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What is Jira Software and How To Work With It

24 November 2021, Wednesday By Priyanka Boruah
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Let's talk about one of the most popular collaboration tools. How to work with Jira, why you need it and what alternatives there are.

What is Jira Software?

Jira is a project management software tool developed by Atlassian. Jira is often used in IT companies to create a to-do list, track overall team progress, and resolve issues that arise during product development. 

Atlassian is built on the principles of kanban and scrum boards, a longstanding practice of organizing tasks. But these principles are complemented by a host of auxiliary mechanisms that were added to the application solely for the purpose of simplifying the creation of new applications, adding functions to them, fixing errors, etc. Also, this project management system professes an Agile development methodology. 

The name, by the way, comes from the Japanese word Gojira, which translates as "Godzilla".

What is a Kanban/Scrum Board? 

Kanban is a task scheduling technique developed in the forties. The essence of a kanban board is the visual arrangement of tasks in accordance with their status. A typical board is divided into 3 columns:

  1. Tasks to be completed (regular to-do-list). 
  2. Tasks that are currently in progress.
  3. Tasks that have already been completed and are hanging on the board solely for tracking progress.

But the board can be supplemented with your own speakers. For example, put the implemented functions undergoing the verification stage into a separate block. There are tons of scenarios: you can customize kanban for anything, down to the family shopping list on the fridge. 

Scrum Board

The Scrum Board is a Kanban board for Agile developers. It is usually supplemented with columns with tasks for verification and with pending cases. 

What is Agile Development?

Agile is a workflow methodology that involves dividing big goals into small, easily digestible tasks that are performed during sprints (that is, weekly races of active work). 

A sprint is created based on predefined goals. The goals are formed based on the wishes of the users of the product. The leader of the development team organizes the sprint, adding those tasks that are the company's priority and must be solved before the rest. Scrum boards and Jira-inspired products help organize sprints, track team progress, and analyze work done.

Before you get started with Jira, you should familiarize yourself with the basic principles of Kanban and Agile in more detail.

What is Jira Software used for?

As I said earlier, different kinds of Kanban tools can be adapted for any type of planning and management - for personal and team. But with Jira, things are a little different.

This program was created for programmers. We "sharpened" every aspect to meet the needs of the developers. Therefore, it works and looks different. Not very versatile. As a result, a number of specific scenarios have grown that use JIRA:

  • Visual organization of the task list.
  • Project management and development team.
  • Software development from scratch or adding new features.
  • Management of tasks related to the marketing component of the product.
  • Tracking of errors in the program and their timely correction. 
There are more use cases for Jira, but these are basic. They make it clear who needs such a software tool at all. 

Algorithm for working with Jira Software

The process of working with Jira can be decomposed into 7 simple steps:

  1. First you need to download Jira, create a profile and run the utility. You can use Apple and Google accounts.
  2. In the application window, select the Create Project item.
  3. The program will offer a list of templates for a board with problems (for developers, for marketers, etc.). We choose the one that best suits the goals of the team and the style of work in your company.
  4. Jira will then ask you a couple of questions about whether you have previously used Agile and Kanban. Based on the responses, the program will make a decision on the feasibility of introducing training into the interface.
  5. We customize the columns to suit your needs (if what was suggested in the template does not meet your requirements 100%).
  6. We create a task (item Create).
  7. We invite other users (that is, team members) to work with the board you created (the Invite item). 

How does Jira Software work?

Next, let's take a look at the main components of Jira Software. What the interface consists of, how to create tasks, where and what information to look for.

Interface

Jira's interface is divided into several key tabs. The Projects tab contains all the Kanban/Scrum Boards that you can view or edit. In fact, this is the main workspace. Here you can also switch to the product release tracking mode, look at all active sprints, analyze progress reports, etc. 

Jira Interface

Also in the list of tabs there is a window with  dashboards - conveniently arranged analytical summaries . A separate window with a list of the people you interact with, a release scheduling system like tools in the spirit of OmniPlan, and a tab with third-party applications integrated into your Jira profile.

