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Jira users know that it is the leader in issue tracking and collaboration tools.  Enterprise management tools such as Jira Align (formerly known as AgileCraft) and Agile Hive provide a wealth of features that help you manage your project portfolio. Without knowing the difference between these tools, users may be left wondering which one is best for them. Read on to find out which of these tools are right for you!

Feature Comparison Chart

The following table provides a comparison of features.  (error) indicates that the feature in question is not supported by the tool.  

Feature NameJira AlignAgile Hive
Fully Integrated with Jira

(tick)

(tick)

Supports Jira Cloud

(tick)

(error)
Custom Dashboard Gadgets for Jira(error)

(tick)

Custom UI, Separate from Jira standard

(tick)

(error)
Comprehensive SAFe® Reporting

(tick)

(tick)

SAFe® Artifact Hierarchy

(tick)

(tick)

Visualized Dependencies and RIsks

(tick)

(tick)

Automatic Documentation in Confluence(error)

(tick)

Team Meeting Facilitation

(tick)

(error)
Comprehensive Suite of Categorized Reports

(tick)

(error)
Provides Estimation Games and Meeting Facilitation Tools

(tick)

(error)
Ability to Split Stories

(tick)

(error)
Able to Identify Orphaned Stories

(tick)

(error)
Supports the Creation of Custom Kanban Boards

(tick)

(error)
Provides Program and PI Planning boards and tools

(tick)

(tick)

Hierarchical Views of All Artifacts (Epics, Capabilities, Features, and Stories)

(tick)

(tick)

Jira Align

Jira Align looks and feels like a very mature, but also completely separate product from Jira, with back end data connections keeping data in sync between the two otherwise independent applications. 
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Although Jira Align is not integrated with Jira from a UI perspective, it does provide an intuitive interface containing UI elements explicitly designed for this product.
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Navigation takes place primarily via a simple vertical multi-level navigation bar with submenus:
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Jira Align is a separate, cloud-based application.  While some data is shared between applications, there can also be Jira-specific and Jira Align-specific data with no crossover. As a cloud-based application, it also has support for cloud deployments of Jira, unlike Agile Hive.

Many views provide large volumes of information in great detail in an at-a-glance form, using easily recognizable icons and color-coding based on commonly understood color schemes.
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Like Jira, Jira Align also provides a create button on all pages to allow users to add work items at any time.
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Integration with Jira

Jira Align integrates with Jira in several ways:

  1. There is a bi-directional push/pull sync of data between the two systems, which are not fully integrated.
  2. Data is automatically mapped between Jira and Jira Align during a sync process that allows data to flow between the two systems.
  3. Data can be configured so that specific attributes can be included or omitted during the sync.
  4. Connections and mappings are handled via the GUI by admins.
  5. The View in Jira button allows users to open items from Jira Align within Jira.
  6. Some terminology is not self-explanatory and must be learned to understand how Jira items map to Jira Align items. 
    1. Jira issue types will not necessarily map to identically labeled Jira Align types.  For example, Jira Epics equate to Jira Align features.
    2. The term 'Issues in Epic' on the Jira side equates to 'Work Items' in Jira Align, linked as 'Related Items.'
    3. Stories in Jira are also stories in Jira Align.
  7. Every Jira issue that has a corresponding Jira Align work item will have an issue link linking it to the Jira Align item.
  8. Stories can be added to Jira Align and written back to Jira after all appropriate info is added.  Adding a story to an epic in Jira will add it to Jira Align automatically, though it may take up to 2 minutes to sync the information.
  9. Jira Align provides a tool that will identify orphaned stories.
  10. Stories can be split in Jira Align when work needs to be broken up.  In Jira, there is no corresponding function - tickets would need to be cloned and revised.
  11. Ranking and workflow states are synced automatically between both systems.

Reporting and Team Meeting Facilitation

Jira Align provides multiple meeting scheduling and facilitation tools that can be utilized by all team members: estimation games, iteration planning, daily standup, iteration review, iteration retrospective.
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Scrum of Scrums - the first step in a scrum of scrums meeting is to review and remove impediments and risks. 

The Risk Status Report has been provided to allow meeting leaders to immediately identify these work items so they can resolve them during the meeting.

There are over 150 reports that can be selected and configured to meet the needs of the user.
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The program board allows team leaders to identify and discuss blocked or at risk objectives and dependencies.
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Individual items can be opened to view, edit, drill into, and resolve issues (blocks, etc.)

