3 min read

Jira Align Jumpstart: What to expect

By Brian Nye on Dec 31, 2020 10:30:00 AM

Blogpost-display-image_Jira Align Jumpstart- What to expect

Do you want to roll out Jira Align in your organization but are not sure where to start? The answer is simple, use our Jira Align Jumpstart solution. This solution will give you access to a Solutions Architect who will walk you and your core team of Jira Align practitioners on the setup of your first Program in Jira Align. 

As part of a Jumpstart, there are five phases that you will go through:
  1. Discovery
  2. Set-up
  3. Implementation
  4. Training
  5. Launch

Discovery

The first phase of a Jumpstart is Discovery. During the discovery phase, your Jira Align Solutions Architect will get to know your company. The goal of this is to understand where you are in the scaling process and to get your leadership engaged in communicating the reasons that you are implementing Jira Align. A large part of this will be driven through the value drivers exercise. In this exercise, the team identifies common goals for the organization's agile journey. The output of this exercise will give the whole team a better understanding of the functionality that will need to be configured inside Jira Align and identify how your Solutions Architect can help guide you through that journey. 

Set-up

Following discovery is the setup phase. The setup phase will establish all the connections and settings needed to support your business. The Solutions Architect digs into the integration between Jira and Jira Align, making sure the two systems can pass information between one another. During this phase, there will be a lot of toggling on and off the various features and permissions for each of the user roles. This is based on the goals of the value driver exercise and the roles and responsibilities of the various levels of management using the tool. At the end of the set up phase, Jira and Jira Align will be connected.

Implementation

Connecting the two systems isn't all you have to do! To have the tool set up for your teams, you need to have some base data present to make sure it's working as expected. During the implementation phase, the Solutions Architect will work with Program Management to configure the initial teams and program data. This includes setting up initial strategic snapshots, goals, themes, epics, and features. The Jumpstart focuses on Program-level implementation, but basic configuration for some high level roll up is also included. Based on this data, we will see the flow from the work in Jira pushed up to Jira Align and changes in Jira Align, pushed down to Jira. Although this sounds like a simple task, it usually involves fine tuning some processes to ensure that reports and structure align to the goals established from the project onset.

Training

As the saying goes, a fool with a tool is still a fool. To avoid this, training is done with the teams who will be using the system. There are various types of training that are done with the team. One is for program management so they know how to use the tool from a day-to-day basis. Other training targets Jira Align Administrators so that they understand how the back end is configured and how to maintain the system following the Jumpstart. Both trainings help establish the fundamentals needed for working in the system.

Launch

Now that everyone is prepped and ready to go, all you need to do is launch the program officially. This is targeted to align to a PI Planning session. Now that your having these "Big Room" meetings virtually, you have a tool that will help facilitate the overall direction for your next Program Increment. 

What's next? 

If you want to know more about Jira Align Jumpstart and how to launch the product successfully, contact us here at Praecipio Consulting. We would love to chat with you about your situation to make sure that you are set up for success. Many clients are looking for better ways of scaling with Atlassian, and we would love to understand your current processes so you make the decision that is best for your business. 

Topics: jira digital-transformation atlassian-solution-partner jira-align
5 min read

Jira Align vs. Advanced Roadmaps: Which one is right for my organization?

By Amanda Babb on Sep 15, 2020 8:15:00 AM

How Jira Align compares to Advanced Road for Jira

As organizations continue to scale Agile practices, our team at Praecipio Consulting is frequently asked which Atlassian product will best support the effort. Principal Consultant, Brian Nye, put together a great webinar describing the differences between Advanced Roadmaps for Jira (formerly known as Portfolio for Jira) and Jira Align. As Praecipio Consulting has expanded our Jira Align practice, we'd like to take a moment to compare and contrast these products to help guide you in making the right decision for your organization. 

Your Agile and Digital Transformation Journey

Your organization can't talk about your Agile transformation without talking about your digital transformation and vice versa. After all, the Atlassian products are meant to support Agile frameworks as well as your digital transformation. Many organizations have embraced remote work as a result of the global pandemic and have fundamentally shifted toward online planning, roadmapping, and execution management. 

Your organization may also use non-Atlassian applications to manage planning and roadmapping. You've chosen to integrate these products with Atlassian for execution management. While this may be a great solution in the short-term, I challenge this as a long-term solution. Many of the frameworks guiding agile-at-scale exist because we're trying to bring strategic planning closer to actual execution and back again. Ask your organization the hard question: does maintaining these integrations follow the organization's digital technology vision for the future? 

