Could you be using Jira better? Try these top 3 tips!

JIRA
JIRA

Could you be using Jira better? Try these top 3 tips!

Jira is one of the flagship products in the Atlassian stack. And it’s super popular.

Atlassian adoption is going up in companies around the world – and more users than ever are going beyond the standard functionality that Jira offers.

Custom Atlassian tools give admins more control – and with Jira, opportunities for admins to enhance the way their organisations work on the platform are always present.

Here are 3 top tips for using Jira in the most effective, efficient and productive way at your organisation.

1. Run a tight ship

Keeping your Jira instance organised is one of the heaviest burdens on Jira admins. The single best way to boost productivity and maximise efficiency is to keep Jira clean, tidy and simple.

Just one weekly maintenance session should be enough to keep everything shipshape. Make sure you cover the basics so that everyone can find what they need to: all correctly labelled, lean, complete and up-to-date.

Make yourself a weekly housekeeping checklist that you can run through quickly, which spots and resolves the most common bad habits you tend to find in your Jira instance.

Look for simple things – like errors and typos, which could slow processes down or cause confusion. Look for and resolve duplication issues, and make sure all essential fields are filled out, updating any missing details.

Check that issue summaries and descriptions are consistent, and add keywords to issue descriptions for better integration and searching. Remove and custom fields which have been added unnecessarily. Check dates and change them where necessary.

Keeping it clean and tidy is the first step to a faster, more productive Jira instance

2. Get automated!

Most of you using Jira are probably already running automation tools.

But we know that Atlassian users want even more automation functions and integrations – which is probably why automation add-ons for Jira are always among Atlassian’s top-selling Jira apps.

These add-ons let Jira users automate repetitive tasks and error-prone processes (the stuff that most of us humans hate doing), and can save a frankly ridiculous amount of time.

Some even let you customise workflows and the Jira interface itself, to better fit your way of working. Jira connects to Confluence already – but some add-ons extend automation integrations beyond the Atlassian stack, into your code manager, CRM software and other data sources.

Of course, setting up a custom in-house Jira instance might be out of your team’s wheelhouse.

Hiring a certified, vetted and skills-checked Jira contractor to implement a custom solution might be your fast-track ticket to a highly customised yet simple set of automation features in your Jira setup. This could completely transform the way your company works – the secret ingredient to maximising the benefits of your Atlassian toolkit, in every process.

3. Migrate to Jira Cloud

As of February 2024, Jira Server customers will no longer have access to maintenance and support.

Jira Cloud and Jira Data Center are tipped as the future-proof, definitive versions, and many organisations have already invested in migrating to Jira Cloud, well ahead of schedule.

And that’s wise. Because migrations can raise questions for admins about compatibility, security, data loss, robustness, and more.

Cloud versions of apps are becoming more widely available, but there will inevitably be some legacy functionality that won’t make it – and this can be a major sticking point.

Another big sticking point is that, well… It’s a pain.

Despite that, Atlassian Cloud migration is becoming more and more essential to organisations using these tools as time goes on. Getting a head start, long before the Atlassian Server support termination deadline, will make it much smoother and easier.

But migrating to Jira Cloud also brings a raft of benefits. Performance and speed are better in Jira Cloud than Jira Server, because best-in-class tech is deployed as it becomes available. Features are rolled out and implemented as they happen – without any need for intervention or installation on your side. Maintenance, security, privacy and compliance are all improved with Atlassian Cloud, too.

Control and customisation, plus local and government compliance are currently sticking points with Cloud migrations – but these are all addressed with Atlassian Data Center.

Data Centre is designed for compliance and regulatory-heavy sectors; like healthcare, finance and government. It allows deeper control and customisation for life-and-death, high-priority use cases.

Bonus: Always Be Learning

Jira is always changing. Make sure you keep up.

Staying up-to-date on new features in Jira will help you and your team get more out of it, and improve productivity. This has never been more important – as more and more of us are working remotely.

Getting together (virtually or in person) and getting the latest Jira training is important. It helps teams better understand what they’re learning, and adds an important social team-building element to their work day.

Learning Jira should be positive – and if you want the best results from your team, boosting their knowledge in an uplifting way is a brilliant start.

Hire an expert Jira contractor

ClearHub specialises in finding the best Atlassian contractors in the world; vetted, skills-checked and ready to maximise your productivity with Jira.

Want to know more? Get in touch with the ClearHub team today – call +44 (0) 2381 157811 or send your message to info@clearhub.tech.