Tasks

Tasks in the original are called Issues, which can be translated as "problems". Issue is a unit of information. It contains either some function that needs to be implemented, or an error in the program that needs to be corrected. 

Issues are the building blocks of a project and a sprint. It is the task list that shapes the workflow. Therefore, it consists of creating tasks, observing them, performing, analyzing, adding, changing, etc.

Types of tasks

Issues in Jira have types. For a more convenient categorization, you can choose one of the options, for example, a new function, bug, subtask, epics, etc. 

The choice of the type of task depends on the goals of the team and the company. You can create your own types for convenient distribution, filtering and search of tasks. The corresponding settings section is located in Project settings.

Roadmap (schedule)

In this section, you can create goals and plan the team's work ahead of time. The epic is the key piece of information here. This is a consolidation of a large number of issues related to each other. 

For example, if there are a number of new functions for an application that together form some common important feature of the software, then they are combined into an epic as a kind of common goal that the team strives for during a sprint (or several sprints).

The roadmap clearly shows the company's far-reaching plans, visually arranged in a kind of horizontal calendar. 

Releases 

Each set of new features in an application or a batch of bug fixes is sent to users in the form of a new version of the application itself. Versioning is the most convenient, frequently used, and actually become an industrial way of developing software products. 

Therefore, in Jira, such an emphasis is placed on the control of new versions. In the corresponding section, you can create versions of programs, indicate the release date and assign bug fixes, new functions and issues included in a specific release to them. 

Jira Releases

Here you can immediately see which version of the product should be released in the near future, which ones have already been released, etc. All in all, this is another convenient way to plan and track work in progress. 

Code and deploy

One of the benefits of Jira is its ability to tightly integrate with other products, such as the Bitbucket, Github, and Gitlab platforms. 

This combination adds additional context to the project management system. Team leaders have the opportunity to observe not only progress as a set of changing active tasks, but also to look at real changes in the code.

The integration allows developers to submit each commit to Jira directly so that other team members can see changes from conditional Github right in the project management system. 

Pages

Another Atlassian development is the Confluence project. This is something in the spirit of Google Docs, only working within the Jira and less functional. 

Jira Project Pages

It is an online word processor with basic tools for formatting what you write. The essence of Confluence is to create an additional convenient environment for communication between team leaders and developers. With the help of a full-fledged text editor and an unlimited number of characters, it is much easier to express your thoughts and tell in detail about the company's plans. 

Pages has several templates for text by default:

  • A blank page with a small description of Pages functionality.
  • Product description page. Here you can write how the product looks in the eyes of the client and what it should ultimately represent.
  • A test form to indicate the global goals of the company in order to convey it to the team and encourage them to discuss further actions.
  • A form for filling out the schedule of meetings and creating notes in the course of communication with colleagues.
  • A retrospective note describing the work done. Here the leader of the team points out what went well in the course of work, what went wrong, etc.

Dashboards

In Jira, dashboards display a ton of useful information. All kinds of reports, statistics of comments, a list of tasks to be performed, analytical data, graphs, tables, diagrams. Anything that can be useful for analysts of the company and business in general. 

Dashboards allow you to collect all the necessary data in one space without the need to monitor the team's work process and capture any significant aspects, so that you can then manually make analytical summaries. In Jira, you can generate dashboards automatically. 

They are suitable not only for analytics, but also for constantly observing how the work process is progressing, and for making radical decisions in the event of a decline in productivity or other problems.

Plugins

Jira can be made even more functional by connecting third-party plugins to it. 

Some of them are promoted by Atlassian itself. These include integration with Git systems, for example. This is one of the most common and obvious use cases for plugins. 

Also, the Jira developers are actively developing the idea of ​​close interaction between users of the project management system and users of the Slack messenger. There is even a separate set of software modules for integrating one into another. 

Jira Plugins

In the collection of plugins, you can find tools for creating diagrams, a more convenient visual presentation of the work schedule, sending tasks by mail, etc. 

The collection of plugins in the Atlassian Marketplace has hundreds of add-ons. Both paid and free. There are plenty to choose from. 

