Jira Review

Great for collaboration, very stable, and extracting data is straightforward

What is our primary use case?

We are using the product for general task management, largely. From a software development community perspective, obviously, we use the task management piece - the foundation to what leads into the development and the CI/CD pipelines and et cetera. Outside of that, it varies widely. At its very core, it's task management, however, then it's used by various functional areas within the company. For example, we have contracting and procurement that utilize it. And we have marketing that uses it and security, IT security, audit, compliance. Various functional areas across the company use Jira. We use it a lot. More and more business teams are using it today than were previously.

We also use it for reporting. With task management comes the Jira out-of-the-box reporting. We had Advanced Roadmaps before it was included in the product. And now that it's just rolled into the Data Center product, you obviously don't have to pay for it specifically anymore, however, that's the most scaled reporting that we have. Then, as far as any other apps are concerned, we really just use time and status for measuring continuous flow and have more of a Kanban approach. Of course, some workflow, add-ons, and things of that nature to add some value such as training for Jira.

I'm less concerned about marketplace apps due to the fact that, whether you go to Azure DevOps or Microsoft, or whether you go to Atlassian, there are countless apps out there that will extend the application itself. 

How has it helped my organization?

It's an organized, collaborative, transparent way of working and that's really helped the organization overall. Otherwise, many teams would still be managing work in Excel spreadsheets and/or SharePoint, which is just ridiculous. At least this provides some sort of structured approach that can easily be queried and have data extracted. I use Jira for everything at work. I don't even use email that much. It's through @mentions and all these different things. 

What is most valuable?

The solution is great for helping teams to collaborate.

There are tons of apps and add-ons for the solution that help you expand its offering via third parties.

The product allows you to become very structured in your approach to work.

You no longer need to email people. You can mention them right in Jira and have conversations there. 

It's easy to extract data and do queries.

What needs improvement?

The way that Azure DevOps rolled out their boards and made them flexible is something that Jira lacks. You want a workflow and you're configuring your columns and you're mapping status to columns, however, in Jira, you can't have more columns than you do status. Whereas in Azure DevOps from a Jira admin perspective, it's amazing as it doesn't care what you need in terms of what your life cycle is. The underlying process template is very generic. It's just like a to-do, in progress, done ordering basically, except they use the words inprog or active, resolved, and a couple of others. Open, active, resolved, and maybe one more.

No matter what they do to the face of the board, they can create 15 columns if that's what they want to represent their lifecycle, which gives them that visibility and the ability to then report on that. The reports will run off of that, however, they never have to actually reach out to an admin and say, "I need you to build me a workflow." On the admin side of Azure DevOps, they could modify the underlying process template to include things like that would be the equivalent. They refer to them as rules in Azure DevOps, however, it would be the equivalent of post functions and validators and these things within Jira.

The great majority of teams don't care about that. What they care about is just being able to properly represent their lifecycle. It provides a great deal of flexibility and it cuts down a tremendous amount on admin having to build a workflow for each and every team that feels that their process is somehow different than everybody else's. It lets them basically self-organize. Agility, being able to just boom, build out their workflow as they see fit. That's the biggest thing that I've seen so far that Jira could really learn from.

In Jira, say on the team, no matter the methodology, it doesn't matter what I'm practicing, if I am using the tool for a while and I've compiled some sort of history. If I want to change my workflow, say my team is today using to-do in progress done, and tomorrow, I decide I want to use to-do in review and done, and I apply that new workflow, I have just now effectively lost all of my histories in terms of reporting. Now the issues themselves, of course, the activity, the history, all of it is still there, but you lose all your boards. Not the boards per se, but the reporting within them. That includes all of my past sprint burndowns, all my past velocity reports, some of that stuff gets completely wiped away. The only way to restore it is to replace the original workflow. It's insane. It's the way that the application is built and it's all tied in with it. I had it explained to me one time by Atlassian, however, it's just really a bad thing - especially when you're in a large enterprise organization and then you get somebody like me that comes around that they hire to come in and be the product manager. The first thing I say is, "We need some fricking governance. You can't have 100 plus statuses. What the hell is this? Or 500 custom fields that half the people aren't even using."

