Jira Agile Boards: Why and How to Create Swimlanes.

Jira Swimlane Agile Project

In a conversation my wife overheard yesterday she heard me mention ‘swimlanes’ which led her to excitedly expect that we were going to the leisure centre this weekend.  Of course as each year passes we have a tendency as a species to reuse and reapportion the meaning of words into new and fancy things. Apparently back in the annals of time the word ‘Nice’ meant ‘Silly , foolish , simple’ and the word ‘Silly’ originally meant ‘to be worthy or blessed’.  Luckily for us and our Jira musings the concept of swimlanes is very similar in use to that most of us grew up with albeit in a slightly different context.

To put it simply, ‘Swimlanes’ are normally used to separate your project ‘to-do’ lists into ordered, actionable and easily identifiable ‘faster /more important’ sections often by individual users or project areas.  They are a clever and query driven way of producing dynamic lists with a logical workflow and, significantly, are a visual way of seeing the health of a project and any outstanding blockages that need rapidly addressing.  Hitherto in most definitions this is a ‘view’ of a Kanban board and is not dissimilar to physical board forms used throughout many Agile organisations in the world. There are advantages and disadvantages of using virtual boards using swimlanes over physical boards but that is for another time.

If you choose to have such a project or set of tasks with a Kanban and swimlane approach then Jira has most bases covered. Once you have a project in mind then there are a number of key decisions that the project needs to make before creating the swimlanes on a board. (blog for further info on Visualizing Work with Jira Kanban Boards).

Get your Jira Workflow Right

It may sound obvious, but without an appropriate workflow, swimlanes are not very powerful and possibly very unusable. When you set up a project there are a number of basic workflows out of the box which you could choose but it is often better to start with fundamentals and draw your own workflow on a piece of paper before mapping it into Jira . The number of times I’ve scribbled down and modified what I was trying to do in a meeting has saved me time in the long run  – the measure twice and cut once still applies at a rudimentary ‘tech’ level! Most workflows have similar concepts such as a starting state, an end state, and one or multiple loops in the middle, but it is key for you to choose what is right for you based on what statuses you plan on reporting on, or are wanting to see.

… that includes State Transformations

So many times I have been called to look at a Jira Kanban board that cards cannot be moved on screen as they are not ‘in the right state’.

TIP:  Before you start to create your swimlanes ensure that each item can be dragged freely from one status to another within your on screen/project modelling.

Which Workflow Statuses to Report on the Jira Dashboard?

A workflow in simplest terms might have a simple three-part model with a beginning, middle, and end but this would be rare. It is more common to have many more statuses that you could group on a singular board. Jira provides the opportunity to merge multiple workflow statuses into the same columns and relabel columns in any way that suits you so you are able to have a useful board setup quickly, e.g. when presenting ‘test’ and ‘retest’ in the same column on the board to reduce space under some mapping, which is very useful when creating a board with swimlanes on it.

What Type of Jira Swimlanes Should I Use?

Jira comes with six distinct options for swimlanes each with differing purposes and uses…

Base Jira Swimlanes on Queries, Stories, Assignees, Epics, or Jira Projects

Story (or Jira Epic) Swimlanes

As you would envisage selecting to create Story or Epic related swimlanes will simply present the stories or epics in the project and in what current status they are in. There will be other information on the cards but it is a standard view of seeing the state of a project and very much looks like a traditional Kanban board.

Jira Issue Assignee Swimlanes

Selecting this option simply shows a person by person view of what work is assigned to them which might be useful for a quick view on workload at scrum master level or to see what reliance a project has on an individual e.g. if they were ill/unable to work for a period of time.

“For smaller teams, we actually prefer to do quick filters for each assignee.
On the kanban for our waterfall teams who are executing a project plan, I see a lot of value in using swimlane by query to dedicate a swimlane to critical path and another to behind target.”

Patty Land, Project Management Consultant, PwC

Jira Project Swimlanes

If reporting on multiple projects (or sub-sections of projects) then this option will allow you to see the status of each in a way so you can see what is happening from a very global perspective …. perfect for the Big-Picture megalomaniac amongst us all!

None

This option simply applies no filtering to a board and is not something I would often use but is probably useful at getting to grips with vanilla Jira Kanban boards.

