Effective Jira Administration

ThinkTilt and Rachel Wright, author of the Jira Strategy Admin Workbook, proudly announce our newest collaboration “Effective Jira Administration“.  This 64 page book helps you bring the benefits of Jira to more teams in your organization.  We’ve assembled our best advice and included the topics:

  • Who’s in charge?  Jira Governance for Business Teams
  • Who Does What in Jira?  System, Application & Project Admins
  • Creating & Managing a Jira Support Project
  • Four Jira Workflows for Business Teams
  • Best Practices for Creating a Custom Workflow
  • Jira Custom Fields and Their Alternatives
  • 4 Ways Adding Forms to Issues Amps Up the Power of Jira
  • Keeping Track of it All: Jira for Asset Management Managing a Jira Upgrade
  • Managing a Jira Upgrade
  • Vetting Jira Apps and Plugins
  • Jira Clean-up Time

Even if your team isn’t technical, you can still use high tech tools. Email, spreadsheets, and shared network drives – be gone! Your team has a real issue tracking database now with Jira.

Bringing FY2018 to a Successful Resolution in Jira

Everything must come to an end.  One could say that FY2018 is about to reach its resolution.  (I’ll let you decide if want to mark it off as Fixed, Won’t Fix or simply Done.)  The end of the year is a traditional time for stock-taking as we prepare for a fresh new start.  You can apply that to your Jira application as well.

Cleaning Up Your Jira Application

Use the end of the year as an opportunity to check for and clean out stagnant Jira assets.  Sometimes projects get abandoned instead of being properly closed out.  This can happen when the organization’s priorities change or when teams reorganize.  Sometimes an initiative that was tracked in Jira is completed and teams who are anxious to carry the momentum into the next project may forget to close out the previous one.

In the Jira Strategy Admin Workbook, Rachel Wright offers several ways to hunt down stagnant Jira projects.  You can use the Project Status worksheet, available in the ProForma template library, to comb through your projects and identify ones which should be archived. 

While you’re doing the high level assessment and clean up, you can encourage Project Leads to take a look at their active projects and see if any clean up needs to be done there. Rachel recommends checking for things such as:

  • Accurate and useful components (and component Leads)
  • Unreleased versions
  • Stagnant issues (haven’t been updated in x days)
  • Unassigned issues
  • A neglected backlog
  • An accurate listing of team members

This is also an opportunity to see if any adjustments (big or small) should be made to make the system more helpful.  Are the filters, boards and dashboards useful?  Could they be more useful if you made a few minor changes?  Does the project configuration still fit the team’s needs?  Are there any customizations that the team would like to have?  Any painful processes that could be eased with the addition of the right app/plugin? Now is a good time to take a look.

What You and Jira Accomplished this Year

Year end is also an opportunity to compile and analyze a few statistics on how Jira is used within your organization.  In fact, regular and thorough documentation will not only demonstrate how important Jira (and therefore the Jira support team) is to your organization, it will help you predict future needs. In addition to an Annual Report form,  Rachel has also created a Jira Use and Future Predictions worksheet which will help you document Jira usage over time.

Expanding Jira to Business Teams

While you’re making those predictions, consider whether Jira could benefit more teams in your organization.  Many companies use Jira or Jira Service Desk not only for software or IT support, but also to manage HR, finance and facilities related processes.

Expanding Jira to other business teams doesn’t have to be an administrative nightmare.  The simple addition of forms, available through the ProForma app, means that teams can customize their processes and collect exactly the data they need without requiring new issue types, hordes of custom fields, or special configurations.  You can actually simplify Jira administration even as you’re bringing more teams into Jira.

Jira Clean-up Time: How to Audit and Tidy Your Jira Instance

Depending on where you are in the world, you may be smack in the middle of spring – as in time for Spring Cleaning.  Even if it isn’t spring, it’s a good idea to occasionally audit your Jira installation, archive elements that aren’t being used and revisit your configuration to ensure that it’s optimized. Below are the basic steps you will need to perform a “Jira Clean-up.”

Jira Clean-up Step 1: Audit

The first step is taking stock of what you have.  To do this, start with the “System info” page and note the number of projects, issues, custom fields, workflows, etc.  Next, visit the Add-ons admin page and the admin area for each scheme and project asset.

