Jira Review

Stable and easy to learn with good customizations, useful burndown charts, and support for a query language

What is our primary use case?

I work with a credit rating company in the US. As a scrum master and project manager, I have to make sure that all the impediments are removed for the team. I work with product owners to make sure that all initiatives requested by our stakeholders, who are mainly compliance and regulations people, are moving in a timely manner.

I use Jira to make sure that we are capturing all the work that is requested, and it is progressing in a timely manner. I am in charge of a squad called Core Operations Reporting. A squad is usually focused on one or two initiatives. The goal of our squad is to automate regulatory reports as much as possible. I talk to our stakeholders to ensure that any errors in credit ratings are dealt with in a timely manner. A lot of these requests are ad hoc, and we prioritize them in sprints in Jira. 

What is most valuable?

It was very easy to learn Jira. I can't explain how easy it was. The hardest part of my job is understanding the business and communicating with difficult stakeholders and difficult people on the squad who are resistant to change and agile methodology. The fact that Jira was so simple to understand was a huge boon in my book because I didn't have to waste time trying to learn the tool to get work done and move the squad along. It was very easy to understand.

As a scrum master, I run daily stand-ups, and they are run directly from Jira. During these stand-ups, to make sure that there are no impediments, I run through all of the open issues and action items that the team members have. The feature that I really love in Jira is called Issue Navigator. It allows me to customize how I want to show the user stories within Jira to my squad. 

I can use Jira Query Language (JQL) to write queries to see the stories that are there for the current sprint. I can also sort them by assignment. I am able to call each assignee and have them walk through the status of what they did yesterday, what do they plan to do for the next 24 hours, and if there are any blockers or impediments.

I also use Jira is for burndown charts. A burndown chart provides a visual depiction of how quickly the squad is closing out user stories. It gives us an indication of how efficiently the squad is performing. I also use the Active Sprints function and a feature called Planning Poker. Planning Poker is an add-on, and it allows me to work with my squad members to estimate the complexity of user stories. It allows me to estimate user stories in an unbiased way with my squad members. It is important that people are not piggybacking on other people's estimates, so when a business requests a functionality, I use Planning Poker to have people send me their estimates in an unbiased way. They cannot see what other people have estimated. This way, they have their own unbiased view on specific user-requested functionality and its worth. After that, we end up talking out like, "Why did you think it was a three? Why did the other person think it was a five?" So, it allows an unbiased way of estimating user stories.

What needs improvement?

One major issue that I, and even our business stakeholders, have noticed is related to Epic Link. In Issue Navigator view, Jira allows you to enter JQL, which is basically like SQL. You just enter a query, and it displays the stories that satisfy the query. There is a field called Epic Link, which is basically a high-level designation for a bunch of user stories with a common goal. Epic Link is typically of different colors. When Epic Link's background color is a dark color, it effectively becomes unreadable. I am looking at my screen right now, and there is an Epic Link called Click View User Request. The background is purple, and the text is black. It is almost impossible to read it unless you click on it or give it an extra minute of viewing. That's basically what needs improvement. I wish there was a way for us to change the text color of Epic Link in the Issue Navigator view.

I've been required to report on metrics, and I don't know if it is possible with Jira, but there needs to be an easier way to capture a few metrics. For a two-week sprint, we are required to report on a number of metrics such as committed, completed, added, and rolled over. There is a way to see the stories that have been added after the sprint has begun, but there is no easy way to aggregate this, which is a waste of time. I wish there was an easy way for Jira to explain to me what has been added after the sprint has been done. Currently, it is a bit difficult for me to tell.

In addition, when rolling over stories from one sprint to another, it is kind of difficult for me to find out how many story points were actually rolled over without going into Jira and doing an analysis. I wish Jira would somehow aggregate that information for me so I can easily report about it. There should be an automatic aggregation of how many story points were added after the sprint began and how many story points were rolled over to the subsequent sprint.

I also wish Jira had an indicator to tell you that you are approaching the limit for the story points that can be delivered during a sprint. Typically, there is an established capacity for each sprint. I take an average of all of the delivered story points from the past six sprints, and I use that number to estimate how many story points can the squad deliver. I wish there was an indicator in Jira that tells you that you are approaching the number of story points that can be delivered during the sprint. I don't think there is an indicator like that, but such an indicator will be very helpful because then I will be easily able to see that we are approaching the limit. I can then talk to the squad members and say, "Okay, we need to remove some story points from the sprint because we're reaching capacity."

For how long have I used the solution?

My experience with Jira is pretty extensive. I pretty much use Jira every single day and multiple times a day. When I'm not using Jira, I'm using Confluence. I also use SharePoint.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

It is 100% stable. Stability is also dependent on a lot of factors. Jira has been down once or twice, and people go crazy. In almost two and a half years that I've worked here, Jira was down only a handful of times, and I don't think that was Atlassian's fault. Atlassian is the company that is responsible for these tools. 

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

I am not really aware of things in terms of expansion. However, there are some add-ons or extensions for expanding the functionality of Jira. The Planning Poker tool seems to be an add-on. Similarly, there is also another extension or plugin called Structure that was previously going to be leveraged. We haven't moved forward with that because we're using more of a manual solution in the metrics reporting. There is another add-on called Dataplane Reports. So, scalability is definitely there, and there are definitely opportunities to scale horizontally and expand the functionally of Jira through plugins and add-ons. 

In our organization, we only have 5,000 employees, and probably 70% of the company is using Jira. which includes the business as well. The business is also learning how to use it, and they understand that it is a very powerful tool. I would say about 3,500 out of 5,000 people are using Jira.

How are customer service and technical support?

I didn't have to contact Atlassian. We have an internal Jira support team that answers all our questions. I don't think they have contacted Jira support in a while.

How was the initial setup?

Its initial setup was not done by me.

What about the implementation team?

Its initial setup was done by Jira administrators.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

I am not sure about the pricing, but I know its licensing is on a yearly basis.

What other advice do I have?

The main advice would be to just use it as much as possible and try to learn the basics of JQL, which is Jira's proprietary language that allows you to tell Jira exactly what you want to see. It is pretty self-explanatory and not hard to use. There are so many different fields in Jira such as issue type, key, sprint, summary, Epic Link, reporter, assigning, status, story points, and components. You can add the required columns to the Issue Navigator view, and it will spit back exactly what you wanted to see.

You should also learn what kind of value it can add to the organization before just jumping in. Try to talk to senior management and figure it out. You should learn how to read the burndown charts to basically understand how efficiently the team is working. Every organization has an IT organization, and I am sure the majority of them are using Jira.

I would rate Jira an eight out of ten. No tool is perfect, and there is obviously room for improvement.

Which version of this solution are you currently using?

**Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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