Rachel Wright is an entrepreneur, Certified JIRA Administrator, and author of the JIRA Strategy Admin Workbook. She started using JIRA in 2011, became a JIRA administrator in 2013, and was certified in 2016. She is the owner and founder of Industry Templates, LLC, which helps companies grow, get organized, and develop their processes.
Did you know I’ve worked from the road for over 3 years? It’s a lot like working from home except when I look out the window of my home on wheels, the scenery is always different! In May 2015, we got rid of most of our stuff, sold our cars, and hit the road in a travel trailer.
Our trip started in Virginia. From there we traveled South through the Eastern states, explored the entire Florida coast, visited 8 Texas cities, stayed a while in Arizona and California, and then went North through Nevada, Utah, and Colorado. This entire time I’ve worked as a Jira administrator, consultant, and speaker on the Strategy for Jira Tour. The tour highlight was speaking at the Atlassian office in Austin, TX and at Summit!
After three years, we’ve decided to add a new element to our mobile lifestyle: boondocking. Boondocking is camping without hookups to city power, water, and sewer systems. We’re used to bringing our own internet connection but until now, we’ve paid a campground to supply the other utilities. It’s a bit limiting though; it means we can only go where others have resources available for us. I’d prefer the ability to go anywhere (anywhere with a usable cell signal, that is.)
So what does all this have to do with Jira and Confluence? Plenty! Throughout my trip, I’ve had to guarantee my access to power and wifi in order to work, support the Jira Strategy Admin Workbook, and participate in the Atlassian Community. I need reliable access to Jira and Confluence for my consulting practice, for my volunteer work, and for my personal life. Without Jira, I can’t access my “to do” list, help Jira administrators clean up too many custom fields, or prepare to merge multiple applications. I track where we go in Jira and record the specific details of each location in Confluence. Now, I’ll need to do all that without the convenience of “full hookups.” We’ll need to bring our own water and store it – before and after we use it. Most importantly, we’ll need to find a way to generate our own power.
There are a few power generation options so I used Confluence to research and make the decision. The travel trailer has its own 12 volt battery that’s responsible for the lights, water pump, fire and carbon monoxide detection systems. It also generates the spark for propane appliances, like the fridge, stove, and oven. The battery is constantly recharged when connected to city power but without it, it doesn’t last very long. We need a way to recharge it and heavily researched all the methods including: solar or wind power, gas or propane generator power, disconnecting the battery altogether (not sustainable), and even sacrificing one or a series of $80 batteries (not smart).
We really love the idea of solar, and want to have it one day, but it’s not simple (or cheap) to set it up correctly. And, it’s not fool-proof. For example, what if it’s a cloudy day? “Sorry, Jira, there’s no power to launch your URL today!”🙁
For our first foray into boondocking, we purchased a small gas inverter generator. Our $500 unit won’t provide luxury. We won’t be able to use the microwave, air conditioning, or coffee maker. But doesn’t a coffee press make better coffee better anyway? It’s enough to periodically charge the 12 volt battery however so we can run a minimum amount of electronics. We’ll limit ourselves to the really important things: 2 cell phones, 2 laptops, and one wireless internet router for WiFi. We’ll open the windows if it’s hot, light a lantern if it’s dark, and generally try to live even more simply than before. It will be less “glamping” and more “camping.” I do hope we’ll have enough battery power to run a small fan though. We’ll see.
We’ve been researching and learning about volts, amps and watts. I estimate it takes 65 watts to access a local Jira instance and 71 watts (computer + router) for a Cloud instance. I’m new to these calculations though and my estimates could be way off. Time will tell!
Starting July 8, we’re “cutting the RV cord”. We’re going to the middle of a field in Pagosa Springs, CO to test our setup and spend a whole week “off the grid.” If all goes as planned, I’ll be doing all my favorite Jira and Confluence activities like always. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Have you boondocked, dry camped, or gone “off grid”? Share your stories and tips in the Comments section below.
Imagine being able to view issues from multiple Jira applications on one board. WatchTower does that easily. You can view issues and use familiar board features (swimlanes, JQL, and dragging issues to update status) without logging in to multiple Jira applications. I wish I had know about this add-on sooner!
Jira Server 7.7.1, Jira Server 7.9.2, and Jira Cloud
May 23, 2018
First I installed the application in my Server instance. It was very easy to install and configure. In minutes I created a new WatchTower board and saw issues from my Cloud instance from inside my Server instance. From the board, I was able to launch an issue in its source application and update it. Then, I refreshed the board and the changes were visible immediately.
