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: with Atlassian’s Project Central, and DEISER’s Profields. By creating Project Centrals in Jira Software, you might find a solution to your needs.

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. Profields' Project Central: Centralizing project data
  5. Some quick benefits of Profields' Project Central
  6. Implementing Project Central with Profields

Jira Software allows to achieve the same goal through different ways (in this case, to build a Project Central); on this blog post we'll show you two different options on how to build this important part to 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 start 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 in Google won’t help much. The best resources are on this presentation slides, or the 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 to do develop it on their own.
  • 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 your need is 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 just came 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 with 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 on a lot of reporting potential that they could gain if their strategy was to make project entities stronger, instead of representing them in a different project.

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


Profields' 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 Profields to create stronger projects.

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

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

Map-based Project Central (Atlassian) Profields 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 issue level Creates a project taxonomy at project level
Data at the issue level (JQLs) Can combine issue data and project data in reports

With Profields, stronger projects can support processes and roles including project administration, as well as aspects of project management and reporting. Although not a PPM tool, Profields 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 is using Profields 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 Profields' Project Central

The major single advantage of using Profields is that the platform containing all your projects comes out of the box: it’s the Project Navigator, which 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 Profields tab or directly from the Project tab:

How to access to Jira's project central?

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

As a summary, here are the main features in Profields and how they compare to a "project of Jira projects" approach.

  Atlassian's PC Profields 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

Learn why it's a daunting task to push Jira to Project Managers >

One of the major advantages of using Profields 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 that act on a small percentage on their instance projects find this type of filters useful to navigate 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 the project.

B. See aggregate issue data for each project

Without any implementation work, Profields 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 it’s very effective and you won’t find it anywhere else on your Jira dashboards.

Project Timesheet Report: Profields Gadget

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

Bonus: Share live project portfolio reports on Confluence

Build live project reports in Jira


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

There’s a number of ways you can 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 issues in projects that are critical and have a due date between March 25 and April 5.projects field critical JQL search in Jira's app profields

Implementing Project Central with Profields

If you’ve made up your mind and you’d like to build Atlassian’s Project Central best practices with Profields, 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 a product from the collaboration of the DEISER product team, the marketing team, and Jaime Capitel. 

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