JIRA is a popular software development tool for agile teams, but may not be the best fit for smaller, still growing teams. Read about pitfalls and alternatives.
JIRA is a popular software development tool used by agile teams. It is, undoubtedly, a feature-rich tool that offers great functionalities to the development teams. But in reality, not every software development team needs a powerful tool like JIRA.
In the majority of cases, the needs of a growing development team can be addressed with a simpler, cheaper tool. You can select the right tool for your team by considering several factors such as the budget, project requirements, team structure, and expertise.
In this article, we are going to discuss whether JIRA is truly suitable for a growing development team. We will also discuss the potential problems that a growing development team might face if they use Atlassian’s JIRA. In the end, we will list down a few alternatives to the JIRA tool for a growing dev team.
Let’s ponder a bit over this question. First, you need to understand the dynamics and requirements of your growing development team to answer this question.
JIRA is more suitable for a stable and big software development team, a team which has all technical people on board- even the business people also have basic technical expertise. A growing dev team might not be all technical people. Besides, the technical people might also not have that level of skill and expertise.
JIRA becomes powerful with its modules that are available separately. It is affordable for the big companies as they can procure all required modules separately and integrate them all together. All modules are tightly coupled so any activity in one module will reflect its effect in the other related module. Usually, growing teams do not have enough budget to afford the expensive JIRA tool with all its modules.
A growing development team may need to change its process every now and then. For such growing teams, it will become a burden to customize JIRA accordingly. JIRA is more suitable for a stable team which has already established its processes and workflow.
In our opinion, the answer to the question we posed ourselves at the beginning of this section is a big “no.”
The team structure and requirements for a growing team are different from a well-established, stable software development team. The same features which make JIRA a popular tool might prove to be problematic for a growing development team. We are listing down a few common factors that you need to consider while deciding whether to use JIRA for your team or not.
Getting started with JIRA is not a quick process. The initial set up is a painfully slow process. You must set up projects, project boards, sprints, and backlog. You must also set up the desired workflow of your software development process and add all your team members, set their access rights, and permissions.
All this sounds really good as long as you have an administrator to set up and manage your projects in JIRA. Setting up your system is pretty hard and time-consuming. The system is complex enough to compel you to read the JIRA help documentation before you can customize the system for your team.
JIRA is not an easy to use software for any beginner. Non-technical people can easily loose track of what is happening and how to use JIRA. The technical people, on the other hand, also require a reasonable time duration to completely understand how it works. It will take a technical person four to eight weeks to fully grasp and utilize the power of JIRA. The learning curve is steep and needs considerable time before your team can actually become productive with JIRA.
JIRA is considered the most widely used tool for project management by software development teams. The diversity in the needs and choices of users encouraged JIRA to offer a customizable solution to its users. In the efforts to serve the needs of all users, JIRA has become overly customizable.
You need to configure each and every feature and plugin of JIRA to make it work for you. Every software development team does not require this much configuration. Rather, they are looking for a tool that is easy and quick to get started with. The customization and configuration of JIRA modules become cumbersome for a growing development team.
JIRA has an agile board for the active sprints on which you can stick tasks and stories. However, there is no way to visualize all requirements of a project at a single place. You need to click on all tasks and stories to read the details. Personally, I like the visualization of requirements in the ReQtest tool where you can see all requirements at one place and group them together into folders as needed.
On the other hand, in JIRA, you might easily lose tracks of stories in the backlog and active sprints. There is no way to filter out the tasks which have a pending response from the customer/client. You need a separate person, a project manager, who is responsible for keeping track of all tasks and moving them into backlog or the active sprint board.
For a growing development team, you may or may not have a project manager. Generally, a growing team has fewer people with more workload so they might easily loose the track of tasks to do in JIRA.
We have researched out the following project management tools as an alternative to JIRA for your team. Let’s take a brief look at each one of them:
Just like its name, Breeze gives you a breath of fresh air by offering a minimalistic design in comparison to an overly complex JIRA tool. Breeze tool was created with the idea of simplicity in mind. It is an easy to use project management tool with minimal features to fulfill the requirements of a growing development team. Its simple interface makes it easier for everyone on the team to get started – including the business people, accountants, marketers, project managers, designers, and developers.
