To state the obvious: Jira is an extremely popular project management and issue tracking software. According to Atlassian, it’s used by 125,000+ teams worldwide.
Around 20% of product managers use it for prioritisation, according to a survey by product manager Kate Bennet.
However, like much complex software, it can be hard to use. How do you get it to work well for you as a product manager, as well as for the rest of your team?
In this article, I’ve gathered together advice from product managers on these topics:
- How to use Jira across multiple teams
- How to connect Jira and product roadmaps
- How to manage feedback using Jira
- How to avoid adding complexity
- Useful Jira integrations
How to use Jira across multiple product teams
If you need to scale up your teams and initiatives across one product, then Jira Software can struggle.
Jira Software gives a good view of a single project, but it does not grant convenient visibility across several projects of the progress of interdependent tasks, or the teams responsible for them.
— Automation consultants
This is one reason why Jira came up with Portfolio for Jira, their agile roadmapping app.
Jira Portfolio can help scale up teams and initiatives
Key features of Jira Portfolio for product managers include:
- Input a backlog of ideas and build a roadmap
- Play with ‘what if’ scenarios
Read more on using Portfolio as a product manager in this Atlassian blog post.
Pricing starts from $10 flat rate for up to 10 users and $3.50/user for 11-100 users (for Jira Cloud). Here is the pricing page for Portfolio. They also offer a 30 day free trial.
Jira Portfolio was a massive help when we needed to scale up across a few teams and multiple initiatives within one product. We found Jira Portfolio was an opportunity to:
- Experiment very quickly with initiative break downs and establish the approach that worked for us
- Map our epics very quickly to portfolio initiatives and it was a very fast and seamless integration and onboarding
- It was very easy to onboard other teams and team members as this was a familiar enviroment to work with
- It enables a quick forecasting of effort, required resource and delivery plans within given scope
- It is brilliant for road maps
— Anna Gorak
However, not all users have been impressed. The ‘smart’ scheduling algorithm seems to have attracted particular criticism for not being easy to override (and for not being very smart). You can read reviews of Jira portfolio on the Atlassian marketplace.
If you decide not to use Jira Portfolio, then you can work out your own process using core Jira software. This scaling case study is on the Atlassian community forum:
The way we managed to scale is: We divided persons by their area of expertise into “micro-teams”. They all are sitting within the same Jira project (Lets say Jira project A).
All the micro-teams have their own scrum board therefore their own backlog and sprints. So Jira project A has many boards: Scrum board for Team 1, Team 2 and Team 3. And we also have a Kanban board for Jira Project A.
Now the idea is that we have all the workflow statuses alligned in between all the boards. (You can add more statuses if you like) so in principle if I have issue moved from “ToDo” to “InProgress” it will show correct status in every board.
Now to show all items in kanban board and only team 1 items in Team 1 scrum board: We use labels. Meaning we use our kanban board to label issues per team and our microteam scrum boards are configured to show only issues with label: Team_x.
Read more to see how their product manager tracks issues on different projects
How to connect Jira and product roadmaps
If you don’t feel that Portfolio is the right roadmapping tool for you, then there are plenty of other options that integrate with Jira.
On the Atlassian Community Forum, Justin Rath describes how his organisation is testing a mix of Asana and Jira by way of the Unito plugin.
This way we can use Asana to:
Create our pre-backlog list of feature requests and bugs (changing the status of an item will automatically create a JIRA ticket)
Use the roadmap tool in Asana. It is so much easier to use and has much better features. The roadmap tool allows you to turn each list item into a bar that can be resized across time - when the bar is resized, the length of time and dependancies also change. Another huge benefit is that multiple product roadmaps can be rolled up into one so that our head of product can get a holistic view.
How to manage feedback with Jira
If you want to organise and vote on feedback then you can do this with Jira.
Martyn Winsen of the Atlassian team suggests the following approach to a customer wanting to track public feedback:
What you are describing is similar to the way Atlassian uses jira.atlassian.com as our public jira instance to track bugs / feature requests raised by customers.
We use a Jira Software project where each issue represents a bug or a feature request. Other customers can then vote on these.