Jira System Stats

Rachel Wright offers a worksheet for recording this information.  Alternatively, you could use a spreadsheet or create a form in ProForma. The important thing is that you will want to track the number of Jira assets over time. 

As you go through the admin pages, note assets that are unused (such as a field that doesn’t appear on any screens), duplicated (or perhaps similar enough in purpose that only one field is needed) or inactive.

Once you have a complete picture of your current application, you can set goals for your clean-up.  Along with removing assets that aren’t being used, goals could include reducing the number of workflows for easier support and reducing the number of custom fields for better performance.

Jira Clean-up Step 2: Archive

Before you begin pruning out unnecessary elements, backup and verify your data.  Also, make sure you have a rollback plan in case any of your changes cause unanticipated problems.

Elements

Go to the admin page for each element type and use the “identification” column to weed out unused items.  The Jira Strategy Admin Workbook includes detailed instructions for easily identifying unused elements.  In some cases (for example, if you are eliminating an issue type), you may need to migrate issues before deleting.

Deleting unused items is the first step.  Depending on your goals, you may also want to consolidate custom fields or workflows.  When consolidating fields, consider which field is more widely used, which has a better name, and which can be more easily deleted.  Again, you may need to migrate data before you can delete.

Projects

Jira Project Status in ProForma

Along with pruning down Jira elements, you should also check for stagnant projects.  Use the Jira Strategy Admin worksheet or the ProForma form to identify projects that have an inactive project lead, few issues or no recently created issues.

You have several options for dispatching completed or stagnant projects:

  • Prevent new issues from being created
  • Mark the projects as read only
  • Hide the project
  • Archive the project
  • Export the project

Rachel Wright describes the appropriate use, as well as the implementation steps, for each method in the Jira Strategy Admin Workbook.

Users

Finally, you need to address users who have left the organization.  Don’t users because you want to retain the history of their actions.  Rather, set departed users to “inactive.”  However, before doing so, Rachel recommends the following steps:

  • Move any not closed, assigned issues to the user’s supervisor
  • Move any not closed, reported issues to the user’s supervisor
  • Remove unshared custom dashboards, filters, filter subscriptions and boards
  • Remove favorite designations for dashboards
  • If a dashboard is used by others, move the dashboard to the supervisor or a generic user account
  • Remove favorite designations for filters
  • Move shared filters to the supervisor or a generic user account
  • Reassign project leads to the supervisor
  • Reassign component leads to the supervisor
  • Remove filter subscriptions
  • Remove draft workflows
  • Reassign agile boards to the supervisor
  • Check workflows for any auto assignment transition behaviors
  • Make the user account inactive

Making the time to regularly review and tidy up your application will make your ongoing admin duties easier and will keep your application clean, relevant and high-performing. 

Tips for Vetting Jira Apps and Plugins

Do you get sensory overload when you visit the Atlassian Marketplace?  The current plugin count shows over 1,600 offerings for Jira alone.  Too many choices can be paralyzing.  How can you identify which apps will be truly useful and worth the effort of maintaining?  What is the best strategy for vetting Jira apps?

A Process for Requesting Jira Apps & Plugins

Start by setting up a process by which teams can request an app.  At the very least teams need to provide the name of the app and the Marketplace URL.  Getting more information, like what the app does, why the team thinks they need it, and examples of how they will use it will give you a solid basis for making a decision. 

After you’ve had a chance to check the price and ensure that the app is compatible with the your Jira application, you’ll also want to confirm that leadership has approved the app and is willing to pay for it.  Also, check that the security team is on board with adding the plugin.

Hmm… you need a process for placing requests with specific pieces of information from the requestor; a way for an agent to add more information to that request; and a mechanism for recording management approval – sounds like a job for ProForma and Jira Service Desk!

What to Ask When Vetting Jira Apps & Plugins

Questions to consider when deciding whether or not to install a Jira app might include:

  • Does the app/plugin duplicate functionality that is already available, but underutilized in Jira?
  • How much will the app/plugin be used?  How frequently?  By how many users?  How many teams?  In how many projects?
  • Does the app/plugin allow you to leverage Jira, making Jira relevant and useful for more teams?
  • Does it come from a trusted source?
  • Is the app/plugin a good value compared to other solutions for resolving the problem?
  • Does the app/plugin provider offer adequate support?

