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3 min read

Tips For Setting Up Effective Kanban Boards In Jira

By Michael Lyons on Sep 8, 2021 3:01:34 PM

2021-q4-blogpost-Tips For Setting Up Effective Kanban Boards In Jira

Jira's
 Kanban boards are great tools for tracking the progress of work being done by teams and for gaining insights into opportunities. Boards are highly customizable and can accommodate numerous types of processes. This flexibility is very helpful for teams that need to track a continuous flow of work in high volumes. If you are new to using Jira's Kanban board or are looking to get maximum results out of using the boards, we have a few tips that can help.

 These tips are meant to help make your Kanban board be as insightful as possible.

Reflect the Work Being Done

Boards are most effective when they are set up in a way that is easy to use, and match a team's work processes. You can add any number of columns to your board depending on how your team works. Statuses from your workflows can be mapped to the columns in any way. The option to customize is very helpful for teams, but it is important to align columns and statuses in a way that the user can efficiently move the work through the board. Designing a board that is inefficient can make the board frustrating to use. 

An effective way to map statuses for a Kanban board is to ensure that each status is mapped to a column, especially those statuses that are along the critical path. This helps the user navigate within the board seamlessly to provide updates on their work and track progress. This also prevents the user from having to take the extra steps to update issue statuses. Mapping each column to a status is by no means a requirement, but it helps to make these statuses available in the board so the user can quickly drag and drop the issue into a new column as work is being completed. 

Filter, Filter, Filter!

Work can add up when your team is very busy! All of this work can show up on the board and make it difficult to use if filters are not used appropriately. Luckily Jira provides a few options for filtering out issues. We recommend leveraging sub-filters and quick filters to help clear up yourboard. Sub-filters can be added to boards to help filter out issues that are older than a specific time frame or that have been moved to a certain status. We like to use sub-filters that filter out any issues that have been resolved or closed for more than two weeks, for example. Quick filters can be built to help filter down to issues that have certain field values or components. End users can interact directly with these filters and can toggle between them depending on the information they would like to see.

Leverage the Backlog

When issues are being created, it's important to discern which items are ready for work and which items are still being vetted by the project team. Boards that do not make priorities clear can cause confusion. For example, if a column has both an "Open" and "To-Do" status mapped, all work items within those statuses will appear in the column. Having so many of these items in a column can make it challenging to quickly determine the items that the team should work on.

Implementing a Kanban board with a backlog can help declutter the board and help users better identify work in the "To-Do" status. This is a feature that can be enabled within the board. All work items in an "Open" status form the backlog and do not appear on the board, while work in the "To-Do" status will appear in the first column. Your team will now know the items that take priority and are ready to be completed. 

Implement WIP Limits

Jira allows teams to set limits on the amount of issues that can be placed in columns. These limits should be based on what the team's work-in-process limits (WIP) are for processes. If the number of items in a column exceeds the maximum, the column will be highlighted. This gives teams insight into where they need to focus their efforts and shows them where opportunities are within the process. 

We are process obsessed: our custom-made workflows are designed by our teams of accredited and experienced professionals. If you have any questions about Jira or Kanban boards, please reach out to us! We would love to help.

Topics: jira blog kanban process process-consulting tips
3 min read

Agile vs. Scrum - What's the Difference?

By Rebecca Schwartz on Aug 19, 2021 10:03:00 AM

2021-q4-blogpost-Agile vs. Scrum Methology- Whats the Difference?

Organizations are rapidly moving toward new work management styles, especially in the age of digital transformation. If you work in project management, you've probably heard the term "Agile" at some point in your career. Maybe you've considered taking this approach with your teams, and have already done some research. "Scrum" is another term you've most likely heard during your research. Although this is a term used in rugby, it is also a specific methodology teams use to work in an Agile manner. At Praecipio Consulting, we've assisted many teams 

with their move to Agile, using the Atlassian toolset to support and ease their journey. We've also worked with many teams who use Scrum specifically, but many use different frameworks - using Scrum is not a requirement to be Agile. Let's take a moment to understand the difference between Scrum and Agile.