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Root Cause Analysis: what it is and why you need it

cracked floor
cracked floor

Root Cause Analysis: what it is and why you need it

Imagine, if you will, that you have a garden – with a beautiful old brick wall that circles it.

One day, you discover a crack running between the old brickwork, which otherwise seems solid and immovable. It wasn’t there before, but it doesn’t look too bad. The wall’s in great shape otherwise – so you decide to patch it up.

You drill and chisel out the old mortar, and replace it with new mortar. Good as new.

Fast forward a couple of weeks, and the crack’s back. It’s even bigger this time. Even so, you decide to press on with another round of patching, assuming your lack of skill as a bricklayer was to blame.

Once again, all is well.

Until a few weeks later, when the crack has practically become a gaping chasm. The wall is, without any doubt, leaning and buckling. It’s on the brink of collapse.

And then you see why; there’s a tree growing on the other side of the wall.

The roots have slowly been working their way under the wall, moving the earth, disrupting the foundations, causing the cracking, the stressing – and to save the wall, you’ll have to deal with the tree.

That is – quite literally, in this case – the root cause in this case.

This is just a super basic example to demonstrate the idea – it can be far more difficult in complex systems – like the human body. Finding the root cause of a problem is exactly what doctors do when a patient is unwell; just on a different scale of complexity and importance.

Treating the symptoms of their illness with medication is what a chemist does.

But, just like the constant patching and eventual buckling of our proverbial garden wall, the chemist’s medicines are just mortar, patching up the brickwork.

At some point, we’ll need the doctor’s investigation of the root cause – the underlying issue causing the symptoms – so that we can deal with the problem once and for all. But in a system as complex as the human body, there can be multiple root causes to a problem.

With Root Cause Analysis (RCA) in an Agile context, we’ll need to become more like the doctor, and less like the chemist; prescribing the medication to get us through, while we search for the root cause – before our patient ends up like the garden wall.

What is Agile Root Cause Analysis (or RCA)?

Root Cause Analysis (RCA) is the process of discovering the true cause of a problem, in order to identify effective, lasting solutions.

In Agile teams, this is an important aspect of maintaining autonomy and accountability, being able to self-diagnose issues within the team, and create effective solutions. It prevents the same and similar issues being repeated in the future.

It’s also important for analysing and repeating success; discovering what caused something to work well can be as simple as working backwards, but often, this misses the root cause of the success – because we focus too heavily on the result at each stage.

Why do you need to conduct Root Cause Analysis?

If your team encounters the same issues over and over, the most likely reason is that problems are being patched and not dealt with at the root.

Agile Root Cause Analysis can guide them towards the source of the problem.

It’s much more effective to prevent and solve underlying issues than it is to constantly be putting out fires.

In the same breath, it’s better to spend a little more time solving the right problem than it is to chase speed alone – and solve the wrong problems quickly.

So with that in mind, let’s take a look at the fundamental goals of any RCA:

  1. To discover the root cause of a problem or event
  2. To fully understand how to fix, mitigate or learn from the root cause
  3. Apply what we learn to prevent future issues and repeat successes

Point 3 is important. Imagine if, in our garden wall example, we learned that the tree roots were the true cause of the problem, but we rebuilt the wall without addressing the tree.

We’d feel productive – we’ve built a whole new wall. We did some good, hard work.

But the new wall just will fall foul of the growing roots again. And the one we build after that. And the one after that…

If we don’t address the root cause, we’ll likely have the same exact problem over and over. And to prevent future issues, we can use our learnings to check for other trees growing nearby, or make a roadmap to deal with similar issues in the future.

RCA sounds great, doesn’t it? So, how do you do it?

Well – it’s simple in principle, complex in practice…

How to conduct RCA in Agile teams

First, establish the following as your guiding principles:

  • Seek to correct the root cause, not just the symptoms – but DO relieve symptoms short-term
  • There can be – and there often is – more than one root cause
  • The blame game is futile. Focus on the HOW and WHY, not WHO did WHAT
  • Look for reliable cause and effect evidence
  • Get enough information to formulate a solution
  • Consider how the same root cause can be prevented in the future

Now you’ve got a guiding North Star, you can seek methods to conduct your analysis.

The 5 whys approach

“The 5 whys” is a classic RCA methodology.

For every answer to a question, follow it up with a deeper one.

It might take 3 “wait but why?” questions to get to the root, or it might take tens of them.