Jira Query

Here’s the thing… I use query-driven swimlanes almost all the time.  You have full control, can add new queries at any time and can adjust what is seen on the screen to help present the information you are trying to show.  With the query-based approach you can create swimlanes for each of the other types described by simply writing appropriate JQL. I tend to write query-based swimlanes for each member, or team, in the project(s) and also like to have a priority-driven view i.e. highest at the top. This can be defined in the appropriate JQL and then dragging the ‘Name’ column into a relevant order on screen.

Reorder Jira Swimlane Priority

TIP:  Swimlanes can use any valid JQL so different lanes shown on the same report don’t even need to relate to each other but simply show a grid view of how a query models against a workflow

The configuration options and uses are endless here. When you suddenly have one of those meetings with ‘The Boss’ who suddenly determines that an issue you deemed insignificant has to be fixed for a big demo coming up… but don’t want to change the priority.

By utilizing a label and adding a new swimlane at the top of your settings then this and other tagged issues will suddenly be the prime focus of the next catchup meeting and can be dealt with accordingly.

JQL Jira Swimlanes Sort by Priority
Jira Board Best Practice Swimlanes

TIP:  Jira will allow as many boards as you want so you don’t ever have to stick with one view. Why not have a swimlane board dedicated to priorities and one dedicated to individual workload? The options are endless….

Conclusion

Jira Swimlanes are a fantastic way of presenting information for individuals and teams. With minimal JQL knowledge, you can create Agile Project boards within Jira containing items that you want showing and in the order you wish them to be displayed. You can hide items you don’t want displaying and use such organized boards to drive an agenda for any meeting that updates dynamically in real-time as the meeting progresses. Jira swimlanes can also be used in conjunction with quick-filters, card layout and details, and other board features to present a perfect view of your project for your audience.

Exporting Jira Data to Excel or Google Sheets

Learn how to get all of your Jira issues into Excel and Google Sheets with just a simple click.

Numerous teams all over the world use Jira and part of what makes it an amazing platform is its ability to help teams create reports.  A lot of users have been giving feedback that they want to create a custom report, which is why Jira has created a feature to help users build more customer reports for their stakeholders. Users are now able to get their Jira data into google sheets so that you can customize it more depending on your needs. You can create pivot tables and charts and relay your analysis to the stakeholders.

Why do you need spreadsheets?

When you’re working for a company or a team, team meetings are often. In daily check-ins or weekly reviews, reports are necessary to give updates and to show everyone or the stakeholders where they are in development. When generating reports, teams most likely have data that they generate or created manually based on their methods. Excel and Google Sheets are the most widely used tools for data gathering. Jira Software recognizes that it is critical to give users the ability to build their reports which is why this feature to get Jira data imported to Excel and Google Sheets exists.

Getting Started Exporting Jira to Excel

Go to your Jira project. Go to the Issues panel and Your screen should look quite similar to this.

Jira Software Advanced Search

Click on any issues that you want, depending on what data you need. Next, click “Advanced Search”, if you have Jira Software open it will be located on the top right of the screen.

When done, you’ll notice that the main panel changed and that more icons appear in the top right corner of the screen.

Advanced search in Jira Software now allows you to export, share, or automatically link your issues to Google spreadsheet or Excel. For this example, we will be generating a report from a Jira data to google spreadsheet. 

Generating a Jira Report in Google Sheets

After following the previous steps, you can just easily click the Google spreadsheet icon then allow Jira to connect to your google account. It’s that easy!  After allowing both software to connect, your Jira data will be imported to the spreadsheet.

Jira Cloud for Google Sheets integration

If you’re wondering why there’s a button saying “Install now” in the top portion of your sheet. That’s because Google has an add-on app that allows you to do more than import your Jira data to a spreadsheet. Clicking “Install now” should take you to the GSuite Marketplace.

There, click install, and you’re done.

Jira Cloud for Sheets

What’s the benefit of this add-on? Previously reports had to be manually updated, and users had to update the Jira board to rebuild the reports. This process takes time, so to help users, this add-on allows you to schedule an update so that reports are automaticaly updated.

To schedule the update, click on “Add-ons”, select “Jira Cloud for sheets” then click “Open.”
This opens the Jira Integration directly within the spreadsheet.

Jira Cloud Data Exported to Google Sheets
Jira Cloud for Google Sheets

The Jira integration should open up in the right-side panel of the screen. Click “Get issues from Jira” then navigate to the “Schedule data refresh”. Now you can select how often you want your update.

Now, if you’re running daily standups or weekly reviews out of Microsoft Excel, or Google Sheets, you can rest assured that your data is always up-to-date. You can build or own reports, or even import your formulas to give more comprehensive and detailed presentations.