What is Agile?

Agile is a project management style in which organizations use an iterative process to continuously deliver work while consistently receiving and incorporating feedback throughout the process. Flexibility is key, so teams can quickly adapt to market changes and customer needs. Agile has a set of principles and values organizations are expected to follow, laid out in the Agile Manifesto. The Agile Manifesto does not delve into specific practices and activities teams should follow in order to work in an Agile way: it serves as a north star for organizations to align to in their Agile journey. There are a few Agile frameworks teams can use to work in an iterative manner, such as Scrum and Kanban. Agile puts an emphasis on people over processes and tools, and gives autonomy to the people on those teams. With that being said, it is up to the teams to decide which framework works best for the way they work and the work they're delivering. 

What is Scrum?

Scrum is one of the many frameworks teams can use to work in an Agile manner. It is mainly used by software development teams, and relies on time-boxed iterations called Sprints. Sprints are made up of the work developers commit to completing within that iteration, typically 2 weeks. The work scheduled in each sprint is based on priority and team capacity, and is carefully estimated to ensure teams can commit the work they've delegated to the sprint. This framework is very detailed, and prescribes a set of specific roles and events, including:

  • A Scrum Master, who protects the teams and ensures they are able to do their work without impediments.
  • A Product Owner, who manages and grooms the product backlog ensuring the anticipated work aligns with the needs of the customer and business.
  • The development team who actually complete the work in the sprint.

As I mentioned above, Scrum is a way teams can work if they're on their Agile journey, but it is not the only option. There are other Agile frameworks that may work better for teams.

How Do Agile and Scrum Differ?

Now that we know a bit more about Agile and Scrum separately, it's easier to lay out the differences between the two. Agile is more of a general philosophy that paints a broader picture around working in an iterative, flexible manner. Scrum is a specific Agile framework and is more granular than Agile. Although both rely on iterations: in Scrum they're specifically time boxed and called Sprints. Scrum also prescribes specific roles and ceremonies, while Agile focuses on the overall principles in the Agile Manifesto. Scrum is also more focused on the team level and the delivery of work. Agile can be scaled across an organization using other work frameworks such as the the Scaled Agile framework, or SAFe, as well as Large-Scale Scrum, styled as LeSS. 

With that understanding in mind, maybe you're ready to start your Agile journey! The Atlassian tools, such as Jira and Confluence, are built to support Agile and the specific frameworks. Jira Software makes it easy to get started with Scrum by providing an out-of-the-box Project template. At Praecipio Consulting, we focus on ensuring the Atlassian tools facilitate your Agile journey by implementing best practices and incorporating our extensive experience working with Agile teams. Reach out if you have any questions around Atlassian and Agile - we're here to help.

Topics: blog kanban scrum project-management safe agile frameworks less
4 min read

What Exactly is Agile Methodology?

By Courtney Pool on Aug 17, 2021 12:22:47 PM

2021-q4-blogpost-What is Agile Methodology?

Any person who's worked in or around software for any length of time has likely heard of Agile. Since the release of the Agile Manifesto in 2001, Agile has quickly spread through the industry, and even companies who aren't fully Agile sometimes claim to be, if only to check the box. Still, despite this popularity, we regularly receive confessions from people who admit that they don't fully "get" what Agile is, often from teams outside of software developers who want to know if Agile can help them too.

The Elevator Pitch

"Getting" Agile is a multi-step process, but knowing the elevator pitch is a great place to start. Agile is an iterative approach to software development and project management, with iterative being the keyword. Its primary focus is on delivering value incrementally, with those increments being faster, more frequent, and with fewer strings attached than some traditional approaches. Agile also acknowledges, accepts, and even encourages that risk and change are likely to pop up and need mole-whacking along the way, allowing for real-time course-correcting as needed.

