Is JIRA a Counterproductive Project Management Software In Today’s Market?
The author highlights how without knowledge and leadership, even JIRA can become counterproductive in the workplace.
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There are numerous complaints about project management software since the inception of the IT industry. Some of the complaints elicit the counter-productivity factor of task management tools. I know that being an Agile project manager at nTask sounds like a bit of cliché’, but at the same time, I cannot help but think otherwise.
Sometimes, Project Management Tools are Overrated
Yep, they are not only overrated, but there is a very real possibility that you don’t have to rely on project management software to get by with your business activities. Why so? Consider a small business brick n’ mortar environment with old-school work aesthetics. They are running their business fine.
Everything is run by the book. No one skips their days; tasks are completed on time and documentation is top-notch. If such a business is to use project management software, it will increase their productivity.
The business will easily disseminate important information, and operations will be quick as a result. My point is that although project management tools are not completely important; they are a means to an end. It implies that your small business can complete, schedule, and overcome project-related obstacles quickly. Take the example of a to-do list feature in any reputable project management software.
Team managers can create a schedule of tasks for others to follow. At the same time, external stakeholders can be invited to that specific project board to monitor everything.
Doesn’t That Sound Intriguing?
Sometimes negative comments associated with a PM Tools are a result of incompetence…
If you have not done your homework properly, you may not be getting your money’s worth from a task management program. Especially, if it is a large real-life company with multiple instances of the same task manager, the monthly subscription fee can easily spike.
At the same time, if that company does not have a managerial process regardless of a qualified project manager on board, the software is just what it is… a mere tool. In terms of their experiences with project management programs, we recently surveyed different IT and non-IT industries from all over.
The common consent about project management tools is that they are not an absolute necessity. On top of it, some companies believe such programs are an absolute waste of money. The latter group involves small businesses and individuals who couldn’t achieve one of the following:
- Get the full potential of a project’s worth from a PM software
- Not using the right type project management program
In the worst-case scenario, such people end up blaming the software company for releasing an inefficient product. A certain extent of these users doesn’t hesitate from bad-mouthing the project management tool’s reputation in the online world.
JIRA Was Once an Infamous Project Management Software
Jira was reputed as one of the most infamous software in the project management niche. I have seen cases where both heavy and light users made up a negative opinion about Jira. Some users just believed the rumors and abstained from using Jira at their workplace.
The common notion about JIRA software was along the lines of counter-productivity. Many team leaders were of the view that JIRA has the tenacity to slow progress, instead of the other way around. I also knew a guy who thought that Jira “sucked” because some of the reviews were very negative. He never even used Jira, or came close to touching it! Can you believe that?
Where Do These Negative Comments Come From?
I am not talking about the past negative perception about JIRA – those times are long gone. Besides, there are negative people everywhere. nTask was also a startup once. We worked hard for a couple of years to achieve a certain standard of end-user usability.
Right now, we are working to achieve a certain quality benchmark. The even better news is that nTask 2.0 beta is just one month shy of a big launch. It will be a complete revamp of the old version with the addition of many new features that you have grown to love. The old GUI is going to be flushed and replaced with something visually appealing.
As far as a workflow on nTask Beta 2.0 goes, we collect feedback from our regular users who wish to see certain features in the new upcoming release. This gives us a better idea of how to shape things, and introduce the program’s full potential to new users. Coming back to JIRA there is a fictional case study that I based on my analysis. Since most of you know that I have been inducted at nTask as an Agile project manager — from time to time, I also partake in software development and QA campaigns. This participation is necessary to head the team in the right direction.
Most of the negative air about any project management software is associated with the end-users’ inexperience to run the program. Such users have little to no idea about their exact company requirements and, as a result when they send in a request to the IT team and the CTO to buy task management tools, a lot of wrong things happen.
For starters, the company decides on buying a very expensive program. In an alternate case, the program is right, but the actual team responsible for incorporating the program in daily business activities “effs” it all up. What’s the point of buying software that is not made in the first place to fulfill your company requirements?