Advanced Roadmaps for Jira (formerly Portfolio for Jira)

Available as an App for Data Center/Server Deployments and packaged with Jira Software Cloud Premium, Advanced Roadmaps for Jira (Advanced Roadmaps) is a great way to bridge the gap for small- to medium-sized organizations. If you currently have fewer than 500 agile team members executing their work in Jira Software, Advanced Roadmaps for Jira can provide visibility within and across teams. First, define the hierarchy above the Jira Software Epic. We use Initiative most frequently when deploying this for customers because of the reference documentation from Atlassian. However, you can choose whichever naming convention you'd like as long as there is a corresponding Issue Type. For example, create an "Initiative" Issue Type and link it to a Hierarchy level in Advanced Roadmaps called "Initiative." We also strongly recommend the Initiative Issue Type live in a separate Jira Project from all other execution work. This helps your Agile teams focus on the current backlog of work while the Initiative moves through its own review, decision, and backlog refinement process. 

Creating a Plan is as simple as defining your source data (Jira Projects, Boards, or Filters), tying the sources to Teams, and choosing Releases from your source data. Honoring the Iron Triangle of project and program management, you may either choose to have the Plan dictate your schedule or, when planning for the next business quarter, you may choose to drag and drop the Gantt-style bars to schedule work. There is also an option to blend the calculations. Meaning, if a Sprint already exists and is pre-filled, let the Scrum Board be the source of truth. Have the Plan calculate any Empty Sprints going forward. The same is true for Releases and Teams: the Plan can auto-schedule a Team or a Release based on the relative rank of the backlog in the Plan. 

If you're looking to understand the impact of shifting priorities, you can enable Scenarios in a Plan. This will allow you to pull the source data from Jira Software and blend it with additional planning while maintaining the current execution schedule. You can add new Initiatives, Epics, and Stories, as well as adjust Release Dates, and observe the impact of adding, removing, or reassigning Teams to work. If you have the Server or Data Center App, you can group Plans together into a Program to understand the overall health of multiple Plans and Releases in a single view. 

Jira Align

As its name implies, Jira Align brings strategic planning and execution together in a single product. Pulling execution data from Jira Software and blending it with Agile-at-scale frameworks, Jira Align ties your strategic vision to tangible work and is best suited for organizations with more than 500 Agile team members executing their work in Jira Software. Instead of trying to define a hierarchy, Jira Align provides a pre-set hierarchy with flexible language. Whether you're running SAFe, LeSS, Scrum@Scale, or your own model, Jira Align's seamless integration with Jira Software provides visibility across multiple Portfolios and Programs. 

Jira Align comes in three deployment options: multi-tenant Cloud, single-tenant Cloud, and on-premise. While we recognize the allure of an on-premise solution, Praecipio Consulting recommends either the multi-tenant or single-tenant Cloud deployment. This provides the robust functionality of the product without the additional IT infrastructure management as well as managing routine maintenance such as upgrades. Jira Align also comes in two licensing models, Standard and Enterprise, billed monthly per user. Standard provides your organization the ability to run Programs (also known as teams of teams) whereas Enterprise adds the Lean Portfolio Management and financials into the mix. In addition, each Jira Align seat comes with four Jira, Trello, or integrated users. Another key difference between the two license levels is integration. With Standard, you can integrate a single instance of Jira Software with Jira Align. This is perfect for the organization that is large enough but lacks maturity in their Agile-at-scale framework. Enterprise provides unlimited connectors, which in the case of some of our clients, allows them to avoid the pain of merging multiple instances of Jira Software before deploying Jira Align

The Jira Software Epic is the lynchpin of the integration. Teams will still work with Epics, Stories, and Sub-Tasks within Jira Software whereas Product Managers, Release Train Engineers, Portfolio Managers, and Executives work within Jira Align. The robust permissions within Jira Align also focus the right role in the right data. A Program Manager may care about the execution of the program, whereas the executive wants to understand how you're tracking to the annual corporate strategy. By aggregating and rolling data upward, Jira Align provides health and status monitoring of quarterly, yearly, and long-term goals. With over 180 out-of-the box reports, every role at every level can access the right information at the right time to ensure your organization's success. Jira Align also has Enterprise Insights, an optional App, to take business intelligence to the next level. 

Which one is right for my organization? 

The first questions to answer while you're evaluating either tool are around Agile transformation maturity, digital transformation maturity, and user discipline both across and vertically in the organization. Because both options rely on teams to perform their execution work consistently and with good data integrity, either product can be a blessing or a curse. 

