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Enhancing teams' agility with user story templates in Jira

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We can find repetition practically in every kind of work. To produce anything of consistent quality and customer value, we must apply repetitive, precise, and optimal working model. However, we aren't built to keep up with such requirements. We tend to make mistakes and variate the work slightly, which is good for creativity but can sometimes lead to insufficient results. If we trace back as far as to Medieval artisans, we'll discover they already knew it well, because they eventually started to come up with tools that helped them manage repetitive tasks, and thus maintain the best possible quality of their crafts. As technology was developing, creation of more complex templates became available. This enabled manufacturing and then industrial production of goods to emerge, being fully based on applying pre-produced forms to the source material. Meaning that if it weren't for templating, we may had never seen a Ford Model T, let alone Tesla. So how do templates affect our professional lives? 

Templating in business

Templates aren't only a production tool. They're basically a way in which our mind structures thoughts and emotions, often making us biased towards particular behaviours or worldviews. We refer to these templated beliefs as stereotypes, which originally meant printing plates duplicating typography. These days, we usually use the word in a negative context mainly due to its impact on cross-cultural communication. In a broader meaning, however, our brain produces stereotypes, ready-made ideas, to save us a lot of time and energy. That's why we don't overthink common issues - because we get used to them and react quicker. If we think about it this way, it's a natural thing for everyone.  

Funnily enough, we often perceive templates as rigid, hard to edit or blocking creativity. In fact, it's exactly the other way round: there’s more spare time for creative work, because the repetitive one has been already done. Just look at how we use templates in our work - developers produce templates of code to just update them later on or reuse them in a different project slightly modified to match the requirements, designers use templates to create layouts, journalists work on templates because then they don't have to worry about structuring their articles and can focus only on writing.

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With the multitude of online platforms, we can choose from various templates to use in our work. Source: mailchimp.com

Since everything is editable in the digital realm, templates become the most useful, especially when we work in an Agile environment like Jira. Agile project management implies high iterativity and frequent change – be it about sprint planning, handling Service Desk requests, building a website or executing an email campaign. With the ability to template tasks, team members create commonly used objects or documents just once. These objects serve us all the time and can be easily manipulated to suit our needs at any given moment.

Agile user stories

In Agile, we can use templates not only for commonly used objects or documents but also for repetitive tasks, especially the big ones called Epics, but their name can vary depending on the software or even organization. Usually, teams responsible for an Epic break it into user stories, which provide the context for the development team and their efforts by giving them various points of view on how different types of users need, want or can use our products. To write such a user story, Agile teams use a simple formula: 

As a <user role>, I <want/need/can/etc> <goal> so that <reason>.

Mike Cohn, a co-inventor of Scrum, during his presentation at Norwegian Developers Conference, told that writing such user stories should take place regularly. Depending on the team's preference, it can be done quarterly, monthly, or even weekly. At Deviniti, we create user stories at sprint plannings. During these meetings, team members take a few Epics from the backlog items, write user stories for them, and plan what needs to be done to address our customers (either external or internal) needs and expectations.

Working with user story template in Jira

As we've mentioned at the beginning, using templates improves our processes in various work fields. Cloning complex tickets can help, but we can do it only within the same project. We can also describe them differently, which makes them more difficult to standardize. But templates enable us to reuse only the scheme from previous tasks and change those variables that differ. 

Unfortunately, even though Jira supports Agile project management, it doesn't offer issue templating natively. Thankfully, we can go to Atlassian Marketplace, search for issue templates Jira and choose from 79 apps which will extend our Jira with this fuctionality. One of the possible choices worth considering is Issue Templates for Jira which helps maintain high-level performance by optimizing the time it takes to create new issues, systematizing issue content, and automatically populate issue fields with predefined values.

Thanks to the Epic and user story templates, we can focus on what's really important and valuable to us, and not on re-creating complex Epics with Stories and sub-tasks under them repeatedly. Meaning that they can be implemented to any project that works on such big replicable tasks.

Software development

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It can come as a surprise, but we can template some of the software development tasks, for example building a new feature, informing about defects during test processes, or working on a new product in general. Let's say that the tasks for new features usually look the same: they contain general issues like research, analysis, specification, and testing. Of course, we can create some additional tasks depending on our needs, but for this repetitive scheme, we can easily create a template. 

New hire onboarding

Onboarding new employees is one of the most repetitive tasks possible. The scheme doesn't change at all which means that each time there's someone new coming to our company, we need to re-create the same tasks over and over again. But, we can automate the whole process by creating issue template that will automatically copy all the sub-tasks under onboarding tasks whenever this type of issue is created. This way, creation of such Epics takes only about ten seconds and makes the action effortless, especially when the company hires too many new people to count them all. 

Marketing activities

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Even though many people think that marketing is one of these fields which can't be agile, it also works on high level Epics. Preparing live webinars, exhibiting on big offline events, launching new products - these are the kinds of repetitive Epics marketing deals with. To not spend too much time on creating these tasks, we made suitable Epic templates with Stories that usually need to be done. For example, each year we take part in Atlassian Summit and to prepare meticulously for it, we always create an Epic task with Stories in our Jira. Seeing as it took some time to deal with this, we designed a template for this Epic which automatically creates all the Stories added to it. This way we don't have to manually add such issues like preparing banners and swags, creating landing page, booking hotels and flights, etc.  

Enhancing agility with Issue Templates for Jira

Apps like Issue Templates for Jira can greatly influence the agility of our team. Seeing as agility stands for the ability to respond quickly to customer needs and market focus, we need to use tools that enable us to accelerate delivery process when it comes to either support, software development, marketing activities, project management, or even internal matters. When we work on ready-made templates, we don't have to worry about creating new set of Epics, Stories, and sub-tasks - we only need to slightly modify the ones that already exist. This way, we make it easier and faster for the team members to create the issues, as well as lower the risk of making a mistaking because of we're lacking information necessary to plan these tasks. Moreover, our work becomes seamless, systematic, and less stresfull, because we're sure that everyone will be notified about a new task assigned to them, and can focus on our work and checking off the tasks on our board.

If you’d like to learn more about Issue Templates for Jira Server or Cloud, take a free 30-day trial from the Atlassian Marketplace or read the Server or Cloud documentation. You can also book a live demo via Calendly or watch the tutorial for Cloud and Server versions, if you’d like to see the app in action. 

Read more on Issue Templates for Jira: 

Also published on Deviniti blog.

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