Imagine the following situation:
You’re working on a large-scale system integration project using MS Project as the project management tool, but a component team for this project has been using Jira for legacy reasons. You want to have your overall project plan, including this component team’s work, in MS Project, though the component team will continue to work with Jira. How would you manage such a collaborative effort?
And, another scenario:
You’re team has been using Jira for a development project. The business executive team wants to see a Gantt chart with critical paths shown along with dependencies. They like MS Project reports and want such generated. What would you do?
In both of these situations, you’d have to make MS Project and Atlassian Jira work together, and to do that, you need a connector or a bridge. For the sake of illustration, I’ll be using Ceptah Bridge, which allows us to connect MS Project and Jira.
The versions used here for the respective software are:
- Microsoft Project 2016
- Atlassian Jira 8.1
- Ceptah Bridge 3.8.5
Installing Ceptah Bridge as a MS Project Add-in
To install Ceptah Bridge, you can download the windows installer from Ceptah Solutions. Post installation, it will be shown as one of the add-ins in MS Project.
As shown above, there are a number of menus in this add-in, which perform various functionalities such as connection check, synchronization, import etc. Briefly, they perform these functionalities:
- Synchronization: Here we synchronize the tasks of MS Project with issues in Jira, or create linked issues in Jira corresponding tasks in MS Project.
- Import: Used to import existing issues in Jira and create tasks in MS Project. You can also import users from Jira to MS Project.
- Close: Close the issues in Jira and update accordingly in MS Project.
- Settings: Used to set various fields in both MS Project and Jira. It has various mapping functionalities, which support both predictive and adaptive modes. For agile mode, Scrum is used with sprints, epics, and stories.
In this article, we will cover functionalities related to synchronization and updates showing necessary settings. Note: we will be using predictive mode.
Checking MS Project and Jira Connectivity
Post installation of Ceptah Bridge, you should first ensure the connectivity between MS Project and Jira. This can be checked by navigating in Captah to the “JIRA Connection Settings” command dialog box, as shown below.
I’ve used a web log-in authentication method and the site URL created in Jira for this purpose (https://msproject-jira.atlassian.net), You can also use an installed Jira server, for which the URL would be as follows:
For the step-by-step installation of Jira server, you can refer this guide. The steps remain almost same for Jira server 8.1.
With a correct username and password, when you click on the “Test Connection” button, a successful string message, “The connection is working,” will be shown. Successful connection is important before we proceed with other work such as synchronization.
Setting-up a Project in MS Project
For the sake of example, I’ve created a project plan named “Sample Business Plan.mpp,” which is shown below:
In addition to the usual fields, I’ve added two custom text fields, (“Components” and “Fix Versions”), which will be used while mapping with Jira via Ceptah. There are two versions (“1.0” and “2.0”) and two components (“Component A” and “Component B”). Note that if we hadn’t added these custom fields, mappings could have been done from right within Ceptah, which in turn creates these fields in the project plan’s view.
Setting-up a Project in Jira
You have to set up a Jira project before doing any synchronization. As shown below, a project called “Sample Business Plan” has been created with project key “SBP.”
Note, there are no issues in this project at this stage. There are three workflow states in the project board (“TO DO,” “IN PROGRESS,” and “DONE”), with no work-in-progress items. During synchronization, tasks from our MS project plan will be mapped and shown as issues in Jira project.
Ensuring Correct Project Synchronization Settings
After installing the Ceptah Bridge, checking connectivity, and setting up projects in MS Project and Jira, our next step is to ensure proper setting for the bridge. This can be done from within the “Project Synchronization Settings” dialog box, which is opened using the Ceptah add-in “JIRA Project Settings” command.
The above synchronization settings correspond with the MS Project “Sample Business Plan.mpp.” There are many tabs in this dialog box such as Basic, Status, Secondary, etc., with which you can do mapping between MS Project and Jira. The arrow mark in the above screen indicates the direction in which the data is copied. For example:
- The “Issue Key” field in Jira is mapped to “Text10” field in MS Project.
- The “Issue Type” field in Jira is mapped to “Text1” field in MS Project.
- The “Finish” field in MS Project is mapped to “Due date” field in Jira.
One key point to note is this: the “project” field in Jira must correctly map to “Project Key” or “Project Name” on MS Project side. In our case, the project key used is “SBP.”
Performing Various Operations
After ensuring proper mappings, we now can perform synchronization between MS Project and Jira.
