Communicating across teams can be challenging; learn how Beyondsoft solved ours with the use of JIRA.

Today the fast pace of modern life when coupled with the volume of appointments and issues an individual is expected to manage, creates a society where items viewed as minor instantly become less important, allowing them to fall by the wayside. We easily overlook an item on the grocery list, forget to set the garbage bins out, hit snooze instead of doing 6 a.m. yoga. But really, we cannot miss those critical, yet important routine tasks involved in the day-to-day operations of our life projects. This scenario follows us into business when it comes to our jobs, as well as our client projects. I’m often asked how we manage the day-to-day needs of client business. First we must look at the problem: How do we keep track of tasks for everyone on a project?  Here’s how I approach it:

Identify The Problem: Effective Collaboration

At Beyondsoft, we have a variety of roles from different teams that work on any given project. They directors, project managers, developers, or analysts. Most of the time, not everyone is in the same city (or even country). Despite this, we also need to make this work visible to all layers of the company.

The Struggle: Consistent Workflow

In the past, we on the development team primarily used Team Foundation Server to track tasks. This worked fairly well, but was difficult to utilize for anyone not routinely working in Visual Studio, such as managers. It also did not easily show inquiring parties our flow of work – what we’ve done, are doing, have yet to do, and what there is absolutely no time to fit in.

This brought us to include a Kanban board, a work and workflow visualization aid. In our case, we used KanbanFlow, a free online tool. It was great for high level overviews, but didn’t fully fit our needs. We were trying to keep track of things in two different spots, with different granularity of notes on each technology, which inevitably got out of sync. Frustrated, we went back of the drawing board, did some research, made pro/con lists, and announced we would be using JIRA.

Our Solution: JIRA for Everything!

Because JIRA is such a powerful platform that combines issue collection and agile project management capabilities into a single application, we have found it meets and exceeds all of our needs. When we first began using it, we timidly began our transition to JIRA but were soon running where we were walking.

We juggled a multitude of ticket types – epics, stories, tasks, bugs, sub-tasks.  But with individual Scrum/Kanban boards for each project, and customizable functionality, we found it easy to visualize the workflow and assess the project health. For instance:

  • Beside the standard “Backlog”, “To Do/Selected for Development”, “In Progress”, and “Done” status columns, we like to add “Blocked” and “Review” to alert team members when help is needed to move work forward.
  • Swim lanes can also be customized (by assignee, user story, etc.); we tend towards priority level, making sure tasks with time constraints are not overlooked.
  • Because we use a workshop consulting model at Beyondsoft, my favorite feature is the teammate mentions. To get quick input from a team member, I need only type “@teammate” in the comment of a ticket and they immediately get an email about my issue, without needing to check the board for updates.

This works especially well for reaching team mates who are on separate projects. Another useful feature are the hot keys, which open up features with one keystroke, and are especially loved by our PMs who need to edit tickets quickly during meetings. Even though our task tracking problem was solved we were constantly finding well designed features and add-ons for JIRA. As innovators, we kept searching for more useful tools and pieces. This led us to Confluence, also provided by Atlassian, which is now our main documentation hub.

Furthermore, with JIRA now replacing our TFS ticketing system, it seemed logical to move our source control system as well. Another JIRA integration, BitBucket, solved that for us too. Bringing our project tracking, documentation, and source control under the same umbrella has made invaluable improvements to our processes as we continue to tackle larger, more complex solutions for our clients. Learn more about JIRA here.