Backlog Kanban 

Standard Kanban boards are included for all packages.
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  1. Three kanban view types (state, process, column) are provided, though some features require the ability to customize the boards.
  2. Epics can be moved between columns or ranked in priority order.
  3. Changes made on the board will be reflected in all areas of Jira Align.
  4. Unassigned items can be displayed in a side panel and dragged to the board for assignment.
  5. Customized states (workflow process steps) can be created and configured and added to boards.

Custom Kanban Boards

Comes only with the Professional Package. Can configure user access, permissions, and addition of custom cards.  Colors can be set for card types.
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  1. Swimlanes and columns can be configured as needed.
    1. Columns do not necessarily need to be mapped to work item states.
  2. WIP limits can be used to limit the number of cards in a column.
  3. New work items can be added to a board individually.  Existing objects can also be added separately or in bulk. (mass add)
  4. Work items may also be removed individually or in bulk.
  5. Cards can be moved between columns to update their workflow status.
  6. Work items can be marked as blocked for at-a-glance reviews of blocked items.
  7. Multiple reports are provided, based on kanban board data, allowing users to track team performance.

Inspect & Adapt

Burn-down and burn-up reports are displayed on the screen at once, for PIs, displaying the current progress for features and stories. 
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  1. The current and expected trends are shown simultaneously, allowing you to see how far off your trends are from the ideal.
  2. Facilitates team retrospective meetings that can be virtually attended by team members at their workstation. 
  3. All will share the views provided by Jira Align, but the facilitator will have additional actions available to allow them to move the meetings along.
    1. The facilitator will have multiple tools available to gather information, votes, and feedback from team members. 
    2. Voters and voting information are kept private.

Backlog Grooming

Provides planning poker games, allowing teams to estimate, compare, and set the estimates (Level of Effort/Value) for delivery of stories in a gamified format. 
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The backlog can be displayed as a grid or in kanban mode, and contains stories, and can be narrowed to issue type, team, and iteration. 

As stated above, multiple kanban board views are provided, allowing users to move story cards between states.

Within the grid, columns, row-level charts, and color-coding provide at a glance information about each story in the grid.
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One-click access to unassigned backlog, allowing users to quickly and easily assign tickets from the backlog to PIs.

Items can be dragged & dropped to revise ranking.  Other menu-based ranking options are provided.

Backlog data can be optionally pushed to Jira.

PI Planning

Utilizes grids, icons, and color-coding with snap-in panels to provide an at a glance view of work, and allowing users to select and revise individual items on the fly.
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  1. Color coding and icons are used heavily to convey complex information at a glance in many places.
  2. Full view of PIs, broken down by teams and sprints, with color coding and icons bringing additional detail.
  3. Multiple reports and visual aids provided for reviewing dependencies, with click to view/edit individual dependency options.
  4. Offers multiple reporting options for reviewing risks
  5. Centralized objective management with burndown charts and colors/icons providing at-a-glance information
  6. Provides access to a Program room, a master view of the work and status of the program, and the PIs that make it up.  Made up of cards that operate like gadgets on a Jira dashboard, which like gadgets, can be shown or hidden.
  7. Provides a program tracking module that reports on a Program and PI, organized by icons that represent the work that makes up the PI.

Agile Hive

  1. Agile Hive may be hosted by Seibert or in your own Data Center.
  2. Reduced complexity with installation and administration.
  3. Automatic documentation in Confluence - Align offers nothing comparable.
  4. It can be configured based on the level of SAFe implementation so that users can opt to purchase only those tools that they need based on their level of execution.
  5. Navigation between feature sets is through the use of 'boards' such as the program board and risk board.  The definition of the term 'board' is different than in native Jira and may be a source of confusion.

Hosting Options

Seibert provides several hosting options.  For a fully cloud-based solution, Seibert offers the option to outsource the hosting of your Atlassian applications, including Agile Hive. You can host also host Agile Hive on-premises; Seibert can provide you with a virtual appliance, which can be quickly and easily imported into your VMWare virtualization solution. Alternatively, Seibert can manage Agile Hive hosting for you in one of their Data Centers.  If you would like to manage and run Agile Hive yourself, Seibert can provide you with the technical conception, installation, and configuration of your customized environment. Your IT department will be responsible for the operation, will be responsible for the maintenance and the initial analysis of reported errors or malfunctions in day-to-day operations. Seibert recommends that you first schedule training for your system administrators before deploying Agile Hive in this manner.