Teams requesting new apps are doing so because they believe the app will resolve a specific problem or pain point.  New apps, however, also impact the Jira Administrator and Jira Support Team.  Every app will add another layer to manage.  However, some apps may actually relieve some of the Jira Administrators pain points as well (too many custom fields, too many custom workflows, etc.)  An app is of greater value if it’s useful for both teams (and different types of teams) and Jira support staff.

App Vetting Request in ProForma

App Vetting Tracking in ProForma

Best Practices for Installing Apps

Having developed a process for vetting Jira apps, next you will want to test the new apps before deploying them into production. In her excellent resource, the Jira Strategy Admin Workbook, Rachel Wright outlines a clear procedure for testing new apps.  She also provides a packet of worksheets which can be used for vetting, installing and announcing new Jira apps.

Jira Plugin and Add-on Vetting Procedure

Jira Plugin and Add-on Announcement

Something to Consider

While you’re looking at Jira apps, we hope you’ll check out ProForma Custom Forms & Fields for Jira.  ProForma makes it easy to create forms that embed in Jira issues, allowing you to add all of the process-specific fields you need.  Since every field added to a form is a field you don’t need to add to the issue, ProForma can greatly reduce the need for custom fields. Forms are also the key to leveraging Jira’s flexibility to serve more teams.  HR can create forms to track the data they need in Jira and Marketing can create forms to track the data they need.  You’ll be making Jira admin easier even as you bring more teams into Jira.

Learn About Jira on Skillshare

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.

Rachel Wright teamed up with Skillshare to create “Jira Workflows for Business Teamsto help you build smart workflows that your business teams will actually use!

This course is available now to all Skillshare members!  Don’t have an account?  Sign up to enroll in Rachel’s class, access all the other classes, and receive a one-month free trial.

Five Steps to a Successful Jira Upgrade

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.

  TIP
Look for changes that might impact the application, users, or user behavior.  Look for bugs you’ve been waiting for fixes for.

Also read the Security Advisories, End of Support announcements, and End of Life policy.

  TIP
Ask your REST API and database users to read the Atlassian documentation too, so they can prepare for any changes needed in their applications.

After, verify the compatibility of your hardware, operating system, database,  java version, add-ons, and any internally developed customizations.  Resources:  Jira Requirements, Supported Platforms, and Checking Add-On Compatibility

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

  RECOMMENDATION
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.

  RECOMMENDATION
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!

  TIP
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

  RECOMMENDATION
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.

  RECOMMENDATION
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

Jira 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!

Too Much of a Good Thing: Alternatives to Jira Custom Fields

Customizing Jira for Business Teams

Jira is a great tool for business teams because it’s so easy to customize.  After all, the information a software team needs to track will be different from the information an HR team needs to track.  You can create custom fields to collect information that doesn’t fit in standard Jira fields, but be careful lest you fall into a murky swamp of slow performance and more custom fields than you care to manage.  In fact, Atlassian has identified the number of custom fields as the attribute which has the highest impact on the speed of the most common Jira actions.

Related:  Watch Atlassian’s Five Secrets of JIRA Performance at Scale

Wondering if you’ve got too many custom fields already?  According to Rachel Wright, author of the Jira Strategy Admin Workbook, load time of your screens and your custom field admin page are good indicators.  Also, note how long your custom field admin page scrolls.

What should you do if you’re committed to limiting the number of custom fields, but still want to take advantage Jira’s flexibility?  Who should decide when a new custom field is justified?  And what should the criteria be for that decision?

Start by putting a process in place that project leads can use for requesting a new custom field.  Use the ProForma process template or the Strategy for Jira worksheet to gather information such as the proposed field’s purpose, type, screen schema and any needed validation rules.

Then consider the following questions:

  • Will the new field be used by multiple projects?
  • Will you query issues based on this field?
  • Will you run a report of all the values in this field?
  • Will the field duplicate an existing field?  (Rachel recommends publishing a list of existing custom fields and their uses to encourage users to make the most of what’s already there rather than requesting new fields.)
  • Will it duplicate core Jira functionality?

If you determine that a new custom field is indeed needed, pay special attention to creating it with the correct field type, as this cannot be changed later.  Having the requestor provide examples of the data the field will hold will help ensure that you select the correct field type.  (Or maybe you can suggest a better way to track the info altogether!)  Give the new field a generic name so that it can be used by more than one project.