You can quickly get started with Breeze. It is only a matter of minutes to create projects, boards and invite people to the project. Like many other task management software, Breeze organizes tasks in different columns. Use filtering to filter out the information you need. You can easily drag and drop your tasks from one list to another. Breeze allows you to create a to-do list under a specific task. You can collaborate with your team members on tasks using comments.
Now, you must be wondering about the time management and resource management features of the Breeze. There is a timer against every task which can be used to log actual effort invested in a task. You can also assign tasks to resources/people in your team. View team assignments in the calendar to get a clearer insight of project planned and actual progress.
The best thing about Breeze is its mobile version of the website. This means that you can go quickly take an overview to see what is happening in your projects, on the go. Breeze has native mobile apps for iOS and Android to make your lives easier.
Assembla is a good alternative to JIRA for a growing dev team. It is a project management software that allows the software teams to manage tasks by collaborating with each other through tickets.
Assembla is a customizable software. By default, Assembla is set up for agile development. JIRA derives its power from four main components. The first is task management and issue tracking components. A Kanban board is used to stick the tickets. These tickets can be dragged and dropped into different columns as the team progresses. You can also switch to a simple list view. You can create sub-tasks and log your hours against a ticket. Development teams can also set milestones for the project to control and track the progress.
The second component is the version control which includes Subversion, Git, and Perforce. This means that unlike JIRA, Assembla does not require any add-ons to integrate Subversion and Git hosting. This allows the software development team to push their code into the code repositories with versioning capabilities.
The social collaboration tool set is the third component. You can use the handy way of addressing your team members i.e. @username. It will notify the mentioned user that a conversation needs his attention. The fourth component is the Team/Client management to provide the features of access control, time tracking, view ticket activity and user support.
ReQtest is a complete project management suite for your team. It is designed to be customized according to your software development methodology. If you are an agile team, you will find the agile board helpful. The basic reporting features allow you to gain insight of the project progress.
It has requirements management, test management, and bugs management tools. I particularly like the way requirements are handled and stored in ReQtest in a single place. Life becomes easy for the team when you are able to avoid all the fuss and see the requirements at one place. The requirements are well organized in the form of hierarchy and categories. The best thing about ReQtest is its ability to link all related items together i.e. requirements, test cases, and bugs. This means that you don’ t need to go to three different places to get complete information for a requirement and its progress.
You can always integrate ReQtest with JIRA to get the best of both tools.
If your team is looking for an open source tool, Taiga is the choice for you .
Taiga is a simple and intuitive project management tool that is suitable for agile teams. There is an epic storyboard on Taiga which opens up a lot of planning opportunities for managers who are managing multiple projects. Epics allow you to establish and track hierarchical relationships between user stories on different projects. Taiga offers common features of project management tools including setting up a team, maintaining a list of issues, management of tasks and a wiki space. Taiga also allows integrations with other tools so your developer can code in any language and integrate the work through API.
There are several other alternatives to JIRA software. You can find the comparison between JIRA and the alternative tools on the official JIRA website.
You will find a long list of tools for a growing development team on the internet. ‘One size fits all’ is not the solution in the software industry. You cannot find the right tool either simply by paying the highest price or adopting the most commonly used tool. Instead, you need to analyze your budget, project requirements, team structure, team needs, and technical expertise. Keeping these parameters in mind, you can shortlist a few tools and decide which one works best for your team.
We have listed a few tools for your ease, such as Breeze, Assembla, ReQtest, and Taiga. Each of these tools has a specific competitive edge. Breeze is a simple tool for technical and non-technical people too. Assembla is a user-friendly tool with adequate features to fulfill the needs of growing and stable software development teams. ReQtest is a powerful suite with requirements management, test management, and bug tracking modules. Taiga is an open source software for small agile teams.
Each tool serves the needs of a different team. Each tool has some pros and cons. You only need to identify which tool works best for your team.
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