Why do companies use Jira project management software?

Jira is one of the best, most feature-complete project management tools out there, with native capabilities that can be enhanced by a variety of plugins. According to the 2020 Agile report by digital.ai, 67% of companies use Atlassian Jira as a project management tool. It's quite straightforward to set up, and can help you plan, track and release software with flexible features.

But that’s not all that it's good for!

Jira is the most used Agile project management tool in 2020
Most used Agile tools in 2020

Ultimately, Jira is where the work happens, where teams meet, and where prioritization is done right. So if you want to track and understand your team's progress, and work with a prioritized backlog where everything is up-to-date, then Jira is for you. But first comes first...

What is project management?

Project management is the process that gets your team to achieve goals within certain constraints like scope, time, budget and so on. And, so we use Jira to track and manage these constraints, and of course the people who are making things happen; so that tasks can be completed on time and in the most efficient way possible.

On a more serious note, project management is "the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements", according to the Project Management Institute.  

What kind of projects can you manage in Jira?

You can manage two types of projects in Jira Software: company-managed (formerly 'classic') and team-managed (formerly next-gen). Company-managed is the more standard type which can be copied across multiple projects, and created by admins only. Team-managed projects, on the other hand, can be configured individually and anyone can create them; they're definitely easier to set up but lack the flexibity classic projects can offer.

Jira isn't for software teams only, though; you can manage all kinds of projects with Jira. Jira work management (JWM), which was recently released to focus on non technical teams, brings options like spreadsheet-like tables where you can edit and create issues, a calendar to organize marketing activities for example, and the timeline view.

Who uses Jira?

Managers and their teams; basically everyone. From project managers, portfolio managers and product managers, to Scrum masters, engineering managers, product owners, marketing managers, all kinds of developers, and so on.

You get the gist :P

Now onto our main topic this evening;

What does Jira do for project management?

Though Jira was originally developed for development teams to use, it's now a full-on project management tool that can handle any kind of project; which means that project managers use Jira for a variety of reasons.

Here are 6 ways project managers can use Jira:

Units of work in Jira are called "issues"; a project can be simple and include a few issues, or it can have hundreds of issues assigned to different teams and stakeholders.

Create issue types for better workflows in Jira
Structure issues in Jira

Being able to create your own issue types will allow you to specify workflows for those issues and the information that you want to see. Also, you can link issues in Jira together to create a relationship.

Jira is then used to track issues for every project and see how everyone on the team is progressing, with stakeholders collaborating by leaving comments on issues and tagging others.

2. Monitor and report to manage teams

Given Jira is what teams naturally use to deliver work, it gives out valuable data on the real status of project deliverables, such as who's working on what, estimation, time tracking and so on. As a project manager you can make use of this information and use reporting capabilities in Jira, alongside agile features that help teams structure and deliver work better.

If you're going to manage projects, you need to be able to track everyone's work at a glance. Jira's project reports include issue analysis, forecast and management reports that give real-time information on teams, deadlines and workloads. You couldn't get such reporting from spreadsheets!

Issue analysis project reports in Jira
Issue analysis reports in Jira
Jira forecast and management reports for projects
Forecast and management reports in Jira

Burndown chart with Swanly plugin
Burndown charts are a popular tool used in Agile and Scrum; they offer clear understanding of real-time release progress and they're great for tracking remaining time or effort. Kanban projects in Jira however lack the release burndown functionality out of the box, and so to get a good burndown chart in Jira, we use the Swanly project portfolio roadmap plugin!

Track time and effort with release burndown chart in Jira with Swanly
Release burndown chart in Swanly

3. Practice agile project management for flexibility

If you're wondering how to use Jira for agile project management, you'd need Jira Software - as opposed to Core and Service Desk - to take advantage of agile capabilities like Scrum and Kanban boards.

Scrum is the most used Agile method in 2020
Agile methods and practices for 2020

An agile approach means quick response to change and good collaboration. Users can choose to work with either Kanban, the long list of backlog tasks you can pick up as you go, or Scrum, the more iterative option with 1-2 week sprints, with improvement taking place as the project evolves.

In the digital.ai report on the state of agile, 58% of companies have reported that they use Scrum, making it the most popular agile method.

4. Work with components to structure better

If issues are getting a little hard to manage (say if you're dealing with a couple hundred) you can group issues together using components. The idea is to structure your work in such a way that you can easily create the reports you want.

Components will allow you to track time for example, see how much of it was spent working on the "navigation bar" feature specifically, in your latest release. And though components are a great way to structure issues in Jira, especially when it comes to reporting and automation, what about collaborating across projects?

Smart component management with Octo plugin

Manage your Jira components with Octo
Octo for component management in Jira

You can manage components in Jira alone, but what the Octo plugin brings to the table is that it allows you to own the same component across multiple teams and projects, as well as release native component versions and track work progress without having to link your release to a specific project; and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

For more on working with components in Jira and what you can do with them, check out this article!

5. Create and customize workflows for efficiency

Tasks and processes are managed in Jira through workflows. A workflow maps out all the steps and statuses any given task has to go through; and the processes.

Customize workflows for efficient work management in Jira
Customize workflows in Jira

If your workflow is a little more than "to do", "in progress", "done" then you're going to want to customize a process for each repetitive task. Workflows exist so that teams can stay on schedule and deliver what's expected of them more efficiently.

One of the great things about Jira is that it allows administrators to customize workflows while maintaining control with respect to how we transition from one step to the next. Plus, you can connect workflows to projects by using workflow schemes.

This is especially important for managing teams; scrum masters love it!  

6. Prioritize backlog to work on what's important

To put it simply, a Jira backlog is a to-do list that needs to be organized and prioritized. Nothing should happen before your overall strategy or blueprint is put in place.

  • First, the project manager/scrum master/product owner will develop a list of goals which will end up being a Jira roadmap with epics and user stories.
  • Then, they will review the entire Jira roadmap backlog with their team, a week before starting a sprint.
  • A backlog grooming session will then take place between a product owner and the team to make sure prioritization is done right; for more on grooming sessions, check out this article!
  • The team will then meet for the next planning session.

Data-driven prioritization with Foxly plugin
For something super simple, you could use the Kanban board that’s already built in Jira by going to Boards > [the name of your board] > Backlog tab.

Foxly plugin for Jira backlog prioritization with scoring
Backlog prioritization in Jira with Foxly plugin

But, if you're looking for something to help you deal with time, budget and resource constraints, you'll appreciate having a process that allows you to score (or quantify) the overall strategic value of a feature or task against others. Foxly is a fantastic option to look into!

Adapt Jira to your needs with plugins

Jira has many possibilities; the idea is to find an approach that works best for you. Most businesses will eventually add a couple of plugins to Jira to enhance abilities like tracking, reporting and prioritization. What's really great about Jira as a project management tool is that you've got a plethora of plugins to choose from, based on your type of business, type of project, and working ways.