9 min read

8 Ways to Know If Your Organization Is Ready for Jira Align

By Praecipio on Jan 6, 2023 2:34:57 PM

1102x402 - Blog Featured (27)

Plus 3 Ways Agile Coaches Can Help Businesses Close Their Readiness Gaps 

Almost every organization struggles to some degree with connecting strategy to execution–only 3% of companies say they have done it “very successfully.” 

Something gets lost in translation when the c-suite tries to communicate an organization’s strategy to delivery teams, and then lost again when delivery teams try to communicate progress back up to the c-suite. In fact, in a survey by Harvard Business Review researchers found that only “55% of middle managers can name even one of their company’s top five priorities.” 

The pain points exist in three main areas across a company’s people, process, and technology: Lack of visibility, lack of coordination, and an inability to adapt. 

To help improve all three of those pain points, many teams consider technology like Jira Align, which promises to “connect your business strategy to technical execution.” 

Jira Align is definitely not plug and play, and is not appropriate for every organization. So, how do you decide if your organization is ready for a platform like Jira Align? And how can you, as an agile coach or transformation office team member, begin to close the gaps in order to prepare the organization (and yourself) for this technology?

Let’s find out by looking at eight ways to know if your organization is ready for Jira Align.

Success with Jira Align Requires Agile Leadership

Historically, (including in the most recent State of Agile Report and State of Agile Coaching Report), the main blocker for an agile organization is leadership. So it is no surprise that the first two indicators that a company is ready to adopt Jira Align are also leadership focused.

  1. A c-level leadership team with a clear vision for an agile transformation is by far the top indicator that a business is ready for Jira Align. Jira Align can’t put an organization on a path of agile transformation, it can only illuminate the path that the business is already on.

  2. Many organizations have an executive sponsor who believes in the agile transformation and offers support. To be ready for Jira Align, your business needs an executive champion.

    What’s the difference between an executive champion and an executive sponsor? The executive champion takes an active leadership role in a Jira Align implementation and the concurrent agile transformation, and is positioned high enough in the organization to make decisions.

The leadership team is the first and most obvious place for you, as an agile coach or implementation lead, to begin to close the readiness gaps for your organization. Work with the c-suite to explain what agile is, how it affects their work, and their role in a successful agile transformation. 

Ask leadership to appoint an executive champion, perhaps a Chief Transformation Officer, who has real authority, can dedicate time, and will build a team to support the change effort.

To help educate others about the need for Jira Align, work with a Jira Align partner to hold a workshop with the organization’s leaders. In a few hours, a skilled Jira Align expert can demonstrate some of the most glaring problems separating strategy from execution, and talk through ways to close those gaps. 

Often, seeing the scope of a problem first-hand–and how the platform can give visibility to that problem–gives leadership much more energy around investing in agile transformation with Jira Align as the technology platform solution.

Success with Jira Align Requires an Investment in Change  

Forrester Consulting’s Total Economic Impact study found that Jira Align has helped customers achieve up to 340% ROI, so it’s clearly worth the investment. But beyond the tool-related investment costs, the organization has to be willing to invest in change, and to have the patience to go through the associated growing pains. 

Indicators three through five, then, are all about an organization’s commitment to change. 

  1. Investing in Jira Align is as much an investment in changing the mindset of the organization as it is an investment in technology. The funding for training and coaching (both for agile-at-scale frameworks like SAFe® and in Jira Align itself) should be on par with a transformation. Without training and coaching, businesses will not get the desired results from Jira Align.

  2. The organization must be willing not only to fund the change, they have to also have active change management in place to embrace that change. Successfully implementing Jira Align requires significant shifts in organizational thinking and processes. This will result in significant discomfort across the organization as process changes and mindset shifts are in progress. Working through that discomfort is painful, but ultimately worth it.

  3. Jira Align is designed to align teams throughout the organization. Doing this will likely require teams to change the way they work and the tools they use for that work to standardize data and reporting. Complying with standards will take not only strong change management, but also strong coaching on the why behind the changes.
Here’s the second place where you, as an agile transformation coach, can help prepare the organization for what’s coming. Start with why. Give teams a solid understanding of the problem, and of how pivoting  to a standard tool or dataset, can yield benefits not just for the organization, but for the team.

