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Jira Day 2020 Remote Edition highlights, pt. 2: teams and tools

In the first part of the article, I wrote about answering the new world's needs and optimizing the processes. Now let's see how we can connect the teams and master the tools in the new reality.

Connecting the teams

That was about the customers. And what about the teams? As we should start with people and practices, business trainer Radosław Wyrzykowski showed how to improve communication and effectiveness inside a team using the Atlassian Team Playbook. While the research shows that despite all the available technology increases in productivity are the lowest in 30 years and 75% of cross-functional teams are actually dysfunctional, we still can improve the situation by focusing on opening up and getting to know each other more as humans than just coworkers. The Team Health Monitor and the recommended Plays can help us achieve just that and even more. During his presentation, Radosław compared genuine examples of a software team and a sports team he had worked with and concluded that they have much in common.

Here's the article he wrote for us describing it in detail.

Then Boris Berenberg, founder of Atlas Authority, talked about notifications - a truly sensitive topic for Atlassian users. Statistically, people in the USA receive an average of 45.9 push notifications per day and check their email 15 times per working day, or every 37 minutes. After each notification, it takes them up to 23 minutes to refocus on what they were doing before getting distracted. The question is, how much work can be actually get done when we can't stay uninterrupted for more than half an hour? Some common practices to deal with this are not having access to work email on the personal smartphone, pausing incoming emails whatsoever, or turning on Focus Mode in the team communicator if available. But systems like Jira inform us about the updates on the tasks we participate in by email... Many people simply turn off all Jira notifications or automatically read and archive them, which makes them harder to reach and share information with. In their turn, synchronous chats like Slack and Mattermost are often flooded with irrelevant information and distract us even more, as we can engage ourselves in a side discussion instead of getting work done. Not to blame the communication media itself, we should rather change our behavior and set up our tools in a way that helps us reduce the number of people who receive our notifications and reduce the number of notifications we receive.

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Even though people and practices are the core of a successful business, we can't forget that remote work isn't even a thing without proper tools. David Toussaint, Head of Products at Communardo, counted four crucial elements of the digital workplace:

  • a transparent knowledge base;
  • a communication means other than email;
  • an easy-to-use document management system;
  • and an employee center for submitting internal requests and searching for contact information.

Unfortunately, on most occasions all these are separate tools: according to the IDC Research report, 61% of knowledge workers regularly accessed 4 or more systems to get the information they needed to do their jobs in 2015. Integrating those systems tightly, or even putting them all on the same platform, has been a huge thing in the last years. Not only does it help the employees - but it also makes the IT side of the system much easier to handle.

Mastering the tools

Of course, a lion's share of the talks was about the use of Atlassian tools, but still, the topics were pretty much on the spot with the current situation. As an example, Karolina Przybysz-Brunet, Precision Medicine Diagnostic Information Manager at AstraZeneca, showed how they use Jira boards to manage clinical research data. This is a mission-critical area in most pharmaceutical companies, which depends on designing a reliable, secure, and compliant data repository, and setting up the process so that it doesn't take too long. Despite being very structured and sequential by design, clinical data management projects turned out to benefit a great deal from implementing Agile methodologies that increased the company's competitive advantage through fast test iteration and rapid response to change. For this purpose, optimal time and resource management tooling are also required, especially in an interdisciplinary and distributed team. Planning sprints and tracking execution in Jira gave Karolina and her crew complete visibility of the project as well as transparency in presenting to the stakeholders.

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Here's how such a Jira board would look like in the case of managing COVID-19 vaccine research

Then Adam Fejcher and Wojtek Drożdż from Nielsen presented an interesting way of managing users who have sensitive information within their profiles without having to be a Jira admin. They've created a separate project secured by permissions where an issue represents a user. Each change in these issues would trigger a script performing a change in the user directory such as creating users, managing group memberships, deactivating accounts, etc. This way, they have all the information in the audit log, create detailed reports, and can bulk update user information.

In his turn, Wojciech Miecznikowski from Santander Bank Polska showed the admin side of Jira by sharing top tips for managing an all-encompassing instance shared across a large company. While Jira is a flexible and versatile system, it requires a lot of effort to make it work for different teams and the whole organization. Maintaining its performance and security is also an increasing challenge along with the variety of settings and apps used. Some ways to deal with such a situation are planning growth and scaling, proper custom field management, using REST API and scripts for automation, and regular performance audits.

Jira Day online experience

All the time during the event, our crew were on the backstage making this event come true and preventing it from fail. On the front line, there was our one-and-only host Julian Jeliński, who with his blind dog Kulon kept the morale high between the talks and chatted with the participants. He brought a bit of fun to the seriousness of the conference by introducing the Movie T-shirt Day and the Weird Mug Day (actually, he had a different weird mug every day).

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As we’ve already mentioned, we tried to let the participants not only to listen to the presentations but also to ask questions. Ask Me Anything sessions in our agenda were fully dedicated to answering questions related to Jira, Jira Software, Jira Service Desk, Marketplace apps, project management in Jira, incident management with OpsGenie & StatusPage, migrations & upgrades, CMDB, and asset management. The answers came from Deviniti certified experts who implement IT and business processes in different organizations all around the world on a daily basis, dealing with system-level topics, application engineering, Jira customization, and developing solutions based on the Atlassian stack.

In April, we joined forces with Grape, an Austrian company, the creators of a great communication tool (of the same name). During the event, we used Grape as a chatting platform where we could exchange thoughts, ask questions, and, most importantly, feel that we were a part of the event community. The chat buzzed with discussions almost all the time during the event, as we were networking and making friends just as if we were at the National Stadium again. An impromptu afterparty (called Lava Party) in a Zoom meeting room was a pleasant bonus for those who joined us there as well.

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Here's how the Grape platform looked like

We also had a contest just like the year before. We could score points for different activities such as presentation attendance, taking part in conversations in Grape, and answering questions and quizzes on our social media channels. People shared photos of themselves, their pets, their mugs, their lava lamp rockets, and all the stuff around them during our journey, which was truly fantastic. We've proved that we can conquer the universe with the right people, practices, and tools!

fotos 1920x1080.pngIf you couldn’t join us at Jira Day Remote, you can still experience it! Until July, you can access all the recorded talks and sessions. Check out the conference webpage and join the virtual exploration of the Atlassian galaxy with us.

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