In the example screenshot, there are two issues from the “HR” project in my Server instance, and 5 issues from the “DEMO” project in my Cloud instance.
It’s easy to create a new board and add a remote source. Simply enter a source name and any display preferences. Then enter your source URL, credentials, and a JQL query to pull the desired data. Use the handy “Test Connection” button at the bottom to verify your credentials are correct and issue data was found. Read more
I also installed the application in my Cloud instance to test another scenario. I added the current Cloud instance as a source and also a different remote Cloud instance. Everything worked as expected from within Cloud.
In the example screenshot, issues are displayed from a Cloud instance named “DEMO” and another Cloud instance named “JA.” You can name the instances anything you’d like.
I love that you can display issues from only remote sources or from both remote sources and the application you’re using. It’s great to see a subset of data, a full picture, or to do a comparison.
The add-on is fully documented, but unless you’re new to boards in general, you probably won’t need much configuration or use help.
Here are some ways the add-on helps:
Companies with Multiple Instances
How does a company end up with multiple Jira applications? Actually, it happens more often than you’d think. Consider the following:
A company acquires another company that has their own set of Atlassian tools
A team decides “try out” Jira not knowing other teams already use it
One team needs a public instance for customer support, however, other teams need their data inside the firewall
I once worked with a company that had 4 instances! The goal was to eventually merge them together, but that’s never a quick task. So how do you give users visibility while waiting? Whether your end goal is to merge or not merge, having a tool that can help you connect instances is a big help.
Let’s say you’re working on a Jira merge. This plugin can help you verify that the data you expect from the source application actually exists in the destination application. Simply create one board and query for the same data in both applications.
This functionality is especially useful for consultants, like me, who regularly work in multiple Jira instances at once. For example, I track most of my work in my own Jira instance. Sometimes a company I’m helping assigns an issue to me in their Jira instance, which is perfectly understandable. Now, I can see all my issues in one place.
Additionally, I store my work tasks in a Server instance and my personal tasks in a Cloud instance. I do this to separate my different roles and also because it forces me to be aware of changes in each application type. Now I won’t have to log in to my secondary Cloud instance as often.
The WatchTower boards don’t have the Atlassian board feature where you click an issue and details appear to the right of the board. See screenshot. But to be honest, I never loved that abbreviated display. If I want to see issue details I prefer to open the normal issue view page. That’s the way WatchTower handles it. Click on an issue ID and the issue opens immediately in a new window. You can log work on a remote issue directly from the WatchTower board however.
There are three sharing permissions. “Browse Board” allows the listed users to view the board and do nothing else. “Work on Issues” allows users to view the board, log work, and add a work description. “Transition Issues” allows users to do everything previously mentioned plus change issue status. This additive behavior was confusing to me at first, but once you know that “Transition Issues” includes the permissions from other levels, it makes sense. It doesn’t appear that you can grant sharing permissions to groups of users.
One thing to be aware of: any actions will be logged in the remote system as performed by board owner.
TIP: Speed up your boards by limiting their scope. Use JQL to pull in just the relevant issues, not all project issues. Definitely filter out issues in “Closed” or “Done” status.
Since performance of any type of board is typically slow, I conducted the following unscientific test. I created a test Jira Software project and loaded it with sample Jira data, which included a 4 column Kanban board and 10 issues. I created a WatchTower board to show the exact same data. Then I used the Chrome browser’s developer tools to compare load times. Results:
Adding a second, external Jira source didn’t create a huge delay. Of course my test was with only 10 issues. Don’t expect hundreds of issues to display quickly in any board type! And of course, if any remote instance is already slow or down, you’ll have expected loading issues. At one point, the connection to one of my sources broke. It was a quick fix though. When I loaded the WatchTower board, it alerted me to the problem, and where to fix it.
Bottom line: Any loading slowness caused by many sources and many issues is easily outweighed by the ability to see all your issues in one view.
How many instances can you connect?
There’s currently no limit although in the future the number of instances may be driven by pricing tier. You only need a license for one instance, not a license for each remote instance you’re connecting to.
What if the instances have different users? Example: My username is “rachelw” in app 1 and “rwright” in app 2.
