Addteq recently had the opportunity to work with a provider of cloud-based CAD/AVL and real-time passenger information systems to over 100 transit agencies across the United States. The customer was looking to adopt Jira as their sole platform for project and DevOps management and asked Addteq to assess their pain points, identify specific areas for improvement, and craft a potential solution. Before implementing the solution, the customer wanted Addteq to build a proof-of-concept that the teams could use to gain familiarity with their new tools. Hands-on experience combined with a better understanding of each tool’s potential would then allow the team to expand upon and refine the scope of their desired future state.
Currently, the customer uses several tools (Asana, SmartSheets, Team Support, and Jira) to manage tasks and wants to move towards Jira as a single source of task information. A great deal of the customer’s work is tracked in Asana using Work Packages. When a Work Package is created, all of the tasks within that work package are also created simultaneously. While this allows Project Managers to place all items on a Gantt chart directly, it also makes status reporting difficult. The customer also has no way to know when someone has taken ownership of a particular task or how far along a task is at any given time. As a result, those responsible for taking action do not always know when there is a task waiting for them. Without having this information readily available, stakeholders must request status updates by email, and they must make a best-guess estimate as to when they should request this information.
Therefore, in addition to Jira’s full adoption, the customer seeks a solution that will provide the ability to manage and report on work at multiple levels while minimizing the time spent on repetitive task creation. Furthermore, a fully realized solution must provide cross-project management options that provide visibility into resource utilization and team performance and can be leveraged for team collaboration, resource planning & scheduling, and project forecasting.
After making a full assessment, Addteq delivered a set of recommendations built around using several plugins, BigPicture, BigTemplate, Issue Templates for Jira, and Clone Epic Template for Jira. We then crafted a proof-of-concept in the Atlassian Cloud that addressed some of the most significant needs and desires for a fully realized solution.
The proof of concept, while built in Jira, made extensive use of the following third-party applications:
BigPicture is a Project Portfolio and Resource Management tool that fully integrates with Jira and offers:
- Work Breakdown Structures at the Program and Issue-Level
- Time Tracking
- Gantt Chart
- Critical Path
- Dependency Visualization & Management
- Risk Visualization & Management
- Resource Management
BigPicture lets you build any portfolio structure, including sub-portfolios, programs, projects, stages, SAFe® ARTs, LeSS Requirement Areas, and more. Additionally, BigPicture is methodology agnostic, supporting Agile, Waterfall, and Hybrid teams, allowing you to optimize your work and track progress at all levels easily.
BigTemplate lets you upload and assign different document styles to make Jira issues easily adaptable to your company’s internal needs. You can define your document templates and assign them to tasks in various projects, going beyond the default Jira export style.
BigTemplate was designed to integrate with BigPicture and is necessary to export information from BigPicture (such as Gantt charts) to external file formats, such as Word, Excel, Microsoft Project, and PDF. BigTemplate is also necessary if you wish to import data from external systems such as Microsoft Project into BigPicture.
Issue Templates for Jira allows you to create a hierarchical multi-issue structure to use as a template for standardized operations. With it, you can create an Epic with stories and subtasks, set assignees, and link issues to define dependencies – and much more. With this app, you can create a particular project called an Issue Template Repository. All issues within this repository can serve as templates, allowing you to create pre-defined issues based on the template of your choice. To save time while making new templates, you can clone issues as you would typically, and these clones can then be modified as you see fit.
In context, an Epic would represent a single work package, with stories and sub-tasks added to manage the individual deliverables. To save time, pre-defined, Epic-based work package templates can be created and used to create new work packages at the click of a button.
Clone Epic Template for Jira is a free app that allows you to clone Epics along with their stories and sub-tasks. This app enables the customer to copy fully defined Epic-based templates from the Epic to subtasks, with all information and dependencies intact, making it easier to create a master template and template variants with minor differences.
In building the proof-of-concept Addteq implemented the following:
- Created a new project within Jira to serve as the Issue Template Repository.
- Created another new project within Jira to serve as a proof of concept.
- Created new issue types, custom fields, schemes, and workflows to be used with the PoC project.
- Created automation rules to create linked tasks and subtasks at specific points in a workflow
The customer provided Addteq with a sample work package, broken down into a hierarchy that was easy to translate to Jira’s Epic/Story/Subtask structure. This task list also contained a set of task-level dependencies. Using that task list, Addteq leveraged Issue Templates for Jira to build an issue structure within the Issue Template Repository, from Epic to subtask, complete with issue links that served as dependencies. Addteq created a second template based on this structure for use with automation. We then removed several sets of sub-tasks from this template and built automation rules that would create these subtasks dynamically as their parent issues transitioned through their workflows. By providing both templates, the customer could determine which option worked best: having all issues in a work package created immediately or automatically at specific critical task points.
Our solution also needed to facilitate the cloning and modification of work packages so that project managers would not always need to build new templates from the ground up. Unfortunately, out of the box, Jira does not provide the ability to deep clone Epics; while you can clone the Epic itself, Jira will not clone none the stories or subtasks within the Epic. To meet this need, Addteq installed Clone Epic Template for Jira, a free app that allows you to clone Epics along with their stories and sub-tasks. This app allowed the customer to copy fully defined Epic-based templates from the Epic to subtasks, with all information and dependencies intact, making it easier to create a master template and template variants with minor differences.
Once we defined the templates, Addteq created a new work package within the PoC project and created a program box within BigPicture, allowing us to create a full work breakdown structure, and Gantt chart with an automatically scheduled timeline based on task start dates and dependencies. Exports of the Gantt charts were then created for distribution and potentially embedding into Confluence pages in a designated space configured for external access without any risk of exposing internally sensitive information.
Throughout the adoption phase of the PoC, Addteq collaborated with the customer, iteratively updating and continuously improving the PoC as team members became comfortable with the system and provided additional feedback. Addteq also delivered several documents detailing the implementation and outlining how the various third-party apps could be configured and leveraged in the context of their PoC.
The customer was eager to get started with the PoC as soon as it was ready. Many team leaders and stakeholders have been actively working on it, exercising all of the options, and exploring all possibilities. Addteq looks forward to the next step and is fully committed to seeing the customer’s solution fully realized when ready to take the next step.