The challenge: protect the team and make informed decisions on your product development
As a VP of Engineering, I build effective and efficient teams that deliver the most value. To do so, I need to protect the team from the distraction of mundane and interruptive tasks, like spending hours producing reports.
In any role, it’s vital to identify current and potential problems as quickly as possible so that one can minimize their potential impact. A crucial aspect of my job is staying informed on the progress of my products while continually scanning for any potential problems. I also need to quickly access a snapshot of the current status of releases and deliverables. And how do we achieve this? Through the holy grail of reporting, of course.
Reporting is a necessity for all organizations so that they can understand the status of their products, projects, and teams, and view and then address issues before they become problems.
Pinpointing the problem with product reporting
You’ll have heard the complaint from any manager who has to spend hours pouring over reports every Friday. So why is reporting perceived as a necessary evil? Probably because of the nightmare overhead of creating and then having to dissect either overly complicated or less than useful spreadsheet reports. Like me, I’m sure you’ve all been in meetings, staring at an excel spreadsheet and scratching your heads, wondering exactly how accurate the report is and what we should be taking away from it.
Many organizations I have worked with relied on reports that looked similar to this:
Excel reporting is problematic for many reasons:
- Inputting the names of the Tech Lead and Product Manager is a manual task instead of having a lookup, so it’s prone to typos and errors.
- There’s no way to visualize the history of what happened at a specific time by understanding the timeline of events.
- There’s no straightforward way to tag or collaborate with other people.
- Since there can be many lines in the Excel spreadsheet, it exponentially increases the chance someone mistakenly edits a row that is not related to the correct product. This can easily ruin the reporting for the whole organization. And that ultimately impacts your bottom line.
- We need to be able to distinguish between comments from Engineering and Product Manager. In the solution pictured above, we had to create two columns to identify which comment belongs to Engineering and which one belongs to the Product Manager. This creates a separation between the two disciplines of Engineering and Product. Separation is not what we need; we need linked-up, collaborative working.
- There’s no ability to add informative attachments, such as PDFs or images.
- Finally, there’s the massive problem of relevance. As soon as this data is published, it’s out of date. We can see in the report above that the lines were not updated concurrently. We are reliant on someone to remember to go to the Excel Spreadsheet and provide a status update. The data we see could easily be entirely out of date since there is no real-time reporting with this solution.
In sum, the two main challenges with excel reporting are:
- Managers don’t have a real-time overview of the status of their products.
- Engineers and Product Managers find it hard to keep up with the arduous task of creating these reports every week.
The solution: use Jira for reporting. You’ve already got it, so use it!
Here at Think&Do, we believe that organizations should be free to focus on their business, not spending valuable time on repetitive manual tasks, and providing time-consuming and potentially inaccurate updates. So, what’s the solution? It’s Jira, of course.
As a development team, it’s highly likely that you are already using Jira. So let’s see how we can use tools we already have to solve our reporting problem.
Create a project in Jira for product reporting
First, we create a new Project in Jira for our Product Reporting:
Which Jira Project template to use?
We’ll be using a kanban template for this project since there’s no need for sprints or scrum-based project management. We need the board to indicates if the specific product is in the Backlog, In Progress or Done:
Use a Jira project for reporting
Next, we configure our Product Reporting project to contain all of the columns of our old Excel Spreadsheet. Each of such columns will match to a field in a Jira ticket. For that we’ll make extensive use of Custom Fields:
Creating custom fields for our reports
Let’s now add all of our fields. Note that we must be careful to choose the right type for each of the fields, for example, “Tech Lead” should be “User Picker” since we’re selecting a user:
Use a Jira issue per product
After we’ve added all of our custom fields, we just need to add all of our products into the Product Reporting project.
Let’s start by adding a new product in the Product Reporting Project by creating a new Jira issue:
Provide updates on the product status in a comment
Since Jira already provides a comments section and a robust audit log, there will be no need to add the Engineering and Product Manager comments or Last Updated.
Use Jira to support collaborative work and keep everyone informed of the product status.
As we can see, each person, be it a Product Manager, an Engineer or even a member of the Executive team, can now collaborate on the product, understanding the potential risks and act on it as soon as possible.
Portfolio Managers need to have an overview of all products and their status. This overview can be made either from the kanban board or a dashboard in Jira.
Use in-built Jira project features to provide a Red/Amber/Green status report for your product.
Portfolio Managers get an overview of the status of their Products through the card color:
Configure the kanban board to provide an overview of product development
Additionally, we can also add the Completed Scope %, and the Total Budget Spent % to get an overview of how far we are from finalizing a Product.
Finally, a Dashboard is a perfect way to keep people informed and on track. Gadgets on dashboards use the data in your project to keep your teams informed of progress:
Conclusion: configure Jira to reduce the stress and overhead of creating spreadsheet-based reports
Are you held back by time-consuming, inconvenient, and repetitive reports? Are you tired of setting up complex spreadsheets that are out-of-date as soon as they are created?
The first step is to pause, take a breath, review your process, and understand how Jira can help with your reporting. Implementing a solution like the one we covered will save you a lot of time in the long run.
While this solution might not suit your requirements completely, there are so many ways that we can help you achieve your reporting, automation, and project and product management in Jira.
Reach out to us at Think&Do, and we can save you valuable time and help your teams focus on the work they need to do to make your organization the best it can be. Think&Do’s Jira consultancy will assist you in setting up and configuring Jira or use our Jira training services to onboard and skill your teams.