Atlassian’s Jira was originally created as a tool to give software developers everything they need to build great software through strong teamwork, from project management to issue tracking. And Atlassian did a fabulous job with this! If you talk to developers, you quickly find that those who use Atlassian’s tools are extremely enthusiastic about them.
Although Atlassian initially focused exclusively on meeting the needs of software developers, today they are moving into the space that used to be owned by SAP’s enterprise resource planning software: business process automation. In fact, Atlassian’s Jira Core (one of three products that make up Jira 7) was specifically designed for business teams. Jira Core is a stripped-down version of Jira that’s meant for tracking business processes and work flows, all in a non-software-centric way.
The case for using Jira core for business process automation
While Atlassian is certainly not the only company trying to move into the business process automation space (another notable entrant is Salesforce, which has moved from being “CRM in the Cloud” to also being used to run a variety of front-end systems), Atlassian does offer business teams some significant benefits. Here’s what I’m seeing…
- Extremely flexible approach – Jira Core offers templates for three different types of business functions: project management, task management and process management. All of these templates can be used to build out business processes in a very organic way, enabling teams to fine-tune things exactly the way they want it. Of course, because Atlassian offers little in the way of off-the-shelf solutions for specific use cases, this extreme flexibility can be perceived as a positive or a negative. As with most software, whether or not Jira Core is the best choice for your group depends on your needs.
- Wide range of use cases – Jira Core is written on a unified platform that can handle a wide range of processes, and that also has an excellent framework for prioritizing large amounts of work. As Atlassian explains, Jira is a “workflow engine that allows you to track issues or tasks through a predefined, customizable workflow.” As such, it’s extremely versatile and not task-specific. Jira Core can be used to push dollars, documents or people (i.e. time resources) through a business process just as easily as it can be used to push code through the software development process.Use cases for Jira Core include tracking Human Resources service requests, processing job applicants, managing Marketing campaigns or financial processes, handling vendor management, tracking legal cases, and much more.Jira Core is also well-suited for business processes that are completely digital, such as automating the entire e-commerce sales process, from taking the order to scheduling the drop shipment from the vendor.
- Simple user interfaces – Once you have things set up, it’s easy to get your end users trained to use your system.
- Hybrid technology – Atlassian is delivery agnostic, allowing both cloud-based and server-based solutions. In our Atlassian user group I see that there’s always the conversation about this. Under what circumstances is an organization better off with the cloud- or the server-based option? How do these each roll out? Are there differences between the two software versions?
Where business teams often get tripped up
Unfortunately, Jira Core’s flexibility—and associated need for fine-tuning—can often be a stumbling block for non-IT teams. To automate a business process you need to be crystal clear about the components of that business process. Someone needs to be able to answer the important “big picture” questions, including:
- What is the purpose of this business process?
- What are the activities of this business process?
- Who is responsible for completing these activities (i.e. who will do the work)?
- What activity will trigger the use of this business process?
- What’s the goal of this business process automation project?
- What does a complete flow chart of this business process look like?
What I’ve seen is that the first five questions on this list are easier for the average business team member to answer than the last question is. Creating a detailed flow chart is a very process-minded activity that those who don’t think like systems analysts often find very difficult to do.
To make Jira Core work you need to be able to think in those process-oriented terms. Having the ability to figure out how all the little pieces fit together is a unique advantage for the gear head! This is where it is often a good idea to bring in experienced consultants, such as Coyote Creek. Consultants can bridge the gap, helping your end users to define processes well enough so that they can be successfully automated.
Selling business teams on the value of Jira Core
Another stumbling block for implementing Jira Core as a tool for business process automation is selling it to the members of the C-suite, many of whom are not familiar with any of the Atlassian tools.
Also playing into this issue is that there are two different cultures that exist within the C-suite; the CEO and CFO have different cultural backgrounds than the CIO or CTO. For example, those who are not involved with technology usually see themselves as being engaged with technology, not as being moved through processes via technology.
To help these people understand the value of using JIRA Core to automate business processes you should focus on the end results. What will things look like once this is in place? How will this change processing times and costs? What will it enable that is not possible without automation?
I have one last thought on this topic, and that is this: With the increasing digitization of everything, including the advance of the Internet of Things (IoT), many businesses are essentially becoming software companies. They must live in a digital world and must embrace a collaborative mentality. Atlassian speaks to this beautifully, as “teamwork” is built into Atlassian’s DNA. Atlassian has always been about connecting people and helping them build something greater than they can do individually. Which, of course, is what businesses are trying to accomplish every day.