Jira: Group Therapy for Dev Teams

 Atlassian Software is running a new marketing campaign. Their tagline: “Jira: It’s like group therapy for dev teams.” The campaign includes a 30-second ad that you can view on YouTube, billboards with cheeky headlines, short snippets on the radio, etc. But there’s not much to back the tagline up.

Looking at this campaign, I found myself wondering what they’re talking about. What the heck does “Jira is like group therapy for dev teams” mean?

I realized that to answer that question you would need to dig around a little. You would also need to know a little about what Jira does and how dev teams operate for this to make any sense.

The point of my blog today is to spare you the trouble of all that digging around, and explain it all for you.

What are Dev teams?

Dev teams, or development teams, are groups of people who work together on a software release. This usually includes developers or programmers (some of whom might be developers from other teams who have been asked to contribute to this project), Program or Project Managers, Product Managers, and creative people who do graphics and/or user interface design. Essentially, it’s a cross-functional team.

Why do Dev teams need “group therapy”? What’s wrong with Dev teams?

Unless the group is organizationally mature, meaning they’ve been working together for a long time, and have fought their way through to some kind of détente, or fairly sophisticated in terms of the system they use to organize themselves, dev teams can spend a lot of time either fighting or unhappy.

Why? While the surface reasons vary, it usually comes down to this: There is no shared goal or vision, and team members do not know about each other’s work load or priorities.

What typically happens is that everyone on the team is assigned a due date or release to work on. Some people get their part done right away. Others are perceived as lazy or incompetent because they don’t. Yes, it could be that those people really are lazy or incompetent. But it’s also likely that they have other priorities and are being pulled in multiple directions.

Even when dev teams have a good system in place that lets team members see what’s going on within a project, they usually can’t see across projects. A developer can be a big contributor to one project, and at the same time be accused of being a slacker on another project. And the entire team from the latter project can be angry with the developer because of this.

How does Jira solve these problems?

Jira is a development tool that offers project management and issue tracking. In the context of how Jira works, an “issue” is any task that needs to be performed, such as a feature enhancement, bug fix, help desk ticket, etc.

The beauty of Jira is that beyond tracking individual issues, it also:

  • Lets the entire team see everyone else’s work load, both for this project and across other projects.
  • Helps the team understand the project’s overall priorities, as well as the priority of individual issues.
  • Makes it easier to estimate how long it will take for a given issue to be fixed or addressed.

Plus, Jira does all of this systemically so that over time each member of the team gains a better understanding of what’s going on.

Jira as group therapy

So how is Jira like group therapy? While Atlassian’s marketing campaign is obviously tongue-in-cheek, there’s a part about this that’s also a terrific play on words. In group therapy you work on your “issues.” Jira is a tool that is excellent at tracking and making sure that “issues” get addressed and resolved.

In the process, Jira brings everyone together and gets them on the same page. It helps give everyone a shared objective, a clearly defined set of priorities and a view of what’s happening both project-wide and organization-wide. This in turn eliminates a lot of the stress, conflict and name calling that often arises on a dev team. Team members start getting along better and being more understanding of each other’s priorities and workloads. Interpersonal relationships are strengthened, and everyone is happier. In effect, Jira helps keep the peace on development teams.

Need help getting Jira in place at your organization? Give us a call. As an Atlassian Platinum Expert, Coyote Creek is here for you.

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