One of the most common and enduring examples comes from the infamous Toyota Production System – the grandfather of Agile methodologies. The problem? My car won’t start. Let’s apply the 5 whys approach:

  1. Why? – The battery is dead
  2. Why? – The alternator isn’t working
  3. Why? – The alternator belt is broken
  4. Why? – It was well beyond its service life and not replaced
  5. Why? – The car hasn’t been serviced regularly

BINGO. Lack of servicing is the root cause; not the dead battery, or the broken alternator belt.

We’ve learned that, by sticking to a service schedule, we can avoid this – or similar issues with wear and tear – leaving us without a car again.

The 5 whys isn’t perfect – but it helps us to avoid assumptions. By drilling down into progressively deeper questions, answers become clearer. Ideally, by the time we answer the last why, we’ll have our root cause; but in complex systems, this can get tricky.

And it’s entirely possible to have more than one roost cause, remember?

While there are other methods of conducting RCA, this one’s a good start to get to grips with.

And if you need something deeper, maybe it’s time to look outside your organisation.

Hire Agile experts

ClearHub specialises in finding the best Agile contractors in the world; vetted, skills-checked and ready to change the way your company solves problems.

Want to know more? Get in touch with the ClearHub team today – call +44 (0) 2381 157811 or send your message to info@clearhub.tech.

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Confluence vs Jira: What are the differences?

working on laptop
working on laptop

Confluence vs Jira: What are the differences?

Leading software developers Atlassian produce a suite of valuable products, and probably the two most important and popular are Jira and Confluence. Both these pieces of software are used by organisations of all sizes to simplify their working environment and allow their staff to be more productive day-to-day.

If you are interested in making use of them, it is important to understand what these products are best for, as well as any drawbacks they might have. Here we take a look at both to establish which product might be right for you.

What Confluence is best for

As a shared workspace, Confluence allows teams to organise and work together on projects. This content management tool makes it easy to create and file strategy documents, meeting notes, IT details and much more. When everyone has access to all the important data and documents it makes things much simpler all round.

Confluence has a range of features that are hugely beneficial:

  • Analytics – Confluence includes Analytics that allow you to track a range of important metrics including most liked, accessed and viewed. This is vital for understanding and making better use of data and knowledge in your organisation.
  • Collaboration – A major advantage of Confluence is that it is designed to be highly collaborative. Contributions from individual team members can be tracked using the Version Control Feature, and allows for efficient and effective working between a group.
  • Integration – Confluence integrates seamlessly with other products, including both other Atlassian software, as well as third-party apps. This makes Confluence good at connecting with Google’s products, as well as adding broader features such as graphics and graphs.

Drawbacks of Confluence

Of course, there are some aspects of Confluence that aren’t perfect and might present potential issues.

  • Search – The search feature of Confluence is considered a weakness, and it can be relatively complicated to use.
  • Plugins – Third-party plugins may be needed, but you might find some challenges in implementing them. This might require you to have to create a specific plugin.

What Jira is best for

Jira is another one of Atlassian’s best known products. It is designed to track the status and progress of issues, bugs, and other aspects of a project. It can be customized around the specific needs of the business.

Jira allows you to design and manage reports, workflows, and tasks – increasing the efficiency and productivity of the team.

  • Agile development – Perhaps the most famous aspect of Jira is its Agile working, which allows workers to utilise the Kanban and scrum features easily.
  • Security – Jira has sensible and well thought out security controls. It is easy to manage user access to ensure team members are allowed to work at the right level of security clearance.
  • Reports – Jira’s selection of reporting options is excellent. It allows users to mine the data for insights and information.

Drawbacks of Jira

Some of the challenges in working in Jira can include:

  • Integration – If you have previously worked with other application management systems, it can feel difficult to integrate or migrate over.
  • Interface – Some users of Jira find that the interface is not as clear as it could be.

Confluence and Jira are distinct software packages that can both be extremely useful for businesses. If you are interested in working with Atlassian, Clearhub specialises in the recruitment of Jira and Confluence professionals. Get in contact with our experienced team today.

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Software versioning: how to launch with FEWER complaints

sad face
sad face

Software versioning: how to launch with FEWER complaints

If you’ve worked in software development long enough, you’ll have lived through at least one “ropey” version release.

It could be version 2, or version 12 – but generally, the more complex a system gets over time, and the more features are added, the more likely you are to encounter an issue with a version launch.

And the larger a user base grows (on multiple devices, operating systems, browsers – you name it), the more opportunities there are for user error, bugs and incidents after a launch.

