JIRA Panel Discussion Transcription

Please find below a transcription of the audio portion of Michael Dennis and J Caldwell’s Jira Panel Discussion, being provided by MPUG for the convenience of our members. You may wish to use this transcript for the purposes of self-paced learning, searching for specific information, and/or performing a quick review of webinar content. There may be exclusions, such as those steps included in product demonstrations. You may watch the recording of this webinar at your convenience.

Melanie: Hello, Melanie here with team MPUG. Welcome to our Jira Panel Discussion. We’ll be taking breaks throughout today’s session for Q&A. We invite you to join in using the chat feature, which you can see up on your screen or in your GoTo Webinar control panel. I will send out thank yous to our audience getting involved today. So let’s challenge these fellows. Now I’d like to introduce our experts. First up, Michael Dennis. Michael is an accomplished professional with over 30 years of success in managing complex software development projects. Michael developed Group Policy for Windows while at Microsoft, and has led teams at Windows Mobile and Blackberry. Most relevant to our session today is Michael’s role as Chief Architect at Envorso and his previous role at Disney, which included management of tools such as Jira and Confluence.

Melanie: Next up, J Caldwell. J has over 20 years of experience in IT operations and enterprise environments. He has functioned as both an individual contributor and team member for large scale projects requiring interaction with multiple teams and tier partners, both inside and outside of the company. J has also provided direct support for applications such as Jira and Confluence, working with Expedia, Walt Disney, and now, Envorso. Mike, J, a very big welcome to you both. We’re really excited to have your expertise on this topic today.

J Caldwell: Thank you.

Michael Dennis: Thank you very much. Looking forward to it.

J Caldwell: Now, all right, you should all see my screen. Welcome to Jira and How to be Successful With Integrations. And we received some preemptive questions and we’ve taken a swag at answering them to the best of our ability. Oh, there we go. So this is me J Caldwell, and I’ve been doing administration with Atlassian products since early versions of Jira and Confluence. I started my work on that at Expedia and then moved to Disney doing just that primarily focused on administration of Atlassian products. I’ve worn all the hats you can probably wear, like DBA, SA, system reliability engineer, project manager, program manager, at different points in time depending on what needs the business had, right? My Atlassian career is limited to Expedia, Disney and Envorso, but prior to that, my technology start was at AT&T Wireless pre Cingular. And this is Michael.

Michael Dennis: Hello, everybody. Mel did a great introduction. I won’t repeat all of that, but I would like to emphasize that J and I worked together, we were at Walt Disney at the same time and now we’re here at Envorso. While there I was managing the team that was providing the Atlassian suite at scale. I think 20,000 users in Jira pushing 40,000 or so in the Confluence instance. And we ran multiple instances and have experience with migrating projects in various ways and places across, which was always fun and exciting. And when I’m not doing these kinds of things, I just build and fly high power rockets because it’s a nice challenge and I like to get outside and enjoy some good weather out in the middle of nowhere. Anyway, take it away, J.

J Caldwell: Sure. So wanted again to start with some caveats of some things. One is there’s a theoretical possibility, right? With the Atlassian set of products, the biggest challenge will be your individual environments, where you actually live and work, right? The products themselves are incredibly flexible. And with that flexibility, they’ve kind of developed different hosting platforms depending on your needs. Some of the products are not exactly equal, equivalent between the two different hosting platforms. And really it comes down to when you go back, whatever you take from this presentation, you’re going to be confronted with your unique instance, with your own administrators, your own realities, budget, all that sort of thing. So just remember that. Because I will say at this presentation that certain things are possible, but the iron triangles down in the corner of time, cost and quality, and we’re all slaves to that when we get out of here. Michael, is there anything else you wanted to add?

Michael Dennis: Yeah, I’d like to add, Jira is at its heart a workflow engine, and it can be made to do just about anything that you could use a workflow for. It was originally thought of and conceived and developed as a tool to help developers with agile development. Does that great, but there are lots of knobs and dials and sliders for things you can change, you can add on and change functionality. And you can use it for a lot of things. J and I know Disney uses Jira to manage the fire trucks that come and go at Disneyland so that they have a workflow for how and what happens and who is responsible and what happened and they have a record of it. Just an example of you can do all kinds of things with it. Go ahead.

J Caldwell: And then Jira out of the box, when it ships to you as either Jira Cloud or Jira Data Center, there’s not many out of the box integrations that are built in, right? Most of them stem around DevOps kind of things, integrations with Confluence or integration with other Atlassian products. So Confluence, FishEye, Bitbucket, et cetera. Also some broader tech ones, but Jira has always been extensible. It functions off of a build or buy model. With that meaning you can either go and pay someone else who has already built the widget that you want added, or a lot of times you can build your own. Again, back to the caveat, it’s going to depend heavily upon what platform you’re hosting in, what that level of flexibility is, but you can always add functionality.

J Caldwell: Another thing I wanted to mention too is Atlassian is always generally making purchases and improving the product. So over the life of the product, you’ve seen Jira grow from the little bug tracker that everyone called it at the beginning into what is Jira Service Management, Jira software, workflow management, and Align. They’re all Jira. They’re all that same engine. They just have different skins, different functionality added in. And as the product has continued to grow and evolve, Atlassian has done things to improve that.

