As a Senior Product Manager at Devbridge, I create bespoke products for multiple customers in many different types of industries such as Agriculture, Fintech, Finance, etc. Naturally, here at Devbridge, we use all the Atlassian suite of products in the Cloud. As an Atlassian expert (I worked at Adaptavist creating products for the Atlassian ecosystem), I couldn’t help but notice that even though we make extensive use of Jira to manage our customers’ products, we didn’t use it much for internal reporting. Instead, we were using Google Spreadsheets to track the status of each of our customers/projects.
Pinpointing the problem(s)
This is just a small snapshot of a lengthy spreadsheet that requires users to scroll down and down and down and also from left to right, on and on.
This solution was not great because:
- Adding members was clunky. Every time a new Managing Director, Product Manager, or Squad Lead would join the company, we would have to add him or her to the spreadsheet LOOKUP.
- There were version control issues. Because it was one single spreadsheet for all of the company, it happened quite often that a person accidentally changed a different row, affecting other people’s work.
- Spreadsheet functionality lacked the ability to easily share information with specific users. There was no way to tag people and create a collaborative environment.
- Collaboration functionality was limiting and lacking good UX. We required Product Management and Engineering to provide comments. We wanted to be able to distinguish between the two types of comments. To account for the two audiences, we created two comment columns (one for product management, one for engineering). Each audience gravitated to the column relevant to themselves.
- Extracting data was challenging. Hard to produce reports that made sense with so many rows to sort through.
- Reports were not tailored per person or audience. For example, senior management might want to have an overview, whilst we PMs might want to have another. This is not possible using Google Spreadsheets.
Cleaning up the mess
One of our core values at Devbridge is “Taking Ownership,” so I decided to take matters into my own hands and create a solution that was user-friendly, allowed data to be filtered, and reported, promoting collaboration.
I embarked on a way to convert this messy process into a much more robust, transparent solution. I used Jira Cloud for it. Why Jira? It allowed me to convert and customize the data in this massive Excel spreadsheet—quickly and easily.
Using Jira, I created Project Health Report. The idea was to convert all of the long scrolling spreadsheet rows into a Jira tickets. Each Risk would be a sub-task of the ticket as seen below.
- Each of the columns in the spreadsheet was converted into a custom field. “Health Status” translated into a dropdown where users could select the status of the project (Red=at risk, Amber=some concerns, Green=on track).
- Numbered fields were added for certain factors such as the scope and budget.
- Additionally, by including Managing Director, Product Manager, and Squad Lead as simple users from Jira itself, there was no need to migrate names or people.
- One of the best parts: On the last Sprint Report, all we had to do was point to the URL that we provide for our customers, driven by one of my favorites, the very great PowerUp app.
BOOM! All of the problems were fixed with this simple solution—Jira!
Another cool feature included dashboards. These dashboards were generated quickly, allowing the team to have shared visibility to the overall project status. To improve upon this in future iterations, we would use ScriptRunner for Jira to automate the majority of these custom fields calculations. (Another next step is to add in forecasting, but that's a topic for another article. )
I honestly believe that most internal process issues can be solved using Jira, not Google Spreadsheets. Jira offers much more robust project reporting. So if you wish to migrate away from the information-heavy spreadsheet toward a better business process, while also increasing collaboration and above all making work much more fun, I strongly believe that Jira Cloud is the right solution. (Remember the spreadsheet example above that was not user-friendly or easily searchable, was hard to customize, and had version control issues? Not fun.)