This short description can help people navigate through many of the superficial conversations around Agile. If you want to impress though, knowing the details is the next step.

The Details

To really understand what Agile is, it helps to first understand why Agile is. Agile's origin is in software development, and its inception was a direct response to the rigidity of existing development methods like Waterfall. Despite this, its existence is not at all meant to be a critique of Waterfall, which is a valid methodology that still has uses in several scenarios; rather it's an answer to the "But what if...?" questions that plague so many projects, such as: 

  • What if I discover more requirements after development has started?
  • What if we don't catch a big problem because we waited too long to test?
  • What if we need to ship to market faster or more frequently?

Answering these questions is difficult in a Waterfall environment, and failure to answer them can be costly. This can be especially true in software, where conditions and criteria frequently change, and rapidity and innovation are critical factors in winning over users. Enter Agile, whose principles allow teams the flexibility needed to answer these questions as they arise while still meeting product and stakeholder needs.

While some interpret this flexibility as Agile having no rules, this could not be further from the truth! The Agile Manifesto itself includes both key pillars and guiding principles, which every organization purporting to be Agile should follow. Amongst the guiding principles are those that are arguably more nebulous, like "Working software is the primary measure of progress." Still, many are undeniably rules and not suggestions, such as the principle requiring the increments mentioned above: "Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale. "

Beyond that, there are also rules associated with each particular Agile framework to adhere to as well.

You see, while "Agile" is the overarching methodology (or philosophy, some argue, an ongoing debate), the actual "doing" is often guided by the numerous frameworks within Agile, with more popular frameworks like Scrum, Kanban, eXtreme Programming, and the Crystal Method leading the charge. Of course, that's not to say that one can't simply follow the principles of Agile without needing a specific framework -- you absolutely can! -- but development teams may find it easier to work within a framework. Aiding this ease is that each framework has taken the Agile principles and hammered them into specific actions, ceremonies, and practices for teams to follow, reducing the need for teams to develop their own.

Knowing the pitch and the details is essential to understanding Agile, but "getting" Agile requires that you take it one step further and apply it outside the business.

The Real World Example

As mentioned, Agile is an iterative process that seeks to frequently deliver value while still allowing for the winds of change. One of the reasons Agile can work so well is, if you think about it in the simplest of terms, because most people do Agile every day.

No, seriously!

I recently moved and learned again how ever-present Agile is. I prepared for the move with a soft plan and a general goal in mind: get everything packed and ready by X date. I even took an incremental approach to it, regularly moving smaller and more manageable items over to the new house in the weeks leading up to the move. As is frequently the case, though, life had different plans, and I found myself scrambling to finish hours before the movers' arrival (see: winds of change). I could have chosen to stubbornly stick to my original plan, risking either an incomplete project or a financial blow from having to delay, but I instead chose the Agile approach. I reprioritized and adjusted my goal, focusing on readying the most vital components and shifting lower priority items to my next increment. 

And just like that, you're Agile!

So now you can quickly explain Agile to someone any time it comes up, dazzle them with a few specific details, and even deliver an analogy or two to help set it in. The final step? Contact us to find out how Praecipio Consulting can help you make it work for your teams.

Topics: kanban process tips agile software-development waterfall
5 min read

Can We Talk for a Moment About Spreadsheets?

By Amanda Babb on Jul 27, 2021 11:14:14 AM

2021-q4-blogpost-Can We Talk for a Moment about Spreadsheets

No, seriously: can we please take a moment to talk about spreadsheets? I have a very large bone to pick with them. Spreadsheet is a four-letter word to me; and don't get me started on workbooks! I recognize spreadsheets have their place in the world. I'm always in awe when I see the most complicated and fragile spreadsheet being used to manage a simple set of data to provide "insights" into the business. Even better, a spreadsheet that helps manage prioritization, planning, and execution reporting on a regular cadence. I've seen complex CountA and SumIf formulas, and Concatenate, and pivot tables, and everything else people can throw at them. And while I'm impressed at the craftsmanship, I'm also incredibly frustrated. The time it took to create and iterate on that reporting could have been spent having conversations about the work or checking in with a team or removing blockers. Instead, the extraction, manipulation, and reporting of easily-accessible, real-time data takes precedent. 

