I have been using Atlassian JIRA for about 4 years as an administrator and an user. It is one of the best and simplest tools for task and resource management. In this article we will look at how you can use JIRA for project management.
JIRA is Project Based
You can define projects and each project will have its own key. For example the Techno-PM project has a key TEC. So any issue created will start with TEC. So, you will have TEC-01, TEC-02 and so on.
Projects will contain components, versions and issues (or tasks). Project can have workflows which can define how an issue or task is worked on. So, for IT Projects you can define a workflow which will make sure that the issue progresses through open, analysis, build and close statuses.
Components(Database, Java...) and Versions(Phase 1, Phase 2) allow you to group a set of issues. You can base all your searches and queries based on the project name which allows you to see only the projects you manage.
Latest version of JIRA has the Agile Plugin which allows a project manager to manage Agile and Kanban projects.
JIRA provides Task Management
|JIRA Issue Creation|
An issue or task is one of the most fundamental items in JIRA. Everything in JIRA revolves around issues.
Each task can be assigned to the person who will work on that task. The task will have an estimated time.
They can also log the time against the issue or tasks and finally after completion they will close the task. Example of issue or task is Test Suite creation, edit build script, write functional requirements etc.
An JIRA issue can -
- Contain the reporter name and assigned name.
- Generate a % complete for each task by using estimated time and remaining time.
- Include attachments and have sub-tasks.
- Contain other attributes like component name, version, date and time created.
- Time logged details including who, when and how much.
- Store history of changes to the content.
- Generate workflow notification in form of emails.
JIRA can generate Time Sheets
Generating time sheet reports allows a project manager to monitor who is spending how much time on each project or task.
As mentioned above, in JIRA people can log their time against the task they have worked on. JIRA has some very good options to generate time sheet reports.
A project manager can use the information for budgeting. The actual time spent on a given project can be calculated by multiplying the total effort spent (by a team or individual) by their hourly rates.
The Time sheet plugin in JIRA allows you to generate time logged by projects or tasks or resources or groups. It has a vast range of filters. You can export the data into excel and then play around with pivots and graphs to suit your needs.
Other features which can be used for Project Management
- JIRA allows you to create groups.
- JIRA has a dashboard or home page for every project which display some key parameters.
- JIRA allows every project to have different workflows.
- JIRA can be integrated with other products.
- JIRA issues from different projects can be linked. This can helpful when you have dependencies between projects.
- JIRA has a vast range of plugins for Gantt charts, resource management, financial management etc.
- JIRA can be integrated with Microsoft Project using Ceptah Bridge.
Now some limitations of JIRA
All the above features make JIRA a good candidate for Project Management but I feel it still lacks an overall project view. Tools like Microsoft Project allow you to generate timelines and Gantt Charts which give an overall view of the project.
You can get some plugins to do that in JIRA but I have not tried that yet. I also find having start dates and end dates a challenge with JIRA. Also it is easy to lose control on tasks, as majority of the people will be able to create tasks.
Another drawback of JIRA is that it allows only one level of sub-tasks. So, in JIRA you can have only sub-tasks, you cannot have sub-tasks of sub-tasks. If you are working on a complex project you may need to have multiple levels of sub-tasks which can be an issue in JIRA. You need to work around by creating different sub-tasks as independent tasks and then link them together.
I am yet to review the Agile plugin but I am hoping the plugin will address some of the gaps.
To work around some of the issues I personally prefer to use both Microsoft Project and JIRA. I use MS Project for high level planning and reporting. I use JIRA to do the detail task management, process control and time sheet maintenance. If you need additional information please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org.