Alternatives to Jira Custom Fields

Saying “no” to creating a new custom field, doesn’t mean you have to say no to giving users what they need.  You have a couple of other options for collecting the same data:

  • Use a standard field for a custom purpose
    Standard Jira fields can be manipulated to collect different data for different projects. For example, the Jira field “Labels” can be used in different ways by different teams.  A marketing team using Jira to track their production of marketing assets could use the Labels field to record the marketing campaign an asset is associated with.  The same field might be used in a different project, by the facilities team, to record locations.  You can use a field configuration to set a project-specific description of what should be recorded in the field, thereby prompting users to put in the right information.
  • Adapt an already existing custom field
    One custom field with two contexts

    Field contexts can be used to make an existing custom field serve different functions in different projects.  Field contexts allow you to set a default value and a defined options list for the field within a given project and with a given issue type.  For instance, you could create a custom field called “category”.  The HR team might use this field to store employment status and might have four options (full time, part time, intern, contractor) to select from, with “full time” set as the default value.  The finance team could use the same field in their project, but the options could be set to record different payment methods (EFT, check, purchase order, etc.)

  • Use a ProForma form
    Another option is to collect the information on a form.  Forms are an easy way for business teams to collect exactly the information they need without requiring changes and customizations to your Jira configuration.  Teams can design, build and deploy forms that gather data structured to their needs and validated with their business rules.  Many of the data points required to fulfill a request don’t need to be queried or reported on.  For those that do, the ProForma form builder makes it easy to “pipe” information from a form field to a Jira field.
Piping For Data Jira Fields in ProForma

Finding the balance that allows you to maximize Jira’s flexibility without sacrificing performance is a key consideration when expanding Jira to business teams.  ProForma can help.

Best Practices for Creating a Custom Workflow

If you’re on a software team, you probably use the default Jira workflow or something close to it.  But what if you’re on a business team or the default options don’t fit the way you want to work?  Then it’s time to create a custom workflow.

A workflow is a standard set of statuses (steps) and transitions (movement between steps) that each issue follows in its lifecycle.  Statuses take an idea from “conception” to “completion”.  Each Jira project can have its own workflow and each issue type within a project can have its own workflow as well.  For example, the Legal team has a specific process for contract review and a general process for all “other” types of requests.  Their Jira project might include issue types like the standard “Task” and a custom type like “Contract.”

  • The “Task” issue type has a very simple workflow, with the statues “To Do” and “Done.”
  • The “Contract” issue type requires additional statuses for approval and execution steps that occur in a contract review process.

  RECOMMENDATION
In the beginning, keep workflows as simple as possible, until you’ve uncovered a deficiency or process step that needs special attention.

Custom Workflow Tips

The steps below outline the best practices for creating a workflow:

  1. Before creating a new custom workflow, have the user explain their real life process to you.  The workflow should be as simple as possible.
  2. First, draw (preferably on paper) a workflow to ensure it makes logical sense and all forward and back transitions are accounted for.  You can use the “Custom Workflow Documentation” template in the Jira Strategy Admin Workbook or in ThinkTilt’s Process Template library as a way to communicate and document workflows.
  3. After drawing the workflow, write the workflow out in words. This can uncover additional needs you may have neglected to draw or consider.
  4. Include logical backwards transitions so users can self-manage issues.
  5. Give users options to abandon or stop progress on issues at appropriate times.
  6. Give project-level administrators appropriate options to fix improperly transitioned issues.
    • Example:  Include a “reopen” transition button in the final status to address issues that were improperly closed.
  7. Use transition conditions sparingly.  If a condition is needed, set the restriction to a project role, rather than to an individual, for easy maintenance.
  8. Use transition validators and post functions to minimize the amount of manual work a user has to do.
    • Automatically assign an issue to the reporter when moving to an “information needed” or “verification needed” type of status.
    • Automatically assign an issue to the Project Lead in a “triage” type of status.
    • Automatically move a parent issue to “In Progress” when a child issue starts progress.
  9. Name your statuses:
    • Name statuses so they reflect the current state.  Good status names immediately tell a user what is occurring and what state an issue is in the workflow process.  For example, “Pending Review”, “In Review”, “Being Reviewed”, “Awaiting Review”, etc.
    • Make any status names short and easy to understand what is happening.  Long, multi-word names are harder to query and may be truncated on certain screens.
  10. Name your transitions:
    • A Transition name should be short and reflect an action taken.
    • Good transition names immediately tell a user what action to perform to progress an issue.  Example:  For an issue in “Pending Review” status, a good transition name would be:  “Review Complete.”  If you need a “pass/fail” situation, where an action must pass a test before a transition can occur, good transition names would be:  simply “Pass” and “Fail.”
    • Bad transition names confuse the user about how to move forward.  Example:  “Review.”  A transition button should signify the start or end of an action.  The word “Review” is ambiguous.  If a user clicks “Review,” does that mean they should start a review or that the review has already occurred?