While it was published in 2014, I still reference an article when discussing data and reporting with our clients: This Weekly Meeting Took Up 300,000 Hours per Year. Yes, you read that right: 300,000 Hours. Per. Year! A single team extracting data, then aggregating it across several teams, then teams of teams, then programs, then everywhere else, all to be reviewed in a 30-minute executive meeting where the conversation was, "Are we on track? Yes? Great."  <sends weekly update deck to recycle bin>.

I hold no ill-will to the spreadsheet warriors out there. Instead, I view it as a simple case of "We've always done it this way." Well, what if I could show you a different way? What if, through the power of Atlassian, I could provide you real-time analytics? What if I could show you how to integrate Jira with a Business Intelligence solution? Or provide Program and Portfolio Management including planning and execution data in Advanced Roadmaps or Jira Align? How many hours would that save you or your organization when providing in-depth analytics to executive management? I promise you, this is all possible. 

Individual Team Metrics: Scrum and Kanban

Individual Team metrics are available for both Scrum and Kanban Teams under Reports in a Jira Software project. For Kanban Teams, both the Cumulative Flow Diagram and Control Chart provide flow metrics for the Team. While it may have been a while since you've taken a statistics class (if at all...I confess I tried hard to avoid them), spending ten minutes reviewing these reports will provide information on bottlenecks, flow trending, and backlog growth. Adding Quick Filters to your Kanban Boards will allow you to drill down into a specific subset of data on your board. Want to focus on Stories or Bugs only? Create the Quick Filters. 

Scrum Teams have nine (yes, NINE) reports available on their boards. Are you using the Burndown during your Daily Standup? Can you predict your release of an Epic or Version based on the throughput in those reports? Have you reviewed the Sprint Report to see what was added or didn't complete during the Sprint and asked why? The Scrum Reports will tell you what is happening during the Sprint (or happened, during the Retrospective), but it's up to you and the Team to ask why it happened. 

Need additional assistance to understand what these metrics are telling you? There's a training class for that. Praecipio Consulting is happy to help!

Program, Product, or Teams of Teams Metrics

Client: "Hey, Amanda, we're pretty good on the individual team stuff. Is there another way we can aggregate team data together?" 

Me: "How much time you got?" 

Three solutions come to mind for this one:

First, let's talk about Advanced Roadmaps for Jira. As always in the Atlassian tools, flexibility is key. When creating a Plan in Advanced Roadmaps, tying the work to the Teams by pulling in the scope of work is the first step. Whether it's a Board, a Project, or a Filter, aggregating data across multiple Teams, then tying the source to the execution team, provides you predictable velocity and capacity planning as well as execution reporting. 

  • You want Progress? You got issue count and story point or time-based progress.
  • You want to predict a milestone (read: release) date? You got milestone dates.
  • You want dependency maps? You got dependency maps.
  • You want to look at the Plan in a capacity view or a release view or a specific timeframe? You got custom views. 

Sharing all this information from Advanced Roadmaps in Confluence is amazing. While native in Confluence Cloud Premium, you can download and install the free app from the Atlassian Marketplace for Data Center. If you would prefer to simply share a link to the specific view of the Roadmap, that's available to you as well. 

Second, EazyBI. We constantly hear of clients looking for a more robust way to cube and concatenate data across their Jira instance. However, our clients tend to revert to what's comfortable: the spreadsheet. Instead, using an OLAP analysis and multi-dimensional calculations, EazyBI can provide the complex reporting when Jira's native Reports and Dashboards just won't do. EazyBI started as a purpose-built solution for Jira: it recognizes Jira's data structures and surfaces field data you may not be able to work with in native Jira. Since it's a unidirectional sync, EazyBI will not change your Jira data either. EazyBI can also integrate with other data sources including (sigh) a spreadsheet. 