J Caldwell: Where you go for most of these things is, there’s a marketplace, marketplace.atlassian.com. And we’ll make sure the slides are out so that you have access to the links that we’ve included. But Marketplace is always a good place that covers these are the plugins, the apps, as they call them now, that you can buy and get installed in your instance. There are also partners and vendors who do work outside of that, either around integrations, upgrades, individual products, or needs that need to be met that may not be solved by the marketplace, and you may not have the skillset to do in-house. The API is also another really common and frequent part of an integration. All of the vendors use the APIs provided by Jira, and a lot of functionality can be built to tie things in and either feed things into Jira or out of Jira via the API. Go ahead, Michael.

Michael Dennis: Yeah. My comment on this is from the guy who ran a system that was enterprise wide. You, most of the time are going to want to find the buy option, because over time it will actually be cheaper than building and maintaining and updating and keeping it all together. The other thing I’d like to mention is that for any given thing that you’re looking to go solve from a business perspective, there’s probably multiple solutions for that in the Marketplace. And some will be better than others. Some may meet your needs plus a bunch of other needs. And if you’re working with your administration or the team that’s running it, you’re going to want to work hand in glove with them on understanding the impact of adding any particular additional functionality to Jira, because it’s likely, in most cases, is going to be available to everybody using the system.

Michael Dennis: And the final point that I’d like to make is the API. Everything that you can do in the UI is available via the API. So if you have developers on your team that can access the API, and like J said, either in or out, you can put data into Jira maybe from Slack. Slack has an integration that allows you to automatically do things with Jira. Those are just examples. But everything you can do could be done programmatically and can help with automation within your environment. If you need it. That was it.

J Caldwell: So getting into that, any integration has a set of pitfalls associated with it. And a lot of this is from many years of administration. And one of the first things I’m going to mention is free. There is nothing in life that is free. It all costs something. Maybe not all dollars, but your administrator’s time, your time, effort to get that in and in place. So if you go and look at the Marketplace, you’ll see free, free, free. Just be aware that free a lot of times is a trial. Again, back to your unique instance with your own user, the count of users and platform that it’s hosted on, that can then mean that it isn’t in fact free. No matter what, to get your integration done, you’re going to need your administrators, you’re going to need yourself, the end users who are requesting it. So there is a cost associated with it.

J Caldwell: Another common pitfall is lack of requirements and a statement of business value. From an administrator side, I have seen so many requests of, “I just want this. This will solve my problem.” And you ask the follow up question of, “Okay, what is actually the problem you’re trying to solve with this?” And the answer is, “Well, I think this. Or well, I need to do this.” Without that, it’s really hard to solution and make sure the thing put in will match things. Also, if you don’t have a business value, right? If it’s just one person, and again, the iron triangle of time, cost and quality, you end up with administrators who are like, “I have 15 other requests. And if this is just for you, ah, probably not.” Another… Oh, go ahead, Mike.

Michael Dennis: Yeah, I want to jump in and add a case in point about it says free, and even if it does cost something, that isn’t the only cost. I remember going through an evaluation for Jira Align with a whole group of multiple projects probably around 500 or maybe it was approaching 1,000 different users of this system. And they looked at it and it would do what they needed it to do, but it would require them changing their own processes and changing how they go about doing things from a business perspective to get the value out of it. So sometimes it looks like an app or a tool or an add-in to Jira is their Nirvana, right? And it might be, after you’ve invested a bunch of time, effort and energy into setting things up in a way that you can get that value out of it. Just an example. Jira Align by the way is a fabulous tool if you’re doing SAFe, but you better be doing SAFe.

J Caldwell: Yeah.

Michael Dennis: Right? If you’re not today, you’ll have to change things in order to take the best advantage of it. Just wanted to add that coming in.

J Caldwell: And that ties in with the plugin substituting for requirements, right? That’s really the… You’re like, “If I just get this, I will be able to do things,” like Michael says of, “You may have to adjust how you’re doing.” Another common example would be custom fields inside of Jira. Lots of people want their own custom fields, and it needs to be named this exact thing. The issue with that is everyone, do you want business unit or business units, right? There doesn’t necessarily need to be two of the same thing just with slightly different language. Another common thing is people try to do like, “I will take this off of everyone’s hand and I will go do this myself and I will come back.” And it’s skunk works. That generally does not work at the point where you don’t have administrative permissions inside the application.

J Caldwell: Now, leveraging the API, right? You can leverage the API, but there’s still permission levels within there of what you can do based off of your permission level. And if you want to like, “I need to tie this with that.” And you don’t have your administrator involvement, you don’t have IT involvement, you don’t have whatever else, you’re going to not be successful. And that just re-hammers that point, you need to have your administrator involved. And if they’re not involved, we’ll talk a little bit about how better to get them involved. Go ahead, Mike.

Michael Dennis: Let me jump in. One more point. Like I said, everything that’s available in the UI is available via API. If you have developers on your team or you know them, and they are working with this, you could just start using API, but you will be using it within the restrictions of the service account hopefully that’s using that API. And so if it doesn’t have permissions to see projects that it needs to, you’re going to have to work with your Jira administrator to do it.

Michael Dennis: And secondly, APIs can be heavy users of the system and can bring it down if not exercised properly and with forethought and understanding of, “Well, I just had this query and it seemed like it was going to give me back everything I want.” And then the system runs for 20 minutes trying to get the answers to that query and the whole system comes down. So you do have to weigh these things. And our suggestion is going to be, work with your Jira administrator, because they’re going to know and can help you formulate these things in a way that will be successful for you and not bring the system down at the same time.

