Unlock 10 Powerful JIRA features for a Successful Scrum Master

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JIRA features
JIRA features

Friends, this is my first ever blog in the world of blogging. I was highly inspired by a blog post on starting a blog written by Amit Gupta. I have also started YouTube channel where you will find more videos on Jira Features and many more new reviews that I will continue to publish.

Top 10 JIRA features for Scrum Master

Does your role demand you to act as a scrum master? Would you need to work on JIRA tool, to execute your projects? Does the thought of working in JIRA makes you nervous? Get familiar with these top 10 Jira features and feel confident as a Scrum Master.

Top Ten Jira Features

This article will enable you to jump start the scrum master role using JIRA. These are the top 10 JIRA features that you as a scrum master should know before executing the agile project. When you work in agile, JIRA is a good to have skill. Knowledge of JIRA is going to increase 20% value in your scrum master profile. JIRA Knowledge will boost scrum master’s confidence.

Scrum vs Agile

Before proceeding further on JIRA features, you should understand

  • What is Scrum vs Agile?
  • What is Scrum Master?

Scrum vs Agile is obvious comparison for newbie. Scrum is one of the methodologies in agile like Camry is one of the car model in Toyota. Like there are many models in Toyota, there are various methodologies in agile e.g. Scrum, Kanban etc.

Kanban agile is for production support / maintenance projects. In Kanban agile, your focus is to resolve the tickets as fast as possible. JIRA scrum board and Kanban board are two separate boards within JIRA software. Scrum master should ensure every agile team member has got scrum board access. If by mistake you have given Kanban board access instead of scrum board access to your team member, you can easily identify it. Kanban board will never have Backlog and Active sprint view which Scrum board will have.

Scrum master is a facilitator. As a scrum master your goal is to keep the team focused and resolve any hurdles that comes along the way. There is always a comparison between Scrum Master vs Project Manager. If scrum master manages scrum using project management fundamentals then project success rate is high. Project Management has key phase’s viz. Initiation, Planning, Execution, Monitoring and Project Close. You should finalize Software Development Lifecycle i.e. waterfall, agile or any other methodology in the initiation phase. For agile methodology, you come up with release plans and sprint plans.

Every sprint has planning, execution, and monitoring phases. Project closure is generally done after delivering minimal viable product (MVP). Also project closure can be done after closing all JIRAs from product backlog. In Agile, we deliver value add services to the client iteratively and incrementally.

Top 10 JIRA features using project management life cycle

Section 1 – PLANNING

1.1 Create Sprint

In Scrum, sprint generally span across one to four weeks. Iteration and sprint are interchangeable terms. Scrum uses sprint whereas agile uses iteration. At the end of the sprint, we deliver working features to the client in terms of shippable code. At the end of the sprint/iteration, code should be deployed in at least the UAT environment if not production.

If you join as scrum master and are asked to use the JIRA, the first thing comes in your mind is how to create a sprint in JIRA. Correct? This is a one of the top 10 JIRA features for scrum master role. Business analyst creates stories. Technical leads or any agile team member creates tasks. However sprint will be always created by scrum master.

Jira Features - Create Sprint

To create a sprint

Click on the Backlog view and click on Create Sprint button. Using a naming convention that includes the sprint name and sprint timelines is always recommended. For example, Sprint 1 (0611 -0629). Once we create a sprint, you will need to add JIRAs from the backlog section into sprint scope. You can simply drag drop JIRAs in this view and or you can open individual JIRAs and update sprint attribute.

Jira Features - Start Sprint

Since you are in the planning phase, the sprint you just created, is your future sprint. You can create future sprints and add JIRA scope. It is good to have future sprint planning for a given release which might have more than 2 sprints. You understand that these are plans and estimates. Estimates are estimates and actual hours could be different from estimates. Scrum master will have to get transparency from team members during execution phase. Scrum master should manage the client’s and all stakeholder’s expectations accordingly. During execution, scrum master will click on Start Sprint button from Backlog view to start the sprint. Once scrum master clicks on Start Sprint then all JIRAs will be visible in Active Sprint view (in To Do status) and sprint will officially kick off.