Third, Jira Align. Here at Praecipio Consulting, we love Jira Align. The Program Room brings together all the information from multiple teams, i.e. an Agile Release Train. Every bit of data from Jira Software is aggregated to provide a clear understanding of the pace of the Train. The Program Board, the current implementation Roadmap with risk indicators, the investment data, the actual execution data, all of it is available in the highly-configurable Program Room. Burnups, Burndowns, progress by Epic, this is all available in Jira Align. In fact, there are over 180 reports available in Jira Align. And if that's not enough, Jira Align BI extends the already-robust reports into your existing visualization tools or your enterprise data lake. 

Enterprise Business Intelligence Integration

You may already have a Business Intelligence solution. Quite frequently at Praecipio Consulting, we hear our clients mention PowerBI, Tableau, or data lakes such as Hadoop or Snowflake. These powerful solutions are likely already embedded in your organization. And there's probably a SME out there just waiting to assist. Enterprise organizations usually have an integrations team to help connect Jira and other data sources. In fact, we worked with a large organization to consolidate Jira instances to better connect data to their business intelligence platform. In just 12 short weeks, they were able to analyze and report on their current execution progress simply by being able to feed consolidated Jira data into their business intelligence platform. 

At Praecipio Consulting, we have extensive integrations experience across a wide-range of technologies. We can recommend Atlassian Marketplace apps as a fit-for-purpose solution or we can work with third-party integration engines to help you map data for enhanced metrics. 

Take a moment to step back and really examine your use of spreadsheets. While, again, they have a purpose in this world, to a hammer, everything looks like a nail. The spreadsheet is dead. Long live the spreadsheet. 

Topics: atlassian blog best-practices kanban scrum reporting support-live-music eazyBi jira-align advanced-roadmap business-intelligence
2 min read

Should Stories & Bugs Follow Different Workflows?

By Joseph Lane on Mar 31, 2021 10:07:00 AM

Blogpost-display-image_Should stories and bugs follow different workflows-The short answer: Not really. Stories and bugs are both software development items by different names. As such, the vast majority of activities and controls that we model for a story are applicable to bugs. The key distinction between stories and bugs often comes down to data. Bugs should include Affects Version/sSteps to Recreate, Expected Behavior, and Actual Behavior. How and when we require this data relies on what practices we're observing.

For teams using Kanban practices where there is a Backlog status and a Ready for Development status, the transition to Ready for Development can be used to capture required data based on issue type. In this simple case, we would have two transitions from Backlog, Ready for Dev and Ready for Dev - Bug. For each transition, include a transition-specific screen to capture the appropriate fields.  Example: SDLC Ready for Dev - Bug Transition Screen will include: Affects Version/sSteps to Recreate, Expected Behavior, and Actual Behavior in addition to any other fields needed in both cases. Then, leveraging your workflow conditions allow the Bug issue type to only use the Ready for Dev - Bug transition. All other issue types can default to the Ready for Development transition by explicitly checking that the current issue type is not a bug.

The considerations above work well in workflow cases where you have gated controls as a function of status change. This might apply to teams that include requirements definitions and design efforts within the story or bug life cycle (as might be the case with Waterfall). Additionally, this logical approach allows for workflow reuse which in turn decreases administrative burden and increases process consistency.

Scrum teams view Ready for Development a bit differently. Good Scrum practices dictate that product owners will refine their backlog as items are prioritized upward. Refinement provides all functional details necessary for the scrum team to be able to work the ticket including validation of bug reports and associated details. Once prioritized, the development team will review stories and bugs at the top of the backlog to make sure they understand the requirements. The work is considered Ready for Development at the moment it is accepted in to a sprint.

I hope this explanation helps you avoid unnecessary workflows!

Topics: blog best-practices bugs kanban scrum workflows software-development custom-development

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