J Caldwell: And again, I’m not like going back to the caveats of your unique system platform is a huge pitfall. So another common thing that I see, or have seen with requests of like, “I need this. I want to use this,” is you go to the Marketplace, you look, you’re like, “Oh, here’s a plugin,” and you send it over. But that plugin is only in cloud. Well, if you’re hosted in data center or server versions, there’s a cloud plugin version, doesn’t do you any good. You can’t you use it with your product. So making sure that if you’re doing any research, advanced looking or whatever else, you make sure you know what platform you’re on so that you can best match the functionality you need with your platform.

J Caldwell: That gets into your Jira administrator, right? Your administrator’s underwater. We can guarantee. I’ve known many, many administrators, many different instances both in the companies that I worked, but also within the Atlassian community. And everyone’s basically underwater. They’re focused on the stability and the reliability of the system first and foremost, right? Their job is to make sure that the system is there when you need it and is working so that the maximum amount of productivity from be it developers, be it project managers, whomever, can accomplish their stuff. And then after things are running and working, what solutions do I have? What do I have in my instance already? And what are my requests? So what do I already have making sure that this matches what my current charter is, what I’m doing, what I’m working on and what do I need to do to keep that system up-to-date for that next bit?

J Caldwell: And then after that, then you get into the, “Okay, here’s my list of things I want to add. Here’s the bits I need more of.” And really to have them be successful, one of the things I want to make sure you understand is as a Jira administrator, my story as an administrator is to focus not only on the stability of the system, but providing valuable functionality for my user base and the enterprise that aligns with the business priorities. So if you want your administrators’ help, if you want them brought in, if you want them to be a partner with you, which you need to get the integration done that you need, you really need your problem statement, business requirements, the scope, right? Not just “I need,” right? Going back to an earlier statement, if it’s just you and you’re like, “Just me and my team,” in that stack of things they have to get done and improvements, you’re going to be towards the bottom. So having it be the right scope of not just users, but also the size of the scope of what you see that the enterprise needs or the organization needs.

J Caldwell: And then whatever else you think might be helpful, right? What you’re trying to do is build a case. You’re trying to influence the triangle, because your administrator’s under cost constraints, they’re under time constraints and what you want to do is improve quality. Plugins that have a cost, plugins that will take time to integrate, those you have to sell it a little bit more. So the best job selling it is going to be, “This is the biggest impact for all of us.” And go ahead, Michael.

Michael Dennis: Yeah. So what I would add onto that, that’s an excellent way of getting folks to think about what they’re asking out of Jira and the administrators. I can tell you that those of our customers that I’ve worked with when I was running this, that came with a thoughout problem statement, they had their business requirements, what they were trying to actually accomplish. They knew how this was going to impact the system that they were trying to work on, because every project is different. So how big is this project? How many people are using it? Can multiple projects take advantage of this? Do you know if they’re going to or want to? All of that kind of information is work that you’ve now taken off of the Jira administrator’s plate that they’re just going to have to work with you to figure it out anyway.

Michael Dennis: Flip that and say you’ve done all of that work and you’ve presented that information and contrast that to the other person that says, “Can you just add this plugin?” And the answer is, “No.” And then you start a whole dialogue to go get the rest of that information, to get to a place where, “Oh, maybe that is the right plugin. Or we already have this other plugin that will do 90% of what you’re doing. Is that good enough?” What J and I are trying to say is have that dialogue, but have it with the information and the understanding of where they are. J and I have both been to the Atlassian Summit, which is the Atlassian run, think of it as their yearly conference. We’ve been multiple to times where we’re working and meeting other folks either that are the administrators of systems or they are running and managing these systems at various size companies. And that very first statement your Jira administrator is likely underwater is very, very true.

Michael Dennis: And it may be true for lots of other products within enterprises. I think it’s exacerbated with the Atlassian products, because these products tend to get into an organization, not within IT or within the folks that are going to eventually run it. Somebody brought it in and started using it. And then it grew into this thing, much bigger thing over time that wasn’t well managed, it wasn’t built for stability and reliability and security, and all of that work has to be redone and rejiggered. Just a couple of hints on how to get that work accomplished.

J Caldwell: So getting into a little bit more, first thing, engage your administrators. And in the case where you’re like, “Well, I actually have a program manager or a product manager, and they engage them.” Well, the more people who support the system that are involved, the better. And I’m going to assume that your administrators all are functioning in the same way of like, “Our goal is to support the business.” Right? So engaging them is that first step. And then understanding this scope, right? Going back is, are you talking about just you, are you talking about a team? Are you talking about multiple teams? Are you talking about an org? Are you talking about the whole thing? A common question that came up in the survey is, “I need to integrate Jira with Project,” right?

J Caldwell: Be it project alone, online or whatever else. My question as administrator, “Is this just for you? Or is it for teams? Or should I be doing this as the whole enterprise?” Right? Because if it’s a whole enterprise, that moves it up in the priority list of things to do, hypothetically if you can get the support from other people to do it. Make sure you know what the impact is, right? The bigger the impact, the bigger of like this will save us money, this will make it easier. Right now we are having to manually do things to keep things in sync, that’s a strong selling point. Your time is valuable, so if it’s something stupid and repeatable, that could be automated, let’s automate it. And that automation can be an integration.

