Atlassian App Review: User Story Maps for Jira by Easy Agile

First, I should note a bit of a disclaimer: Opinions in this blog have been and always will be mine {Rodney’s] – and in no way represent the feelings of Coyote Creek Consulting or anyone other than me.

At one of my previous jobs, I had a program manager who hated to create issues in Jira. The problem was that he also didn’t trust his team to know what they needed to do. His team was responsible for setting up servers and shipping them out to be installed at data centers worldwide. Easy enough, right?

We had set up some rules in Automation in Jira to create children stories upon creating an Epic. However, he kept wanting to add stories and subtasks. I’d coach him to have good Confluence documentation for the tiny little steps for each story and keep it high level – and he’d keep fighting me. I mean, seriously, did he want people to update Jira issues all day, or did he want them to do their actual jobs? At one point, it had ballooned to the point where creating a single epic would auto-create over 100 other stories and subtasks.

But his loathing of creating issues didn’t stop there. It had gotten out that I could bulk import issues from a CSV file. The company had used this process for some massive projects we were planning. However, this Program manager thought he could abuse this and once turned in an excel sheet of twelve Epics. Yes, 12. That was the last straw; I had to have an intervention with his manager. It was my job to run the entire instance, not create issues for him.

It’s not like I didn’t feel his pain. At the time, I was helping people across the company plan large projects. And the most painful part was always populating those plans in Jira by creating issues. Even if you put in the bare minimum, creating issues is a tedious process at best.

Why bring this up now? Well, this is the exact problem today’s App, User Story Maps for Jira, attempts to solve. This App makes it easier to populate your backlog with epics and stories in a fast and painless manner. It then gives you the ability to sort out your issues in a 3D chart to help you figure out Priority. It’s a simple concept, to be sure, but in the right process can be massively powerful.

User Story Maps for Jira Features

Create New and Add Existing Epics and Stories inside the Story Map

This feature is easily one of the most powerful features of this App. User Story Maps gives you a new tab on your project view, and upon clicking it, you have a 3D view of your open Epics, sprints, and backlog. You have a button to bring up the Epic creation screen.

However, all you have to do for stories is hover an empty part of the screen, click “add new,” and start typing the Summary. The Epic for the story you create will depend on the column you create it in, as the columns are defined by the Epics you include. You can then click on its issue key to open a pop-up and add a component, description, or more.

You can also click “existing” while hovering over an empty part of the map to open a panel that shows you all Stories that have not yet been added to your Story Map. This way, you can get a comprehensive view of everything going on within your project in one intuitive view.

Order stories by Priority and sequence work into sprints or versions with intuitive drag and drop

This feature is where things get interesting. You just created a shipload of stories, but you need to organize them. That’s as simple as moving them around. No, seriously. To change a story from one Epic to another, drag-and-drop it to the column for the new Epic. Are you moving it to a sprint? Drag-and-Drop. Are you changing its rank? You guessed it, drag-and-drop.

You can then change swimlanes to “Version swimlanes,” then drag-and-drop to define and prepare your versions. Simply Genius!

Edit Story Summaries and Estimates with Inline Edit

So, you have a truss of stories, but they were written up hastily. And now that you are looking at them, there’s a lot of spelling mistakes. Also, there’s a number of them that don’t have estimates. This fact means you are going to have to spend a good hour or two going to each issue and editing it directly, right?

Nope, not at all! This App supports in-line editing for both Summaries and estimates, meaning all you have to do is click on the Summary you need to modify and modify it. On Issue types that can access the Estimation fields, all you have to do is click on the icon next to the status lozenge and put in your estimate. It couldn’t be simpler.

App Integrations!

I love it when companies find ways to integrate Apps together within Jira. Granted, this is easier when the same company makes both Apps, but that is precisely what we see here. If you also happen to have Personas installed on the same Jira instance, you can then filter your Story Map based on those different personas you have defined. It’s a tiny little thing, but it goes a long way to help it feel like a single experience rather than a collection of different add-ons.

The Jira Guy’s Analysis

What this App does well

If you (like me) hate the process of creating issues for your Agile boards, this App is for you. It makes the whole process of creating Epics and Stories simpler – and therefore faster. And once created, it gives you a single-pane view into your current and planned sprints, as well as your backlog, to see how things are shaping up.

What this App could work on

I get that in “formal” Agile, subtasks aren’t a thing. If you need to break apart a story more, you should do just that by creating a new story and dividing the points between the two. However, in the real world, subtasks are useful for organizing your work on a story. However, Jira doesn’t have a good history of dealing with subtasks well. I’ve had to do more than a few Automation for Jira rules that state, “If a Story moves into a sprint, move all of its subtasks with it.”

So if I had any ask, it would be this: give us an option to enable subtasks. It doesn’t have to be on by default, but it would help those of us who use subtasks to organize and see them in the plan.

Would I recommend this App?

When I talked about the program manager above, I hope I was clear that I felt his pain – even if I disagreed with his approach. Creating a lot of issues in Jira is tedious. I’m not going to deny that, and I’m a Jira Admin. However, this App makes that more manageable, and for the time it saves, I cannot stress enough how much I love it. Honestly, I’m debating going ahead and buying a full license for this App because it will make setting up demos for Apps that much easier. So yes, I’d absolutely recommend it.

User Map’s Tier Rank

This App has some great features, works well in my testing, and easy enough to trust users to figure it out without additional training. Combine this with the fact that it will save your teams a lot of time and frustration come Sprint planning time, and it’s easy to see what makes this App well-loved. For all these reasons, I feel that User Story Maps earns its “A” Rank easily.

Support From Coyote Creek

As Atlassian Platinum Solutions Partners, we’re ready and willing to support you in a variety of ways as you make the transition to Atlassian Cloud.

We are equipped to handle Atlassian projects, cloud migrations, data center deployments, and hybrid environments via AWS and Azure. 

If you’d like to dive deeper into how Coyote Creek can assist you, please reach out today  and we can take some time to discuss your unique business requirements.