Culture, Design, Process

Leveraging JIRA for Effective Project Management

Amy Holcomb — July 16, 2015

White Lion has been a part of the web development industry for over two decades, and throughout that time we have utilized a wide variety of project management tools and systems. Currently, the team leverages the Atlassian product suite – JIRA, Confluence and HipChat – to effectively manage all client work and internal projects.

The majority of our heavy lifting takes place through JIRA as a task management and project management tool. Some of the awesome benefits of JIRA include:

  • A sophisticated reporting system that allows careful monitoring of tasks, projects and budgets
  • The ability to monitor and track tasks through the development life cycle, AND the ability to customize that life cycle for the needs of each project or client
  • Collaborative communication tools and seamless integration with HipChat and Confluence
  • Dashboards, filters and Agile Boards to help manage and organize tasks across various clients & projects
  • Time tracking & reporting through the Time Tempo plug-in

Here is a more in-depth look at some of the features of JIRA, as well as an explanation of how we leverage these tools here at White Lion:

  1. Scrum Boards. JIRA scrum boards are the foundation of Agile project management in JIRA. As a project manager, scrum boards allow you to organize all of your tasks within an intuitive visual interface, keeping your project organized and on track. Each of our client projects at White Lion are setup with a scrum board so that the project manager can effectively manage work in progress. Scrum boards in JIRA also support the use of Sprints and a Project Backlog, both of which are helpful when planning a project and developing the timeline. Tasks can be created in the backlog, assigned to an Epic, estimated, and then scheduled into an upcoming sprint. The backlog becomes your project schedule, and development is managed one sprint at a time.Scrum Board
  2. Kanban Boards. Kanban boards are a great tool for managing non-project based work, and they also allow a project manager to oversee many different tasks and clients at a time. Many of our clients have routine updates that need to be made to their site, and in any given week we have a variety of tasks in progress for a variety of clients. Kanban boards allow project managers to simultaneously view and manage any number of tasks and their corresponding statuses. This helps keep all of our client work on track and organized, regardless of the number of tasks we are managing at once.

    Kanban board

  3. Issue Workflows. One of the very cool features of JIRA is the ability to customize a task workflow per project or client. Here at White Lion, we use one workflow for projects and a slightly different task workflow for maintenance updates and non-project work. We also have clients who require a unique workflow outside of our standard process, and JIRA gives us the ability to set up these customized workflows for each client so that we are accounting for every step in the development life cycle. This feature helps us in delivering customized and quality results to each of our clients.
    Project Workflow
  4. Issue Types. Another great feature of JIRA that we rely on heavily at White Lion is the use of Issue Types. JIRA comes with a variety of pre-packaged issue types, and it also gives you the ability to create new customized issue types. From a reporting standpoint, this allows the organization to see exactly how our hours are being spent – both by Project or client, AND by issue type. We use a variety of issue types such as Estimate, Task, Story, Support, Pro-Bono, etc. Time gets logged to each of these issue types across all of our clients & projects, and then we can run reports to see how much time is being spent on the various types of task. From a high-level perspective, this really helps us manage our time effectively and triage any problem areas immediately.Ticket Types
  5. Tempo Timesheets. The timesheet reporting feature that comes with the Time Tempo plug-in is another one of the important JIRA features that we leverage here at White Lion. The reports are quite customizable and allow you to view hours logged for any Task, Project, User or a filter of specific issues. There are several different views of the report that allow you to see hours logged by day or by issue. The reporting options are truly endless! This type of sophisticated reporting allows us to keep projects on budget, and ensure we are staying healthy with regards to resource allocation and capacity.

JIRA is a wonderful tool that can truly be customized to meet the needs of any software development organization. In fact, JIRA can go beyond the technology realm into every day life. I’ve had friends who plan their wedding using JIRA! It is a wonderful project management tool full of features, plug-ins and neat tricks that allow project managers and project teams to stay organized, focused and on track.

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