J Caldwell: The highest value is what you want to lead with, but share the everything, right? So this will bring value to the whole organization because we are then able to keep Jira and Project in sync, so we are better able to visualize and understand deliverability windows, resources, et cetera, right? But share all of it, right? Like share that with not just our team, but this team and this team and this team, more people, more teams involvement, more people jumping on to, “I need this.” Brings you more weight. It gives me as an administrator when I need to go and argue for money about, “I got to pay for this.” I either need more administrators. I need a better allocation of resources. I need to buy the plugin. That biggest value is going to be one of the things I have to bring to get the sale approved and be patient.

J Caldwell: I think if you’re in a large organization, you’re moving a boat, you’re turning a large boat. And like Michael said a lot of times Jira or Confluence came up organically. So there’s corresponding efforts inside your organization to resolve and address any security or audits or compliance needs around having this product be stable and match the environmental standards while you are trying to add this new functionality, whatever that may be. A big thing is when people come and say, “I need everything. I need project to do this and this and this and this and this and this and this and this and this and this. And I need Jira to do all of that.

J Caldwell: And I want Confluence and, and, and, and, and.” Right? That gets way too big, right? You can’t see the forest through the trees. And really you need to start with, “Okay, I need project to integrate with Jira so I can accomplish this as my team.” Right? But that’s that next thing of keeping it agile, this is what I need right now, but this is my overall ask, right? This is where I want to go. My goal is a unified environment that has logical integrations between core points of the different parts of the environment. So Jira project, GitHub, whatever right? Logical integrations at that. And that smaller bike size bit will allow you to iterate and deliver faster. Michael, go ahead.

Michael Dennis: Yeah. So let me wrap those three statements together. The patients, everything isn’t a starting point, keep it agile. Well, four, but share all. In software development, we think of a minimally viable product or an MVP. You should think about these things that way as well, and that you’re going to do it in phases along the way. It’s very, very helpful for the Jira administrator and those that are running Jira to understand where you want to end up like share all. I want to get here, and I want all of these things be interconnected and automated. And whatever your vision is, you want to share that and then pair it down and say, “The first step that will help me get to that Nirvana is this one thing.” Maybe that’s the integration with project in Jira, but you’ve shared all of the other stuff that you’re going to be coming for later. That’s the agile methodology, right? So why not do it here? Do it a little bit at a time, iterate, improve, redo it, iterate, improve, and move on.

J Caldwell: And then there’ll be this continuous loop, right? That’s like you’re always doing something. So there’ll be this continuous loop with your administrator, with your other stakeholders that need this integration. Another kind of last thing to mention, I know we said don’t send a plug in and say, “This is what I need.” Send it as, “This is my business requirements. This is my problem statement. This is my goal. This is what I need to accomplish and why I need to do it.” I did a little bit of research. This one… Here’s a starting point, call it a start point. This may not even match what I’m asking for. Maybe I don’t know enough about the system and what it’s required or whatever, but you can send it along as maybe this is something you could start with, don’t know.

J Caldwell: This is what I found, right? Again, it’s part of that extra information sharing of like, “Here’s all the things.” Right? Again, if I as administrator, don’t have to have the same discussion 15 times and be like, “No, I need you to tell me what you actually…” Okay. Now, I need… And then go through my process of trying to align all these requests. And I am presented with requests that already kind of do that where I can easily like this, this, this same thing. They’re asking for the same thing, and I already have this answer. I already have this built via this other integration. I can solve these three things now. Again, just don’t have it be like this is the answer. With that I wanted like… Now we’re getting into like the Q&A stuff. So we got a bunch of questions in advance of like, “Here’s these different things.”

J Caldwell: So I kind of reduced it down to kind of some topics I’m going to run through them. And then we’ll open it up for some broader questions. So there were multiple questions and statements of it’s really hard to find training. I don’t know, why does Atlassian things cost money? Training with any tech product, end user administrative level training, whatever there’s multiple chunks that you can use. First off it’s the Atlassian University. The university is basically Atlassian created and sponsored training with tracks. Some of the training is free. Some of it has costs. Generally the costs are associated with a lot of the more in depth structured classes. Those may be what you need. They may not, it depends, but it’s the best place to start is go and look, see what is there.

J Caldwell: The documentation that Atlassian produces is a lot, there is a lot. So there’s… And if you can process things by reading and you can learn kind of through reading, that is one of a really good way, right? Atlassian documentation is something even I like I’ve been doing this for a while, I’m still using every day, right? Because as the product changes, as it evolves documentation, flexibility, what you can do, how you do it changes a little bit. Go ahead.

Michael Dennis: Let me add in a couple of pro tips. So Atlassian University, if your organization’s large enough, and if your team that’s running Jira needs training themselves, because there are certifications for taking care of Jira and Confluence of various things, they may already have training credits that they bought. And if you buy them in bulk, you get them at a discount. So there may be some training credits that you could take advantage of by asking the Jira team. “Do you have any additional credits?” By the way, when you buy them in bulk, you ask like… You also have to use them within a year.

