Step up Your Jira Workflows With These 7 Best Practices

by Caitlin Mackie, Graduate Marketing Coordinator

24 Jan 2021

As an agile team, you’re likely well aware of Jira software and its supreme capabilities for creating agile workflows. Jira workflows are a staple for development teams (ours included! 🕺), and there’s no question why.

Jira takes a customer-first approach to designing projects, and it’s highly customizable, making it extremely popular among agile teams working in software development. As the folks who developed Jira at Atlassian like to say, “The more agile your team is, the more Jira will be able to help.”

Our team has been using Jira workflows for years, and we’ve learned a thing or two along the way. Okay, we’ve learned a lot along the way. 😎

We’ve also dedicated our company to making products that work directly with the Jira software you use. While you probably already know how to use Jira workflows, you may not be getting the most out of them. In this post, we’ll share seven best practices for getting the absolute most out of your workflows.

🚨 We offer 2 FREE Jira workflows available on the Atlassian Marketplace!

Why dev teams choose Jira workflows

Unlike traditional project management tools, Jira takes an agile approach to product development. Jira Software is a family of software platforms designed to help agile teams do what they do even better, so team members can plan, track, and release great software every time.

The Jira server allows for multiple frameworks, including both Scrum and Kanban processes, making it completely versatile, no matter what style you’re used to. It helps you manage all phases of your workflow with complete visibility, and you can continually improve your performance based on detailed real-time data.

🙋🏼 If you’re new to Jira, follow this how-to tutorial from Atlassian for developers joining an existing Jira cloud project.

Jira workflow best practices and lessons learned

We love its flexibility and how it helps development teams work to meet stakeholder and customer needs. Our two CEOs worked directly with the Atlassian Jira team for five years, where they got to know the product inside and out.

1. Make customer-focused decisions

Every decision you make should be customer-focused. Repeat that again and again — you can even record it on your phone and listen to it while you sleep every night! 😴 Agile methodologies are especially effective because they focus on this priority in every problem.

Keep this mantra top of mind through every step of your Jira project, such as when you add workflows, create new workflows, define specific issue fields, or resolve issue types. To continually bring value to the customer, you need to visualize their journey from start to finish.

User story maps are invaluable tools for keeping customers at the forefront of everything you do. They help teams prioritize based on customer needs, and they give a clear view of the customer journey. It’s their story, after all, so why not view your backlog from their perspective?

Easy Agile User Story Maps transform flat backlogs into impactful, visual representations of the customer journey. The add-on integrates seamlessly with your agile boards in Jira and is designed to help teams provide value to customers fast and frequently. It’s the highest-rated story mapping app for Jira users.

2. Use personas to gain a deeper understanding of your audience

Personas are the ultimate tool for empathizing with customers. They ask important questions about users so development teams can gain a deep understanding of the people who will use the product they’re working on. If you aren’t using personas yet, move it to the top of your to-do list.

A persona asks important questions of the user to capture buying habits, pain points, behavioral patterns, demographics, and more. Using these directly within your User Story Maps or alongside your product roadmap will help you make the decisions that will bring the most value to the customer.

Easy Agile Personas for Jira configures directly with your current Jira projects. The app has the functionality to create and store customer personas natively in Jira software, so you can prioritize customer needs every step of the way.

3. Don’t add more detail than what’s needed

When working in Jira, there’s such a thing as too much detail. Although it can be tempting to include absolutely everything, this may not actually be the best move.

Overuse of custom fields can lead to a slower response time on Jira issues, and it may cause frustrating holdups. Don’t get in your own way by creating an overly complicated structure. Whenever adding to your Jira workflow, think back to your customer needs and OKRs. Simple is often the more effective choice.

4. Don’t over-customize or overcomplicate

Jira workflow: Complicated Avril Lavigne GIF

As Avril would say, don’t go and make things so complicated! 🎸 Custom workflows offer dev teams a solution that can be adapted to meet their current needs. But customization can come at a price.

As your Jira workflows evolve, they will become more and more unrecognizable from one workflow to the next. In some cases, they may get to the point of becoming a completely different species that will have trouble working with original versions.

Add custom fields when you need to, but don’t overdo it on complex workflows. Set standard practices across your team for how and when different workflows are customized to minimize compatibility issues. Ensure that customization is approved by those who understand OKRs and have the entire big picture in mind. It may be prudent for larger teams to limit admin assignee access to prevent unnecessary and possibly harmful customizations.

5. Bring stakeholders into the process

These include both internal and external stakeholders in the process to ensure their needs are consistently met. The product manager is just one person with one viewpoint — you need a variety of team perspectives.

Stakeholders need to be involved, and they need to have continual access to essential documents, such as your product roadmap or user story map. These living documents are a work in progress. They represent the overall vision at any given time, and since they’re always evolving, your stakeholders need to know how to access them and how to decipher them.

6. Teach stakeholders about the iterative process

Learn Schitts Creek GIF By CBC

When it comes to agile and working in Jira, everything is iterative. The plan you set out with is bound to change with the needs of your customers.

This is really difficult for some stakeholders to understand, especially if they’re not used to working with agile. The ideas and methodologies that come naturally to you may be completely foreign to the stakeholders and key customers you involve in the process.

Take it slow and BE PATIENT. Teach stakeholders about the agile process, and ensure they understand that any plan is completely subject to change. Plans are “living documents” that represent what the team hopes to accomplish based on what will provide the most value to customers in that snapshot of time.

7. Utilize awesome Jira plugins

Jira is a fantastic app with tons of features and development tools for agile teams that we can’t praise highly enough, but it doesn’t come with everything. Take advantage of plugins designed to help teams just like yours. The Atlassian marketplace offers a number of Jira apps that provide specific solutions, including Easy Agile’s four Jira plugins:

Each of our plugins seamlessly integrates within Jira to simplify your development and streamline your business process.

Try any of our apps free for 30 days — we’re sure you’ll love them. If you have questions, contact our team or watch the demos on each product page to learn more.

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