1.2 Create Release

As a scrum master you may need to come up with product road map and release plans. Production releases are one of the key intermediate milestones to achieve the minimum viable product. You will need to create releases in JIRA.

As a scrum master you need to click on Backlog view and then “Versions”. You may create version with attributes like version, start date, release date, and release description. For example, Version 1.0 with start date 07/01/2017, release date “12/31/2017” and release name as “Initial Version”. All the JIRAs marked as version 1.0 will be deployed into production on 12/31/2017. Scrum master can plan and create multiple releases. One release will generally have more than one sprint.  Thus multiple future sprints can map to one production release. For example, we can have four weeks of a sprint and release could be quarterly release comprises of three sprints.

Jira Features - Create Version

Jira Features - Create Version Details

Scrum master should fill all the values while creating version.

Project and Name attributes are mandatory. Description, Start Date and Release Date are optional. You can update these attributes any time in entire SDLC.

Jira Features - View Version Report

Caution: 

Once you create version, you cannot re-arrange or move. JIRA widgets will always show releases as per release creation date. If you create future release first i.e. 31st Dec and then current release i.e. 30th Sept then the widget will always show 31st Dec stat in first row of the report. All stakeholders would like to see current release status than future release status. Therefore you should be cautious while creating releases. Once release is deployed into production then that version is marked as Released. Currently it is in unreleased state. For multi-phase project, previous phase releases should be marked as Archived.

1.3 Create Epic

When you are in requirement gathering phase, you first find out modules and then high level features which you term as Epic. Epics are generally bigger user stories. You further break epics into multiple user stories. Scrum master will click on Backlog view and then Epics to create new Epic.

Jira Features - Create Epic

Each Epic is differentiated with its unique color tagging. If your product backlog is big, you can identify JIRAs per Epic. Unlike Sprints and Releases, Epic is an IssueType. Issue reports display epics along with stories, tasks and bugs.

Alternatively you can also create Epic by clicking on Create button on top menu. Select IssueType as an Epic and fill all the attributes.

Jira Features - Create Epic Details

You can mark Epic as done if all the JIRAs associated with that Epic are done. If you edit/update the epic name, all the child JIRAs will be updated with the new epic name.

Section 2: EXECUTION

2.1 Active Sprint

Daily scrum meeting is a key element of Scrum. Scrum master should preferably share active sprint view to all agile team members in daily scrum as you most likely have virtual team for daily scrum.  During the daily scrum meeting you collect responses of your team members on questions like what they did a previous day, what are they going to today and if there are any impediments their way etc.  Based on the responses, you should move JIRAs to any of the available three statuses i.e. To Do, In Progress, and Done. Active Sprint helps daily scrum call to focus on current sprint JIRA scope. Active Sprint view also show you the days left for current sprint. Scrum master should mark sprint complete by clicking on complete sprint button.

Jira Features - Active Sprint

If JIRA is on critical path then comments should be updated during daily scrum. Team can also update comments at logical end. Scrum master, product owner, scrum team and other stake holders can get or view status of this JIRA at any time. In customized workflow, scrum master will change the Transition state along with status.

2.2 Create JIRA

Scrum master should be able to create JIRA and put into backlog. JIRA is of different types like Story, Task, Bug and Epic. You can customize and add more issue types viz. risks, assumptions, observations, improvements, new features and many more. Scrum master should guide the team to write a user story using INVEST Principle. INVEST stands for Independent, Negotiable, Valuable, Estimable, Small, and Testable.

Jira Features - Create JIRA

Create button in the top menu allows you to create different type of JIRAs. For any issueType, you should at least use below JIRA attributes while creating a JIRA.