It’s easy to customize workflows and therefore easy to go overboard, creating more structure than you really need.

Phased Approach

It’s certainly possible to capture every little step in your work process and build that into a complex and long Jira workflow.  An alternative however, is a phased approach.  Simply break your process into phases that represent a collection of smaller steps.  The phases represent key decision points. An issue can’t be moved to another phase until the requirements of that phase have been satisfied.  Your Jira status represents the entire phase, rather than a status for every small step in the phase.

Example:  Your company is signing a partnership agreement 
The contracts process requires a review of the contract by both parties and potential edits before final execution.  It’s a predictable process requiring a short workflow like:

Open > In Review > In Execution > Closed

Sample Legal Contracts Workflow

  TIP
A generically named status like “In Review” is better than a legal-specific name like “In Contract Review”.  Other Jira projects can use the generic version regardless of what type of thing needs review.  You want to share assets and schemes between projects as much as possible.

The Legal team is doing many things in the background that may not need to be reflected in the workflow.  For example:

In the “In Review” phase, the Legal team is reviewing the contract, researching legal topics, communicating with internal teams, negotiating terms with the external company, etc.

In the “In Execution” status, the CEO is finding his favorite signing pen, both companies are trading paperwork, and your Legal team is entering the final result into their contracts database.

In the above example, is it useful to create a status for every step that occurs in the contracts process?  Do you need to track how many times the contract was modified during the review process?  Do you need to track which parties have signed the agreement so far?  If the answer is “no” a phased approach may be more useful.  Also, it might be more useful to track signature collection in a custom field.

  RECOMMENDATION
If you’re not going to report on something (ex: “How many contracts have been signed by us?” in the above example) that status or custom field may not be necessary or useful.

Don’t over-complicate your custom workflow with steps and statuses you don’t really need.  Your end users will thank you for it.

System, Application & Project Admins: Who Does What in Jira?

I was recently asked:  “If Jira project admins can now edit their own workflows and screens, what’s left for the application admin to do?”  Plenty!  Application admins are still very much needed, and their work extends way beyond managing a Jira project.  Further, the new project admin abilities aren’t as liberating as they may sound.  Let’s examine the types of admin users.

Types of Jira Admin Users

There are many different types of Jira admin users and responsibilities vary depending on the type.  Admin users generally fall into one of the following categories:

  • System Level Administrators – Users with the ability to perform absolutely every Jira administration function
  • Application Level Administrators – Users with permissions to perform most Jira administration functions
  • Project Owners or Leads – A project’s single point of contact, often responsible for project strategy decisions
  • Project Level Administrators – Users with permissions to manage settings for individual Jira projects.  (Example: Components, project users, etc.)

While the admin types have distinct abilities, a user can be multiple types of administrators at the same time.  For example, an application administrator may also be the owner of a specific Jira project.   An application administrator could be a system administrator as well if those roles have been combined.  For the differences between application administrator and system administrator permissions, see the “Managing Global Permissions” documentation.

Jira Admin Responsibilities and Abilities

Each admin level has a distinct set of responsibilities.  Below we’ll address the four admin types as two levels:  system/application and project.

System Level Administrators & Application Level Administrators

These administrators need to consider the health of the application, impact to the application, and maintenance implications for each decision and change they make.  These admins need to be chosen carefully, audited regularly, and approved by the application owner.