It’s no problem; each user authenticates with their specific system credentials. TIP: Avoid using “currentUser()” in your source JQL queries if you have different usernames.
How do you handle different statuses per instance?
Map statuses to columns like you would for a Scrum or Kanban board. Differing statuses are handled the same way as different statuses between projects in a single instance. You can also not map certain statuses. A WatchTower board alerts you if there’s a status not mapped to a column.
What happens when source data changes?
Simply refresh and updated data will be pulled from the source(s). At this time, there’s no automatic prompt to refresh.
How is security handled?
Account credentials are used once to access the source application and are then stored in a token. Jira’s built in security mechanisms are respected. To see issue data you need an authenticated account in the source application. You cannot view issues you don’t already have permission to see.
What are you working on for the future?
Performance, the ability to display custom fields, and the ability connect to other applications. Imagine viewing your Jira data alongside your Salesforce or Trello data, for example. There may also be instance connection issues (like getting through a firewall) and two factor authentication issues to tackle in the future. Read more
For Users & Board Admins
Look for a new menu, in the main navigation, labeled WatchTower. All remote boards are in this area. Scrum and Kanban boards remain under the “Boards” nav link.
For Application Admins
This plugin is installed from System > Add-ons > Manage add-ons like other plugins. There’s only one configuration option for application admins. It’s located at: Admin > Add-ons > Configure. Look for the left sidebar link under the “WatchTower” heading.
This plugin is simple but powerful! If you have more than one Jira application at work, a work and personal instance, a side Jira administrator gig, or are a consultant, WatchTower can help you quickly and easily view all your issues in one place. I’m looking forward to not logging into my Cloud instance as often.
There are a plethora of plugins and add-on features available in the Atlassian Marketplace. But haphazard installs and free trials can leave behind remnants that negatively impact the system after the trial ends. You should develop specific procedures for handling add-ons and customization requests. Use our plugin vetting worksheets to craft your procedure.
I regularly review applications, add-ons, or plugins that I like! Have an app users should know about? Tell me about it at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jira comes with standard, built-in fields, like “Summary”, “Description”, and “Components” but you can also create additional Custom Fields to track more data.
Your instance starts out with 8-30 fields, depending on whether you have Cloud or Server. For example, Jira Server 7.7.1 comes with 8 custom fields. Installing Jira Service Desk on top of Jira Server adds 6 additional fields. More fields can be created by Jira, by application administrators, or by add-ons, plugins, and applications.
So how do you distinguish the standard fields from the ones created by applications and admins? Use this baseline list from a clean Jira install.
Standard Jira Fields
From Jira Server 7.1.1
From Jira Cloud
Clean Instance Worksheet
Use this default Jira setup worksheet to compare settings in your application and see how far you’ve strayed from the default. Use this template to document defaults in other versions.
In my previous How to Study for Jira Administrator Certification article I shared my tips for preparing for and taking the Jira Certification exam. Now that you’ve passed the exam, you might be asking, what’s next? The initial exam is only the first step in your Jira learning journey! You’ll need to take additional exams or skills challenges to keep your certification alive.
After earning the initial certification, Atlassian has two ways to maintain it: Certified Badges and Skills Badges. As shown below, for ACP-100, there’s an “Advanced Jira Workflows” (ACB-100) Badge, an “Email in Jira” (ASB-112) Skills Badge, and additional options on the way.
As you remember, the initial certification exam is long, moderately expensive, and requires you to physically appear at a testing center. Not so with the “Advanced Jira Workflows” Badge exam! You can take it online from your home or office, there are fewer questions, and the test is also less expensive. For this exam type, you’ll need a reliable internet connection, a web cam, a microphone, and to install required testing software. An online proctor monitors your movements and biometrics are used for authentication. But what if your web cam is broken or you have an unsupported Chrome OS laptop? Simply go back to your local testing center and complete the exam there.
The “Email in Jira” Skills Badge exam is even easier to take! With this exam format, you watch a webinar, take notes, complete self-study homework, and then take an “online assessment” (quiz). This exam is non-proctored, has the least amount of questions, and is the lowest price.
“Email in Jira” Skills Badge
I really enjoyed the Skills Badge format and the “Email in Jira” webinar in general! How often do you connect Jira to a mail server? For most of us the answer is: once or never! For me, it was all already setup and functional when I inherited my application. But I often troubleshoot email related issues, so understanding more about how mail works in the background is very useful.
