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What is Jira Align? A Primer

December 27, 2022
Amanda Babb

A couple of years ago, in Atlassian's annual flagship event formerly known as Summit and now known as Team, I was training a room full of people on Advanced Planning (formerly Advanced Roadmaps) for Jira. If you've never attended one of these in-person events, the Kickoff Keynote is always a sight to see. 

One year, Atlassian founders Scott Farquhar and Mike Cannon-Brookes dressed as Daft Punk and mixed music as DJ Kanban (I still nerd out on that one). They then proceeded to share announcements about new products, including the addition of Jira Align to the Atlassian product suite. I was floored because, at that time, Praecipio had been looking for a more powerful agile-at-scale solution like Jira Align for some of our largest clients. 

What is Jira Align?

After implementing Advanced Planning for Jira (then known as Portfolio for Jira) to support SAFe® and becoming the "voice” of the tool within the Atlassian community, I was in love with Advanced Planning. And I still am. 

Jira Align, however, brought forth a whole new realm of possibilities. Jira Align is a powerful platform that can help to close the gap between strategy and execution by providing a way to increase visibility, coordination, and adaptability across an organization’s people, process, and technology. 

Bringing robust framework expertise and combining it with an easy-to-use interface, Jira Align supports any agile-at-scale framework — from a Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe® ) to a Large-Scale Scrum (LeSS) framework to any custom or hybrid framework. 

Essentially, Jira Align is THE solution for enterprise organizations looking to scale agile practices. Don't believe me? Atlassian is considered a Leader in the Gartner Enterprise Agile Planning Tools Magic Quadrant. Third-party accolades aside, let's take a closer look at how Jira Align works.

How Does Jira Align Work?

Many of our enterprise customers come to us looking to become more agile so they can thrive in today’s fast-moving business landscape. Jira Align empowers business leaders to make data-driven decisions and enables the organization to quickly adapt. 

Atlassian’s dynamic enterprise tool aggregates work being done across all levels of the enterprise, making it easier for teams to manage and communicate work (i.e. programs, portfolios, themes, strategies) to stakeholders. Leaders also understand how work tracks against strategic outcomes in real time, allowing them to make better decisions regarding resource spending and financial investments. 

While Jira Align is indeed a powerful enterprise agile platform, it’s not for every company. It’s no silver bullet and your organization must be ready to embrace change if you want to see true agile transformation with the platform.


People and processes are just as important as the technology itself when it comes to Jira Align.

Similar to the financial commitment you made to Jira Align, you need to be as equally committed to training your people and properly configuring the platform to support your processes.

What Are The Benefits of Using Jira Align?

Jira Align is truly the ultimate enterprise tool. When configured correctly, Jira Align brings information and teams closer together and provides timely business intelligence that empowers business leaders to make smarter financial decisions. And the proof is in the pudding: Jira Align has helped organizations achieve up to 340% ROI

Whether you're just starting out with a single Agile Release Train (ART) or are running multiple ARTs, Jira Align provides the Program Room for each ART. This is the central hub for tracking the current Program Increment (PI) and planning the next one. Sprint Progress, investment runway, intra-ART and inter-ART dependencies, PI Burndown, it's all centralized within the Program Room. This provides Business Owners, RTEs, and Program Managers a clear view of the progress of the work in the PI.

Jira Align also provides the Portfolio Room and Strategy Room. These rooms display the progress towards Strategic Themes, Portfolio investments, progress toward long-term goals, and real-time status updates. When properly connected to Epics in the Program Room, Teams and ARTs can open the "Why?" tab on the Epic and see how their work is contributing to the overall strategy. 

This is where the magic lies in Jira Align. With greater visibility into how work is connected to strategic initiatives, teams understand why their work matters, and leaders have greater context into how workflows, teams, and projects are tied to organizational performance. 

Jira Software Integration

How you set up Jira Align to integrate with Jira Software at the beginning of your Jira Align implementation will determine your future success with the platform. Jira Software and Jira Align are designed to integrate bi-directionally, which means that data can flow back and forth between the tools.

If you have a straightforward Jira instance and follow Atlassian best practices, then the integration with Jira Software is pretty simple. However, after working with enterprise clients over the years–especially those with thousands of users–their Jira instance is anything but straightforward. 

You need technical expertise to support the configuration and integration into your existing ecosystem. Implementers who don’t understand the integration often configure it improperly, resulting in syncing issues, improper data models, and inaccurate reporting, just to name a few.

Jira Align vs. Advanced Planning for Jira

There are a handful of tools within the Atlassian ecosystem for project/product portfolio management like Structure and Big Picture, but the most common agile-at-scale product comparison we get asked about is Jira Align vs. Advanced Planning for Jira

Advanced Planning is a great way to bridge the gap for small-to-medium-sized organizations with fewer than 500 agile team members executing their work in Jira Software. You can plan based on capacity, track dependencies, manage competing priorities, and explore alternative scenarios with a single source of truth into the current and future health of your initiatives. 

Jira Align, on the other hand, is capable of supporting hundreds to thousands of users at multiple levels within an organization. With Jira Align, leadership can get a quick, real-time snapshot into the work across every level of the organization, from individuals on teams up to the portfolio and executive levels of your organization. More than just a planning tool, Jira Align is a transformation platform.

Jira Align vs. Other Software Platforms

When it comes to comparing Jira Align with other alternatives on the market, Jira Align is in a league of its own. I’ve seen customers show interest in lower-cost alternatives, such as Planview, Tasktop, Aha!, and Hive, but these platforms don’t match up to Jira Align.

For starters, because these tools are outside of the Atlassian tech stack, they don’t integrate well with Jira Software. Also, some of the alternatives to Jira Align aren’t even agile tools, or they are agile but they only support specific agile frameworks.

Now, let’s say you do find an alternative agile tool that supports the framework(s) your teams run on, but you find that it lacks flexibility or it doesn’t comply with security standards. Or it turns out that the tool’s complicated interface has led to a poor user experience for your team members.

With Jira Align, you get it all: seamless integration with Jira Software, endless reporting options, meets the highest security standards, and more. Bottom line, when implemented properly, no platform on the market supports enterprise agile planning like Jira Align does.

How To Get Started With Jira Align

You’ve probably noticed a common theme with this article:

A successful Jira Align implementation is anchored in proper configuration.

It’s important to work with a partner who has extensive experience with Jira Align and understands both the platform's nuances and agile-at-scale best practices.

Specializing in agile-at-scale with Jira Align, Praecipio is here to help set you up for success with our proven approach. Book a technical call to discuss how we can tailor Jira Align to meet your organization’s specific needs.

Want to know more about bridging the gap between leadership and delivery? Download our whitepaper on Jira Align, "The Connected Enterprise: Close the Gap Between Business Strategy & Execution.” You can also watch this on-demand webinar about connecting business strategy to work execution with Jira Align.

Jira Align Whitepaper

Learn More About the Connected Enterprise