First, let’s see how the tasks in MS Project are created as issues in Jira. As we are creating issues in our Jira project for the first time, we will use the Ceptah add-in “JIRA Synchronize” command. This launches the “Synchronise with JIRA – Sample Business Plan.mpp” screen, which is shown below.
The action listed in the “Action” field is “Create Issue.” We can be sure that each task in MS Project will now be created as an issue in Jira. For example:
- “Define business vision” is a task in the MS Project plan with Task ID 3.
- This task will be created as an issue in Jira and referred to as “Sample Business Plan > Self-assessment > Define business vision.”
You can remove the “>” separator by choosing the “Task name” field in the project synchronization setting.
To create the corresponding issues in Jira, use the “Apply Changes” button as shown in the above figure. The dialog box will inform about the successful creation of the issues with details in the bottom half. The issue keys created in Jira are now associated with the individual tasks of MS Project plan.
As we can see, MS Project’s task “Define business vision” is now associated with issue “SBP-1” in Jira. Similarly, other issues in Jira will be associated with tasks in MS Project after successful creation. This is indicated with a green tick mark.
Note that synchronization here is happening from MS Project to Jira.
We have issues created in Jira, and the project board populates as shown below.
We see 14 issues created on the Jira side and mapping to the 14 non-summary tasks of the MS Project plan. This is indicated by number 14 in the “TO DO” column above.
Simultaneously, in our MS Project plan, the “Issue Key” field has also populated (see below). The indicator fields in MS Project plan are populated with hyperlinks corresponding with the issues in Jira.
2. Update and Track
Next, let’s take a few tasks in Jira and update them with progress details. As shown below, three issues SBP-1, SBP-2, and SBP-3 from the “TO DO” column have been moved into the “IN PROGRESS” column.
For individual issues, we have also entered some time logging with the use of the “Log time” field for issues in Jira.
In our example, the following updates are made.
- Issue SBP-1 (“Define business vision”): Actual time entered = 8 hours.
- Issue SBP-2 (“Identify available skills, information and support”): Actual time entered = 6 hours.
- Issue SBP-3 (“Decide whether to proceed”): Actual time entered = 4 hours.
As we synchronize again, the issues in Jira with tasks in MS Project, we will have the following updates.
For issue SBP-1, the action now is “Update,” not “Create Issue.” In the bottom-half of the screen, changes have been made only for MS Project. Hence, its fields are populated, with the new value of 8 hours in the “Actual Work” field.
Do note that in this case, the synchronization (update) is happening from Jira to MS Project.
To have the reflection in the MS Project plan, click on the “Apply changes” button as shown above. The changes are then reflected in the MS Project plan, as shown next.
As you can see, I’ve added three new fields (“% Complete,” “Work,” and “Actual Work”). The updates from Jira applied to MS Project are:
- Task ID 3/SBP-1 (“Define business vision”): Actual work of 8 hours 50% complete.
- Task ID 4/SBP-2 (“Identify available skills, information and support”): Actual work of 6 hours 25% complete.
- Task ID 5/SBP-3 (“Decide whether to proceed”): Actual work of 6 hours 25% complete.
This perfectly matches with the work logging that we have done for the issues in Jira. The change highlighting feature of MS Project also highlights the fields that have been updated.
To illustrate the “Close” operation, let’s move two issues, SBP-1 and SBP-2, to a “DONE” state from within the Jira project board. Once marked complete, we see fill-up of the time logged details for both these two issues.
As you use the synchronization from JIRA add-in now and apply changes, the MS Project reflects these results.
The tasks with ID 3 and ID 4 in MS Project, corresponding to the issues SBP-1 and SBP-2 in Jira project, have been completed or done. This is also reflects in the graphical part of the Gantt Chart view shown on the right side of the above figure.
You can also close the issues in Jira from MS Project itself by using the Ceptah add-in “JIRA Close Issues” command, which is a rarely used historical feature. Note that the Jira project’s workflow scheme is changed to include the status “Resolved.”
*A special note of thanks to Sergey Gussak, the creator of Ceptah Bridge, for his continuous support and for answering my queries. He was very helpful as I prepared this article.
 Ceptah Bridge Help Documentation by Ceptah Solutions.
 MS Project 2016 Live Lessons by Satya Narayan Dash.
 Jira Software documentation by Atlassian Corp.