue data and project data in reports

With Projectrak, stronger projects can support processes and roles, including project administration, management, and reporting. Although not a PPM tool, Projectrak is a popular tool for managers who need to see the big picture in Jira.

Instead of the duplication that goes into mirroring projects in a meta-project, a CIO whose team uses Projectrak has important competitive advantages over the same person at a competitor who is just mapping projects. Let’s have a quick look.

Some quick benefits of Projectrak's Project Central

The major single advantage of using Projectrak is that the platform containing all your projects comes out of the box: the Project Navigator mimics Atlassian’s issue navigator.

Here’s your Project Central:Profield's Project Navigator is the option to the Atlassian's Project CentralNote: The Project Navigator can be accessed from the Projectrak tab or directly from the Project tab:

How to access to Jira's project central?

Starting from here, Projectrak gives you all of Jira’s tracking power… but applied to projects in an organic, natural way.

In summary, here are Projectrak's main features and how they compare to a "project of Jira projects" approach.

  Atlassian's PC Projectrak PC
Project Custom fields Issue custom fields with project data YES
Automated project notifications Custom development Watch projects
Cumulative fields NO YES
Project Time Sheet NO YES
JQL with project criteria NO YES

Let’s go over some of the practical consequences of this organic approach.

A. Create filters with projects so managers can access them easily

One of the major advantages of using Projectrak is that different people can see different sets of Jira Projects. To create your own filter, just save your current search of the Project Navigator.

How to save filters in the projects navigator in Jira's app profields

Managers who act on a small percentage of their instance projects find this type of filter useful for navigating to their work without running into the noise! By clicking on any project in the filter, they’ll directly access all the information related to it.

B. See aggregate issue data for each project

Without any implementation work, Projectrak will read the data in your issues and give you the following aggregate values for your projects:

  • Original Estimate.
  • Time Spent (in total and in percentage of the original estimate.)
  • Remaining (in total and in percentage of the original estimate.)

It’s simple but very effective, and you won’t find it anywhere else on your Jira dashboards.

But it doesn’t stop there! You can build a cumulative field showing an aggregate value from any numeric custom field in your projects. Think of story points or any other metric you’re currently capturing.

Build live project reports in Jira
Learn how to share live project portfolio reports on Confluence.

C. Cross-sectional reporting combining project data with issue data.

There are several ways to combine project data with issue data for valuable insights. The simplest is using project functions in JQLs to restrict the issue results according to any project criteria. In this example, I’m getting all critical issues in projects with due dates between March 25 and April 5.projects field critical JQL search in Jira's app profields

Implementing Project Central with Projectrak

If you’ve made up your mind and you’d like to build Atlassian’s Project Central best practices with Projectrak, here’s a quick check-list on how to do it:

  1. Create the six questions as text custom fields at the project level.
  2. Create a section in each of your project layouts with the 6 questions.
  3. Create a policy to mandate that all project owners should update the 6 questions once a week. Beware! They need permission to edit project field values.
  4. Watch the projects you’re interested in.

This blog post is the result of the collaboration between the Deiser product team, the marketing team, and Jaime Capitel. 

Try Projectrak now!

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Start customizing project information, incorporate it into Jira, report about it at every level within your company, and take the most out of your company information.


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