Sometimes, it’s inevitable; no matter how hard and diligently we work, we’re not perfect. But it’s frankly amazing how many issues can be avoided with a new version release – with simple, effective communication to your users.

Oh, and forget emailing your release notes, “HOT NEW FEATURES!” lists or press releases. Because half of the time, those emails go straight to spam. The rest either get ignored or misinterpreted.

Thankfully, there are better ways to communicate with your user base and ensure a smooth transition between versions – with fewer complaints and support tickets.

After release, users complain of reduced functionality – even if it’s all still there

A major release can be gruelling, even before changes are committed and rolled out. But once users are in the application – things can get messy.

Sometimes, functions and features are moved to make room for other, newer or higher-priority features. If you haven’t effectively communicated this to your users, expect a bunch of support tickets asking why they can’t do “that thing” anymore.

Remember – not everyone has the time to sift through their emails and read version notes. Many inboxes will filter out mailer bots, especially in high-pace, high-stakes organisations. So, while an automated email is an easy and simple solution for you, the people who actually matter aren’t getting the information they need, or it’s being presented in a woefully ineffective format.

Absolutely – you need to have version release notes. But does everyone need to read them? Think about a few ways to improve the release experience for users:

  • Add a “new features” pop-up to the login or launch screen. Keep it quick and simple, to prevent frustration
  • Get your PR and marketing teams to help develop key messages, or:
    • Write like a tabloid – give your users HEADLINE information of new features, then link to the full version release notes
    • Try a short “What’s new in version X” video explainer
  • Communicate over multiple channels, not just email. Have a solid message across all channels, and link to release notes

To stay ahead of the game, check forums for common issues with other releases (not necessarily your own) and try to preemptively mitigate any issues you encounter in them.

Uh oh. This actually IS an incident!

Incidents happen. And they’re serious. Speed of response is your greatest asset during a major incident, so make sure you’re ready.

Connect your CI/CD pipeline to Jira Service Management (or other ITSM platforms) to give your team a speed advantage when identifying issues that have just been released to the live environment. 

Good housekeeping is the key here; build categories using multiple attributes, so that high-priority items get noticed first. Set event thresholds on the number of linked incidents, and then define automated escalation paths.

Jira Service Management Service Centre and Confluence can work together to speed this up and communicate clearly during an incident. Use tags and keywords to raise content before a query is submitted.

When a high-level incident occurs, you will likely be following your major-incident process. Some of this will happen within your workflow, with automation and integration between your ITSM and documentation or collaborative workspaces.

Some of this will fall outside of ITSM; managing resources and relationships.

Senior leadership will be asking questions. Customers will be pushing back.

All the while, your dev team will be working hard, trying to resolve the incident. It can be tempting to bombard them with status requests when you’re getting the same. But be mindful of the impact this will have on their focus, their efficacy, and their wellbeing.

And be mindful of your own.

Major incidents are rare, but when they happen, you want to know you’re prepared to limit the fallout.

Is your Jira and Confluence set up to handle a major incident after a version release?

Hire an Atlassian expert to supercharge your workflows

ClearHub specialises in finding the best Atlassian contractors in the world; vetted, skills-checked and ready to prepare your DevOps and ITSM platforms to handle anything.

Want to know more? Get in touch with the ClearHub team today – call +44 (0) 2381 157811 or send your message to info@clearhub.tech.

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5 Steps to Becoming an Agile Organisation

staff meeting
staff meeting

5 Steps to Becoming an Agile Organisation

Moving towards Agile has become something of a trend in business today. It’s an attractive model; lean, but incredibly effective. No wonder more businesses want to adopt Agile.

But for software companies, IT companies and development teams, it’s kind of been the only way to work. And many have learned, sometimes the hard way, that it’s not so much a transformation as it is a transition.

It takes time. It takes dedication. It takes foresight, insight, introspection and retrospection.

Transitioning into Agile will change core business processes, capabilities and the very guiding principles of a company. And that can’t happen overnight, or in one move; it’ll take an iterative and incremental approach – and you’ll often be learning the ropes as you go.

Read more – How to create an Agile team

But even though it takes time and resources, it will pay off. The first step to becoming an Agile organisation is to decide it’s the right move, and to set the wheels in motion – and the best way to do that is by establishing your mission objectives.

Step one: the mission

Before you do anything, you need a purpose.