  • How long have your Agile teams been executing within an agile framework? 
  • How long have your Agile teams been executing within Jira Software? 
  • How consistent are your teams across the organization? 
  • Do your teams and your business understand one another and communicate well? 
  • How well has your Jira Software instance been governed since it was deployed?
  • How much chaff do you have in Jira Software? 

While this is not an exhaustive list, implementing either Advanced Roadmaps for Jira or Jira Align requires you to ask tough questions of your organization. Praecipio Consulting can not only help you assess your current state, but we can also provide guidance and recommendations to accelerate your digital transformation. If you are ready to take the next step in your digital transformation and Agile journeys, let's chat!

Topics: scaled-agile jira-align agile advanced-roadmap marketplace-apps
5 min read

Should We Use Next-Gen Projects in Jira Cloud?

By Amanda Babb on Aug 28, 2020 9:30:00 AM

Benefits of Next-Gen projects

Atlassian has always held the concept of the team in high regard. As you may know, even their stock ticker is TEAM. And with many organizations pushing to Atlassian Cloud from their Server or Data Center solutions, it's no wonder Atlassian is removing barriers to entry for first-time users and admins. Whether you choose Standard or Premium, Jira Software adds the ability to create next-gen projects.

What is a next-gen project? 

Jira Software next-gen projects are a simple and flexible way to get your teams working. With some limited delegated administration, next-gen projects are created using a pre-defined template (Kanban or Scrum). These projects also come with three pre-defined roles: Administrator, Member, and Viewer.

  • Administrator: Updates project settings and can add other Administrators
  • Member: Can perform most functions such as create, edit, assign, and transition issues
  • Viewer: Can view and comment only

By default, if a user is added to the Jira Cloud site and provided access to Jira Software, they automatically become a member of every next-gen project (also known as Open). However, a next-gen admin can change the settings to be either Limited or Private. Limited puts all users of Jira software into the Viewer role and Private requires the admin to add a user to perform actions in the project. In addition, setting the project to Private hides the project from any search results. 

Each next-gen project operates similarly to a Classic Software project. You get either a Kanban or Scrum Board based on your project template as well as the reports you've come to know and love from the Server and Data Center products. One key difference is the addition of a Roadmap. Each next-gen project and board comes with a Roadmap. This allows teams to track start and end dates of the epics and better communicate with their product owners and stakeholders. 

The benefits of a next-gen project

Next-gen projects are flexible and delegate administration to the Administrators. This means the Administrator can create new Issue Types and Workflows, add unique fields, assign access to individuals or groups, and can enable or disable specific agile features such as enabling backlogs. This provides the ultimate flexibility for newly formed agile teams to work out their processes and data needs while performing their daily work. Let's take a closer look at each of these elements. 

Issue Types can be created on the fly at any time. As an Administrator, you can add up to 30 unique issue types to your next-gen project. By default, next-gen projects come with Epics, Stories, Bugs, Tasks, and Subtasks. If you remember, these are arranged in a loose hierarchy with Epics at the top; Stories, Bugs, and Tasks in the middle; and Subtasks on the bottom. Currently, any additional issue types will be added at the same level as Stories, Bugs and Tasks. If you'd like to add your own Subtasks or parent issues, feel free to submit feedback to Atlassian. 

Workflows are configured directly on your Board. Simply add a column to add a status to your workflow. That's it. You may also add rules such as assigning an issue or updating a field. Other Marketplace Apps can add automation triggers and the like to next-gen projects as well. 

Administrators can also add Custom Fields for your project. While Jira already comes with a robust set of Jira-created fields, you may choose to add checkboxes, people fields, numbers, dates, dropdowns and more. You can even change the order of the fields on the issue view to put the most important information at the top. 

Notifications on certain events can also be tuned to suit the team's need. For those already familiar with notifications, these events include: Issue Created, Issue Updated, Issue Assigned, Issue Deleted, etc. In a next-gen project, you can notify All Watchers, Current Assignee, Current User, Reporter, or a Project Role. Simply select the event and the people you'd like to notify, and Jira will take care of the rest. 

Last, but not least, there are nine separate Board features you may choose to enable for your next-gen project. This includes things like the Roadmap, Reports, Backlogs for Kanban, and more. 

There's no doubt that next-gen projects provide your team the ultimate flexibility in managing their work. With easily navigable menus and a simplified Administration interface, next-gen projects can be great for you and your team. 