Application admins typically have the following responsibilities:

  1. Assist the Jira Advisory Board in maintaining established standards
  2. Communicate standards, procedures, changes, and maintenance outages to your Jira Ambassador team and end users
  3. Assist end users with user-specific settings
  4. Assist Project Level Administrators with managing settings and maintaining their projects
  5. Complete approved customization requests or suggest alternative solutions within established standards
  6. Manage users, groups, and access
  7. Create and configure new projects, schemes, and assets
  8. Remove projects, schemes, and assets when they are no longer needed
  9. Perform application upgrades
  10. Vet, install, and upgrade apps, plugins and integrations
  11. Check logs for and address errors
  12. Develop and maintain documentation and end user training materials
  13. Monitor and ensure the overall health of the application

Download this list as a worksheet at: jirastrategy.com/link/admin-responsibilitiesTip:  Turn this worksheet into a Jira Admin job description!

Project Owners & Project Level Administrators

Each Jira project has a listed “Owner” or “Lead” who is sometimes also the default issue assignee.   Additionally, individual projects can have an unlimited number of administrators.  As  such, there’s an opportunity to involve additional users in project-level maintenance and  management.

Project admins typically have the following responsibilities:

  1. Set and maintain Components, Versions, and other project-specific settings in accordance with established standards
  2. Manage users and groups in the “Users and roles” area
  3. Routinely triage (or appoint a triage person) to assign and review issues as they are created
  4. Maintain the data and accuracy of data in the project space
  5. Report any project issues or customization needs to the Jira Support team
  6. Respond to questions or approvals requested by the Jira Support team

additional Editing Abilities

Additionally, project admins have limited workflow editing abilities in Jira version 7.3 and limited screen editing abilities in version 7.4.  Also in 7.4 these abilities can be enabled or disabled through Permission schemes.

Project admins can only utilize assets that already exist.  For example, they can add an existing status to their workflow or an existing custom field to a screen, but they cannot remove a status, create or rename statuses, or create new custom fields.  They can modify transitions, but not edit transition screens or transition behaviors (properties, conditions, validators, or post functions).  Further, these editing abilities only apply to projects where the workflow and the screens are not shared with other projects.  If you’ve been sharing project configurations, as highly recommended in the Jira Strategy Admin Workbook, it’s possible that few or none of your project admins will have these new editing abilities.  Additionally, the default workflow and default system screen still cannot be edited by anyone.  Read more about these features in the 7.3 and 7.4 release notes.

How to check for Workflow Editing Abilities

  1. Use the Admin UI
    If you have few workflows, you can manually look for ones that are only used by one project.  In the Jira Admin UI, visit Admin > Issues > Workflows.  Click the “View” link next to each workflow.  The following page will show how many projects use the workflow.
  2. Use Atlassian’s Script (Jira Server Only)
    Atlassian created an admin helper script to detect workflows and administrators impacted by the 7.3 change.  The script requires node.js and you must be able to execute it on your server.
  3. Use the Database (Jira Server Only)
    This method is not perfect but it got me to the data I needed.  Work with your database team to improve the sample queries or format them for your database type.

First, I counted the number of projects used by each workflow, looking for any that are not shared (those with a project count of 1.)

Sample Query:  SELECT wse.workflow, count(p.pname) AS `Projects Using Workflow` FROM nodeassociation n INNER JOIN project p ON p.ID = n.source_node_ID INNER JOIN workflowscheme ws on ws.ID = n.SINK_NODE_ID INNER JOIN workflowschemeentity wse on wse.scheme = ws.ID WHERE n.source_node_entity = ‘Project’ and n.sink_node_entity = ‘WorkflowScheme’ GROUP BY wse.workflow ORDER BY `Projects Using Workflow`, workflow;

Next, I retrieved project details for each of the not shared workflows.  I mainly wanted to know the project id, project name, and lead.

Sample Query: SELECT p.id AS project_id, p.pname AS project_name, p.lead AS project_lead, ws.name AS project_associated_workflow_scheme, wse.workflow AS workflow_scheme_associated_workflow FROM project p LEFT OUTER JOIN nodeassociation na ON na.source_node_id = p.id AND na.sink_node_entity = ‘WorkflowScheme’ LEFT OUTER JOIN workflowscheme ws ON ws.id = na.sink_node_id LEFT OUTER JOIN workflowschemeentity wse ON wse.scheme = ws.id LEFT OUTER JOIN jiraworkflows jw ON jw.workflowname = wse.workflow WHERE  wse.workflow = ‘Workflow Name 1’ OR wse.workflow = ‘Workflow Name 2’ …

I put all the info into a spreadsheet for further analysis.  From this abbreviated workflow and project list, I was able to examine individual project settings, like screens and permission schemes, to determine who would be able to take advantage of additional project admin features.

