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How to improve your relationship with JIRA

By jlaguio
Jul. 17, 2013
Sometimes, the most powerful tools are often the most complicated and convoluted ones. This is especially true when it comes to JIRA. Depending on who you are and how you use it, JIRA can be the bane of your existence, or the elite weapon of heroic, software-producing champions. Introducing yourself to JIRA For the uninformed, what is JIRA? Well, previously, it was a program primarily used to keep track of software bugs. But as JIRA evolved, it has become so much more than that. Now, it is a multifunctional program, simultaneously acting as a bug tracker, agile user story/requirements manager, test case tracker, just to name a few of its functions. But in becoming multi-functional, some would argue that the tool has become quite painful to use. And although this might be somewhat true, the extra learning curve required to use this tool only serves to mask the potential of what it can do. 10 Helpful Tips So, in order to make the process of using JIRA as painless as possible, I have written a few tips to keep in mind as you use it for your own software projects. Here they are:
  1. Limit control. Ensure that you setup strong, specific permissions. The last thing people want to experience is some Starcraft-playing, click-happy user navigating around JIRA, changing all the configurations, deleting data, while simultaneously leaving a path of destruction and confusion behind them along the way. Users should be limited to the few tasks and actions that they are supposed to have, and nothing more. Use discretion when giving users an expanded set of permissions.
  2. Use custom configurations. As much as possible, you should always configure everything and tailor new custom configurations for new projects. Most projects are different, and will have subtle differences here and there, which may cause headaches in the future if they are ignored. It's a little more time burned up-front, but this can have a positive impact on the timeliness of a project if implemented correctly.
  3. Be clear. No matter how great your configuration is, if the descriptions and comments that users write in their bug tickets, test cases, and stories are unclear, then other users can still burn a lot of unnecessary time trying to interpret cryptic and vague descriptions. As with the previous tip, a little more time invested up-front is more time saved for the future.
  4. Establish standards. Some functionalities in JIRA become exponentially more useful if standards are in place. For example, the "Label" field is potentially very useful for searching and filtering for specific issues, but only if everyone decides on what keywords should be used and how they should be used, sort of like a #hashtag. #YOLO. (Sorry, I just had to...)
  5. Clarify the meaning of the term "issues". Within the JIRA context, "issues" are not always bad. Remember that previously, JIRA was exclusively used only for bug tracking. As the functionality of JIRA expanded, the term "issues" was kept, even when referring to test cases, requirements, tasks, etc. However, they still hold the negative connotation that they have in the English language. If clients are alarmed that there are 300 open "issues" in the current sprint, feel free to enlighten them!
  6. Never leave any issues unassigned. Issues have a bad habit of slipping through the cracks and being forgotten forever if no one is assigned to them. Essentially, no one becomes responsible for a ticket, and they mysteriously just never seem to appear in anyone's personal filters, which brings me to my next point...
  7. Save your own issue filters. Having several issue filters saved for yourself can save a lot of time. In some cases, there may be upwards of hundreds issues within a single project, and having to search through them repeatedly for your daily tasks can be an unnecessary waste of time.
  8. Link issues together via their unique codes. When referring to another issue (whether it be in a comment or an issue description), use the unique code that is assigned to them. This has two major benefits: a link to the other issue will automatically be created, and when this other issue closes, a strikethrough line appears through the reference, making it clear that the linked issue has been closed.
  9. Understand the limitations. As great as JIRA is, it cannot do everything, and it cannot do everything well. It is useful to know what the limitations of JIRA are when creating issues and generating reports, so that you can better understand how to control it, rather than having it control you. This leads into my next point...
  10. Use plugins, if necessary. Sometimes, JIRA can sort-of do something, but not quite to the standard that one would like. This is especially true for some of the extra features that the JIRA developers just seem to have tacked on last minute. In these cases, it might be useful to look up some plugins, that can extend the functionality of JIRA and that can integrate with your existing JIRA project.
Final Takeaways Hopefully these tips have been useful for you. I try to follow these guidelines when I can, but I know that it isn't always that easy! During my time doing quality assurance, I've had to do a lot of wrestling with JIRA myself. But in the end, it has always been for the better. In some ways, it has been sort of like a relationship. It has its ups and its downs, its highs and its lows. But at the end of the day, no matter what happens between us, I can always count on the fact that all the memories and experiences we shared together (ie. the issues and bugs) will be forever in my heart (ie. the database). How romantic. <3
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