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Workflow and Capacity Planning for Marketing team?

Hey Folks. We are a small marketing team leveraging JIRA to manage creative work like emails, blog posts, display ads, and some printed materials like brochures and Direct Mail. I am hoping for some guidance on how best to track our due dates in JIRA in a way that allows us to hit project deadlines while still allowing individual users to track their workloads and deadlines appropriately.

Here is a breakdown of how we are using JIRA right now:

  • To minimize the number of tickets we have to manage within JIRA, we have developed a customized issue type for each category of work that our team creates.
    • For example, we have an issue type for Email, one for Brochures, one for Direct Mail, and one for Blog Posts. This allows us to consolidate all communication, track history, and provide updates for any piece of work within one issue.
  • Each ticket type has its own workflow, and many workflows include unique statuses that more accurately relate to the project’s requirements.
    • For instance, most of our work requires a “copy development” status and a “design development” status. However, Brochures and Direct Mail pieces both require additional involvement from a printing vendor. So, we’ve created a few special statuses for those issue types such as “with printer,” “proof review,” etc.
  • Each status has a triggered action that assigns the ticket to the appropriate assignee for that status.
    • Most of our work begins with copy. So when a ticket is prioritized, the “copy development” status triggers the assignee to change from [Unassigned] to [Copywriter’s Name]. When the copy development is done, the copywriter updates the status to “design development” and an automatic trigger updates the assignee from [Copywriter’s Name] to [Designer’s Name], and so on, and so forth.

Here is where the difficulty comes in:

  • Each issue has only one field for a due date, which we are using to represent the final deadline for the project. This means that anyone working on the issue knows that there is a final deadline of XX/XX/XX date, and that they must work to accomplish their part of the work in a reasonable amount of time to allow the subsequent assignees the opportunity to do their part of the work as well.
    • This gets tricky because there is a lot of room for error where someone in the earlier stages of work may take longer than they should on a task, and then the individuals in the later stages of work end up with crunched timelines.
  • Each issue also only has one field for estimating the story points. As such, we are calculating our workload based on the total amount of work required to complete the issue. So, if the workflow for a brochure is [copy development (2 points)> design development (4 points)> with printer (3 points)> proof review (1 point)] then the total estimate for the Brochure issue would be 10 points total.
    • This means there is no real way to estimate a single individual’s workload at any given time using the current JIRA reporting tools (or at least I don’t think there is…). Instead, we have to either just establish a rough guess using the current issue status and final due date to get a sense of when [Designer’s Name] will be working on a particular issue.

Ultimately, here’s what I would like:

  1. Some way to better control the pace of work from the creation of the ticket to the due date. Open to any and all solutions, but some ideas come to mind:
    • Does this mean we need to operate in sprints? If so, how do we track tickets that span multiple sprints?
    • Alternatively, is there a way to assign due dates with some kind of formula that will update the due date based on the status, so each status has its own due date?
  2. Some way to better understand each individual’s current or future workload, based on either points estimates, due dates or both.

Thanks in advance for the help!

1 comment

@AJ Rahm Yes. Scrum would help you do this quite well. Take your "Brochures" Issue Type. Let's say you need to deliver that Brochure for the conference on July 31. July 31 is the deadline. But of courses you have 10 or 15 little tasks leading up to that. 

So, if you use Scrum, you would do something like this:

  1. Create the Brochure Task as an "Epic" Issue Type. Set the due date of July 31 for that and assign it to the owner.
  2. Create a "Tasks" or I guess maybe your "Brochure Issue Type" for each task to make that brochure happen. 
    1. Copy, graphics, layout, printer, etc.
  3. At the beginning of each "sprint" you would plan only the tasks that your team will get done in that sprint. And make sure those issues get done. If they don't talk about why in the retrospective....then make improvements. 
  4. Repeat this process each sprint until you finish the brochure. 

There are a lot of details in there that I glossed over. But that is the basic premise. Scrum will help you address the problem of only having one due date (because each task in the epic has its own due date) and your problem that "no real way to estimate a single individual’s workload at any given time" because you can plan and estimate (with story points) tasks each week (or each sprint).

I hope this helps even though it is only the beginning. You'd have to learn and start using scrum. But scrum is really not that hard. It's just a new habit. 

We use scrum on our marketing team and work in a similar way. I wrote a book about it. 

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