You like tracking things, projects, tasks and progress? Alone or within a team?
You heard or you are familiar with Agile development?
JIRA is the tool for you.
What is JIRA?
JIRA is the Agile methodology as a software manifestation and it excels at its mission of providing teams with a great framework that implements Agile.
What is Agile?
Software companies and their teams were struggling with a problem 15+ years ago. Getting projects / tasks done was taking way too long and delivering a product could take around 20+ months. So by the time you finished the project your software was obsolete because of the fast way technology was / is progressing.
Something had to done to tackle this issue in software development. Software companies needed to come up with a way for dealing with change and planning.
People found a solution these issues and it was called Agile.
Agile brought with it better visibility, better prioritization, quicker task handling, improved teamwork through better collaboration and communication. This way teams and managers are being provided with better predictability while working on a project.
Do you have some tasks for me?
The basic principle of tasks can be described as eliminating the possibility of waiting in the middle of a task. Tasks and collections of tasks need to be distinguished clearly beforehand. Tasks need to be specific and well defined so we minimize the possibility of waiting. Another characteristic that a task has is a certain time-frame so it should be longer than 2-3 days nor shorter than 30min-1h.
You want to hear a story?
As mentioned, your tasks should have a certain time-frame but how much time is needed for a specific task? That is a question you will have to think about and make realistic estimations based on task complexity or approximate amount of work a task has. In JIRA these estimations are expressed in the form of story points.
An example of story points:
1 SP = A short and easy task of max 1 hour,
2 SP = A small easier task of max 2 hours,
3 SP = A task that takes half a work day / 4 hours,
5 SP = A task that needs a whole work day / 8 Hours,
8 SP = A task that takes 2 work days,
13 SP = A task that takes 3 work days
This is just an example, you can choose the points in what ever sequence it fits you and your team.
The translation to hours is for visualization purpose and shouldn’t really be thought of that way but rather describe something like the complexity of a task.
As you do this you get better and better with your estimations and you are able to predict things much better. The story points should also be unified through out your company so things don’t get mixed up.
Scrum? Yea, I played rugby as kid?
Yes, you’re right but today we want to describe an agile concept with the same name – Scrum.
Scrum is a software development framework for managing product / project development in an incremental and iterative fashion.
It is designed for teams of developers that are working on a product and have deadlines they have to meet. In scrum you and your team organize task lists in collections. These collections are called “sprints” in the scrum dictionary.
Plans, Backlogs, Sprints and more…
In JIRA and Agile we have the basis of tasks that carry certain story points and are organized in a certain fashion / plan mode. The main part of the plan mode in JIRA is the backlog where all the tasks are contained. These tasks in the backlog are broken down / added into iterations / sprints, e.g., 2 week, 3 week, 4 week sprints (usually 2 weeks).
Want to get in shape? Do some Sprints!
These sprints start with talking with and receiving criteria and requirements from the product owner (the person requesting the work) upon which the development team organizes and estimates how much work can be done in the sprint.
At the end of the sprint the two parties meet again (product owner and development team) where the work done is presented upon which the PO accepts or rejects the work based on the requirements agreed upon at the beginning of the sprint.
So the two paragraphs above are a simple description of an iteration / sprint.
This is Epic!
With JIRA you can also group / filter your tasks with epics. Epics can be described as tags that you can attach to your tasks and later use these to filter tasks.
You may define / use epics as you like so they could be, e.g., projects, categories, etc.
Let’s get some work done!
After you added the tasks to the backlog and created a sprint by adding tasks from the backlog to the sprint you can finally start working. At this point you will be using the work mode in JIRA.
The most basic and general work mode is divided into 3 columns:
You or a scrum master, will move tasks through these columns based on their status / stage. You can design the work flow as you like and add columns / stages like code review, etc.
Having a hard time visualizing progress?
JIRA burndown charts are there to provide you with easy to understand progress.
The grey line is the guideline and the red line shows you how well you are keeping up with the schedule of a sprint. If you add tasks to your sprint the red line will move up which can make it a bit or a lot harder to finish your sprint on time.
One of the main purposes of burndown charts is to increase your ability of estimating how much work can be done in your sprints.
Kanban? That’s the scheduling system invented by the Japanese, right?
Yes, you are right. So now we know that agile borrowed a few terms from others.
Kanban is also another agile concept that is, of course, incorporated into JIRA. Kanban is for teams that don’t have deadlines, e.g., support or service teams. Kanban teams only have a list of prioritized tasks that don’t really end and there are no sprints or plans but only a list that keeps updating and the team runs through the tasks as fast as possible.
Just a sec. Let me make a quick search…
Whenever you have the need of finding something in your project, JIRA will help you with three types of search tools.
Quick search is for simple searching when you don’t have a lot of parameters.
Basic search is there to help you find things with better precision using a wider range of parameters.
Advanced search provides high precision searches with JQL (JIRA Query Language). JQL provides search capabilities the other two (quick and basic) search tools don’t have.
That’s all about JIRA for now.