 

The whitepaper The Connected Enterprise: Close the Gap Between Strategy and Execution presents some valuable statistics and a model case study to help showcase how much more an organization benefits when its teams know they are building the right things, at the right time, for the right people.

Hold informational sessions such as lunch-and-learn programs around how much more autonomy and creativity teams will have when leadership can see in real time how the work they are doing is related to the strategy. Explore a quick demo of Jira Align’s “why” button, which when properly configured provides all of the context behind each feature, epic, and theme from inside Jira Software, including the business case behind an item’s priority.

Agile Coach PMI Blog Image

Source: https://www.atlassian.com/blog/jira-align/ask-why-to-unlock-organizational-change

If it does not already exist, create a transformation office. Once formed, the transformation teams can begin meeting monthly or quarterly to gauge progress, remove impediments, formalize processes.

Scaling is another coaching opportunity. Introduce teams to agile at scale within their current context.  Discuss how small but impactful changes at the team level can help create standardized metrics that add visibility not only to the c-suite but between teams as well. This automated visibility can eventually expose and decrease dependencies between teams, meaning less time spent in meetings and more time spent creating and delivering value.

Other agile coaching opportunities may include: formalized ways to prioritize programs to achieve strategic goals (e.g., WSJF) and/or lean portfolio management.

Success with Jira Align Requires Realistic Expectations

Before going all in with Jira Align, it’s important to set realistic expectations not only about what the platform does and does not do, but about how long it will take, and how much technical expertise will be required to realize all of its benefits. That brings us to the last three indicators that an organization is ready for Jira Align:

  1. To be successful with Jira Align, the organization and its leadership first must understand that Jira Align is not a reporting system. Jira Align is a living system. It is an enterprise agile transformation platform designed to enable collaboration at all levels, every single day. Sure, it has a powerful reporting component. But the greatest value enabling mindset transformation and value delivery are in the live views.

  2. Implementing Jira Align takes time. An initial pilot at the program (team of teams) level can be implemented within 3 months for a single program. A full implementation modeling the firm from Enterprise/Strategy to Team levels will take at least 12 months.

    Internalizing the related mindset, processes, and practices will take as long as a typical successful agile-at-scale transformation:18 - 36 months.

  3. Last but not least, the organization will need to bring in training and technical expertise. For Jira Align to work as intended, it must interface smoothly with team-level tools. That’s why it’s critical for the organization to have competent Jira or Azure DevOps (ADO) admins or reliable, dedicated Modern Service Management that can perform that function. In addition, organizations will need dedicated technical expertise to support the configuration and integration into the existing technical ecosystem.

Here’s the third and final place where agile transformation coaches can really dig in and use Jira Align for their own benefit as well as the organization’s benefit. Learn Jira Align well enough to use its built-in feedback loops to coach teams, measure the organization's agile transformation progress, and report on return on investment.

You’ve likely had to learn tools before to support and help teams: from Trello to Miro to Jira Software. Jira Align is no different. What is different, though, is how you can use the live views and reporting metrics inside Jira Align to measure your own success in enabling the organizational transformation.  

You can learn about features such as framework maps that let you map framework implementation activity to the Jira Align implementation, resulting in a visual map of the organization’s progress. Check out a process step Kanban board for all the teams’ work items, from stories to features to epics to themes. View and review the Work Tree using multiple filters such as the Strategy View, Top-Down View from Portfolio, or Bottom-Up from Story. 

Already, 14% of respondents in the 2022 State of Agile Report report using Jira Align. As that number increases, coaches will need to quickly interpret teams’ progress and areas for improvement as easily as they do today, but within Jira Align. Knowing Jira Align provides a competitive advantage within the industry. 

Get Ready for Jira Align

As more and more organizations begin to apply agility outside of just software teams, the need for technology like Jira Align is only going to increase. About half of State of Agile survey respondents say they apply agile practices to the entire application delivery lifecycle. And two-thirds are using Atlassian’s Jira to manage their agile projects already.

Jira Align helps to solve so many problems organizations face at scale, including real-time visibility, aligning every team to strategy, and optimizing for customer value. And, it claims to be the only platform that lets organizations implement and extend any framework at scale, including hybrid and custom frameworks.