Can We Integrate Jira Data with Excel?

Excel may be more popular than Google Sheets, and thankfully Jira has you covered, with an app that integrates with Microsoft Excel. To enable this feature in Excel, simply click “Insert” in the navigation bar then select “Add-ins”. This will take you to the Microsoft Office Add-ins store. Search for “Jira Cloud for Excel” and the first result should be the integration app. Now you can start creating your reports on Jira data from within Excel as well.

Jira Cloud for Excel Atlassian Marketplace addon

Excelling with Jira Reporting. Why Give a Sheet?

Documentation and reports are essential to project management. This is why Confluence and Jira exist. So why does Jira need to integrate with Excel and Google spreadsheets? The answer is to maximize productivity. When gathering data; experts and analysts use spreadsheet software to interpret, manipulate, and organize data. These experts might not be familiar with the Jira environment.

The best report is the one everyone can access, and the best tool for the job is the one everyone can use. Failure to let people use the tools they know how impairs process, and breed bad data practices.

The ability to export to Excel helps everyone do their work without adjusting to an unfamiliar platform or tool. It also helps less technical people combine data from multiple sources.

Jira Software offers simple yet powerful tools that enable users to maximize their productivity. Although Developers and Administrators are well versed in the Jira Ecosystem, features such as this show that non-developers can also experience and benefit from the Atlassian environment.

Thoughts from the Atlassian Community:

“There are great use cases for easy export, like a shared multi-client environment where single engagements come to an end and they will no longer have access to the environment, but still need an export of their data. It would sure be nice if built-in Jira reports like requirements traceability were also exportable for this purpose. Thinking about exports as a barrier to full adoption of the tool is valid, but the functionality is a necessity nonetheless.

Patty Land, Project Management Consultant, PwC

“Sad but true. A lot of users love the metrics but revert back to the systems most familiar. I encountered in training employees to JIRA with a bit of encouragement utilizing the charts and tables available in JIRA combined with verbal presentations sold it to new users.”

Liz Bowman: Change Management Training Specialist at Johnson & Johnson

“Still a good hack to know since many, especially higher management, prefer to use sheets/excel”

Andrey Stukan, Technology Consultant, Accenture

Planning on Migrating Jira Server to the Cloud or Data Center?

No Need to Panic (Even if You Weren’t Planning It)

Last week, the news broke that Atlassian are putting an end to their vestigial Server licenses for Jira, Confluence, and everything else.

Few were surprised:

If you were to play a drinking game every time Cloud was mentioned at an Atlassian event or in a shareholder report, you’d need medical attention.

Atlassian are offering three options to those currently on Server:

1.) A one-year free cloud migration trial for up to 10,000 users.

2.) A 20-55% discount to move to Cloud (for 1001 users+) or a 15%-40% discount to move to Data Center. The sooner you move, the higher the discount, so go for a 24-month deal before June/July 1st, 2021 (for Cloud/ DC respectively) to lock-in the highest discounted price for the longest time.

3.) Stay on Server, knowing that support will end for it by February 2024. Prices will go up for 1-25 users, but for most people who hadn’t cut a special Advantaged plan price deal with Atlassian, there will be very little change. You may however notice the lights slowly turning off, as fewer and fewer add-ons are supported on a dying platform.

I presume the comments section will be cynical enough about all of the above, so here are some practical considerations to help you with the migration plan.

  1. Are all your apps / add-ons supported on Cloud and Data Center? It’s simple enough to check whether your most important apps have a hosting option for Cloud and Data Center. If you’re not sure what your most important apps are, simply turn them off, and see how many people complain.
Atlassian Marketplace hosting on Cloud, Server or Data Center.

Be aware that apps may have a different marketplace listing for each platform. This can be a sign that it’s a different app, and migration may be a pain.

2. Migrating from Server to Data Center is almost no work at all. It’s practically the same platform, but the apps will have gone through rigorous testing to prove they’re reliable and stable at scale.

You may lose some of your older, less well-supported add-ons during the migration, but moving house should always be an opportunity for a spring clean!

3. Atlassian are continuously updating this handy guide on which Vendors have made migration paths from Server to Cloud. The best apps have worked hard to make sure nothing is lost in the move.

4. If in doubt, contact the Vendors directly, or your Atlassian Partner, and ask how complicated your migration might be, and whether any data or work will be lost during the migration.

Managing your Project, Documentation, and Budget in Jira and Confluence.

