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Five Pro Tips when Starting with Jira Align

Climbing the agile learning curve can often feel like drinking from a fire hose. As a newer member to the Jira Align team, I have a fresh appreciation for this feeling. Studying best practices and frameworks alone can be information overload. Overlay that with a brand new software packed with extensive functionality and flexibility, then it’s sure to feel like drowning.

No matter what your role is, allow me to share with you five pro tips intended to guide you through the maze and launch you onto a successful journey.


Pro Tip #1: Get familiar with the Core Hierarchies

From the outset, it is critical that you are knowledgeable on, even comfortable with, Jira Align’s three foundational hierarchies—people, work, and time. This will make or break your experience. The majority of data entered into the platform becomes an integral part of one of structures in the backend. And every page or dashboard is a product of the hierarchies being sliced and diced to curate specific information. Understanding the relational ties between these will equip you with a stronger sense of how data should enter the platform. And, you’ll have a superior grasp around the dashboards and what the information is telling you.  

So, if you haven’t already, grab a cup of coffee and take a spin through Jira Align’s hierarchies.


Pro Tip #2: Baseline with a Framework

Most often, Jira Align users already have a scaled agile implementation underway. To guide this effort, companies will adopt one, or many, agile frameworks (SAFe, LeSS, Spotfiy, Scrum@Scale). Take advantage of this. The framework will serve as your personal map to understand where your work stands in relation to the bigger picture. And, it will lay out what your work should, and should not, entail. Allow it to focus and optimize where you invest your time in the platform.

For those of you have the option to choose, I recommend starting with SAFe. Jira Align is highly configurable to accommodate the many agile frameworks, but SAFe has the best out-of-the-box functionality.


Pro Tip #3: Anchor Yourself to One Page

Jira Align is loaded with functionality. Some are digitized versions of traditional tools and workflows while others are completely new capabilities. It is a world waiting to be discovered. But like most things scaled agile, it can quickly become overwhelming. This is why I recommend that you anchor to one core page. Build up work around that page, crystallize your understanding of that feature, then move on to explore new functionality.

For example, if you are a Release Train Engineer (RTE), start with the Program Board. There is a lake of functionality here and dozens of ways to cut and configure the data. Start by creating a handful of features, assigning teams and sprints to the work. Then, watch how the board changes as you tweak target dates, accepted points, or even add dependencies. Experimenting in these ways will bolster your familiarity with the data hierarchy and accelerate your training.


Pro Tip #4: Say Yes to Help

On every Jira Align page there is a small, blue Help button in the bottom right corner. Here, you’ll find documentation on the critical elements for each page, specifically: page context, any data prerequisites, logic and formulas used in the backend, and a snippet on how the information should be interpreted or used. As you navigate throughout the platform and discover new pages, take a quick minute to orient yourself with the help cards before diving in. Sounds simple, but trust me, it’s a game changer.


Pro Tip #5: Ask the Community!

Even with these four pro tips above, it’s likely you will still run into a handful of difficult questions. That’s what community is for. Atlassian created and continues to support this ecosystem so users can find help and give help to others. It’s a robust platform with growing activity, one that is not available for every enterprise software. So take advantage and ask your peers. We all enjoy a good puzzle to solve. 


Congrats! You’re equipped to become a Jira Align pro. As you mature in your agile journey, don’t hesitate to come back and share some of your insights. In six months from now, there will be a handful of newbies sitting in the exact position you are today. And I can assure you, they will thank you that you helped pioneer the way.   


Mirek Community Leader Aug 31, 2019

Nice tips, however would be good to add few screenshots to them.

Thinking back on my time getting to know Jira Align at first, I definitely agree with Tip #1. That grasp on people-work-time will really help you with getting around and understanding just what's on each page.

Like # people like this

@Caz thanks for mentioning #4. The Help and Enablement framework are the quickest way to onboard :)

Like Rae Gibbs likes this

Really appreciate your Tip #2.  But left with more questions...


Is it possible to allow for multiple frameworks?  Or can you turn on the "out of the box" pictures for SAFe 3, 4 or 5, without "fixing" the Framework to one?

Or can you turn on the "Out of the box" pictorial maps to help with navigation without picking a framework?  I work in a complex organization that has different areas using different frameworks....


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