I previously blogged about trying to use Atlassian Jira as an agile project management tool. My current client already uses Jira across multiple projects and they are reluctant to change tools or spend for new tools. We use Jira “versions” to define iterations. Jira items without a “Fix for version” are part of the product backlog. We installed the free Jira plug-in Custom Issue Order which lets you set the absolute order (rank) of items in a list. Here’s a screen shot of it in action, with the “Rank” column added.
We also installed the free Agile Velocity Tracking plug-in.
So far, I must say I’m not particularly happy with the results. It works, but I find myself yearning for a tool that was truly designed to accomodate agile development. Some specific things I don’t like:
- I can’t drag and drop items to change list order. As a product manager, I’m frequently re-ordering the backlog and it needs to be fast and painless. With the Custome Issue Order plug-in, you have to move an item one position up or down, or type in it’s new rank, but either way the page refreshes each time. With a Jira server on the opposite side of the planet, the latency is killing me.
- If the backlog is too long, each user must customize the page size to be able to view all items in the list. When it’s split between pages, you can’t move an item from one page to another.
- Suppose the team is starting iteration 3.0.2 (2nd iteration toward release of V3), and a defect is reported on V2.1 that must be fixed in a V2.2 release. You can’t include this defect in the 3.0.2 iteration backlog because it’s based on Jira’s “fix for version” 3.0.2, and this item will be fixed in Jira version 2.2. So you have to manage these items separately.
- You can’t “collapse” a single story to show/hide it’s subtasks in the list. This is a feature of ScrumWorks that I really like.
- The agile velocity tracking plug-in isn’t very intuitive. It might be more useful after our project has more iterations completed, but for now the data isn’t very helpful.
- No burndown chart. We tried a free plug-in from Laughing Panda but couldn’t get it to work. The closest things Jira has is the progress bar: go to Reports — Versions — (a specific version) and you get a graphic like this:
My recommendation for co-located teams is still to use a physical task board. If you have a distributed team, or you’ve tried the task board and have specific reasons for moving to an electronic tool, then I’d recommend Jira + GreenHopper, ScrumWorks, XPlanner, or the free editions of Rally or VersionOne. When I first wrote this post, I hadn’t yet tried GreenHopper, but now I have, and it’s a great tool. Read about it here.