It won’t be long before your organization is asking to implement Jira Align. Start getting them–and you–ready today.

Topics: atlassian scaled-agile scalability jira-align agile enterprise-agility
7 min read

How to Successfully Implement Jira Align & Unlock Enterprise Agility

By Peter Jessen on Dec 2, 2022 10:00:00 AM

802x402 - FeaturedThere are currently very few people who understand Jira Align well enough to implement the enterprise platform well. In our last blog post on Jira Align, we discussed the different layers of Jira Align’s value proposition and how to maximize this enterprise platform to deliver value faster. Now, we’re breaking down what it takes to implement Jira Align and how to do it successfully. 

In every Jira Align implementation I have been a part of, I’ve found myself sharing the analogy that implementing Jira Align to its fullest in many ways is like building a Boeing 787, but making it look like a Cessna 172 to start. The secret is to begin learning to fly a Cessna 172 while having the vision of a 787 and picking up additional flight capabilities as your organization evolves. The same applies to a Jira Align implementation. Because the process involves so much change, you must learn to alter on the fly (no pun intended!). 

In other words, you are learning to fly the plane, becoming more competent and confident through training and coaching, then adding new flight capabilities, and repeating the process again until you reach your desired final configuration of capabilities. This is why Jira Align deployments are so challenging, but when done properly, the return is  340%+ ROI.

Determining Your Jira Align Readiness

Before you even carry out an implementation, you need to determine if your organization is ready for such a powerful platform. This first begins with understanding the intricacies of the platform. Many companies purchase Jira Align thinking it is a reporting tool, but it is so much more. Jira Align enables organizations to achieve true agile transformation by scaling Agile principles and connecting strategic vision to work execution

In addition to having a profound understanding of the platform and how it will support your organization, you will also need to determine your organization’s readiness. This checklist is a good place to start:

  • Leadership Vision - In my almost 7 years of implementing Jira Align in firms ranging from 10s to 100s of teams, a leadership team with a clear vision for an agile transformation is the top indicator you’re ready. If you want to implement Jira Align and don’t think you are on the path of an agile transformation, then you aren’t ready.
  • Executive Champion – An executive champion’s active leadership in a Jira Align implementation and the concurrent agile transformation will significantly improve the odds of success with both. An executive sponsor is not enough.
  • Active Change Management – Adopting Jira Align requires significant change in organizational thinking and processes. Change on the scale of adopting Jira Align will result in significant discomfort. It both enables and forces change in process and mindset. “No pain. No gain.” The gain is worth it.
  • Realistic Timeframe Expectations – An initial pilot at the program (team of teams) can be implemented within 3 months. A full implementation modeling the firm from Enterprise/Strategy to Team levels will take at least 9-12 months. Scaling out and coaching everyone on adopting and internalizing the related mindset, processes, and practices will take as long as a typical successful agile at scale transformation: 18- 36 months. The payoff is worth the investment.
  • Training & Coaching Funding – Purchasing Jira Align is more than just a technical investment; it also means investing  in changing your company's mindset. The funding for training and coaching for both Agile-at-Scale/SAFe and Jira Align best practices should be on par with a transformation.

Next Up: Implementing Jira Align

If your organization is prepared to take the next steps in unlocking enterprise agility with Jira Align, we recommend working with an Atlassian Solution Partner to ensure your project’s success. When you have a partner to help with the heavy lifting, they bring years of experience and technical expertise. Additionally, they possess the know-how to resolve any challenges or issues that might occur.

