Which Jira Product is Best for You: Software, Portfolio, or Align?

   Atlassian

As an Atlassian Gold Solution Partner, Modus supports clients in all stages of the Atlassian lifecycle, from licensing, to enabling, to scaling, to training. Learn more about what we can do with Atlassian and talk to an expert on our partner page.

Jira is already widely known as the market-leading collaboration software. When Atlassian acquired AgileCraft, it added another powerful tool for enterprise management. With the tool now known as Jira Align and merged into the Jira family, users may be left wondering which one is best for them. What version of Jira is best for you? What are the differences between the three? Don’t worry. Our team’s vast knowledge of the Atlassian suite extends even to the newest addition to the family.

In this post we’ll discuss the features of Jira Software, Portfolio for Jira, and Jira Align, and when each of them fits your organization’s needs.

Jira Software

If you’re reading this post, we’re going to assume you’re familiar with Jira Software. Jira is Atlassian’s flagship product. Creation of workflows, team customization, and add-ons for improvement allow for team-level collaboration and project-level visualization across many of the world’s software teams. This is the version that nearly all Agile development teams will be familiar with.

Jira

Jira 1

But, Jira isn’t just for development teams! Business projects are well suited for other functional groups like HR or Legal, reinforcing Jira’s flexibility for teams. To learn more about how to use Agile boards to help Product teams manage the entire project, see Modus Atlassian Lead Chris Nicosia’s recent Atlassian User Group presentation.

Key Features

Jira is a must have for software development. Every team working should have a project board. Agile boards support for basic team scheduling and forecasting. This allows team leads to manage different releases/versions for specific projects, giving a more complete picture of a product.

Agile Reports

Agile Reports 1

One key feature in Jira is Agile Reports. This out-of-the-box tool offers a number of different prefab reports for each board. These board reports allow managers to see team or project-level reporting. Versions/releases can be added to your project and linked to tickets, which clearly demonstrates performance by teams or individuals.

Another feature to keep in mind is dashboards. Like many SaaS tools, dashboard widgets help surface data and reports from team boards. They are perfect for more senior managers looking at a company-wide picture. Additionally, there is some customization possible using JQL search filters to display custom reporting metrics, helping teams fill the gaps from the basic reports. With the ability to customize visibility for reports and dashboards, Jira offers the right mix of autonomy and transparency.

Jira Software is Perfect For:

Jira Software is perfect for teams of all sizes looking to effectively manage a project that does not need cross-team or organizational level planning and oversight.

Portfolio for Jira

Portfolio for Jira, informally called Jira Portfolio or just Portfolio, is a very powerful tool for planning and managing your teams and projects. A tool that keeps resources and tasks from slipping through the cracks. It has an easy-to-use interface that can be quickly adopted by existing Jira users.

Release Roadmap

Release Roadmap 1

Key Features

Portfolio is an add-on by Atlassian available in the Atlassian Marketplace. It enables teams to roadmap across teams and projects, or just a single project. Managing across teams is done with added levels for Themes and Initiatives, above the traditional Epics that we’re all accustomed to seeing in Jira.

Planning and forecasting releases using Portfolio is intuitive and straightforward – even across projects. Scheduling allows you to align with goals and check cross dependencies across individuals, teams and projects.

Schedule Planning

Schedule Planning 1

One of the many great features is the ability to quickly and easily review team and individual capacities. Portfolio can determine optimized, realistic resource allocation. It will conveniently forecast release dates, resource utilization, and bottlenecks.

Portfolio will, without additional plan configurations, forecast several critical aspects across projects:

  • Backlog item priorities
  • Release and sprint assignments
  • Estimates
  • Dependencies between backlog items
  • Team schedules

They make it possible to customize Portfolio’s forecasting by taking into account:

  • Team or individual availability
  • People skills
  • Work stages
  • Configurable constraints

Capacity Planning

Capacity Planning 1

Portfolio brings important information, like dependencies, to your attention immediately as changes are made in Jira. Updates across teams and projects, made in Jira, update your Portfolio planning, capacity, and schedules – keeping you on top of your schedule milestones.

Best Practices Using Portfolio:
  • You’ll want to clean projects and boards before they go into Portfolio to ensure data integrity
  • Team members can be shared across projects
  • You’ll need a designated team lead to maintain the Portfolio instance from the GUI side
Portfolio for Jira is Perfect For:

Organizations with multiple teams and projects in Jira that are looking for team-driven planning, and scaling up for cross-project and cross-team visibility.

Jira Align (Formerly AgileCraft)

When larger enterprise customers begin scaling agile, they often have multiple instances of Jira or other tools that enterprises need to get visibility across them to make decisions. This is where Jira Align is most effective: linking business and technology operations.

Dependency Maps

Dependency Maps 1

Key Features

The latest addition to the Atlassian tool suite can integrate and sync with Agile planning tools like Jira. In fact, it is similar to Portfolio for Jira, but has a few major differentiators from the other products. It offers a more comprehensive view of projects and financial context, perfect for organizations that need wide visibility on their technology operations.

That increased visibility means the tool enables greater financial management than other solutions. By relating budgets to development work, teams can determine how much a single story point is worth and roll up that data into reporting.

Notably, Jira Align offers full SAFe support. And, that’s not all, Align supports a range of other frameworks; LeSS, Disciplined Agile, and customized/hybrid frameworks. Atlassian recommends organizations looking at scaled Agile examine Align.

It is important to note that Jira Align is a separately managed, cloud-based solution. While Atlassian has declared that the tool will better integrate in the coming months, there is some functionality present in Portfolio for Jira that is not in Align, such as roadmaps.

Use Cases

Jira Align’s impressive power is a force multiplier at scale. When large organizations have to reconcile multiple Jira environments or Agile tools, or are undergoing an Agile transformation; scaling Agile practices across multiple teams within a company. It’s recommended that an organization have 20+ agile release trains and more than 400 users in order to see the full benefits of the scale of Jira Align.

This creates a shared responsibility to maintain the tool. Everyone from Scrum Masters, Product Managers, to Portfolio Managers can chip in.

Jira Align is Perfect For:

Mature organizations with large product organizations managing several product lines (400+ users, multiple release chains) in their portfolio and who are looking to scale Agile across the enterprise.

Conclusion

Hopefully this guide helped clear up any confusion! Based on the size of your enterprise, your product portfolio, and the complexity of your reporting needs, you can pick the best version of Jira. If you’re still not sure which one is right for you, or have other questions about the Atlassian suite, let us know!


1 All images credited to Atlassian


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