The Trouble with Jira

The Trouble with Jira

The trouble with Jira isn’t (only) the trouble with Jira. It’s rather the way it gets used.

Remember “Context is king” – Jira might well be an excellent bug-tracker. As an Agile and Kanban tool the opinions definitely differ. From my personal experience with many real life implementations I would say that Jira is one of the bigger issues preventing an agile mindset. People from the Lean and Agile communities tend to agree in private conversations (and some even say things along that line of reasoning on twitter).
But as soon as corporate reality strikes, those voices get less loud and the conversation shifts more towards “It can be made to work – millions of users can‘t be that wrong.”

Well, if we have to “make do with what procurement decided to buy”, here are some things I consider to be vital to make it at least not unbearable.

Something like Jira should be a tool. But it should be only one tool. Amongst others. Not the ”one tool to rule them all.”

As long as you have

  • enough machines available to permanently display uncomfortable information (and a way to secure them from unwanted access) (Permanent: Without exchanging content every few seconds – yes, that might mean e.g. two different machines, or at least displays, for boards at portfolio level and at team level. In the same room. Gasp!)
  • enough rights for the people who actually use the boards to edit boards on the fly (and the same for workflows, if they choose to do so) whenever the teams needs to
  • enough knowledge in the teams to be independent from central administration
  • the willingness, tools, and knowledge to generate additional information (mostly statistics) outside of Jira

you’ll probably be fine. (-ish)

Otherwise – in my experience – you’ll soon hit a glass ceiling consisting of (amongst other things):

  • change cycles (to Jira related things) that take longer than an iteration
  • information buried in dashboards that are theoretically available but never looked at
  • Reliance on Jira-provided graphs and numbers (not exactly tailored to your needs)
  • An unwillingness of people at all levels to gradually modify their processes
  • a general agile-tool-fatigue

Oh, and on an –not really- unrelated note: You can copy and modify a lot of things in Jira – even if you don’t have the rights to change the original.

till next time
  Michael Mahlberg

P.S.: Of course one could blame Atlassian – the company behind Jira – for introducing all those access control mechanisms and thus promoting a command and control culture in the first place.
But that really wouldn’t be fair. After all, the core of Jira is a ticketing system. Designed to control people by means of centrally designed workflows.

The whole part that Atlassian sells as “Agile” nowadays used to be a plugin, called “greenhopper.” And if customers demand “Tools to enforce Processes to control the Interactions of Individuals” then why should Atlassian remove those restriction. Oh, wait there was Individuals and interactions over processes and tools, … well… Of course there also is …and we have mandatory processes and tools to control how those individuals (we prefer the term ‘resources’) interact

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