If the idea for the new feature or product is simple enough it can be described in a Jira issue. If you need a more complex proposal you can create a page in Confluence and link to the page from the Jira issue.
However, using Jira for organising, tracking and voting on feedback does have its limitations:
- Only people with an account on your Jira installation can vote, and you do need to pay per user for Jira
- Each internal user can vote once so proxy voting on behalf of customers doesn’t work very well
- The voting is not an immediately obvious feature in Jira, so you would need to explain to team members what to do
For these reasons, Jira works best as a way for internal users to vote on a roadmap. Even then, you might find it a bit unwieldy.
If you’re looking for a nimbler and more purpose-built way to handle feedback, then an online feedback board with voting functionality – and of course a Jira integration – is worth exploring.
Here at Feature Upvote we offer a 30 day free trial so you can see if our feedback boards with Jira integration work for you (true story: we created Feature Upvote because we found it difficult to track and qualify feedback with Jira).
This is an example of a Feature Upvote product idea board
How to avoid adding complexity
Decide if you really need more than one project
Jira can quickly get complex when you have multiple projects. So do you need more than one project?
Just create one Jira project for your organisation. You can then take full advantage of widgets, dashboards, reporting tools, etc. to slice & dice up separate actual projects and get separate views for separate project teams using other filters.
This approach is likely to be suitable for smaller organisations and depends on how disparate your projects are.
Clement Kao on Product Manager HQ suggests that for multiple platform products with one team per platform, you should:
Create one Jira project for each platform. This way, teams can independently own their own Jira project setups. In my past experience, I’ve found that front-end teams work differently from back-end teams, and forcing everyone to use the same structure or project creates unnecessary friction.
However if you have one team working across all platforms, then Kao recommends using one Jira project with labels:
Label each ticket with its platform. By using labels, you can create filters that enable your team to quickly get a sense of what distribution of work you have, or you can parcel out particular kinds of tickets to people with particular skill sets.
Get on top of dependencies
You can use issue links in Jira to see whether there are tickets that are dependent on one another.
Jira links can help streamline your Jira workflow
Specifically, you can use the ‘blocks’ link to keep ahead of bottlenecks. This is more effective than the ‘is related to’ relationship in Jira for understanding what needs to get sorted quickly and what doesn’t.
Clement Kao also suggests:
For issue dependencies, it’s best to first create a technical document outside of Jira that describes the overall end-to-end solution. That is, if you need a feature for mobile, your document should lay out the goals for that feature, and then lay out what technical work is required across layers to achieve it. From there, you can then create your tickets by using your document as a guide.
Integrate Jira with your help desk
If you haven’t already integrated Jira with your helpdesk software, then consider whether this will save your team time. It should make communication between your sales and development team much simpler.
Steve McLeod, founder of Poker Copilot, says:
We use our help desk’s Jira integration. When a customer reports a problem that customer support can’t immediately solve, with a click we can add it to Jira so that the dev team are notified and can take over.
Other useful Jira integrations
These integrations have all been suggested by product managers. If you have a suggestion please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Xray supports automated and manual tests, and can be used to test case management, software testing and quality assurance in Jira. It tracks individual tests, each in their own Jira issue, in a format that can be used for automation.
If your team already uses Trello, then the Jira integration (or ‘Jira Power-up’ in Trello lingo) is ideal. Create from scratch or link existing Jira issues to Trello cards. See an attached Jira issue’s status, priority, assignee, and more.
If you’re familiar with GitHub already, then Bitbucket does a fairly similar job and is Atlassian owned, making integration easy.
Jira and Product Management
Jira can be an outstanding tool for product managers. It is flexible, powerful and has an entire ecosystem of tools with which it integrates.
However, it can also be complex, infuriating and confusing, particularly given that Atlassian sometimes prefers you to use it in a certain way (in connection with their other tools, for example).
This article should set you on the road to solving some of your problems with Jira, by learning how other product managers have tackled similar problems.
If you’d like to contribute to this article please get in touch. I’d love to hear from you! You can email me at email@example.com.
Track and qualify customer feedback with Feature Upvote
If you are a product manager using Jira who wants to surface the best customer ideas in one organised place, then we can help.
Our feedback boards have no learning curve for contributors and can be quickly set up.