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A few questions about capabilities

GregPearson October 31, 2022

We are considering turning on capabilities in Jira Align and saw some warnings about doing so, have a few questions I'm hoping someone can shed some light on.

1) What happens to the link between a feature and an epic initiative if I turn on capabilities? Does it completely disappear? If it does, is it permanent?

2) We were thinking about turning it on for just one portfolio for now, is that a bad idea? I don't think we have multi-programs enabled but I'm not sure really what that is or where I check to be sure.

3) The warning says capabilities can't be turned off once they are turned on, does that mean literally there is no way to turn them off or are there just certain things that can't go back to the way they were?

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Rae Gibbs
Atlassian Team
Atlassian Team members are employees working across the company in a wide variety of roles.
November 1, 2022

@GregPearson Turning on capabilities in Jira Align is definitely something to think through and should be considered by portfolio. It is not necessary to turn on capabilities for all portfolios, nor should you do so as a default. Make sure you have a clear understanding of why you need capabilities and what they are going to represent. Doing this in haste, can create an unneeded layer of work and potentially create user friction with the tool if they do not have a defined intended use. 

When capabilities are turned on, it creates a different hierarchy of work items as follows (Portfolio) Epics > Capabilities > Features (Jira Epics) > Stories. Capabilities become a parent to features and a child to epics. Due to this, when they are turned on, any parent/child relationships between portfolio epics/features will be broken. Capabilities will need to be created from epics and then features will need to be parented to those capabilities in order to get the full connection of work items. When capabilities are turned on, there is no way to parent features directly to epics.

Once capabilities are turned on for a portfolio, there is no way to turn them off. That's why my first statement is so important. There is no going back. If after turning them on for a portfolio, there is a realization that this was not the correct decision, the only way to remedy this is to create a new portfolio and leave capabilities off. There will be integration impacts that will need to be addressed along with moving data from the original portfolio to the new portfolio which could be a HUGE level of effort.

I found another Community Article written by one of our Product Managers that may help provide some more insight into the work item hierarchy and intended use of capabilities.

Hope this helps with some of the questions you had!

GregPearson November 1, 2022

Thank you, @Rae Gibbs that is enormously helpful. I think I just have one more question for now, how do I know if I have multiple programs turned on? I saw a note that it can cause reporting irregularities and I don't think we have that turned on but I would like to be positive.

Rae Gibbs
Atlassian Team
Atlassian Team members are employees working across the company in a wide variety of roles.
November 1, 2022

When you ask about checking to see if you have multiple programs turned on, are you referring to the ability to assign multiple programs to features (Jira epics)? If so, that is controlled by the Approach toggle in the Details Panels Settings. Those settings are also by portfolio.

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GregPearson November 1, 2022

I think that is likely it, but the message is a bit vague. This is from the popup when I click “yes” to turning on capabilities for a portfolio (note, I didn't actually go through with turning them on yet):

 Capabilities will be turned on for this Portfolio only.

If Multi-Programs is turned on then you should not have a mixture of portfolios that have Capabilities on and off (This could result in unusual reporting rollups).

Rae Gibbs
Atlassian Team
Atlassian Team members are employees working across the company in a wide variety of roles.
November 2, 2022

Ah, I see what you are referring to. That may be old messaging that is no longer an issue. At the (portfolio) epic level, it is possible to select multiple programs and programs that belong to different portfolios. This ability is on by default and cannot be changed. However, if a program is selected on an epic that has capabilities turned on, it will not allow selection of an additional program that does not have capabilities turned on; and vice versa. There may have been a time when the tool worked differently.

Going back to my last reply that was related to features (Jira epics), it is also possible for features to span multiple programs across different portfolios. Only difference from epics is that it is controlled by the Approach toggle. When that is enabled, it behaves the same as described in the paragraph above.

With that being said, we don't recommend multi-programs be turned on for features period. When integrating with a team tool like Jira, not even considering capabilities, this can create syncing issues. Prior to Atlassian acquiring Jira Align, it was sold as a full stack tool where companies used it at the team level as well. The multi-program ability on features was not problematic. However, once Atlassian acquired JA, it was no longer sold as a full stack tool. Then when using it primarily in integrated environments, some of Jira Align's options were no longer recommended to use because of syncing complications. Multi-program approach on features was one of them.

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GregPearson November 2, 2022

That makes sense. I confirmed the Approach toggle is not turned on here.  Thanks for all the guidance!

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