We often hear variations of the “I hate Jira” refrain, but why? I know I don’t hate it. I know many entities that would easily be considered members of humanity who don’t hate it. I even know a significant number of humans not in the Atlassian profession who like Jira a lot or, dare we say, love it.
So one day when someone said to me, “if you hate Jira, talk to your administrator,” it stopped me dead in my tracks. When you hear it put so succinctly, the solution is obvious: good old communication. You could help yourself and others to not hate Jira simply by talking to your administrator.
As with any other workplace technology, Jira is only effective when we think about the humans using the system to do real things. After all, humans are the key to digital transformation — not technology. The disconnect occurs when the humans are not communicating with the technology leaders. As an experienced Jira administrator, I have seen this and suggest a few ideas to stop the Jira hating and ensure this powerful tool is doing what it needs for your team.
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When using Jira is a square peg in a round hole
You may be feeling (or even experiencing the reality) that Jira is one of many things making processes more difficult than necessary, doesn’t fit how your organization works, or is even a big imposition.
Disclaimer: Suggestions in this section assume:
- Your organization is receptive to feedback. You don’t have a corporate or externally imposed mode of operation causing complaints/suggestions to break like waves on the rocks.
- You have an administrator sympathetic to your Jira user base.
Even with the disclaimer satisfied, your mileage may vary but the worst that can happen is nothing… so away we go. Here’s how to approach your organization’s administrator to help you get more from Jira.
Ask your Jira administrator who thought this workflow was a “Good Idea?”
Workflows are a common sore point. They can be any of:
- Too complex — they force you to go through all steps all the times when many of them are exception-type steps.
- Not complex enough — there is an appeal to a simple workflow but sometimes “In Progress” means many things and it would be nice to have statuses or flag fields to reflect that.
- “What the <insert expletive of your choice> is this? Nothing here means anything to me.”
In fairness, the workflow you are living with might actually have been a good idea at some point in the mists of history, but the grand experiment didn’t turn out as expected. Times change! There’s nothing wrong with changing a workflow because the experiment was a flop.
Before you go talk to your administrator, work out what you really need the workflow to look/feel like. It should feel like home to you. Jira is, as a core competency, a giant workflow engine. As such, it can be made to fit your needs regardless of your department, team, or discipline. Jira has successfully been used to operate entire organizations — not just the tech departments.
- Resist the urge to over-complicate (maintain a K.I.S.S. mindset).
- If you do need complexity, determine the rules for when it doesn’t need to be complex. It’s near certain some of that complexity actually is for exceptions.
- You may not be able to get Jira to work exactly as you expect. However, your administrator will be able talk through your requirements and provide an optimal solution.
- Your administrator may also have suggestions where they don’t deliver what you asked for but what you actually need.
- Your administrator lives this whole workflow world. In working with you, they may see ways to improve your suggestions or better deliver your requirements in actual practice.
- There may be an existing workflow that isn’t exactly what you have in mind but it completely supports your use case. Using one of these helps keep your environment simpler and has the huge benefit of more teams operating in the same manner for reporting and management purposes.
Jira pro tip: When working out what you need, determine your “what” items. The “what” is what you want to happen in your process. Try very hard to avoid stating “how” items, such as fields you think you need or even what project type you should have. Work with your administrator on how you get there. It might be just how you thought it might be, not even close to how you thought it might be, or somewhere in the middle.
Your administrator can help you with data integrity
It seemed like a Good Idea. You didn’t want to capture too many fields of data or have too much structure imposed. However, “just put everything in the description” is almost always a Bad Idea. Consider the list of U.S. states. Later on, when you want to know how many of whatever is associated with California, a free text field will have “California,” “CA,” and “Cal” as but a handful of variants you may have to search for.
Likewise is the concept of using a “labels” field for selectivity. It sounds just lovely to “let the users be able to flag issues as they need to,” but that merely means that you have as many methods of flagging/categorizing issues as you do users. Worse are those cases where the label “not-a-good-idea” was intended but what got entered was “not a good idea,” leaving us with four labels: “not,” “a,” “good,”and “idea”.
Ask your administrator how to help you with your data capture and usage. Your administrator has many tools in the toolbox to help make data capture rigorous and painless. Coupled with workflows, the right data at the right time will be entered without undue pain. Without data rigor, eventually something will be missed and It Will Be Bad.
Perhaps overtly blaming spreadsheets is a bit of a broad supposition. However, it is far too easy to create 1000+ row spreadsheets spanning to column QS and scroll around to find stuff. Many humans will default to using a spreadsheet as a database, albeit a bad one, thus creating a plethora of non-rigorous information silos. We can be sure that the simplicity of entering and then finding some specific datum is at least one impetus.
Conversely, for users trying to find their way through Jira, finding that one elusive bit of information seems insurmountable.
Ask your administrator to teach you how to find things.
Of all the things you could do, this one pays the biggest dividends. You’ve put stuff into this benighted system. You may wish to see it again for a variety of reasons. Just the ability to get stuff back turns much of the hate into at least tolerance and, often, even liking Jira.
Let’s be honest. Jira doesn’t make it easy for a new user to find information. There’s a “Search” block that is… limited. There isn’t an obvious way that gets you to a less limited method. Once you get to the less limited method, “Basic Mode” may be point-and-shoot but it does nothing to help you along the way and actually impedes simplicity. “Advanced Mode” looks alarming to those just starting out. However obtuse it may seem, this is the easiest and best way to go.
We offer a cheat sheet that is an excellent primer for using JQL (Jira Query Language). While these might be enough, reach out to a Jira Administrator for 30 minutes of their time. Ask them to walk you through some search scenarios with your project(s) and your data. Once you’ve seen it in your context at least once, Jira will seem to transform, if not to an eager-to-please puppy, into a dog that doesn’t often growl.
Don’t harbor ill will
Here you are hating Jira. A lot. Perhaps you are in an environment where a way to operate is imposed on you and/or your Jira administrators really don’t care what you need. It happens.
That said, you don’t know if you don’t ask!
A Jira administrator can’t fix what they don’t know is a problem. You may be struggling with something that causes you great angst when a 5-minute chat with your administrator and mere minutes of work by them makes it just…go away. They likely would have made that fix long ago had they known about it.
These might seem like micro examples, but fixing individual pain points has a macro effect across the organization. The effort to make Jira work better for users is never lost. If users don’t hate, or even enjoy using Jira, this will foster significantly improved engagement and adoption across the organization.
I have worked on a case where Jira was largely reviled across the organization. With patience and work, engagement is significantly higher, adoption requests have skyrocketed, and the value added that wasn’t even a radar blip reached the visibility of the CEO.
The above are only a handful of examples that often have simple(ish) solutions so please reach out. Almost all of us truly want to help, not many of us growl, and even fewer actually bite.
We’re waiting to hear from you.