Scrum projects are very collaborative by design. Starting a new project and planning the next sprint bring all the necessary people together who will be doing the work and ideas really get to flowing. Traditionally, the team is in the same room and there are sticky notes all over the place. Jira is a digital way to keep those sticky notes visible for the whole team whether in-office or remote…and it is free for small teams. This means you can tinker with it for awhile before scaling up to a paid version.
There are several software options for Scrum and Agile Project Management; however, I am choosing Jira to discuss because it was I use at work on my projects and have used it to manage my personal home-projects as well. Once you get a feel for it, it is extremely simple to use. In fact, when my kids were doing remote school last year, we used Jira to keep us organized and it worked extremely well.
Before we get into the look of Jira, here are a few basics of the program that align with Scrum. There are versions, epics, and user stories to break an effort down into organized and manageable chunks. A version (or release) is what is being built. For example, IOS 11 is a version. Breaking this version into the big pieces would be the epic. Lastly, the most basic piece of work is broken down into something a single member could do during an iteration and it is known as a user story. Put another way, several user stories make up an epic and several epics make up a version.
Above is a basic view of a project in Jira. These projects are displayed in multiple columns that are usually titled “to-do”, “in-progress”, and “done” to represent the workflow of the user story (task at hand). I named mine “plan”, “do”, and “done” because it is in line with my personal workflow of plan, do, next (next is in the backlog…we will get there). The user story is each rectangle above and represents the work you are doing. For example, I am writing the one in the middle at the moment titled “Project Management: Jira” and moved it over to the “do” column by dragging it. Once this is complete, I will drag it over to “done”. Pretty simple.
Earlier, I spoke about the backlog. Above is a view of my writing backlog. It is where new ideas go as I have them and where I break projects down into manageable chunks in which I plan to work them. In the middle of the screen are the epics and on the far left is a list of versions. Some of them are true start/finish projects like a book project I am working on. Some are on-going “products” as in this website. I even have versions like my “client work” where I throw in articles or small deliverables a client requests. When all of the stories in an epic are done, it is also marked done. When all of the epics in the version are completed, it is “released”.
The last thing I will discuss is the board itself. A board is where you view your project and there are two types you can choose from. When you set up your project on Jira, you will be prompted to choose a scrum board or a kanban board. This is determined by how you plan to manage your project. The user stories, epics, and versions are the same either selection, the difference is in how the work is going to be completed. In a kanban board (like I have chosen), work is pulled in as the previous user stories have been completed and there is bandwidth for new ones. Most of my stories do not have a time constraint and fit this format perfectly. If they do have a deadline, you can add due dates to make them stand out more.
A scrum board is used when the work is going to be done by a team in sprints. The team will then point the stories (based on team preference) and grab the highest priority user stories from the backlog needed to deliver on the sprint goal. Each member chooses what they can complete during each sprint and moves the user stories through the columns to communicate with the team where they are in the workflow. Scrum boards are for work needed to be done in sprints and kanban boards are for work that will be pulled in when ready for the next task.
Jira can sound and look VERY intimidating at first. However, if you have ever broken something you are working on into big chunks, you can handle this. It is a free account, you can get in there and mess around a bit to get comfortable. If you get stuck, they have one of the best online support forums I have ever seen. Just Google the question and you will be sure to find an answer. The two big reasons I want you to get comfortable with this software is because 1) it is a great tool to get you organized and 2) it will help you gain work experience in project management software as required on job applications in the future.