Secondly, many early-stage beta testers of JIRA software did not follow specific methods and processes for workflow management. No one had any experience of how JIRA worked, and so the team made up a negative opinion about JIRA. They said, “Jira sucks.” Period.
JIRA Software Case Study From an Objective Point of View
This case study is also applicable to other task management programs in the market. JIRA is just one example. That does not mean that I bear any ill feelings about JIRA. Despite them being our competitors, they are doing an excellent job. Since my induction as an IT officer, I have seen Atlassian JIRA Co. overcome a lot of obstacles. They have successfully improved and implemented new features for an exponential growth factor.
ABC is a software development company with a good presence in other tangible businesses. ABC also produces physical technology-oriented products; cheap gadgets, daily use convenience items, and vice versa.
This company has a healthy staff of 50 people. The daily business operations are headed by the CEO and the CTO. Let’s call them Jake and Amir! Over the last few years, ABC Inc. has made a lot of good progress. They have increased their customers from all over the world.
These customers can be roughly divided into two segments:
- Hardware users.
- Software users.
From time to time, ABC also dabbles in freelancing work. They get clients from different websites and local businesses. The company then creates a business proposal comprising over website creation, digital marketing services, SEO and vice versa. It is a good side income.
All the operations center on a support and engineering team at ABC. They are a bunch of 15 – 20 nerds who are encapsulated in a separate office within the company. Since business is expanding, the company heads, i.e. Jake and Amir, also get reports of many different issues.
Internal Issues at ABC Inc.
Some of the issues are internal, such as; project management hurdles and lack of proper workflow and processes. Due to these issues, the engineering and the management department feel that employees are not working to the best of their abilities. Often, there is a lack of communication, which causes the company to bump over the same problems over and over again.
Although ABC Inc. has a support team to take care of customer needs from both hardware and software markets, there are many problems. Sometimes clients request a certain product, or several features to be added to the next upcoming software release.
Support staff writes down these issues and sends them to the engineering team. Sometimes, the feedback reaches late, or the engineering team has already corroborated with the management to release something. As a result, end-users suffer and have to wait another few months to see the addition of requested features in their favorite products.
Sometimes ABC Inc. is working on multiple instances of the same problem without even knowing it! Let’s say there is a bug in their flagship software, but ABC Inc. has different teams responsible for handling it. All of them create slightly different versions of shippable software code. This creates conflicts and impacts the release timeline of the ‘patch’.
Someone Suggested JIRA Software for Project Management
Behold, someone decided to bring in Kathy from another department within the company. Rumor has it that Kathy used JIRA software at another company for a few months. She brought up her name to the ABC Inc. executives and everyone decided to give her a chance. ABC’s engineering team happily welcomes Kathy and helps her to set up JIRA across every workstation. Employees were given a walkthrough of all the cool features in JIRA, and how it could help resolve internal project management conflicts in the organization.
Things were anticipated to grow from that point onward. Jake and Amir also expected the software and hardware productivity to grow by tenfold shortly. After all, project management software is designed to solve problems, right?… Right? Kathy trained the entire staff in one day! Oh boy. She introduced JIRA software to the engineering department. The nerds then integrated JIRA across all computers to help everyone manage and centralize their day-to-day tasks.
Things Are Going Downhill After a Few Months
No one expected it, but JIRA did not solve the core project management issues at ABC Inc. There were new issues now which prevented employees from using JIRA to its full potential. Both the CEO and CTO regretted installing/ buying JIRA in the first place.
Kathy disappeared somewhere in the shadows…
Other departments lost their “faith” in the engineering department. The new opinion about JIRA is now negative. Some are reportedly saying, “JIRA did not solve our company problems. I don’t know why they hired Kathy in the first place.”
Everything that ever went wrong at ABC Inc. is all because of JIRA.
The collective opinion about JIRA in the engineering department is that it is not a productive software solution for project managers. It restricts workers from performing certain tasks.
Here are the three main problems that ABC Inc. did not address in the first place, and it was long before JIRA was even implemented by Kathy.
