From the Whiteboard to the Jira Dashboard

From the Whiteboard to the Jira Dashboard
Evan Golden

By Evan Golden

Building software requires team collaboration to plan, develop, and ship valuable features to their customers. Without collaboration, the delivery of product functionality can be shortsighted, and can also be a very narrowly focused end result. So how do we collaborate?

Traditionally, teams sat in a room huddled together, very likely working on whiteboards. They would define what will be built, and when it will be built. Why did we rely so heavily on whiteboards to discuss product development planning and status? Work mostly took place in an office, and meetings were required to make decisions. Collaboration was thought to not be effective without being face-to-face in meetings. We now we have globally distributed teams. Additionally, technology is now more advanced, software development teams have moved to different agile methodologies, and organizations continue to scale. Tools like Jira, Confluence, Slack, and Zoom, all provide the ability for teams to be quite productive.

With remote teams, and less meetings, there is an even more evident need for reporting of current data from a common system of record. If teams are going to have less face time, then they need to easily find the answers to their questions. The more agile organizations get, the more likely the data reported yesterday is different than the current dataset. Like our feature development, information needs to iterate, and be as fluid as the team's work.

Also, organizations continue to scale. Teams are using methodologies like Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), Scrum of Scrums, and Large Scale Scrum (LeSS) to guide them through their product development. Regardless of the size and scale, finding current velocity, release status, and dependency mapping still needs to be readily available to those that need it, when they need it.

So, what do we use as the source of truth for reporting, and the finding of data needed for collaboration? The answer is dashboards. We have used them in the past, and they are still critical today. During Program Increment (PI) Planning, agile teams can now use dashboards. They no longer require whiteboards, post-it notes, or string to connect dependencies. There are software applications that have the ability to plan, manage the development, guide deployments, and provide the up to date status of our agile product development.

Additionally, dashboards tell stories. The positioning of dashboard reports helps the consumer navigate the data with ease. Dashboards take the data to people, and can be created to deliver the data that any particular person, or role wants to see.

One application that provides dashboards with a rich amount of reports available is Jira. Not only does Jira have "gadgets" for reporting data in dashboards, but it also has the ability for teammates to collaborate right in the system. Each item, whether it is an Epic, Story, Task, or Bug is known as an "issue". Teammates, and customers, have the ability to communicate in these issues.

A few examples of Jira dashboard gadgets are filter results, and pie charts. The filter results gadget provides a real-time report that lists filtered issues and allows the owner to add meta data into different columns in the list. Pie charts are gadgets that filter off of any single datapoint and provide a graphical representation of the filtered data as it relates to that specific data point. Reports like this help globally distributed teams communicate around the clock; furthermore, everyone has the same data to filter as needed, and report from.

In summary, using an application like Jira, and its built-in dashboard, can provide teams the necessary tools to collaborate and report in real-time. There is certainly still a place for whiteboards in the workplace; however, with today's ever-changing ways to which we build products, teams will likely continue to use software applications to help drive collaboration and reporting.

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