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5 pitfalls when using Atlassian Jira

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Jira Atlassian is a great ALM tool for managing your Agile environment. It provides a friendly workspace for Agile teams and has some informative out-of-the-box reports that allow teams to easily apply root cause analysis.

At the program level, there are several easy ways to achieve aggregated data reports and epic progress boards. The relatively new Jira portfolio also has some interesting features that enable larger organizations to manage their program, including shared planning, shared releases, progress, and mitigation plans.

Visiting many organizations that use Jira as their main tool for their Agile environment, I decided to summarize 5 common pitfalls it is best to avoid.

  1. Less is more, avoid heavy configuration
    Agile is about teams that work together with trust and a common mission. Therefore the workflow configured should be as simple and as short as possible to reflect lean value stream rather than handoffs.
  2. Don’t work for Jira, let it work for you
    Avoid complex issue cards that are full of information. Always ask why you need this data and retrospect its benefit over time. Otherwise, it’s just another field the team needs to add and the daily overhead is bigger than the value.
  3. Work in a trusting environment, don’t limit the work to a specific role
    Some organizations set restrictions in the workflow for specific roles. For example – only QA/PO can move a story to do. Such configuration usually is a manifestation of mistrust from management and annoys the team on a daily basis when trying to keep Jira up to date.
  4. Focus on team deliveries, not on personal tasks
    Sub-tasks should help the team align about the work to be done towards the delivery of an end-to-end story. It is not meant for leaders to micromanage individual utilization. Teams should avoid estimating sub-tasks and log work on task progress. The burndown chart that leans on “log work” is misleading and shifts the team’s focus from the actual deliveries.
  5. Use the tool wisely to gain its benefits
    Jira has some great out-of-the-box reports that are based on data the team should update. It would be a shame not to use them due to inattentiveness.
    For example:
    – Estimate all stories and drag them into the sprint container before starting the sprint to create a reliable velocity and sprint report
    – Update the story status in addition to the sub-tasks to gain real visibility on WIP and progress

So use Jira wisely and keep it simple to serve your organizational needs without over-configuration and with keeping personal interaction as first priority.
Work iteratively, start with a simple configuration, let your teams see the value, and improve with time.

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