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Our experience in using Atlassian products: Jira tips

We’ve been using Atlassian products for as long as our company has been operating - some good 16 years. We’ve witnessed its growth from a simple bug tracking software to a cross-department work operating system for agile teams. Over the years, we’ve learned how we can utilize all the benefits of Atlassian products to match our unique needs. We’ve already mentioned Confluence, Jira Software, and Trello as indispensable tools we use to make remote work actually work. However, we’d like to dive deeper and share our little tips and tricks on using Jira Software in a non-traditional way; for tips on Confluence click here. We hope our experience will be helpful for all the digital-first agencies looking to step up their game. Here we go! 

Optimizing reporting with Tempo Accounts

Disclaimer: This hack makes sense only for midsize agencies that usually have many clients yet handle only one or two projects per client.

We use the power of the Tempo Time Tracking & Reports plugin in many ways, and its Accounts functionality is what saves us tons of time that would otherwise be spent on crafting project reports. If you are familiar with this tool, you already know that Accounts are primarily designed to keep issues from multiple Jira projects under one roof. In most cases, this roof is a client’s account. However, for software development agencies like Redwerk, this approach equals countless accounts for small and large projects, which is not super convenient in terms of company-wide reporting. Therefore, we decided to use Accounts to categorize all the projects we are working on into:

  • Billable
  • Internal
  • Estimates (Presales)

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This way, we can instantly see the correlation between the commercial and brand-development hours, which allows us to calculate profitability and take necessary actions. We can also generate a custom report in a matter of seconds, which is easily modified to suit our needs: we can filter the projects by accounts and link further details on users, issues, epics, versions, among other options.

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Monitoring utilization with Tempo Teams

Knowing how much time we need to complete a particular task is essential to our success as a service agency. The first thing our prospects inquire about is how soon we’ll be able to deliver a project and how much effort it involves. For our estimates to be accurate, we need a convenient time-tracking tool and easy access to this data. With Tempo Teams, we can logically divide all the tracked hours into smaller chunks, making utilization monitoring a quick and straightforward process.

Here is how we use Tempo Teams on a daily basis. If we work on a larger project, we group all the people working on it into a separate team. However, suppose a project manager handles several small projects. In that case, it is much more reasonable to merge all those professionals into one team so that checking individual workloads could be done in one click and within one screen. The latter approach is perfect for teams with fluctuating workloads, where a project manager is responsible for equal task distribution and timely HR alerts in case of an urgent need to expand the team. 

Prioritizing work with Jira Dashboards

The possibilities to set up a perfect Jira Dashboard are indeed plentiful, and every team decides for itself what filters to use to gain the desired performance boost and maximize efficiency. As for us, we rely mostly on two dashboards - My Issues and My Time. 

The My Issues dashboard allows every Redwerk employee to easily navigate through all of their issues, which we divided into the following categories:

  • In Progress
  • Assigned to Me
  • My Work Done
  • Waiting for My Feedback
  • My Work Waiting for Feedback
  • Me as Watcher
  • Me as Reporter

These widgets' names are pretty self-explanatory. Therefore, even newcomers having little to no experience with Jira Software can understand the logic behind this simple ticket categorization.

Another thing we love about Jira Dashboards is its sorting feature within the widgets. In a few clicks, we can view issues with the highest priority, group them by status, assignee, or due date.

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Having a horizontal organizational structure, we need our employees to be independent and self-organized, and the My Time dashboard is what helps them stay on track. With My Time, one can instantly see what projects consume the bulk of the time, what weeks are 40 hours full, and any instances of over-or underwork.

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Being a service agency, we use Dashboards not only for streamlining internal workflows but also for managing our clients' projects. Simply by visualizing data through some of our favorite gadgets, be it project pivots, pie charts, or created vs. resolved, we get immediate insights about our progress and thus can make data-driven decisions.

Staying on schedule with My Reminders

One of the major prerequisites to maintaining a good agency reputation is, of course, completing projects on time. Like you can’t highlight all the content as necessary, you can’t handle all the issues simultaneously. You need enough space to stay laser-focused on one task and then move on with a feeling of a job well done.

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So what do we do if we feel flooded with a bunch of important tasks? We open up our dashboard, forecast our workload for the coming weeks, and see if any lapses can be filled. If there are any, we click My Reminders and select the available date and suitable time for the email reminder to pop up. You may also find yourself in a situation when you know for sure no resources can be allocated for this task in the nearest time. So you simply choose one of the Remind Me presets - Tomorrow, In a week, In a month,  and take that burden off your shoulders.

Unlocking hidden potential of Epics

While Epics are primarily designed to define a large bulk of work that is further broken down into smaller chunks, we use them in an unconventional way that better fits our needs. As a software development agency providing fully managed services, we have some ongoing managerial and administrative tasks that do not belong to any other Epic. Moreover, along with developing new features, we provide software maintenance and support, and the latter tasks also require some sort of logical grouping. Therefore, we use Epics not only for functionality development tasks that have well-defined deadlines, but also for continuous project management and post-production tasks. This approach allows us to keep track of all the issues and easily create performance reports. The best part is that it makes viewing issues on our Kanban board much more convenient. Knowing which color designates which Epic, our project managers can easily navigate through issues on the board and shift their attention to the most critical ones.

Another significant advantage of grouping all issues into Epics is seeing how much time we have spent on completing a particular set of tasks, which helps us fine-tune our project estimates for potential clients - make them comprehensive and more accurate.

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To make issue categorization even crisper, we rely on the standard Card Colors configurations to instantly distinguish between bugs, new feature tasks, and subtasks from the first glance on our board.

Calculating time off with Tempo Planner

As the name suggests, Tempo Planner is used for resource planning and capacity reporting. In its traditional sense, Tempo Planner is ideal for stable Scrum teams. In our case, one tech specialist may work on a couple of projects with varying workload, which makes updating individual timesheets quite a time-consuming process. However, we found a way out to leverage the power of Tempo Planner and Tempo Timesheets combined and use these tools for planning and approving our time off. For this purpose, we created four separate Jira projects:

  • Vacation
  • Day Off
  • Sick Leave
  • Business Trip

We deliberately created four separate projects as projects can be assigned different colors. Therefore, we have red for Sick Leave, green for Vacation, purple for Day Off, and blue for Business Trip.

This simple categorization makes it nearly impossible to log off-hours to a wrong project. Moreover, it allows us to separate billable hours from non-billable ones, which further simplifies generating monthly delivery reports.

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We also no longer need to memorize how many days off and sick leaves we’ve already used: all this data is conveniently highlighted in timesheets.

Final thoughts

Our experience is testimony to how inclusive Atlassian products are. It doesn’t matter whether you are a multinational giant with offices all over the globe, a midsize agency, or a small brand operating on the local market only. The beauty of using Jira is that you can use it as you deem fit. You can play with its robust functionality and define what works for you best.

 

1 comment

Mykenna Cepek Community Leader Aug 31, 2021

Great article, @Ruslana Smirnova! Thanks for illustrating a nice variety of ways to wring a lot of business value out of these Atlassian tools.

I can't say enough positive things about Tempo Timesheets. I would not hesitate to recommend that Marketplace app to anyone wanting to level-up their time tracking and time logging efforts.

Besides the solid reporting it offers, it also includes a variety of ways to enter and keep track of the time you log. Different people work different ways, and logging time is a pain. Kudos to this app that helps accommodate various styles and ways of working.

Like Ruslana Smirnova likes this

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