The webinar told me just how much I didn’t know about Jira email! For example, did you know Jira will try to send a notification message 10 times? I didn’t! As soon as I learned that, I searched for any active service accounts with bogus user email addresses and found many! I cleaned those up immediately, so Jira wouldn’t try and try and try to send messages to accounts like “email@example.com” and “firstname.lastname@example.org.” (Shame on the admin that entered the bogus addresses in the first place!) No more slow mail queue for me!
As a nervous test taker, this “webinar then quiz” format was much easier to accomplish. I love that I learned new things as part of the certification extension process. It was training and validation all in one! I hope Atlassian adds many more badges in this format. Earning this badge was a very valuable experience – one I’d recommend even if I didn’t need to extend my cert.
This skills badge includes:
an online course delivered by pros Alex Ho (ServiceRocket) and Matt Doar (previously ServiceRocket, now LinkedIn),
4 pages of downloadable questions to consider during the webinar,
2 pages for note taking to compare incoming to outgoing mail, and
a 60 minute online quiz.
Note: You must watch the webinar in its entirety and complete the quiz to earn the badge.
read all the available incoming and outgoing email documentation,
review the email related settings in your own instance – multiple pages in the Admin > System area, the “Events” admin page, a Notification Scheme, and also end-user, dashboard, and profile features related to “watching”,
block off time and block out distractions so you can focus on the webinar content,
pause the webinar to answer the provided sample questions, and
actually complete the homework – take some time to think about the email problems you’ve experienced and their cause.
Atlassian recommends allowing a half-day to complete the entire process. The webinar took me a while to complete because I stopped to take notes, answer questions, and play back some sections. It was worth it and now I feel like I know a lot about Jira email! There was plenty of time to complete the final quiz.
As always, remember that whether you pass or fail, certifications are a learning process! If you’ve learned something new from the experience, you’ve already won!
More than one Jira administrator has approached me about translating the Jira Strategy Admin Workbook into another language. But I only speak English and Jira Query Language! Enter wonderful Kerwin Chung, a Senior DevOps Consultant in China, who’s up to the task.
Kerwin’s translated the sample “Projects” chapter from Jira Strategy Admin Workbook into Chinese! You can download both the English and Chinese sample chapters for free. If you’re interested in a full Chinese or other language translation, let us know below! If there’s enough interest, we’ll translate the whole book!
About the Translator
Kerwin Chung, ACP-SW, ACP-JA
Atlassian DevOps Senior Consultant at Cenoq in China
The reason why I love Jira is its expandability.
It is the best tool for the DevOps toolchain. Lots of companies in China use a lot of open source tools but they use only one commercial tool, which is Jira.
I am proud of being a Jira evangelist. I enjoyed using Jira to organize my own job and am very happy to introduce Jira to my customers and friends. Everyone loves it.
Where can you learn about Jira, improve your coding skills, and grow your business all in one place? At Skillshare! Skillshare is an online learning community with thousands of classes on design, business, technology – and now, Jira! It’s the Netflix of learning.
For most Jira Server users, an upgrade is a major activity that requires careful planning. What is your upgrade plan? How will you prepare? How will you ensure success? How often will you upgrade?
I approach upgrades as five high level steps:
Step 1: Research
Conduct all pre-upgrade “what changed” and compatibility research
This very important first step can determine the success of your upgrade. Start by reviewing the retrospective from the last upgrade so you can improve the upgrade process and plan for issues encountered in the last event. Also, it’s a good time to make sure your emergency rollback plan is still accurate.
Next, read all of Atlassian’s “Release Notes” and “Upgrade Notes” for every version between yours and the one you’re upgrading too.
Look for changes that might impact the application, users, or user behavior. Look for bugs you’ve been waiting for fixes for.
Finally, double-check that your license is valid through the upgrade testing period and you are not about to reach your license limit. You don’t want license issues to delay your upgrade.
Step 2: Pre-Upgrade Tasks (Test Environment)
Copy all production data to lower environments, update plugins, upgrade and test
Don’t have a test environment? Remedy that issue first! Ideally you’ll have a secondary server instance but if that’s not possible at least create a local instance on your personal computer. Make sure the resources powering your test environment match your production environment as much as possible. Make sure the software version and configuration are an exact copy of production.
Before upgrading your test environment, be sure to copy all of your production data to the environment. It’s not enough to test an upgrade on a vanilla instance; you need to test it with your specific configuration data!