How do I create an issue in Jira Software?

Learning to Create Issues - Understanding how to work with Jira in general. There are two ways to create a new issue in Jira:

  • By clicking on the Create button in the top control panel.
  • By clicking on the Create issue button in the required column of the Kanban board.

In the first case, you will need to select a project in which you want to create a task. 

create an issue in Jira

In the second, specify the name of the task and add additional attributes. 

create an issue in Jira

After that, you can click on the Create button, and the new issue will automatically appear in the list and on the selected board. And if you check the box next to Create another, then a window will immediately appear for adding another task.

The list of issues can also be imported from another application. To do this, you need to upload a CSV file with the appropriate content to Jira. 

Task Attributes

When creating an issue, you can specify a number of attributes for it:

  • Summary. A brief description of the current task. Literally in one sentence.
  • Description. Full description, if required. 
  • Assignee. The team member to delegate the task to create.
  • Labels. Something like tags for more convenient sorting of tasks by other criteria not included in the list of types.
  • Fix version. What version does the created issue refer to.
  • Story point estimate. Potential labor required to add a new feature or fix a bug.
  • Reporter. The user who will be accountable for completing the task.
  • Attachment. File attached to the task. It can be anything: audio, picture, docx, etc.
  • Linked issues. What the created tasks are related to (other tasks/projects).

Configuring reports

In the Reports column, you can take a look at the automatically generated progress reports. Jira users have 4 types of reports available. 

Burnup report

A graph showing the performance of a specific sprint versus the overall performance of the development team. It is used to measure the effectiveness of the current sprint.

Sprint burndown chart

A graph showing how much more work the team needs to do to progress towards the end of the current sprint. It is used to assess individual and overall performance, as well as to roughly estimate the timing of the implementation of established plans.

Sprint burndown chart

Velocity report

Used to show the team's potential performance in the future. That is, based on the sprints already completed, Jira tries to predict how many tasks the developers will be able to complete during the next "run".

Cumulative flow diagram

Shows how the status of active tasks has changed over time. In which columns the created issues are delayed the longest. It is used to find the so-called bottlenecks - problematic stages of work, at which the productivity of the whole team drops sharply.

Jira Productivity Fundamentals

There are at least 5 ways to make your Jira experience more efficient.

Divide Big Tasks into Small Tasks

This is the main commandment of kanban and scrum, but people still forget about it and continue to sculpt cards with very massive tasks. You should always create tasks that are as compact as possible. Those that are easy to understand, execute, record, explain, and so on. 

Each issue should be a comprehensible piece of information that is a component of a broader goal. 

Divide even small goals into even smaller sub-portions. It will be easier for everyone. It will be easier to get the job done, and it will be easier to track progress. There will be no freezes while performing any one task. The Jira interface allows you to easily navigate even in a large to-do list.

Comment on tasks

Feel free to leave comments under each card in each column. Free your head right away as you create and work with issues. Do you need to remember about some peculiarity of the error being corrected? Write about it in the comments. Any idea for a more pragmatic implementation of the planned function? And this, too, record in the comments. 

tasks

By keeping all records in a single space, you will save yourself a lot of time in the future when you remember or search for something related to a specific task. 

Record all actions taken

Comments reflect the process of completing the task and help with the solution of the goals. But there are also logs. They reflect the results of the work performed over time. 

Logs work in the same way as commits. A commit is actually a dump of any application change to the git system. Have you changed the color of the icon? Make a commit and push it to the git system. Have you added a new function to your code? Make another commit. And so on any sneeze. 

Logging is a way to capture commits in Jira. Essentially the same text comments. It's just that it will be easier for the team leader to track your progress using logs. This shows that you are really working and constantly completing some tasks.

Plan sprints

Sprint is a convenient scheme for optimizing workflow, but you also need to prepare for it. It is important to plan the list of tasks in advance, assess the adequacy of the goals set, approximately estimate the time frame for completing the work, and prioritize tasks. Understand in advance what will most likely be postponed for the next "race", and what can be done quickly and in the first place. 