The disadvantages of a next-gen project

One of the things we love about the Atlassian products is that they are super flexible and you can do pretty much anything you'd like with them. One of the things we hate about the Atlassian products is that they are super flexible and you can do pretty much anything you'd like with them. The same is true of next-gen projects. With ultimate flexibility and delegated administration, it becomes difficult to aggregate data across multiple projects. As a product manager, project manager, Release Train Engineer, or other person over several teams, you may find next-gen projects frustrating. 

Because the configuration of a next-gen project is unique to the individual project, gathering a status update is difficult. Not impossible, but you need a solid working knowledge of Jira Query Language (JQL) and good discipline from your teams to ensure they're transitioning tickets through the workflow. Creating custom Filters and Dashboards is your only way to aggregate data across projects. In addition, since each team can create their own custom fields, you risk data bloat. For example, one team may create a field called Bug Type using a dropdown and another may create Bug Type using checkboxes. While both are correct, to understand where Bugs are located, you have to add both fields to your filter. And the values may be unique per project as well. 

Work can only be estimated in Story Points, regardless if your project is Kanban or Scrum. This is also regardless of Issue Type. If you enable estimation on either a Scrum or Kanban next-gen project, every piece of work should be estimated and estimated in Story Points. Tasks, Bugs, and Stories all need points to establish a consistent velocity for predictability. 

Since there is a single workflow for all Issue Types, the team cannot split processes between types of work. If a Task follows a simplified process (To Do, In Progress, and Done), but a Story needs more detail (Backlog, Selected for Development, In Progress, and Done), the team cannot split these items into two distinct workflows. Every type of work must follow the same path through the board. 

There are additional technical considerations as well for things like Cloud merges (bringing two instances together) and Cloud to Server or Data Center migrations (moving off Atlassian Cloud to an On Premise solution). While these efforts are few and far between, all next-gen projects must be converted to Classic projects before these efforts start. 

Are next-gen projects right for you? 

At Praecipio Consulting, we believe you must use the right tool for the right job. The same goes for next-gen projects. While there are many benefits, there are disadvantages as well. How do you manage cross-team dependencies? Are you willing to span multiple projects for status updates? Do you trust your teams to make the most out of the functionality? Are there long-term scaling opportunities you need to consider, such as integrations, or other products, such as Advanced Roadmaps, for Jira or Jira Align? If you'd like to know more about next-gen versus classic Jira Software projects, Praecipio Consulting has extensive experience managing and assisting clients with these questions and more. 

 

Topics: best-practices business-teams cloud atlassian-products jira-align next-gen-project
6 min read

How Jira Align Helps Enterprises Embrace Lean Budgets

By Amanda Babb on Jul 1, 2020 2:30:21 PM

2020 Blogposts_Lean Budgets in SAFe and Jira Align

Hopefully, you've followed my posts and webinars on Portfolio for Jira, as well as how to manage Lean Budgets in Atlassian and its ecosystem. We released a White Paper providing a solution for mid-sized organizations that have embraced SAFe® and want to also incorporate Lean Budgets concepts within the Atlassian technology stack. After all, one of the most critical pieces of adopting an agile mindset is to break the cycle of traditional Project Cost Accounting. 

Project Cost Accounting and agile frameworks (regardless of the flavor) are in direct conflict with one another. Moving teams to work in a Project Cost Accounting model does not work in agile frameworks. Instead, we move work to teams. When we scale agile, regardless of the model, all we're doing is connecting the overarching strategic initiatives to execution. Also, we're all still trying to figure out how to understand the costs associated with the work. SAFe® offers the seductive allure of Lean Budgets. Simply define the Enterprise budget and allocate it to the Portfolios to do what they will. Wait, what? Just hand over $100,000,000 to a Portfolio for the year and trust that they'll make the right decisions? As Yogi Berra once said, "In theory, there's no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is." 

Lean Budgets Guardrails

While the Atlassian tools and ecosystem are not intended to be the financial system of record for any organization, one key part of Lean Budgets, which is called out several times in the Lean Portfolio Management competency in SAFe® 5.0, is to provide Guardrails. The four Guardrails are as follows: 

  1. Guiding investments by horizon
  2. Applying capacity allocation to optimize value and solution integrity
  3. Approving significant initiatives
  4. Continuous Business Owner engagement

© Scaled Agile, Inc.

The Atlassian tools, and specifically Jira Align, are uniquely positioned to provide the Guardrails for Lean Budgets. By adhering to the SAFe® Core Values of Transparency and Program Execution, Jira Align provides complete aggregation from the corporate strategy, including Mission, Vision, and Values, all the way through team-level execution and back up again. This includes Allocation, Estimate, and Actual comparisons based on the Program Increment. Mind-blowing, right? 