The statuses in the workflow standardization become virtually impossible as I can say, "Hey. This workflow that you're using is a terrible workflow. Let me fix it for you. Let me give you a better workflow. Let's talk about this. Let's build a really good workflow." We need to go through that pain and then I have to tell them that, "Oh, and by the way though, if you adopt this new workflow that I'm sitting here telling you it's going to be so much better, be advised that you're going to lose all your reporting history." How do you think that's going to go? Probably not so good. That is a huge downfall. 

For how long have I used the solution?

I'm an avid user of Jira and I've been using the product for at least a decade. At my company, I'm the product manager, however, I'm also the Jira admin support desk, and I wear all the hats for 4,000 plus users. Therefore, I'm very familiar with Jira. 

I'm learning Azure DevOps as well, mostly due to the fact that I'm being forced to. The company is adopting Azure DevOps. I'm fighting to keep Jira around. It still has the value that it adds to the company. The business side of our company is largely embedded in the tool. 

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

The stability is excellent. I've never had any issues. If anything, it's probably one of our more stable products.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

I have found it difficult to scale. With the Advanced Roadmaps, we do have the ability to add additional layers of hierarchy. However, that's been a struggle at our organization as we're trying to adopt a Scaled Agile Framework. Unfortunately, with the Advanced Roadmaps for Jira, the hierarchy is very inflexible, which I've actually opened up a ticket with Atlassian on. 

With the Scaled Agile Framework, you need to be able to move from the program - what was once called referred to as the program layer - and you may have a large solution layer, or you may not. If you don't, you go directly to the portfolio layer. That said, in Advanced Roadmaps, it's very inflexible. You can't skip a level if you want to. You have to go through this regimented hierarchy, which does not bode well for a Scaled Agile Framework environment. I've never been able to crack the code on how to get around that.

Also, the reporting in Jira seems to be very team-oriented. Yes, you can create boards and things using queries and combine items, however, I find it difficult to scale without an additional app or plugin. For example, if you've got a program and you've got a bunch of teams that are supporting said program, I find it difficult to be able to scale and show a program increment, a PI. That level of reporting is lacking. I know that there are apps out there for that. However, unless you're willing to spend a small fortune on a lot of apps, well, the core product doesn't scale above that of the team level.

The solution is extensively used in the company, and we are quite sizeable. We have about just under 4,000 active users. It used to be used it was 5,000 and then COVID hit and we lost a lot of contractors that were cut when COVID hit. It's that mostly and then some of the users are being siphoned out of the Atlassian tool stack now into Azure DevOps.

How are customer service and technical support?

99% of the technical support staff have been awesome. We actually have premier support. They seem to be very responsive and very helpful. Where I personally get frustrated is if there are issues and we give feedback and advice, and they respond with a "thank you, however, we aren't changing". They will tell us it's not a priority for them right now, and it can be frustrating. 

There's a lot of different things out there that people feel that should be included as basic functionality within the application. Maybe some of those I agree with, some of them maybe not. However, when I see something that I consider a bug and then they tell me that, "Yeah, that's not a priority right now." I find that very frustrating. Just now, I was trying to configure the application for the ability to create or comment on issues by setting up a mail server. And there's a known bug. I don't know if they consider it a bug. However, when you configure that and somebody actually does reply to a system-generated email notification, it will add it as a comment, which is great, yet it will also automatically attach your profile picture to that issue.

Therefore, as many times as you comment or reply via an email is exactly how many times an attachment will be added to your issue, which obviously is ridiculous. That cannot be purposely designed that way. Who wants attachments of your own face added to an issue? And it just takes up space needlessly. Their response to me was, "Well, that's just not a priority right now." Basically, not enough people have complained about it yet and they must not be using that functionality, therefore they're not worried about it.

How was the initial setup?

I wasn't at the company when they originally set this solution up. There are certainly some things that I would do differently in hindsight, however, I wasn't here when they set it up originally and can't speak to what the process was like.

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

Pricing information you can just get right off the internet. Atlassian is notorious for not negotiating. They have never negotiated up until very recently. They've started to negotiate contracts as they're really trying to push the cloud. They're trying to get people to move to the cloud. In some cases, they are willing to negotiate costs if you're willing to move to the cloud. Not only costs. Terms. They treat everybody equally, which honestly, I respect.