When deciding on an Atlassian Solution Partner that is specialized Agile at Scale, here is what you need to successfully implement Atlassian’s dynamic enterprise platform:

  • Tier 1 Consulting Skills – First and foremost, any qualified implementer must demonstrate an ability to elicit client needs. Each successful Jira Align implementation follows patterns but must meet the client’s specific needs. They also need to have the knowledge of the Jira Align patterns and anti-patterns. Not many can demonstrate this combination of skills and knowledge.
  • Mindset Shift Coaching – Mindset coaching is one of the most critical skills needed by an implementation team because clients are undergoing a transformation while they simultaneously deploy Jira Align, whether they are aware of it or not. This starts with a team that can demonstrate a proven ability to help clients build a mental model of where they are to where they are moving from a uni-dimensional model in Jira and other team tools to Jira Align’s multi-dimensional model. 
  • Technical Expertise - The Achilles heel of every Jira Align implementation is the Jira integration, which is why skilled Jira admins are critical (or ADO admins if using ADO) on both the client and implementer side. In addition, you need technical expertise to support the configuration and integration into your existing technical ecosystem. Implementers who don’t understand the integration often configure it improperly, resulting in syncing issues, improper data models, impacts to reporting, and more. This improper configuration leads to frustration with Jira Align. Praecipio has a proven, repeatable approach to implementing Jira Align from a foundational starting point and then building upon it with options that are tailored to the client's specific needs and make a tangible impact on value delivery.
  • Configure First, Customize Later - Many organizations make the mistake of customizing the rest of their tool stack before they properly configure their Jira Align platform. Unfortunately,  when things aren’t working due to bad configuration decisions, the blame is put on Jira Align. Jira Align is highly configurable, but it is not customizable like Jira and other team tools. 
  • Strategy Development & Modeling - Modeling strategy in Jira Align can be done multiple ways. Each client’s strategy approach is unique. One of the greatest challenges is that clients often don’t have a strategy that can be executed in a systematic way. There is no way to directly tie a specific goal to a specific set of funds and back to specific work efforts. Instead, there are many-to-many interconnections that end up causing confusion. Alternatively, the strategy may have been created in a single dimension view in slideware by a strategy firm that doesn’t understand the platform and tool stack the client has in place.
  • Value Stream Modeling - Jira Align is designed to support value flow thinking and metrics vs. utilization-based thinking. Fundamentally, in alignment with SAFe, Jira Align is designed to support the model of work flowing through stable, long-term sets of teams-of-teams that deliver value to end customers. This is the fundamental difference between project management and agile development.  Whereas agile development is designed to bring work to the people (in stable teams), project management brings the people to the work, constantly breaking up and reforming short-term teams that can never perform.
  • Financial Modeling – Jira Align’s financial capability is robust and can be implemented in several ways. Many companies will start with project-based budgeting where the portfolio epic is a proxy for a project. More mature Agile-at-Scale companies will use strategic themes and theme allocation to drive PI-based budgeting, which allows easier pivoting and other adjustments on a quarterly basis, if needed. 
  • Product Development and Modeling - Enterprises are moving to or interested in moving to product-driven development. Jira Align has many features of a product-centric approach, including personas, product visions, product roadmaps, and product distinction. Product-driven development requires a different mindset and approach than most current forms of development which are currently in use.
  • Business Process Optimization - We are modeling a complex enterprise into a value-delivery based platform. Many get it wrong by modeling the management organization in Jira Align vs the value delivery structure. Companies need the management hierarchy for stability, but the value delivery network is far more important for visualizing and delivering value. Servant leaders understand the difference and embrace the value delivery approach modeled in Jira Align . 
  • Professional Experience – Book smarts and classroom training can’t replace years of professional experience with strategy and process engagements gained over multiple implementations. Jira Align requires an apprentice/journeyman approach when learning to implement successfully. The implementer needs to be a well-rounded unicorn with strategy, process, and technology experience. Jira Align is incredibly powerful and to unleash that power requires a level of understanding that comes from the combination of classroom theory and proper mentoring.

Final Thoughts & Next Steps

Every company deserves a proper Jira Align implementation, and if you follow the path laid out above, you have a less stressful, faster and more successful deployment. Also know that you don’t have to do it alone. There are Solution Partners within the Atlassian ecosystem that are specialized in Agile at Scale and Jira Align implementations.

We think you may also be interested in our whitepaper on Jira Align, "The Connected Enterprise: Close the Gap Between Business Strategy & Execution."

Read Whitepaper

After supporting hundreds of enterprise clients in scaling their businesses, Praecipio is here to help. Book a technical call and we can discuss how you can tailor Jira Align to meet your organization’s specific needs and help achieve your strategic vision. 

Topics: enterprise implementation deployment jira-align enterprise-agility

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