Michael Dennis: So it’s a good forcing factor if you’re trying to get people to take the training, you can say, “This is already paid for, this is going to run out in this time period. So make sure you get that done.” Regarding the documentation there’s gobs of it. Google is your friend, because you can Google what you’re trying to do, and then go to the Atlassian link for the documentation that answers your question, and it will also lead you to other things like the community J’s about to talk about, but it will also zero you in on the right place, rather than trying to search through the massive amount of documentation. There you go.

J Caldwell: And the community is the next place, right? There’s community.atlassian.com. And those are users and administrators asking other users and administrators, how to do things, how to meet needs, how I don’t understand this, help. It’s a really good place to go. Just understand that back to the caveat, your unique instance may mean whatever that answer is that the community provides won’t necessarily work, right? But that’s just my word of warning of when I go to community stuff, I always make sure I’m in that right area. So if I am running a cloud instance and I need to talk about your cloud, I’m making sure it’s not in the data center part, because the answers are going to be maybe slightly different depending on what it is.

J Caldwell: Another really good way to train things and is you can give anyone. You can go get a free 10 user or less Atlassian instance in the cloud, Jira, Confluence, what have you, right? You can go and do that. Atlassian’s had a server used to be a $10 subscription per year, right? So the goal is to have a very low barrier to entry for the main product line so that you can go in and experiment. It’s a good way to play around, try to figure things out on your own, but again, that caveat of… Right? That is its own unique instance that you just did. So you may not be able to translate what you want, you did over here back into here especially if you did it in a way that the administrator’s going to be like, “Hmm, nah, that doesn’t work for the enterprise.” Right?

J Caldwell: Your administrators is another source of training and help, right? They should always be a source of help, but they may be producing or may have already produced. Here is some specific things that relate to our instance, how we do things in our company, right? That is incredibly common of like from anywhere, “How do I get access to the Jira system and get in to what features are there are in this?” Right? There’s normally some sort of documentation they have produced, and they can also be like, “I’ll spend half an hour, 45 minutes working with you to get you to where you need.” If you’re really looking for some strong support, and you need more of a rigorous or a different kind of training than what Atlassian provides, different Atlassian partners and vendors provide training on Atlassian products. A lot of times specific to kind of your instance. So they would come in, identify your training needs, work with you on identifying and understanding your instance and help you. So that’s incredibly common and Michael’s got a comment on there and I know what he’s going to say.

Michael Dennis: Yes, I’m sure you do. Please, when you start engaging with a partner or a vendor, an Atlassian partner, they grade them as well. So pay attention to that, go for the good ones. You’re going to want to engage your Jira team administrators. They may already have a relationship with one or more partners. For sure, they have a relationship with one because they’re getting their licenses from one of them. They may or may not be the right one to provide you some additional training. And those partners while working with your Jira administrators and those running the system can tailor the training so that it’s teaching you how all of the Jira that you have has been set up so that they’re not teaching you things you really can’t do. So that’s another partnership using partners. There you go.

J Caldwell: And the last one, there’s a lot of YouTube videos. Caveat and tour with that, but there’s a lot of videos. That’s always a good resource. With in regards to like a lot of the questions are about reporting. How do I share? What can I do in terms of reporting those kind of things? These first two bullet points are where you need to go start with the training. Covering JQL Search and filters and then dashboards and gadgets. Those are the two kind of starting points, and you can go and hit those in Atlassian University in the documentation. Those are the best places to start with those.

J Caldwell: Because what is common is you’re just kind of thrown into things. So you kind of have to like, “Ah, whatever.” So there’s gaps in your knowledge, gaps in your understanding and going back and hitting those two bullet points first with the Atlassian training or documentation or YouTube videos, whatever is going to help get you to understand a little bit more about what you can do. Reporting is also extensible, right? You build or buy extensions for Jira and you can extend it via other apps that you add ends. So like eazyBI is a common app that is added and it adds a plethora of reporting things. There’s a whole series of requirements about what you have to do to integrate it and bring it in and what you have to do to your data, but once it there, it triples the amount of flexibility around it.

J Caldwell: But I also want to like say, if you’re part of a larger organization and an enterprise, you may already have a data warehouse of some kind depending on whatever platform you want, we’re going to keep it generic and say data warehouse, but that’s an integration there. That’s a creation of a feed from Jira into that data warehouse where you could then be using Power BI or Tableau or whatever it is to visualize the data from there. And here’s another thing. The CSV export, you can export issues either just in a very specific set of fields or every field for the issues that you’re dumping out and do all the wonders of Excel or other things with it. Michael, did you have anything else?

Michael Dennis: I did. You can do that with a CSV expert and then use your tool of choice to manipulate it. Excel, Power BI Tableau, pick your favorite tool. Just keep in mind that’s now a manual thing that you’ll have to do. So what I have seen that being done is to create an example of this is what I really want to end up with, because I’ve exported some sample data, I’ve now manipulated it the way that I want to, and then you can sit down with your Jira administrator and say, “How do I make this connected and automated?” And they can work with you to go get that accomplished. Very cool.

J Caldwell: Cool. Another question from… The more of a direct question was we’ve been using Jira for a while, how do we fix the incorrectly labeled field priority and severity? First off, it’s a configuration, right? Getting someone to add severity to your project and the screens you see should be relatively easy and straightforward for your administrator. So you should be able to go and submit a request, but I wanted to like touch on this because priority and severity are not the same thing. They’re different measures. One, priority is a measure of importance related to a customer or a product. So is the ability to log in a priority. Yeah, definitely is the ability to play Spotify playlists in the tool you’re using probably not, priority would be the login. Severity, measuring the impact and its degree of that impact, right?

