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Start with Why

I can't claim credit for the title. That goes to Simon Sinek and his fantastic book. But, it aligns to my overall point of view when it comes to administering the Atlassian suite of tools.

Saying "yes" to a request from a user or stakeholder to add a new field, issue type, status, or project is easy. It's relatively easy to learn how to do those things too. However, as Admins we are the stewards of these tools. We all want our users to succeed. And that means having a tool that is configured well, easy to use, reliable, and delivers value. 

Asking "why" is the single greatest question you can pose to your stakeholders when they make their requests. It's your job to know downstream and upstream impacts of changes you make to your Atlassian tools. It's so important to understand where the request is coming from and what has led to it being made in the first place. 

There's a big difference between giving your stakeholders what they ask for vs. what they actually need. Being the expert for the Atlassian tools you support provides a unique opportunity to unleash the full potential of your teams by showing your stakeholders and users that there is a better way. 

Don't be afraid to ask why. Don't be afraid to say no. Learn the processes of the teams you support. Seek them out. Be proactive. Don't just fulfill a request, provide a solution. And above all else, start with why. 

16 comments

Jack Brickey Community Leader Feb 17, 2022

Nice article @Josh Costella . Indeed getting to the actual requirement is key to delivering the best solution.

Like # people like this

Thanks Jack!

I couldn't agree more. I'm not an Admin, my roots are in Graphic Design. But it's the same thing if your mindset is to serve people in the best possible way: Don't just implement the requests, but ask for the reason behind it. Often times it turns out that you can help in a much better way if you understand the motivation or source need because you have a much more effective idea coming from your experience with the matter. PS: Yes, Simon Sinek is awesome and I love him. :)

Like # people like this

Nice, brief and succinct article, @Josh Costella  👍🏻

I'm not a Jira Cloud admin. I don't even play one on TV. Nonetheless, I constantly ask my team, why, when they present their ideas. Usually, three or four times until we discover the true essence of what they are trying to achieve. 

In other words, I think your advice is great advice in many situations. Thanks!

@Andreas Springer _Actonic_ Agreed on all of it!

Like Dave Rosenlund _Tempo_ likes this

@Dave Rosenlund _Tempo_ Thanks Dave! Glad to hear I'm not the only one who believes in it. 

Like Dave Rosenlund _Tempo_ likes this

Definitely. I'm struggling with this specifically at the moment. We have not educated our users (in I.T. in general) to explain what it is they are trying to achieve. They go straight for the solution but do not understand the implications of what they want, or that there might be an EVEN BETTER solution. "Why?" is one of the most important tools in our toolbox!

Like # people like this
Mykenna Cepek Community Leader Feb 17, 2022

In my former career as a software developer, I learned this too. Users often want to suggest a specific implementation of some new functionality. Even product architects and leads can fall into this trap. I learned to find ways to ask "What's the intention?" or "Help me understand the broader need for this change" -- basically trying to tease out the "Why?".

As an Atlassian Administrator, many people can approach us with specific requests. "I need a new column / status / custom field / workflow / etc". Sometimes they really don't. Sometimes there's a different solution that will better solve their need. Sometimes alignment and consistency across an organization means they won't quite get what they want.

Thanks, @Josh Costella, for helping us remember this important part of maximizing our service to our users.

Like # people like this

One of the best comments seen in a long time. It's really important to ask _why_. Both "why are you needing this" but also "why I am doing this".

It can be difficult to challange user request but often needed. Recently, a stakeholder wanted to relabel generic jira fields such as Summary and Description. What seems to be a relabeling issue at first will be added configuration complexity, followed by filter complexity and in the end failure to aggregate a management report and generally clottering data model understanding. On top of that add offboarding and onboarding of involved personnel. As always keep it as close to standard as possible.

Like Josh Costella likes this

I have experience of being admin for +10000 users where each user had their unique ideas on how to set up the ultimate configuration. My remedy was to set up a Community of Practice (CoP) where users could engage and discuss - I pulled a soda from the fridge and made some popcorns to watch the debate.

Advice is to stay above the waterline and focusing on the long-term roadmap instead of getting caught in all the details.

Like # people like this

Sometimes alignment and consistency across an organization means they won't quite get what they want.

Great point, @Mykenna Cepek

Also, even though you are asking these questions with the best of intentions, it often comes across as a negative answer and people might think you don't really want to do whatever request has been submitted to you, when in fact you want to do it right. It's quite ironic, really. So the next challenge is to handle the people involved in the right way to not appear as the "bad guy".

Like # people like this

💯 Same as with building the products it's similar to setting up Jira and administration... If we just say yes to every request without properly understanding why we might just end up with overcomplicated workflows and products that are hard to maintain. And at some point doing changes will be so hard, that you might just need to start over again :)

Like # people like this

Great article. This applies to so much more than Atlassian.  

Like Josh Costella likes this
Taranjeet Singh Community Leader Feb 18, 2022

That's a great piece of advice, @Josh Costella !

I agree to it and asking 'why' for a request or ask from the users is always on the top of my list in order to provide my customers/clients the best possible solution w.r.t. Atlassian tools implementation and usage.

Like Josh Costella likes this
Srinatha T Atlassian Team Apr 04, 2022

Nice article . Thanks for sharing. 

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