By now you should know which version you’re able to upgrade to. Download the installer file, stop the application, and run the binary. Document the installation process, so you can repeat the steps in production. Review all configuration files, paths, custom files, and settings for accuracy. Also check the logs for major problems.
If all is well on startup, it’s time to update the Universal Plugin Manager, other add-ons, and re-index. After the re-index, start your regression testing. Make sure all basic application functions and new features are working as expected.
MISTAKE During testing, I discovered one of my heavily used plugins wasn’t compatible with the upgrade version and had moved from free to paid. I clicked the “Buy Now” button on the “Manage add-ons” page, assuming it would take me to a shopping cart with pricing information. Instead, it immediately installed an unlicensed version of the new plugin code! All of our workflows broke and I was inundated by reports of license errors from users. I had to quickly generate a free trial code to restore functionality and sheepishly contact the purchasing department to secure emergency funding for the new plugin. I did all this in production! #facepalm
Finally, contact your REST API and database users so they can verify all is well with their applications. Also, compile any “new features” documentation to share with end users. Conduct an end user and project-level admin demo if UI or feature changes are substantial.
Step 3: Upgrade Preparation
Line up support resources, schedule production upgrade activities, and announce plans
At this point, you are confident in the stability of your test environment and ready to schedule the production event. Start by identifying an upgrade team. Who will execute the upgrade? Who will “smoke test” the major functions? Who can you contact if there’s emergency?
After you have your team assembled, pick an upgrade time outside of peak use hours. Communicate the upgrade date, time, and expected duration to users and any support teams, like the company help desk or network operations center. Don’t surprise these teams with “Jira is down!” reports during the upgrade window!
Use Jira’s announcement banner function to communicate upgrade plans.
Sample Code: <div style=”border: 1px solid #9e1c1c; background-color: #fff; padding: 10px;”>Upgrade Outage
The upgrade will start on [day], [date] at [time] [timezone] and conclude before the start of business on [day], [date]. During the upgrade window: (1) you WILL NOT be able to login to JIRA, (2) any changes attempted WILL NOT be retained, (3) API calls will fail, and (4) issue creation via email will fail. For a list of new features and fixes, see our JIRA Upgrade notes.
Download sample wording for your entire upgrade process from the Strategy for Jira store.
Step 4: Upgrade Tasks (Production)
Backup production data, update add-ons, upgrade and test
Hopefully you’re already taking regular (automated) backups of your database and file system. But when’s the last time you verified that your most recent backup occurred and is actually usable? Do that before proceeding.
At last, you’ve planned as much as possible, know what to expect, and are ready for the upgrade event! It’s time to repeat the installation steps you practiced in your test environment including: installation, add-on updates, and regression testing. Use the notes you took in step 2 and be sure to address any differences that exist in the production environment.
Step 5: Communication
Announce upgrade and communicate changes and benefits to user base
Finally, it’s time to announce the upgrade to users and complete post-upgrade steps.
Use Jira’s announcement banner function to communicate the upgrade is complete. Include a link to the “new features” documentation you compiled in step 2.
Review any previous trouble reports, in case the upgrade remedied them, and be ready to respond to new reports. Check in with your REST API and database users, to make sure all is well with their apps.
Finish any outstanding tasks, compile your retrospective, and make any needed plan updates in preparation for the next upgrade. Also be sure to thank your upgrade team!
Detailed Upgrade Plan
A well-crafted plan can help ensure upgrade success. Download the sample upgrade plan worksheet. Customize it to fit your needs and environment. This worksheet may contain more or fewer steps than necessary for your situation, but it gives you a great starting point. Don’t forget to update and improve the plan after each upgrade.
A test instance and a healthy application are the foundation of a successful upgrade event. You’ll want to upgrade often for the newest features, fixes, and performance improvements. Happy upgrading!
Did you hear about the company with 132 Jira Administrators? How about the company plagued with 134 Issue Types? Have you ever accidentally broken workflows and everyone’s filters? Join Rachel Wright as she recounts the top 20 Jira admin mistakes she’s made and seen. Hopefully you can avoid these mistakes and keep your application out of the Jira swamp! Get started at: training.jirastrategy.com
This presentation is for Jira Administrators and is based on the mistakes and examples in the Jira Strategy Admin Workbook. This presentation is self-paced so you can review the material you want, in the order that makes sense for you.