  1. Type
  2. Assignee
  3. Summary
  4. Description
  5. Attachment
  6. Priority
  7. Status
  8. Fix Version
  9. Sprint
  10. Epic

You may find a few more JIRA attributes, for example, Labels can be used for JIRA reporting or searches. JIRA attributes can be treated as JIRA features. We can customize and add more attributes. For example, Interested Parties who will get notified for any updates made in JIRA. One key thing to remember in JIRA is, that a JIRA cannot have many assignee’s.

2.3 Link JIRAs:

You would have experienced the following scenario many a times in the practical world. User story (say Issue 1) is delivered in UAT and business users raised bug (Issue 2) against this user story. To keep track of user story, issue 2 should be linked to issue 1. Release notes can have issue 1 and issue 2, if both the issues are complete. Alternatively, release notes will have issue 1 with known issue as issue 2. And issue 2 will be backlogged for prioritization. You can link Issues with different options i.e. Relates, Blocks, Duplicate and Clones.

Jira Features - Link JIRA

Section 3 – MONITORING

3.1 JIRA Dashboard

JIRA dashboard is a feature to get different stats of the project. Stats could be the total open defects in the current sprint, defects with high, medium and low priorities and many more according to your choice. JIRA widgets can be used to customize the dashboard. Within JIRA widget, you can drill down to issue details by clicking on the issue counts link. Scrum master can click on Dashboard link on top menu and then click on Manage dashboard to add widgets. System dashboard is a default option. In System dashboard, you will find “assign to me” widget where all the JIRA’s assigned to you are shown. In “activity stream” widget, all the activities of current project is shown.

Jira Features - Managed Dashboard

Jira Features - Create Dashboard

3.2 JIRA JQL

If scrum master is from technical background then he will love this feature. This feature will give you granular control over your JIRA reports. You can retrieve issues by different combination of parameters viz. User, Status, Priority, issueType etc. along with “And” & “Or” operators.

For the sake of example let’s assume that, you would like to get all the tasks from project ABC having status other than Done (i.e. To Do, In Progress) and other than current sprint. You would also like to get it sorted by priority.  JQL of this example is

project = “ABC” AND status != Done AND issueType = Task AND (sprint not in openSprints() AND ORDER BY priority DESC

Additional info:

  • “!=” =  Not Equal To
  • “Order By” = Sort

Jira Features - Create JQL

Where to write JQL? Answer is,

Board -> Scrum Board -> Issues view (on left hand side) -> View all issues and filters (on Top Right) -> Advanced.

3.3 JIRA Filter

Jira Features - Create Filter

In JIRA, by default, you will find two filters i.e. “My open issues” and “Reported by me”. You can also create your own custom filters, using JQL, to manage your issues. However, it is a bit time consuming to write JIRA Query language / JQL repeatedly. Like reusable components, we should save our JQLs as reusable filters. Filters are sharable with users, group, project, and public.

Section 4 – ADMINISTRATION

4.1 Add user with different roles

There are many things scrum master can do as part of the administration. One frequent request is to add user to a particular role. Scrum master should be able to add user to different roles i.e. administrator and developer. You can have many customized roles viz. administrator, scrum master, developer, tester etc.

In a given project, there can be many scrum masters. Have you ever come across this situation?

A project can be divided into many modules. Each module may have its own scrum (with team of 5-9 members excluding product owner and scrum master). Also you may have Scrum of scrums to get overall status of the project.

Jira Features - Add Users

Congrats! Now you have acquired sufficient knowledge of JIRA features to execute your Sprints. Time to test your knowledge.

Where you will use Affects Version vs Fix Version.?

Feel free to write your answers in the comment box of this article. If you find this article, like it and share it with somebody who can be benefited with the knowledge.

Disclaimer

The top 10 JIRA features included in this article are experience based. This article targets Scrum based projects. Burn down chart is one of the important feature of scrum methodology (unfortunately it is not in this top 10 JIRA features). However, the next article shall cover the missing links, if any.

Atlassian is the parent company who has developed this wonderful tool. The official website of Atlassian provides tutorials which has agile scrum basics and helpful in many ways. If you are looking for more details on JIRA features, read their tutorial on planning and estimation work for an agile team.

 

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