Deciding exactly what you want project admins to do may require experimentation as you adjust to the possibilities of Jira 7.3 and beyond. Ultimately, you’ll want to maintain a balance between providing ease and flexibility while still maintaining standards and control at the system/application level.

What other duties do application/system and project admins have at your company?  What’s your strategy for communicating responsibilities to users?  Can you improve any of the workflow editing ability detection methods?  Add your thoughts to the comment section below.

Who’s in Charge? Jira Governance for Business Teams

Getting off to the right start is always the best way to go.  It’s not always reality.  We usually inherit things – business processes, Jira applications, our parents’ bad habits, etc.  In her excellent resource, the Jira Strategy Admin Workbook, Rachel Wright recommends starting out by creating a Jira Advisory Board.  If you’re starting from scratch, this is a great first step.  If you’re already using Jira, now might be the time to put your Board in place, especially if you’re considering expanding Jira to other teams in your organization.

Different organizations have different ways of governing their processes. Rachel recommends that the role of the Advisory Board include:

  • Deciding what customizations to create and support in order to strike a balance between giving teams what they need and maintaining a manageable, high-performing application.
  • Setting standards for privacy, security, and storage and handling sensitive information.
  • Developing a process for providing support for teams’ Jira projects.
  • Determining what a successful Jira application looks like.  What metrics will define success?

Who Should be on the Advisory Board?

When you consider how powerful and mission critical Jira can be for your organization, it’s clear that it shouldn’t be directed by just one person.  But who else should be on your Board?  Rachel recommends a group of about five people including:

  • An end user – techy-minded or not
  • A Jira Administrator who understands the application’s capabilities
  • A Project Manager, Business Analyst or Strategist – basically a process-oriented person
  • A high level manager or VP who’s ultimately responsible for the work that gets done in Jira
  • A wildcard member to keep everyone on task

Consider having your end user or your wildcard member come from a non-technical business team.

Why Create a Jira Advisory Board Now?

You’re probably thinking, we’ve managed this long without a Board, why do we need one now?  If that’s the case, one of two things is probably happening.  Either your Jira Administrator is handling everything on their own, trying to please everybody, and relying on their own knowledge for deciding what should and shouldn’t be implemented.  Or you do have a group of people who work together to set standards and support Jira users – you just don’t think of them as an Advisory Board.

If you don’t already have one, the moment of expanding Jira to business teams is an excellent time to establish a Board.  Here’s why you need one now, even if you didn’t think you needed one before:

  • Expanding Jira to business teams will mean more requests for customizations; more custom fields, more screen schemes, more configurations.  With each request, you will need to decide if it’s worth creating and supporting the new asset or whether an existing field, scheme or configuration can be shared.  You’ll come to better decisions if you include multiple points of view.
  • You’ll also be collecting more sensitive information.  Consider all the personal information HR keeps on employees.  You need a policy to determine what kinds of sensitive information can be stored in Jira. Expanding to business teams also means you’re inheriting all of the privacy and security standards that apply to those teams.  Again, you don’t want to be deciding how to navigate that alone.
  • Finally, teams may be skeptical as to how well a solution developed for IT can address their needs.  That’s understandable.  We’re all experts in our own areas.  Having an Advisory Board that includes non-techies will help people feel more assured that their needs will be considered.

Easily Convert Business Teams to Jira

Expanding Jira to business teams is a great opportunity to bring a tool you already know, love and support to wider use in your organization.  Teams from Finance to HR will love handling their requests in Jira, being able to measure and predict their workload using Jira’s reporting and knowing that their backsides are covered with Jira’s end to end traceability.

Along with making sure business teams’ conversion to Jira is done right (the reason you’re setting up that Advisory Board), it would also be nice to have it done easily.  This is where ProForma Forms & Templates for Jira can help.  ProForma offers a template library and an easy to use form builder that puts teams in control of collecting exactly the information they require, without the need for custom fields, screens and configurations.  You may actually find yourself doing less Jira admin even as you bring more teams into Jira.

You can help your business teams have it all:  a great tool, a well-governed application and an easy conversion.