Jira Software for Non-Software Teams

By Mick Flanigan

Many non-software or non-technical teams will shy away from a tool with 'software' in its name that is obviously oriented towards technical teams. Teams also tend to be averse to adopting a new system over the one they are familiar with. However, most industries are more competitive year-over-year and the efficiency brought to projects leveraging agile methodologies allows teams a competitive advantage. It is easy to admit that the work being done is different between technical and non-technical teams, but most teams and projects function similarly at their core. It is also easy to mitigate the administrative overhead after some training or outsourcing that work to a professional services team.

Jira Basics

Jira is an issue tracking and project management application that was initially created by Atlassian in 2002. Since then it has grown into several variants, each with specific features and functionality. Jira has also been joined by a suite of tracking, collaboration, coding, and identity applications that work together to meet the needs of many businesses. Jira facilitates efficiency by bundling information about a work item into issues, defining a team’s process using workflows, and governs the various aspects of the project using rule sets, called schemes. This allows teams to spend more time completing the work and less time managing the work, resulting in getting a higher volume of work done at a faster pace. 

Jira Software builds on this by further embracing the agile philosophy, bringing easier ways to plan, track, and complete work items. This easier method is what makes Jira Software such a good match for any team, in any industry. This is done primarily through Jira Software's Agile boards, in depth reporting, and the ability to estimate time to completion while prioritizing work. The Agile boards come in Scrum or Kanban flavors, are fully customizable, and reflect the methodology with which they share their name. A dozen or more Agile reports are also available on top of the standard Jira reports. They range from Burndown Charts to Velocity Charts to Cumulative Flow Diagrams. The reporting allows project leadership to see how things have gone, are going, and assist in determining how things will go.

Jira Software's Kanban board’s focus on the continuous delivery of work is specifically what makes it an easy option to go with. Boiled down to its basic components, a Kanban board is a set of columns representing the workflow, or stages of an issue’s lifecycle, and cards representing the work items. A Kanban board easily shows where in the workflow the work being done is either backing up or moving more readily onto the next stage. This allows a team to adjust and refocus their effort to maximize the flow of work.

Case study

Let's look at an example of a non-technical team and how they work. A common role in a majority of companies is some form of Human Resource. An HR department will regularly onboard new hires, following a specific process, and accomplishing certain tasks. This process will go something like Interviewing > Onboarding > Hired, with an option along the lines of Not Hired to escape the process. This defines the HR workflow for onboarding. Jira Software's native automation items can be triggered at certain places in the workflow and can help handle some of the reoccurring task that can often be missed when left up to someone to remember. Things such as emailing a person or department, updating specific information on the ticket, or only allowing certain team members to move it to the next stage.

Now let's address the tasks HR performs related to this new hire as the new hire goes through this process. This can be things like obtaining paperwork, performing background checks, entering them into systems, issuing hardware, assign/introduce a manager, and more. These smaller pieces of work are sub-tasks and are often undervalued, mishandled, or forgotten in the drive towards the larger goal. In some case, overlooking a smaller item of work can have a large, negative impact and is generally the kind of thing most teams like to avoid. These sub-tasks ensure the finer work items are completed and can indicate the readiness of the larger work item to move to the next stage. Once again, Jira's automation can come into play and update information on the parent issue or prevent the parent issue from moving to the next stage.

Understanding that HR does a lot more than just onboard, we can take this example and break it down into its fundamental principles, work that is done and an initiative that is put through a process. This allows us to apply those principals to other HR activities, such as promotions, offboarding, or the inevitable incidents of addressing bad behavior. It's also interesting to point out that these fundamental principles are guided by the rules of how the team operates, aligning the principals with the way that Jira facilitates efficiency and the way a Kanban board showcases the work.

Addressing Concerns

Yes, there are software development specific features that are not necessary for non-software teams and inevitably questions about those features will be asked. Much like anything that you have and do not use, those features stay dormant. Most of the time those items are only surfaced in certain configuration screens and tend to stay out of the way. In some cases, the functionality can be completely disabled, removing them from the user interface completely. Disabling those features can typically be done when there are no software teams actively using the instance.

Questions are also asked around the ability of non-technical teams to learn how to use the tool. This is another area that Jira Software's Agile features make it a great fit. Almost everybody has used computers and browsed the internet for a fair amount of time. These skills combined with the Agile board's focus on delivering only what is needed in a simple, and straight forward, fashion lowers the learning curve. The 'steeper' bits of the learning curve for most users tends to be the where's and why's of the application, but they are quickly overcome through basic training or a short amount of time spent working in the project. The only users that should be technical are the application administrators. As mentioned earlier, that work can be supplemented, or outsourced completely, to a professional services provider.

That is where Contegix comes in. Our Professional Services team will take care of all administrative overhead, training, configuration, and more. We also offer hosting services to ensure top tier system and application performance. Our goal being to serve our customer top to bottom, removing the need for advanced technical skills, and clears the biggest hurdles for many teams. This allows our customers to focus on improving their governance and completing their work. We have all encountered people or teams that are stuck in their ways and have seen them suffer the consequences. We have also encountered teams who find ways to improve how they operate and have an easier time keeping up with market demands. These are the teams that achieve success and will consider using Jira Software, even if they are not a software team.

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