Jira Financial Portfolio Report

Confluence is a wiki collaboration tool, while Jira is an issue tracking tool. Together they transform the way you manage your project, organize all of the ideas, content, and files that you and your team create as you bring your vision to life. Let’s say you’re working with your team remotely for the first time. Keeping track of all that information is difficult when it’s spread across different platforms and mediums, like Google Docs, PDF files, spreadsheets, Slack messages, and even post-it notes. Jira and Confluence cloud bring that information into one place and one platform where everyone can easily collaborate. There are numerous ways of how to integrate Jira and Confluence today; we will focus on improving your Jira and Confluence experience in terms of issue tracking and documentation.

Managing a project can be challenging; you need to develop skills that allow you to monitor different aspects of the project at the same time, be ready with documentation and report presentations. Utilizing both Jira and Confluence maximizes your ability to multitask and share information with stakeholders.

Linking your Jira Project to Confluence

The first step is to link your Jira project to your Confluence page. Navigate to your confluence space , then on the left panel click Add shortcut option. 

Paste your Jira project URL in the Edit space shortcuts dialog box, and name your shortcut for easy reference then save.

Linking your Jira Project to Confluence

Now you can easily access your Jira project whenever you like.

Documentation in Confluence

There are many misconceptions about Atlassian products, one of which is that it is only used for software development. In reality, the Atlassian ecosystem enables different teams — Finance, Operations, Legal, Marketing, HR, and more — to improve their workflow and process.

One of the best things about Confluence is that it’s easily integrated with Jira. This allows the team to collaborate efficiently by linking Jira Issues, mentioning a team member, and attaching multiple files.

Creating Jira Reports in Confluence

Start by clicking the Create button in the top portion of the Confluence page. Search for Jira report in the list of suggested templates or type “Jira” in the filter.

Creating Jira Reports in Confluence.

You can choose between a log type report or a status report with charts. If you select Status report, this generates a template with the generated graphics needed for your report. Make sure you choose the right Jira project for your report.

Jira Report Type in Confluence

After selecting the right project, select a name for your page for easy navigation.

Jira Status Report in Confluence

Your status report template should look similar to the image below. If you selected the correct Jira project, then it should show the status of your project,  the number of issues and the generated charts.

Jira Project Report in Confluence

There’s a more detailed blog on Jira reports integrated into Confluence, you should also check out Custom Jira Charts for Confluence Reports. The ability to easily integrate your Jira and Confluence with other tools allows your teams to work more effectively and prevents them from wasting time jumping from one tool to another.

The Slash Command in Confluence Editor

In the editor, one powerful tool is the slash “/” command. This loads up a list of macros that you can use when creating or editing your page. This can also be used to link Jira issues.

Slash Command Editor in Confluence

The slash command allows you to mention someone, attach files, emojis and many more. You can scroll to the list of macros and add whatever tool you need in the editor. This command allows you to save time and work efficiently.

Linking Different Files

If your team just transitioned to working remotely for the first time, then you need to try Atlassian’s platform. It serves as a central hub where you can organize your work, consolidate information, and become more productive as a team. You can directly link a meeting recording in your page as well as attach Google drive files. This is very important to keep your pages clean and organized.

Confluence Meeting Notes, Linking Files

In software development, releasing multiple builds can sometimes cause problems. There are various cases where the wrong build was shipped and caused issues in production. This can be prevented if proper tracking and documentation is implemented. The image below shows a sample list of the different versions of an Android build. With this, you can quickly locate the latest build that was pushed in the App store, therefore preventing a mishap with a build release.

Confluence Clear Build Release Summary

Financial Reports

In Confluence, you can create a financial report. Although you can generate one from a spreadsheet software, why build one in Confluence? If your project is integrated in Jira, you link a particular milestone or issue into your report. If there were issues that caused your team some major setbacks, then you can directly connect a Jira ticket into your report. You can even mention a member of your team in that report. This increases visibility in your process while keeping everyone in the group updated. Now you can easily monitor everything in one platform without having multiple tabs or apps open.

Confluence Financial Portfolio Report

Conclusion

In the new-normal edition of working, many are finding it hard to collaborate at a pace they are usually used to. However, using the Atlassian platform makes it so much easier. The powerful software and collaboration tool that they offer enables teams to produce high-quality results while working from home. The flexibility that it provides allows managers to monitor and control almost everything in one hub. With Jira and Confluence, everyone has a voice, information flows freely, and work gets done.