J Caldwell: So if you have two requests and someone says, “I need the ability for my team to log in.” And that is the same base for the two requests. And they both have a high priority, but one team is one person and the other team is 500 people, that adds the severity. And that tells me which will happen first. So if you only want to use one, that’s great. Just understand that you will have multiple priority ones and you will then be manually doing some sort of triage assessment in your mind, or switch to a priority severity methodology so that you can say, “These are the high priorities, and these are the ones.” And then you get that further scoping of, “Okay, this is how big the impact is of this.” That especially helps you with making your case for a new product of any kind, Michael.

Michael Dennis: Yeah. I would strongly urge you to use both. Every team I’ve ever run that you want both of those aspects of priority and severities so that you can make decisions or proper decisions based on that information. So there you go.

J Caldwell: And I’m asking for a software bug severity of utmost important line to ask that. It’s not just a bug. So here’s a co here’s a common thing that I saw in Teams. They have multiple large scale things. An example would be a translation activity. So another example of how Jira was used, Jira was used to track translation activities for Disney toys, product lines, whatever, out in the world. So you’re talking 15, 20 different languages involved tracking where the different translations are, when they’ve been associated, vetted with the product where they are really, et cetera, right? Those that they were all high priority, this was a problem for them. They were all high priority, because this all around when the distributors or the toy vendors are releasing things, when the movies are releasing things and there’s no flex, it’s severity, right?

J Caldwell: Star Wars had a higher impact than say a release of a Little Gold Book, right? Kind of thing. To the company dollar, right? Those activities were higher priority and more important. They were all high priority, had a higher severity. And so that’s what drove these being worked in the event where you have only one kind of priority severity is what is going to get you there. Another question was how can we use Jira Agile to estimate when a project complete. That functionality is in Jira Roadmaps. And depending on your platform and your subscription level, in cloud there’s different hierarchies, but in Data Center it’s free, it’s part of the core product. Now since Data Center it’s 15. So you should be able to use it depending on what platform you are. You’ll need to engage your Jira administrators. It’s a functionality that is normally enabled with a click.

J Caldwell: And depending on your setup, you may even be able to click the button within your own project, but a couple things to be aware of, you need to be using some sort of estimation, right? Dates, story points, sprints, whatever. You have to be using. Some sort of estimation. If you do not use estimation, you will not be able to tell when anything completes. So if your process doesn’t involve that you need to undo that you also want to be thinking about the correct structure, right? Are we talking epics or is everything tasks? If everything is tasks then you’re going to end up having this very broad, long, confusing plan that is very difficult to read through, whereas if you properly structure epic stories, tasks, subtasks, technical debt, that will help you be able to see the delivery windows better.

J Caldwell: Another thing that was really common was I need to integrate Project Online and Jira. So the two ways I have done and I have seen work, Ceptrah Bridge, Tasktop. There are multiple other solutions out there, and I’m going to mention another one here in a minute. Ceptrah Bridge has been around longer than Tasktop. It was kind of the more like the more original like, “I need to update projects somehow.” But it was a client’s done on your desktop and was very manual. One, you the user doing all that manual stuff when you open things up or you configured things to automatically sync when you bring your desktop up, that requires a user. Ceptrah Bridge also has kind of a backend like we can configure this in set this up for an organization and have this sinking in the background. That’s the strong power that you want, because individual users, if you go on vacation for a day and that you… Right?

J Caldwell: Things will then get out of sync very easily. So you want to set things up so that it will just happen in the background as part of an integration. You’ll need Jira administrators for that. You’re going to need… There’s a cost associated with it of the actual plugin and tool. It’ll be patients because you’re talking about potential firewall stuff that needs to change as well as where do we run the Bridge? And if there isn’t a platform to run the Bridge, you have to get the platform to run the Bridge, and then away you go.

Michael Dennis: So let me jump in on a piece you touched on, and it’s three words. It’s automate, automate, automate. Whenever you can, automate something so that it’s repeatable, you don’t need a human to push buttons and do things. And these kinds of integrations are often able to do that. You will often need to work with your Jira administrator in order to get that set up working and functioning, but once it is, it just runs and after doing that front end work, you get the benefit of it on an ongoing basis.

J Caldwell: And Tasktop is a platform that again, just runs in the background, doesn’t have any kind of a real end user client like Ceptrah Bridge did or does. And it’s the integration I like better, here is why. It doesn’t do just do Project Online. There are multiple other things. Tasktop functions more as a true middleware where it’s got different aspects that tie into different things. So it actually can simplify your overall integration landscape for not just Jira, but other products as well. So Tasktop is… If people say, “I want to tie things in with Project Online and Jira.” My question is, what else would you potentially need to see? Because Tasktop is probably that sweet spot. Yeah, there’s a cost. Yeah, you can’t do it on your own. Yeah, you have to work through someone else, but my opinion it’s a better tool and platform.

Michael Dennis: I’d like to double down on that. When I look at this particularly Tasktop, I look at it as the center of lots of things on the spoke that can now be more easily integrated together and with one system so that you don’t have multiple sets of tools trying to do different kinds of integrations. It’s just a much simpler, cleaner way of attacking the problem.