However, large enterprise organizations like the one I work for, hate it. They hate that as they feel like they have some sort of clout or they need to be able to throw their weight around a little bit and they needed to be treated specially. One of the biggest things that hurt Atlassian is its unwillingness to work directly with large enterprise organizations. It works well with smaller companies, however, their approach to large enterprise organizations really hurts them. The Microsofts of the world will send you a whole crew of people that will come in and do demos and meet with your senior executives. Atlassian has that in the equivalent of a TAM, technical account manager. 99% of the time if you call Atlassian, they'll say, "Whoa. You work with one of our third-party vendors." Which, okay, there's a ton of third-party vendors that are fantastic I'm sure, however, people want to see Atlassian. When you get into a larger enterprise organization, they don't appreciate the fact that an Atlassian representative can't come in and take the time to meet with people and do these things when they're spending that kind of money. It doesn't bode well. They really don't like it.

That's largely why they're being pushed out of Jira and onto other solutions. Microsoft, for example, has invested time and energy. Microsoft has also negotiated terms and pricing. Large companies would rather have a relationship with a company like that than a company that doesn't negotiate or come to see you.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

I've started to look at Azure DevOps. I am personally the Jira product manager, and what I'm trying to do is have some sort of comparison. It all became very sudden. I was recently asked if, by the end of the week, I could provide a recommendation as to when one team should use Azure DevOps versus when one team should use Jira. I was told to look into why we should use one over the other or if they are so similar that it doesn't matter and we could just get rid of Jira. I've done very little research so far,

Obviously, Microsoft and Atlassian are competitors. Back when Azure DevOps was TFS, it wasn't even a close comparison in terms of boards. Jira blew TFS out of the water. It wasn't even remotely close. Well, then they obviously knew that they needed to improve and they basically made freaking boards look like Jira's boards and made some improvements on top of it in some ways. I suspect that there may be some underlying limitations with DevOps. I know that in Jira you could allow teams to just create the workflows that they want within reason, of course, while pulling from a series of predefined statuses and these things. Whereas, I don't know that you can do that in Azure DevOps. But then again, I don't know that it's necessary since you can already create the boards the way you want to.

I know that some people so far from customer feedback, tend to like the dashboards more in Azure DevOps. They seem to like the reporting options. They find it easier and more intuitive to use, however, I don't really know anything more about it than that. I just need to really know the pros and cons of each of these things. Here's what's surprising to me, if I'm at Atlassian or if I'm Azure DevOps or Microsoft, you would think that they would have something like that. You would think they'd be going, "Who is my biggest competitor? Well, I need to know these things so that I can improve my product and compete with him." However, when I reach out to them, I don't have any real comparison to work off of.

I did find one article online that was written by Atlassian and Azure DevOps versus Jira, however, it wasn't well-written.

What other advice do I have?

We're just customers and end-users.

I upgraded the application back in December, so we're on 8.13 right now. While we're currently on-premises, one of the things that were on my to-do this year was to consider moving to the cloud, which is something that we are very interested in doing.

Currently, we're using the Jira Data Center.

Our company has barely scratched the surface of the power of Jira in my personal opinion as they've just largely tried to do a bunch of customization. There was no governance set when I first joined the organization. People were just allowed to create whatever they wanted in any way they wanted, and it needed to be cleaned up, which doesn't help my efforts of course. 

There might, in the near future, be many people who get siphoned off of Jira as the company already made a decision that Bamboo and Bitbucket are going. They're moving all the software development activities into Azure DevOps. We already know that. That's already been decided. Atlassian doesn't know that, however, it's happening. The process is probably going to take a year, maybe two. We haven't really rolled it out yet or defined or planned it out. That said, it will happen. Whether or not Jira sticks around though, we don't know yet. I'm hoping it will as I love using it.

I'd advise new companies that one of the biggest things to do at the outset is to just put some governance in place before you go rolling out. It's a super-powerful application. However, if you are in a large enterprise organization, you need to establish an advisory board before you go rolling this thing out. Really think about a steering committee. How are you going to handle requests for customization? What will the board handle? What will the board not handle? Or the committee, whatever you want to refer to it as. They obviously did not do that here when they rolled this out. It can be a really great thing if you have that in place. It's not overly cumbersome.

I'd rate the solution at an eight out of ten.

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