The evolution of Jira Software has been exciting and spectacular.
What started as a bug and issue tracker soon became a powerful work management tool to help teams manage all work types, from requirements and test case management to agile software development.
For modern teams, Jira provides a range of out-of-the-box Scrum and Kanban task management hubs, where every task is mapped to customizable workflows. The workflows make it easy for teams to have visibility into every work item's status while enabling time tracking, real-time performance reports, and productivity monitoring.
As Jira has evolved to be a robust work management tool, its ability to enable teams to view, work on, and track issues across all work stages has also evolved. Every issue takes a different path as it moves through the different development stages, representing an organization's unique workflow.
Atlassian defines a Jira workflow as “a set of statuses and transitions that an issue moves through during its lifecycle, and typically represents a process within the organization.” Organizations can opt to use the default workflows that ship with Jira or create custom advanced workflows to suit their specific needs.
As software delivery becomes increasingly complex, Jira workflows are designed to make work processes easier, streamlining how tasks and processes are managed. They help make processes structured and repeatable, which, in turn, helps make them scalable. By mapping out the steps and statuses that a task can go through, workflows enable teams to manage their activities across the development life cycle in the best way possible. When business processes change, teams can either edit the workflow used in a project or modify how the workflow handles particular task types.
Although Jira workflows offer a host of features, several add-ons and plug-ins are available in the Atlassian Marketplace to further enhance their capabilities, such as:
• Workflow PowerBox to extend Jira Workflow functionalities with reusable scripts and templates.
• ScriptRunner for Jira to align workflows to processes
Even though Jira offers tons of out-of-the-box workflows that can be put to use immediately, many teams look to customize them to better align with their specific business needs.
Here are two reasons why customized workflows are needed:
• When projects are complex: Customized workflows enable teams to adapt the system to exactly how their team works and work best for extremely complex projects. In addition to the standard set of workflow statuses that ship with Jira, such projects often need additional custom statuses to reflect a task's stages within their particular business processes.
• When teams are diverse: Another reason to customize workflows is when the team is extremely diverse. If several different departments are involved in a project, it makes sense for each team to create workflows to match their work patterns and requirements.
Although it is tempting for organizations to customize workflows, several challenges may impede successful customization: from ending up with hundreds of identical workflows to finding it difficult to comprehend the complex structure – implementing customized workflows may not be as easy as it seems.
• Customizing workflows requires Jira admins to build and maintain changes. This is not only time-consuming but also expensive.
• Before implementing changes, Jira admins must ensure customized items work properly, both in isolation and alongside other tools and apps that Jira has been integrated with.
• Implementing too many customized workflows can also confuse and create disconnects between teams due to various workflows with different naming conventions.
While implementing workflows, here are some pitfalls to avoid:
• Duplication is one of the biggest issues while implementing Jira workflows. Generally, this happens when different teams deploy similar workflows for the same tasks without realizing identical workflows already exist. This can result in projects set up with multiple copies of identical workflows, making it difficult for teams to determine which workflow needs to be used. To avoid this, teams should use “shared configurations” when creating projects that need to use the same set of workflows. This will ensure each new project is created with the same configuration as the original project and avoids recreating similar projects from scratch.
• When dealing with complex, multi-stage projects, while moving tickets to a blocked status due to lack of assets, customer issues, or mere missing information, it is important to make other members aware of their issues' status. However, if a team member forgets to add a comment mentioning the resource or reason why the status is blocked, it becomes impossible for other people on the team to determine the cause of delay. Therefore, teams should get into the habit of documenting the reasons or causes for delay and ensure quick movement of the issue to closure.
• Another common challenge with Jira workflows is when teams create and implement too many workflows for relatively small and simple projects. Using complex or customized workflows for projects that can be seamlessly completed using a simple three-step workflow (To Do, In Progress, Done) complicates the development process. It can cause deadlines and budgets to be missed.
To achieve maximum value from Jira Workflows, it is also good to keep in mind certain tips and guidelines. Here are some best practices:
• Keep it simple: Given how beneficial Jira workflows can be for development organizations, teams often want to over-customize them to glean maximum benefits. Overly complex workflows are not only hard to understand and adopt, but they are also hard to adapt. Fighting the temptation to over-engineer is one of the first steps in ensuring success with workflows.
• Make the most of Statuses: To ensure teams work in a structured manner and make proper use of workflows, every member needs to constantly update a project's status. Such constant updating will accurately indicate actual issue flow while providing team-wide visibility into which user is working on the issue at which time.
• Constantly optimize: When using customized workflows, make sure to work towards constant optimization: from creating statuses for each type of work to mentioning resources who’re responsible for completion. Such a practice can help improve workflow efficiency while making it easy for teams to view important metrics.
Jira Workflows make it easy for teams to take anything - from an idea to project - from start to finish. Since each work item represents a status in the workflow at any given point in time, keeping in mind pitfalls to avoid and workflow best practices is vital. This can enable teams to enter and track all details related to a work item – using one single platform. It will also make critical project information accessible by everyone who has the authority to see it.
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