Planning will make it possible to quickly join the sprint and complete all the tasks without rework. Clearly and without a crunch. 

Take notes on a regular basis

The above procedures should be performed every hour or two. Constantly commit something, comment, write down, etc. Everything that is not written down is lost. Your job is to develop a good habit of recording every action you take, constantly take useful notes, and demonstrate your usefulness and effectiveness as a team in every possible way. A large number of notes really makes the work of colleagues easier, as the kanban board gradually becomes overgrown with all the necessary information. You don't have to look for everything yourself. 

Jira Software Plans and pricing

The free version of Jira has a limit on the number of team members and the number of files that can be saved. To remove them, you need to pay for a subscription.

Plans and Pricing
Jira Monthly Plans
Free Standard Premium Enterprise

$0

Always free for 10 users

$7.50

per user (average) $75 a month

$14.50

per user (average) $145 a month

Billed annually. Switch the Billing cycle to Annual to view Enterprise pricing.
Jira Annual Plans
Free Standard Premium Enterprise

$0

Always free for 10 users

$750

User tier: 1 - 10

$1,450

User tier: 1 - 10

Enterprise plan pricing is available when you enter 801 or more users above
Features
User limit (per site) 10 users 20,000 users 20,000 users 20,000 users
Site limit One One One Unlimited
Scrum and Kanban boards
Backlog
Agile reporting
Customizable workflows
Apps and integrations 
Automation Single project Single project Global and multi-project Global and multi-project
Roadmaps Basic Basic Advanced Advanced
Dependency management Basic Basic Advanced Advanced
Capacity planning - -
Project archiving - -
Admin Controls
Domain verification & account capture
Session duration management (desktop)
Project roles -
Advanced permissions -
Admin insights - -
Sandbox - -
Release tracks - -
Security & Compliance
Atlassian Access (SSO, SCIM, Active Directory Sync) Requires Access subscription Requires Access subscription Requires Access subscription Included
Password policies
Encryption in transit & at rest
Business continuity & disaster recovery
Mobile Device Management
Audit logs -
Anonymous access -
IP allowlisting - -
Data residency -
Storage, Support & Invoicing
Storage 2 GB file storage 250 GB file storage Unlimited storage Unlimited storage
Support Community Support Local Business Hours 24/7 Enterprise Support 24/7 Enterprise Support
Guaranteed Uptime SLA - - 99.9% 99.9%
Centralized Per-User Licensing - - -

Jira Alternatives

Jira is a popular and handy tool. But to many, it seems too complicated, and sometimes not functional enough. Atlassian has a lot of complaints about its product. But there are also alternative applications for organizing teamwork and project management.

Jira Alternatives

Trello

Trello predates Jira. This is also an Atlassian product, but more versatile. Trello is not tailored exclusively to the needs of developers and can be used to solve any problem. It is used by marketers, businessmen, HR, copywriters, etc. 

Suitable for a small team that does not need complex analytical tools from Jira.

Basecamp

A powerful system for organizing teamwork. It is not very similar to Jira, but it is also in demand among development teams. It has a convenient shared file storage, a simple mechanism for creating tasks and tracking progress, and its own platform for communication between colleagues. 

YouTrack

Project management system from the famous company JetBrains, which created popular IDEs for different programming languages. YouTrack has many advantages: a built-in knowledge base belonging to a specific team, smart search by tasks, comments and other items of information, convenient methods of organizing cards on boards. 

Suitable for those who need an alternative to Jira with a knowledge base and other additional options.

ClickUp

ClickUp is a kind of pumped-up version of Jira. Here you can delegate comments, create simplified task lists, work with a full-fledged text editor, set working statuses for users, and so on. Lots of little things that will be useful for developers. 

Conclusion

That's all. The basic acquaintance is over. Now you know how to work with Jira. It's not hard to get comfortable with the platform's functionality. It's much more difficult to get into Agile and Kanban. You need to learn to practice these practices in your work. Then the interface and capabilities of Jira will seem clear and practical to the limit.

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