Integration with Jira

Agile Hive is integrated into Jira via a set of add-ons, building on the existing UI, rather than proving an entirely new interface.  This is ideal for organizations that are comfortable with Jira and do not have the means or desire to learn a whole new system.
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  1. Fully integrated with Jira - you do your work in a single, enhanced instance of Jira, no data sync required, no new terminology or systems to learn.
  2. Currently only works with Jira Server or Data Center.

Includes Agile Hive-specific gadgets that can be used to create dashboards/wallboards for reporting, team collaboration, etc
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Single Agile Hive menu provided for more straightforward navigation, as opposed to adding options in multiple places that users may not be aware of.

Agile Hive provides an additional navigation menu in Jira, based on the SAFe level, in which all dashboards can be accessed quickly and centrally.
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  • This menu is only visible to employees working in the SAFe context. 
  • Other navigation is the same as with the Jira standard.

PI Planning, Viewing and working with Issues

PI Planning gives you an overview of all the issues in a PI as well as the teams involved.
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  1. The columns detail the individual sprints of the teams working on the PIs (displayed as Cadences in the dashboard).
  2. Dependency visualization can be toggled on or off.  The screen can become cluttered if too many dependencies are shown.
  3. The "Portfolio Structure" dashboard displays SAFe issues hierarchically.


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Hierarchical views of artifacts (Epics, capabilities, features, and stories) allow users to drill down from the highest to lowest levels, keeping track of which teams are associated with which artifacts.

Depending on which SAFe configuration is used, this structure may be more or less complex. 

The Portfolio Board is a Kanban board where all portfolio artifacts (Epic + Enabler) are displayed.


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Can view issues on various levels: Portfolio, Large Solution, Program & Team, and Admin

The SAFe structure can be seen from within Jira issues with full hierarchy visibly displayed
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Hierarchy grids provided to allow users to view issues from the top-down, view the structures, edit issues, etc.

Issues can be dragged & dropped to link them together, with restrictions set up to prevent incorrect linking.
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Program Roadmap

The Program Roadmap provides a view of the issues at the Program level.
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  • The columns represent individual PIs.
  • Issues can be dragged and dropped to move them.
  • When moving an issue to another column, the issue is transferred to the corresponding PI. This change is visible in the issue itself and the Program Board.

Dependencies

Dependencies can be visualized on the program roadmap, which shows issues with lines connecting dependencies. The lines shown are color-coded to convey information about the dependencies.
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Reporting

Dashboards and gadgets provided for reporting on every role in SAFe.  
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  1. These break down into three basic types: 
    1. Burndown chart
    2. Burnup chart
    3. Progressive bar chart, color-coded based on workflow status
  2. The details/scope of what the gadgets report on can be configured as needed.

Risks

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  1. The Risk Board outlines all the risks of an ART. All issues are displayed, and those that contribute to the risks are linked with a red line.

  2. The Risk Board can display all risks of an ART in a matrix as well as in a list. Risks are categorized by two fields: Risk Probability, Risk Consequence

  3. Link lines show dependencies between non-risk related issues in blue.
  4. Risks can be dragged & dropped into PIs. 

Conclusion

Jira Align is a fully mature product that benefits from incorporation into the Atlassian suite of collaboration tools, and by providing a single point of contact for help and support. It guarantees no loss of functionality or version incompatibilities as these products are further developed.  Jira Align provides visibility at an entire enterprise-scale and could be the best SAFe tool for Enterprise customers with over 1000 employees, with multiple Jira instances and potentially other team tools.   It can be used for smaller customers with fewer employees, but to take full advantage of this tool, they should to be mature enough and have the skillsets required to manage portfolios.  Jira Align is cloud-based, which may be a concern for organizations whose security requirements prohibit the use of cloud-based services.

While Jira Align is essentially a separate application, Agile Hive is a suite of add-ons that build on the Jira UI.  Since Agile Hive operates on top of Jira Software, it has an advantage that users don't need to learn a new tool; your teams can dive right into Agile Hive without a steep learning curve. Although Hive offers automatic documentation, its dependency on Confluence may not be acceptable by organizations that don't use it.  Seibert provides multiple hosting options, allowing your organization to choose between self or cloud hosting via a Seibert-managed environment.  Unlike Jira Align, Agile Hive requires a Server or Data Center configuration for Jira and Confluence. With its reduced complexity and its focused toolset, Agile Hive may be the right tool for smaller organizations or those who have just started on their journey of portfolio management.  


Want to learn more about these tools?