But first, let’s look at some of the core features in JIRA:
- Proactive Product Support
- Free and Paid Version
- Meeting Management Modules
- Task Commenting in Project Boards
- Different Filters
- Color Coding for Tasks
- File Attachment
- Multiple Style Views
- Recurring Tasks
- Multiple Assignees
First Problem: No One Is Using Kanban, Gantt Charts, Scrum Etc.
Although JIRA software and most of its competitors have Kanban Boards, Gantt Chart and other modern integrations, no one at ABC Inc. is using those. Many of the staff members, including Jake and Amir, have an old school mindset. They are rigid and appear to be timid when it comes to using modern productivity integrations at the workspace. As a result, instead of becoming productive, work processes started to get stale.
JIRA is equipped to perform a lot of activities, but it all comes down to execution techniques. Think about it.
Second Problem: Lack of Project Manager
ABC Inc. did not hire a project manager, or a consultant to say the least. They only installed JIRA and expected things to get better over time. The CEO was of the view that since Kathy was able to set up a JIRA demonstration in one day, it is easy to learn and implement.
The most important thing is that project management is a human factor. It involves capitalizing on resources, risk analysis assessment, and goal achievement. These project managers use project management tools only as an artifact. Hence the expression, “a means to an end” comes into perspective.
Third Problem: JIRA Is Demonstrated by an Incompetent Person
ABC Inc. hired Kathy to implement and demonstrate JIRA in the first place. She was an incapable person with very limited knowledge of the software. As a result, whenever core problems associated with JIRA, process management, and product development came up, Kathy would run everyone into circles.
She wasn’t fired, but ABC Inc. demoted her back to her old position soon.
Bonus Problem: ABC Inc. Is Not Using Agile Methodologies
Scrum and Agile are essential to work process development. The Agile mindset has reportedly revolutionized the industry at an exponential level. Today, companies have not only become productive but also encourage their project managers to seek additional certifications in Scrum.
ABC was oblivious to Scrum. They did not have the proper work process to define the Agile mindset of working. The company suffered a lot because of miscommunication and their inability to keep everyone on the same page.
Possible Solutions to JIRA Woes
A project management tool does not work on its own. Any team responsible for integrating a software solution within an organization should know the methods and processes. Assuming that you have JIRA working as a metaphorical microwave oven with 15 preset recipes, it will not make any tasty food if there is no cook to run the gauntlet.
- Long before the implementation of any project management software, your team needs to have processes in place.
If there are no processes in place, get a consultant. It takes five minutes to hire an outside consultant. He or she will set up policies for you. If something is lacking, the guy will tell you whether you need to hire someone or not. These implementations are mandatory BEFORE your company decides to go all hands in on the project management software.
- ABC Inc. needs to have a project manager. Someone needs to overlook workflow management, the engineering team and of course Kathy!
As long as there is a backhand to orchestrate the company’s efforts in a positive manner, JIRA will do wonders. If the project manager has a sound know-how of software development, it is a cherry on top of your cake. Try to retain this guy as an invaluable asset to the company.
To Sum it All Up – JIRA Comes After Certain Site-wide Implementations
It doesn’t matter if you have JIRA, nTask, Asana or any other project management software in place. You need to implement some site-wide processes to maximize productivity. Based on many ideas and findings from different case studies, I can very much say that a PM tool is an artifact.
Get your team’s opinion on the number of work-related enhancements they wish to see after the installation of PM software. Alternatively, you can conduct an anonymous opinion survey before the start of every project. This will help you customize the program in a better way.
Prioritize and de-prioritize these wishful lists according to their significance. If a few employees think that a certain feature in JIRA is critical to progress, implement it immediately. If people are just pissed off because “JIRA Sucks” in common circles, there is no need to panic.
In the end, try to have a strong traditional foundation structure in place. Software is good for documenting everything but never rely on it 100%. Sometimes it is okay to fall back on conventional management practices because of the uncertain situation in the business industry.
There is a famous Chinese proverb, “The faintest ink is better than the most vivid picture.” They said so for a particular reason. Anyhow, if you are looking to a personalized response to your questions, send us an email. We’d love to get back to you.
Published at DZone with permission of Fred Wilson, DZone MVB. See the original article here.
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