Jira Hygiene & Best Practices for Minimalists

Here's our quick list of the simplest ways to make sure the data in your project management tool (in this case, Jira) is updated and representative of the most important bits of information. These were the most common practices across the dozens of companies and hundreds of teams we've worked with. Ensuring this information is included and updated makes the information distributed within the R&D org and outside of it as accurate as necessary for asynchronous day to day coordination.

The Basics

This is all you need in your workflow to make sure Velma can easily understand what's going on. You're probably doing a majority of these already!

During Planning

All you need is Explain and Scope for epics! 

Add a summary & description so that anyone on the team can still understand the ticket in 3-6 months.

We don't expect you to have all your tickets planned out for the quarter. If that were the case you'd be following waterfall and not agile. However, we aren't fortune tellers so can't predict what projects you will be working on. So at the start of the quarter or half, it's helpful to have all your epics for work that you plan to do with some descriptions of each.

We can then compare the descriptions to projects you've completed in the past, or similar projects at other companies, to come up with an approximate size for each project.

Each ticket should represent a meaningful block of work. Epics typically represent milestones and stories represent steps within that milestone.

Make sure each epic is a meaningful block of work to you. This means it should be the size of something you want to track. If there are multiple milestones within an epic, that is often a sign that epic should be split up into multiple epics.

This will make tracking and understanding if the milestone is achievable much easier during project execution, since you can then leave it up to Velma to flag issues for you.

During Execution

During execution is when we expect you to start adding stories, bugs, and tasks to your epics. It's ok if these tickets gradually get added over time - Velma expects this. These tickets should also follow Explain and Scope principles so that Velma can contextualize them and understand what has been planned so far and what may be missing.

The following Update, Assign, and Prioritize steps are more important for the tickets within Epics than for Epics themselves. For example, we know that no one updates the "Workflow Status" of an epic. As long as the stories have the right "Workflow Status", Velma will have a good picture of what's going on.

The most important field to update is the "Workflow Status" of tickets within an Epic.

The most important item to update is "Workflow Status" to make sure we understand what's going on with each item. However, feel free to add extra context via other fields and comments as well. Velma will take every field into consideration for her predictions.

Once you’ve identified the primary owner or developer for the ticket, add them as the Assignee.

Sometimes an Assignee is used in order to understand developer capacity or adjust predictions based on experience. Sometimes an Assignee is needed to receive updates or for Velma to ask for additional context from. The Assignee field within each ticket is an important piece of context in order for Velma to do her job.

Finish tickets in priority order in case you need to cut scope. Use the priority field or order tickets by priority in the backlog.

As long as you have a typical way of communicating priority order, whether that's by backlog order or the actual priority field, Velma will use that to understand what the team may not necessarily get to if they fall behind.

If you're ready for more - see Jira Hygiene & Best Practices, Part 2 of our post.