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Why Jira Align Implementations Fail

I’m asked regularly why some Jira Align implementations fail and others succeed. Here are some of the failure patterns I’ve seen over the years that should be considered by organizations of all sizes.

No Executive Champion – First and foremost is the lack of a senior executive’s active involvement and guidance of the process and tooling effort. Closely tied to this is multiple silos each owning parts of the effort.

Wrong Integration Partner – There are only a few experienced integration leads who understand Jira Align’s full scope currently in the consulting space.  Successfully implementing all levels and features correctly requires skills and knowledge that most don’t have regardless of the marketing. Evaluate and choose wisely.  

“It’s only a technical effort” – Many implementations start as a technical effort. At some point leaders recognize this is an agile mindset transformation as much as a technical effort or it fails.

Too much Team-Centric Focus – Many companies moving to agile focus on team-level agility. They often let each team configure Jira as they want. The company therefore effectively optimizes at the team level and sub-optimizes at the org level. Implementing Jira Align forces an inversion – optimizing at the org level to deliver the insights needed to make strategic decisions

Jira Align isn’t Jira – Tied to the issue above is the very real impact of assuming that Jira Align works like Jira Software including “if I can do it in Jira it’s agile” and “Jira Align should support whatever Jira allows.” Jira is a bug-tracking/work-tracking system; and being in Jira doesn't make it agile. Jira Align supports agile at scale; a successful implementation requires the correct configuration of both systems to work as intended. Implementations get bogged down or fail if this isn’t understood.

Not Adopting a Standards-Based Approach – One of the biggest failure patterns is resisting adopting company-wide team-level standards that enable alignment via Jira Align from the organizational to the team level. When data doesn’t roll up to provide needed insights executives don’t see value in Jira Align.

Adopting a Big Bang Approach – If an implementation has survived despite suffering from many of the challenges above, there is often a desire to “make up for lost time” by adopting a Big Bang Approach – get the entire company into Jira Align after a few pilot groups. This has never been successful in my experience.

No Long-Term Training and Coaching – Finally, if an implementation gets to a point of success (usually defined in technical terms vs value delivered), victory is declared too soon. The lack of long-term, well-defined training and coaching in agile at scale, Jira Align, and using Jira as an agile tool result in Jira Align withering and dying a slow death.

In the end, those who succeed follow Robert Frost’s advice and take the road less traveled. Failure lies on the well-beaten path.

4 comments

Al Reid Atlassian Team Jul 07, 2022

Great content Peter!  Keep it coming.

Like Peter Jessen likes this
Bryan Smith Atlassian Team Jul 07, 2022

Good stuff Peter. To your comment about too much team centric focus I'm reminded of Demming's quote, "To optimize the whole, we must sub-optimize the parts.”

Like Peter Jessen likes this

This is so true with many implementations related to Agile and Program Management that I've seen done, not just a Jira Align thing. 

Like # people like this

Perfectly put Peter. Most customers at the end of Jira Align pilot implementation get that AHA! moment and realisation which basically exposes almost everything you mentioned. The ones with right mindset use the insights to drive change. Others try to pilot another product and get the same results.

Like # people like this

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