9 Tips for Getting Action in Jira

A Jira issue was created, but its been a week and you’ve heard nothing.  The issue hasn’t been updated and you can’t tell if anyone’s seen the issue, triaged it, started work, or done “something” to get it addressed in the near future.  Does this sound familiar?

When issues stagnate, it may be because the needed expectations haven’t been set.  Leadership needs to make sure overall Jira engagement and Project Leads need to play a large role in triaging and managing issues in their individual projects.  Here are 9 tips for setting the right expectations and getting users to take action in Jira.

1. All work is logged in Jira

  • It is hard to track initiatives, capacity, and resource allocation when work is stored in multiple systems.  Strive to decommission old systems and banish low tech tracking methods like spreadsheets and Post-it notes.  You need “one source of truth” for everything teams are working on.
  • In meetings, emails, and chats about tasks, encourage users to provide the Jira issue ID for the item they are discussing.  Repeat the phrases “Which Jira issue are we talking about?” and “If it’s not in Jira, it’s not real!” it becomes reality.

2. Users login to check their issues at least once a day

  • A tool is just a tool.  It takes human action and engagement to make it work in your organization.  If users aren’t regularly logging in, they are missing what is going on around them.
  • Make sure users are proactively logging into Jira to review issues created and assigned to them.  Waiting around for Jira to send email notifications is reactive.  Jira info in email quickly becomes out of date.  Email should be treated as supplemental information and never be the primary engagement method.

3. The “Assignee” takes action

  • Each issue has an assignee.  The name in that field is the person who needs to take action.  If the name is incorrect or reads “Unassigned”, it’s easy to reassign the issue to the correct person.
  • Other users should feel empowered to update or correct issue data, even if they are not the current assignee.

4. The “Reporter” is ultimately responsible for the issue

  • You cannot create an issue and walk away, expecting the issue to champion and remedy itself.  The “Reporter” is responsible for the issue from conception to completion.  If the reporter is no longer the responsible party, it’s easy to update the issue to the correct person.  And don’t worry – Jira keeps a record the original creator in a separate field.

5. Share the assignment strategy

  • There are many ways issues get assigned in Jira.  Each project has a default assignee setting.  The default assignee can either be the Project Lead, or it can have a value of “Unassigned.”  The former is typically used when the team lead will triage issues and assign them to the correct team member.  The latter is sometimes used when the whole team is expected to review the issues and assign the ones they can work on to themselves.
  • Additionally, there’s a third assignment strategy, using Components.  Each Component can have its own lead and issues can automatically be assigned to that person.  For example, James does all the contract work for the Legal team.  When an issue is created in the LEGAL project, any issues where the “Contracts & Agreements” component is selected will be automatically assigned to James.
  • Finally, avoid the trap of assigning issues to a generic Jira user, like a user named “Legal Team”.  It’s often true that if an issue is assigned to everyone, it’s assigned to no one.  How are issues assigned in each project in your organization?  Make sure users know so they know how to act.

6. Utilize issue views

  • Jira provides many ways to users to see issues.  All users should know how to login and go straight to the Default System Dashboard.  This serves as a good starting place to see recent activity and issues assigned.  The Jira administration team can further customize the default dashboard to add elements to make it even more useful.
  • Users can also create their own custom filters, filter subscriptions, dashboards, and boards.  Encourage each team or department to have a dashboard or board they share and monitor regularly.  Users can bookmark or “favorite” these locations to make them easy to return to.

7. Use statuses, backlogs, versioning, and dates

  • Statuses, backlogs, versions, and dates all communicate when an issue will be addressed.  Each issue’s status must reflect reality.  Users need to transition issues forward in the workflow as they work them.  Completed issues must reach the “Closed”, “Done” or similar final status.
  • Every Jira project should have a backlog – a place to put issues not addressed immediately.  If a team member finishes work early, encourage them to review the backlog, to see if an issue can be accommodated earlier in the schedule.
  • If an issue is not in the backlog, it means it is being actively worked.  Development teams should utilize the “version” functionality to assign issues to a specific release target.  Non dev teams can also leverage versions.  Example:  A Marketing team has a version called “Q1” representing all the work targeted for January through March.
  • Used a custom field (Example: Requested Date) to collect the issue’s proposed completion date.  Use the “Due Date” field to indicate when an issue will actually be completed or released.
  1. 8. Tag users, share issues, and add watchers
  • To get a user’s attention, tag them in an issue’s “Description” or “Comments” field.  Use the “@” symbol to mention a specific user.  They will get an email about the mention.
  • Need to alert someone to an issue?  Use the “Share” button at the top right to send them an email.
  • Add yourself or a colleague to the issue email update notifications by making them a “Watcher” of any issue.
  • Again, emails are often lost, delayed, or out of date by the time they are read.   Users should always login to Jira for real-time information.

9. Check progress in team meetings, standups, and scrums

  • The key to success is communication.  Each team meeting should include a discussion of what’s being worked now and what’s being worked next.    Launch Jira in your meeting and review the issues on the team dashboard.  Take the time to discuss any unassigned issues in your Jira project and regularly groom your backlog.
  • Team leads need to regularly monitor their Jira project and follow up on stagnant issues.

The key to Jira success is engagement, setting expectations, and regularly monitoring issues.  All users should feel empowered, be proactive, update issues, correct information, and contribute to the health of the application and its data.

What are your tips?  Share them in the “Comments” section below.

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