While you will have to wait for the full solution (details are coming soon), here are a few tips to assist you in your journey. 

Create a Strategic Snapshot

Your organization has a well-established Mission, Vision, and Values. They're likely plastered all over your organization's intranet or when in an office, you'll find them displayed every 25 feet down the halls. Add these into the Enterprise Room in a strategic snapshot that aligns with your fiscal year. Break down the Mission, Vision, and Values into long-term, annual goals and establish your Strategic Themes. Add those into Jira Align to start tying execution to these items.

Screen Shot 2020-06-24 at 10.03.55 PM

Themes are an entity in Jira Align. Think of them as an Issue Type that drives the rest of the hierarchy. However, one of the key strengths of Jira Align is ensuring, at every level, the entity is tied to execution. In SAFe® the key execution entity is the Program Increment (PI). Even if a Theme straddles several PIs, you must commit to the timebox of the PI. This drives the entire organization to say, "This thing is important to us, and this is how and when we plan on executing it." While at first, you may have no idea, you can always go back and add the information after the fact. 

Determine Theme Allocation for the PI

While you may not know the exact dollar amount while planning the budget, you've likely done the SWAG for the fiscal year. SWAG, of course, stands for Scientific Wild Ass Guess. As you're determining your Themes and Portfolio Epics for the Fiscal Year (or just your Themes), you will likely have a high-level idea of how much of the pie you will allocate to each Theme. Since they are also ranked by highest to lowest priority, the allocations should follow suit as well. If a Theme is ranked number one, it should have a higher percentage allocated than, say, Theme number 10. Theme allocations can be updated as your organization moves through the budget cycle. Jira Align will do the calculation for you as you determine the overall budget. 

However, to truly succeed at Lean Budgets in Jira Align, you must determine the budget for the PI. Again, as you're working through your organization's budget cycle, you can start with your SWAG. For example, if you have an overall budget of $100,000,000 for the fiscal year and your PI cadence puts you at 12-week PIs, then allocate $25,000,000 per PI to start. By tagging your Themes with the PI(s), you can start to understand the dollars, as well as the overall level of effort, needed for a specific PI. As you get closer to final budget approval, continue to refine these numbers. 

Determine a Blended Rate

While I've proposed a series of different methods for translating Story Points to dollars either via Cost Per Story Point or Total Cost of Solution or Monetized Opportunity Cost, the fact remains that we live in a time-based world (sigh). And our best method for translation still comes from determining a Blended Rate. In Jira Align, once you've determined the Blended Rate for the PI, you simply enter it into a field and the magic starts to happen. But how do we determine a Blended Rate? 

Remember, a fixed Team equals a fixed cost. Take the combined salary of the team members, divide it by workweeks, then divide it by work hours. You can skip a step if you remember the exact number of working hours are in a year, but that number will vary based on your geolocation. You can always adjust as needed based on PTO policies and holidays to determine the Blended Rate. From there, Jira Align takes over once you're in execution mode. 

Budget, Estimate, and Actual

In the Portfolio section of Jira Align, you can quickly access a report called Investment versus Actuals. Wait, what? It's that simple? I click a button, and I can compare plan, actual, and variance? That can't be right. 

To be honest, it truly is that simple. However, if Teams aren't fostering good data in Jira Software and if RTEs, Program Owners, Epic Owners, and the like, aren't making the connections in Jira Align, you will end up with junk. This leads to frustration, as well as low adoption levels of the solution. Take a deep breath, and remember Principle #1 of SAFe ®: Take an economic view. Just like any other tools your organization uses, you must adhere to the process and commit to the facilitation of that process within the tools. 

Based on the historical Velocity of the individual Teams in a Program, the Blended Rate, the Teams' Burn Hours, and the Theme Allocation, Jira Align will calculate the Estimate (original estimate at the start of the Program Increment) as well as the Actual (actual completed stories in each of the Sprints). This is where the Team discipline comes in. If Teams do not estimate work, move cards across the board, and close Sprints, this fails. You cannot calculate the roll-up, or if you do, it's wildly inaccurate. Thus, the comparisons are out of whack, and when compared against the financial system of record, you find that you've spent your time and money on Theme number 10 instead of Theme number one. 

Want to know more? 

In the coming days, Praecipio Consulting will release a White Paper detailing the solution to managing Lean Budgets with Jira Align. We look forward to your questions and feedback. Lean Budgets is still an emerging concept, and while we have a solid solution, we'd love to know how your organization is currently managing or where you are in your digital transformation journey with the Atlassian tools.

 

Topics: scaled-agile lean-budgets jira-align safe

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