In my latest book, “Jira More: Apps to make your Jira Core, Jira Service Desk, and Workflows more productive” I cover eight apps I believe have very good value for business teams. I explained my selection criteria for including those apps and excluding others. In some cases, I excluded apps because I believe there is a better solution outside of Jira. The apps I am referring to had to do with reporting and Business Intelligence, but my argument applies to other apps as well. It was suggested I expand on my thoughts for the Atlassian Community in order to generate discussion.
Jira does a tremendous job on its core functionality of task management. On the other hand, many people believe that its reporting functionality is rather basic.
Some developers have seen this as an opportunity and have developed Jira reporting apps. And most, if not all, of these apps do a good job.
My problem is that I fundamentally disagree with the business purpose of most of these reporting apps.
First, let’s sort Jira reporting into two categories: production reporting, and analytical reporting. In my definition, production reporting is about reporting on the work activities of the team: inputs, the Issue, and outputs. If you are looking for pure production results, then the Jira default reporting is probably good enough.
However, if you want to analyze the data, you will need something more robust than the standard Jira dashboard reports. Here you have two options: buy a Jira reporting or BI app, or export your data and use a 3rd party reporting or BI tool.
My recommendation is to export the data and use a specialized reporting or BI tool.
Let’s pause at this point for a moment, because you are probably wondering why go outside of Jira for a BI tool. Why not purchase a BI app as an add-on for Jira? Yes, you can certainly do that, and as I said before, some of them work quite well. But I have two fundamental philosophical and practical arguments against purchasing a Jira BI tool. First, most organizations already have some sort of BI tool. It may be a custom-built spreadsheet application. Or it may be a dedicated BI application like Power BI, or Qlick, Tableau, etc. And there are one or more people in the organization with expertise in that application. The bottom line is the company has already purchased that tool and has spent money training their team members on how to use it. Why would you want to spend more money on another tool, another tool that is limited to Jira? Why would you now spend time or money training your team members to use it? Indeed, in some cases you need to set up a separate SQL database in order for the Jira BI tool to work. It’s a duplication of money and effort. In today’s world where profit margins and budgets are getting tighter and tighter, it just seems a bad investment.
The second reason is more practical. It is often the case that when performing in-depth analysis, you need to pull in data from multiple sources. For example, you may need to pull together data from Jira, from your financial software such as Quicken, and maybe from another specialized piece of software that works with a particular piece of machinery. In that case you would need an external BI tool that can import and merge all this data; so, having a specialized Jira BI tool is useless.
One common argument I have heard from a number of Jira specialists is that while a company may have a specialized BI department, getting that department to generate Jira related BI reports is almost impossible. They are too busy making senior management requested reports or financial BI reports. The Jira reporting requests are always put at the bottom of the request pile and are constantly deferred. That’s why it is simply easier to purchase a Jira specific reporting/BI tools and do the reporting ‘locally’. This argument is valid, and I have seen it myself on more than one occasion. However, if you follow that argument to its logical conclusion, it means that just about every department in the organization should be free to purchase their own reporting/BI tool. Can you imagine the chaos? Can you imagine the expense? I would argue, strongly argue, that this is an organizational problem that needs to be dealt with by senior management. The best companies recognize this challenge and have solved it by embedding their BI specialists in departments that need specialized reporting. Put another way, they have corrected the organizational problem instead of purchasing more and more reporting tools.
Which brings me back to my original proposition. To me the best solution is to export the Jira data (on an automated basis) into your prime BI application. The results can be easily exported to a web-based dashboard.
Just because you can do something in Jira, doesn’t mean that you should.
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