The daunting task of pushing Jira to Project Managers
There’s no question that Jira has become the standard collaborative work management tool for software developers. That’s a great thing for team productivity, but many project managers are visibly unhappy with Jira: as anybody who hasn’t hidden underground for the last 20 years knows, software developers have embraced agility andthrown away the traditional notion of a project. One of the reasons they like Jira is precisely because it disregards basic project management ideas in favor of a continuous flow of collaboration.
Admittedly, this is a simplification. Developers are still talking about projects in one way or another (see this example, or this Khan Academy lesson), and organizing a large part of their work in projects, even if they don’talways follow PMI standards. When their corporate tool doesn’t support their project management needs they find a way around, storing project documentation, reports and post mortems in Word, Excel and corporate wikis – including Confluence. Generally speaking, many project managers don’t like having information scattered, and would rather have stronger project entities within Jira.
To add insult to injury, Jira’s popularity is eroding traditional project management well beyond the realm of software development.
In fact, many companies today (starting with banks!) think of themselves as having a software foundation. This helps Atlassian’s expansion into business areas and corporate territories where a traditional approach to projects used to be in high esteem: business development, marketing, finance… you name it.
There’s a big risk: when Jira lies at the core of a company’s toolkit, Jira projects can be a limit to how projects are run and conceived in the entire company. Of course, that means that if your company runs projects, whoever is responsible for them may push back against the adoption of Jira. They may be project managers, but also PMOs, CIOs, IT managers, among any others.
Do you want to make them happy? Are you one of them? Keep reading to find out how to solve the mess!
Why Project Managers have a right to complain about Jira projects
But what are Jira projects, and why do project managers complain about them?
Jira is an issue tracker, and Jira projects are merely a way to cut off sets of issues, to tell them apart from other sections of work.
Jira projects are not very different to a bag full of issues with instructions for using what’s inside them: there are rules for transitioning the issues, for what types of issues they can contain, for who can see them, etc.
But there’s nothing (or very little) attached to those bags. Some people say they shouldn’t even be called projects!
What is missing in a Jira project? Just to mention a few gaps that jump to my head:
Neither start date nor due date
No dependencies between tasks
No project-level reporting
No hierarchical team management
Even sorting through projects becomes difficult once you reach a certain level (at DEISER we estimate the threshold of comfort at about 200 projects)
No prioritization between projects
Basically, the project as a control and management unit doesn’t exist in Jira. And I’m not even mentioning dependencies between projects, which are a cornerstone of project-based management and PPM.
What can be done about it?
Well, you can ditch Jira. But if you don’t want to do that, the reality is that you’re going to have a growing number of projects and no easy way of managing them and their information in the same tool. This is bad per se, even if you’re not a PMBOK enthusiast. So what can be done about it?
There’s several ways to take this thorny issue by the horns, and find a way to make your project advocates happy while still using Jira. Here are some possibilities:
The corporate, expensive way
Buy a big enterprise PPM tool to account for your projects, then integrate to connect the work. This might seem like a great way out, but it will only be feasible if you already know how to do PPM. And it’s not easy!
If project nostalgia is the problem, let’s go back to a project management tool! This is a bit like the above, but simpler. Just get MS Project and map it onto Jira. Again, the problem here is that using tools with functional overlaps is always a headache.
The chicken way (just kidding)
Do nothing, let project managers fend for themselves. That’s why they get paid, right? Perhaps you can pay them more to keep them quiet!
The lightweight approach to transformation
Use marketplace add-ons to transform Jira projects into actual management entities that help you and your managers.
There’s a bunch of add-ons in the Atlassian marketplace. There are even specific apps for implementing SaFE®! But we’re going to focus in DEISER’s Profields for three reasons:
It offers a global solution to the flaws of Jira projects
It doesn’t require the adoption of any methodology or framework
The beauty of Profields is that it cures Jira projects in Jira’s own terms; in fact, Profields’ motto could be paraphrased as follows:
Do with your projects what you already can do with your issues
The goal is to have a great issue tracker that is alsoa great project tracker.
Here are the main features that create that balance:
The core functionality and the origin of Profields is to provide a flexible interface to create and manage project metadata. To make your life easier, there are several types of project custom fields that speak to project management needs, including:
Lists (with optional external data source)
In Jira, basic project operations such as deleting components and schemes or replacing project leads must be conducted manually on a single project basis. Bulk Operations solves this productivity blocker. Replacing a project lead when he leaves the company is no longer a problem!
Replicate the issue navigator at project level so that even the most gigantic project portfolio can be sorted by country, due date, technology, or any other relevant field!
Profields Query Language (PQL)
Queries for projects? Why not? PQL is analogous to JQL, the language any and all Jira admins know by heart. Additionally, Profields’ custom fields support JQL functions so users can find the issues that match certain project fields. For example, imagine you want to find all the bugs related to a given technology and a specific company location.
Transform your Jira into a project tracker!
Get the white paper to learn how a Proof of Concept became an Atlassian App.