J Caldwell: Yeah. And now with all the plethora of time like other questions. There was may I elaborate on my severity field question if we have time at the end. How do I get this field? To get access you need to talk to your Jira administrator. And if you have extended admin permissions within your project and your project A level admin, you may be able to add it easily yourself. It depends on your instance, but out of the box Jira ships with both priority and severity fields defined. So it’s there getting it onto the screens, which means it would then be available to you at Jira, is normally just a request in working with your Jira administrator to say, “Hey, I need a modification to my project configuration. I need severity added.”

J Caldwell: And that should be pretty easy, right? Now, there are possibilities if they have a regimented structured like, “This is our template or whatever else. And we only do things within a template.” Let me tell you what that means. That means you’re probably talking about a large instance and you’re also talking about an understaff administrators, where their only thing they can do is like they only thing they have time with and all the stuff is maintaining that. And at that point best way is to get them help and make the case. You were trying not able to do so. That’s an interesting challenge, right? I would go have another conversation, it’s what I would recommend. And if you need some additional words, I’m sure you can reach out and we might be able to say, “Slide this in front of your administrator.” Right?

Michael Dennis: So I’m wondering if we could figure out… Mel, can you make it so that [Anka 01:00:48] can speak so that we can have a little dialogue with her at this point?

Melanie: Yes, I should be able to if she opens up her mic and I open it up, she should be able to speak. Here we go.

Anka:    Oh, hi, thank you so much. We have tried this for years now. And I even looked at the documentation as a manager. I couldn’t even see where there’s. And I was told that out of the box only priority is there. Severity is very important to us. Our software development process has… We cannot release the software until we have fixed all the less than or more than major or critical bugs. So it is very critical. We have about a 100 users we are using, and then it is so difficult to see how many major bugs are there? How many…? That kind of thing in from Jira. So it’s very critical for our risk process. And I haven’t been able to get to it to add it. If it is out of the box, do you have any documentation pointing?

Michael Dennis: Absolutely. Feel your [inaudible 01:02:17], let’s just start there. J, go ahead.

J Caldwell: I was going to say it’s out of the box, but your administrator needs to put it on the screen. And forgive me here.

Michael Dennis: Well, J’s doing that, let me elaborate just a little bit. So Jira has screens that the administrator can pick what fields are showing up on them. They just need to enable it for the screens that you’re looking to have that added to. Now, there’s a caveat and that is a lot of screens are shared, and so that might impact other projects if it’s shared with other projects. So they may have to do some things to make it so that it’s just for you. And if you’ve been asking for years literally they may be resistant to that because of sort of the things that we talked about today. You can make all these changes, but the impact or the blast radius of that change is a little wider than what you would like. J, did you put this up?

J Caldwell: So I was going to just show you in Jira. So the difference between priority and severity, they are just field. Priority is a different classification of a field, but severity if it doesn’t exist, they can easily add it. It is a field that you define and I’m in the cloud instance, my own personal one right now. So this is vanilla shipped instance from Europe. So I created a cloud instance and it comes with severity already. Other data center instances I know came with severity. They may have the field. They may have even gotten rid of the field. I can get rid of this field and delete it if I need to so that it is no longer there, not in my system, but I can also easily create a custom field called severity. We’ve created a field, and then I can just add it onto… Which project?

Michael Dennis: So what J is showing is various screen that could be added to, right?

J Caldwell: Yeah. Various screens. I’m just trying to pick a project that I want to. That’s not going to be a good one.

Michael Dennis: And while J’s looking through this, if there are any other questions anybody would like to ask at this point, go ahead and ask them and we’ll cue them up.

J Caldwell: So now I didn’t show that. This field got added. This is the field I just created. So literally it’s 12 clicks, 15 clicks as an administrator to get a field on your screen. So it’s not-

J Caldwell: It’s not something you’re going to be able to do unless you have administrative access, but your problem is your Jira administrator is not being willing to flex or not willing to do this. So then it really becomes a question of why, right? Jira can do this, getting a severity field on your Jira instance, 100% doable. And Jira ships plan for that way. So then it becomes like, “Okay.” The things I would do with your administrators would be to start to understand why they’re unwilling to add this field or add this field to your configuration, right? Because Jira can do this. Other thoughts or questions?

Michael Dennis: Does all that make sense?

J Caldwell: And it’s not just available in cloud solution. Any field, Jira allows you to create custom fields in Data Center, in cloud, in server, any of those bits. So you can create a field called severity and throw whatever values in it and add it to a screen so that it can be used on your project or any other project inside the system.

Melanie: And like I said, thank you. I think you’ve covered that. Shall we open it up? Shall we read some of these other questions? Or do we want to? We are running about 108 now, eight minutes after. We could also answer some of these and send them out to everyone as well. Do you want to take one more question? So Bob had asked in projects where software is only one component, how can Jira and Ms Project complement each other synergistically?

J Caldwell: Wait, I didn’t hear the first part. In project and?

Melanie: In project where software is only one component, how can Jira and Ms Project complement each to other synergistically?