Think of everyday tasks: you eat to nourish yourself, sleep to re-energise, and exercise to feel your best. You climb a staircase to get to the next floor. You call a cab to go somewhere.

So why do you need to “do Agile”?

The danger with starting a project so vast and so broad is losing sight – getting caught in the minutiae and chasing your tail – without ever achieving anything but the creation of more work.

So, with that, step one is to define your goal, the purpose of adopting Agile.

Read more: How to set SMART goals

And, when you find your purpose, don’t forget to share it with the most important asset you have – your people.

You need to make absolutely clear why you’re doing this, and effectively communicate it with the entire organisation. You need to guide them through, and listen to their feedback. If everyone’s on board, with a mission they can all get behind, success will come far more easily.

Common goals lead to a sense of community, purpose and buy-in – which in turn leads to common values and principles. These are the core areas of your company that you must, over time, change, in order to be able to say “mission accomplished”.

Step two: assess what you have

Now you know what you want to achieve, it’s time to take stock. How close or far are you from realising your mission? What will you have to change to achieve it?

You will, of course, still have to do business during the transition to Agile. It can be tough to make that seamless, and some companies start with fringe departments or R&D teams; areas of the business with longer-term goals, or delayed yet significant value.

Segment these out. Identify your core value streams; the processes and people that achieve your regular business goals. Plan for their continued operation, while setting in motion a plan for Agility.

Then, decide which teams and processes to transition over first. The company structure won’t necessarily have to change – but resource allocation might.

Step three: out with the old (mindset)

We live in the 21st century – the age of the semiconductor, the pocket-sized supercomputer and the Internet of Things. We can control any aspect of our lives remotely and digitally with a tap and a swipe.

So, why do we do business, company structure and management in the same way we did more than a hundred years ago?

Managing employees and their time, setting rigid tasks – and yet pushing for innovation and competition.

Modern business leaders know that every member of a team is different. Each has a specific expertise, making them leaders in their own roles. Seniority and leadership qualities should no longer be defined by how big someone’s team is, but by how effective they are in their specified role; their experience and knowledge, and thought leadership.

Read more – The future of work

It’s time to get into the Agile mindset; allow your team members autonomy, self-regulation and authority in their specialism. Create a fair and effective system of governance and accountability.

Let everyone become a leader in their own field. Trust their knowledge and experience, and make them accountable for their successes. And of course, their failures. Because there will be failures; but that’s actually a good thing.

Step four: incremental, iterative progress

As humans, we have to fail in order to progress.

But failure is almost always demonised, when in fact, it’s the best teacher we have. Imagine parents watching their baby take their first steps. The child fails, and so the parents decide never to let them try walking again.

It’s an absurd notion, but that’s basically how most adults treat failure. We fail once, and we never really try again.

To use the baby steps analogy again, approach the agile transition with – well, baby steps. Plan the transition to Agile in short bursts, and allow time for the change to take effect so you can evaluate properly.

But be careful of overthinking and overplanning; insisting on perfection can stop organisational change in its tracks. Instead, take an iterative, incremental approach. Change little and often. Assess failures, and think of ways to improve the next round of changes.

An Agile Coach can help with this – someone with experience in transitioning to the Agile methodology. It can be difficult to see progress when all reports show failures, and it can be easy to lose heart. An Agile Coach can not only build that confidence back up, but help roadmap the entire journey.

Even from those first, tiny baby steps.

Step five: always be learning

Old habits die hard.

When you’re on the path to Agility, it can become easy to slip back. This means constant vigilance is needed to promote and sustain the transition.

And it’s never finished.

You’ll always be learning. And that’s an excellent cultural trait to have in a business.

For Agile to work, learning must become more valuable than products; outcomes more valuable than output. Those become byproducts of innovation on the bleeding edge.

That can be a hard concept to imagine; essentially allowing for playful inventiveness and discovery instead of focusing on shipping your product alone.

It’s a mindset and culture you’ll have to adopt, as a company, over time. And the payoffs, while far in the future, will be revolutionary.

Staying on the path of organisational development, process improvement, and Agile transformation requires guidance. And at ClearHub, we’re connected to the people who’ve made it happen at countless organisations around the world.

Let’s bring them in.

Adopt Agile in your business – with Agile experts in your team

ClearHub specialises in finding the best Agile Coaches and freelance Agile Project Managers in the world; vetted, skills-checked and ready to move your company into the future.

Want to know more? Get in touch with the ClearHub team today – call +44 (0) 2381 157811 or send your message to info@clearhub.tech.

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