J Caldwell: All right. So it depends, right? What do you want it to do? And a common thing with Jira in terms of… Is kind of an intake mechanism, right? So one of the things with project is if you’re trying to have the two interact and relate to software, that’s great out of the box, then it becomes like where you want to go in terms of what you need to feed into one another other mechanisms. So one of the things that I saw done at Expedia with Project Stuff, and the integration with Project and Jira, which was using Ceptrah Bridge at the time was Jira being used as the intake mechanism for any and all requests, because then those can split throughout the system, then get tied into the associated projects where those are working. Projects as being software or translation or a legal contract or whatever else, right?

J Caldwell: Jira doesn’t care, right? You can configure Jira along lines such that you can use it to interact with the Disneyland Fire or the fire department for Anaheim, right? So in that case the further blow out of that was there were inspections being done, coordinated results of inspections, interactions with licensing requirements or other legal requirements with the fire department. That Jira was the… Things flowed from Jira into other bits, but it was a single point of integration, single point of access. And that source of truth, because the issues that were raised there would populate into other teams. Some of those teams are doing software like updates to fire monitoring systems in rides, right? That’s some of the inspection level stuff, or the inspection is happening this day, coordinate these resources or whatever else. Those can be reflected if there was an integration of Project into the various streams that are there. It just depends on what you’re wanting to do. There’s not any one way. Michael.

Michael Dennis: Yeah. Let me jump in. Mel, maybe you can let Bob chat with us directly as well. That’d be great, because we’re kind of guessing as to what the scenario is. I’m wondering if it’s not, you’re trying to manage a Waterfall Project in Project and the software delivery. folks are doing Agile and doing it in Jira and you’re looking for a way to connect the two.

Bob: Yeah, that’s exactly right. The software is one component of a system we’re developing, there’s hardware, there’s all kinds of other aspects. And the software where people like the Jira approach, but as a project manager who’s looking at the whole thing where Waterfall really makes sense. And I do most of it in Ms Project. I’m trying to figure out a good way where the two systems they don’t have to be integrated, just have one system handle one part, one system handle the other part synergistically somehow.

J Caldwell: I’m going to say an integration is actually better, right? You’re going to be doing a higher level of manual work, right?

Michael Dennis: And you do manually, it will get out of sync and it won’t work and people will be frustrated, you’ll be frustrated, right? You’re going to want to spend some time. And we can’t cover the details of how that integration needs to happen here, but given what we’ve talked about, I’d suggest you go back to your Jira administrators and tell them, “I’m trying to manage this over here Waterfall, and I want to connect the results of that to Jira for the software development side.” It can be done it. Maybe J has a couple other thoughts along those lines, but that’s going to point you in the right direction.

J Caldwell: Yeah. The first thing with any kind of like, “I want them to work synergistically.” Is you need the other represented in the other in some sort of way. In Jira you could do that with just adding a custom field like, “Here’s a link to the project.” Right? But then you’re talking about you have to manually sync things. If people are using in Jira and they’re doing their work there and you’re like, “Really, I would like them to be in Project or I want to get their information here without me having to do a bunch of work.” That’s an integration. And to get them working more seamlessly, you need that integration. Like the ways I would do it are you’re going to have a frequent breakdown. Here’s, here’s one of that sweet spot of Jira, right? You could be using if you need an intake mechanism for all these things, these ideas, and they need to be triaged as a group for things, having that be a separate project and bringing that out to have that represented.

J Caldwell: That’s one of the ways I’ve tried to structure things is like, “Let me understand all of your work. What are all the things you’re trying to do?” Not just, “I need this little bit.” Let me understand where that is in and so aside the whole context, because then I can say, “All right, this is what Jira could do. This is how we can tie things over.” But some of it is going to be business process of how you work changing where that intake mechanism, changing the then distribution of the issues throughout the environment either in Jira or in Project. And then getting that visibility back from Project is all going to be humanized at that point looking at this or whatever else. Getting to synergy without an integration is challenging.

Michael Dennis: One thing I’d add on is that this is exactly the kind of consulting that we had endorsed to get involved with so that we can play that middle ground between what they’re trying. What the Jira administrators, we already said they’re likely underwater, right? We can take that burden off. Obviously we know enough about Jira to help them make the right decisions then we can work with the business side and re-enable that, and just help everything get put together.

Melanie: All right. If there’s some questions here we haven’t answered, we can perhaps send some of those out to the audience after we’re rolling nicely over here. Thank you so much both of you for being here with us today. It was an excellent session. Big thanks to the MPUG Community for hanging out with us today as well overtime. I will be sending you an email after this with a survey. Please share your thoughts. We do plan on continuing this series on Jira. So anything we haven’t covered today that you’re still interested in, please let me know. The PMI PDU activity code for today is mpug022322. And again, thank you for the community for being here today and growing your skills with us. And a big thank you for Mike and J for your help. Anything else you’d like to say before we close?

J Caldwell: Thanks.

Michael Dennis: Thanks. Appreciate it.

Melanie: All right. Thank you.

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Microsoft Project vs. Microsoft Planner

Written by Michael Dennis
As an accomplished professional with over 30 years of success in managing complex software development projects, I look forward to partnering with a team which shares my commitment to quality and success. I'm routinely asked to head the most challenging situations and projects. My abilities include regularly completing all phases of projects to specification, on time, and within budget. I enhance user experience by using critical thinking. listening closely to customers' needs, and simplifying systems. I apply outstanding communication skills, making sure that business and information technology staffs thoroughly understand each other. Finally, I lead high performing cross-functional teams.
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