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Addressing the challenges of data-driven decision making for agile teams in Jira

Creating data is easy. In fact, we’ve become so good at it that we barely even notice when we are making data during work and in our personal lives.
From Team '23

Tempo Team

Creating data is easy. In fact, we’ve become so good at it that we barely even notice when we are making data during work and in our personal lives. 

According to Domo’s Data Never Sleeps 2023 report, we make 120 zettabytes of data every single day. This blog doesn’t even have the space to type out that many zeroes, but it is a number that is absolutely overwhelming.

The question, then, isn’t how do we get more or better data. It’s what do we actually do with the data that we are constantly surrounded by? This is something perhaps more important to agile teams as they need data and the communication that comes with stronger data to survive and thrive.

This blog is part of a series on how to make more effective decisions with your data. Here, we will cover how you can overcome the issues that stop managers and teams from using their data effectively in one of the popular and common tools for project management: Jira.

If you want to learn more about the challenges themselves, check out the full e-book we have covering everything you need to know about data-driven decision making. However, once you have identified and understood those challenges, there are three main ways of addressing them, for all sizes of company, in tandem. 

1. Get all teams reporting regularly and consistently

Reporting works best when it is a habit – not just an activity you have to do as the cleanup from your “actual” work.

It transforms reporting from a post-mortem analysis into a proactive tool that keeps teams aligned, accountable, and ahead of potential issues. The key thing is it should be regular and consistent within the team, because irregular reporting can cause teams to keep making the same mistakes or you can fall into the mindset that reporting is something you do once in a blue moon.

For instance, while a software development team operating on a scrum framework might report at each sprint phase, senior management might opt for monthly or quarterly reports. The key lies in regularity and consistency, tailored to each team's context.

This is probably the biggest hurdle agile teams come up against. Teams can feel that it is a waste of their time or not part of their job description. 

Regular reporting means making mistakes becomes less of a once-a-quarter autopsy and more a way for people to feel connected to their overall goal, feel responsible collectively for work, and ensure no big surprises land on people and things get blown out of proportion.

2. Unified tools for unified teams

Ideally you want everyone in your organization using Jira and Jira add-ons for work management, from development and IT to marketing and sales to senior management.

If everyone is working from the same instance, then sharing work and reports becomes considerably easier and you significantly reduce the chance for there to be misinterpretations of data.

Specifically:

  • You can compare data and reports as those reports will share the same structure, design, and format.

  • If your users like a report that another team created, they can copy it.

  • Everybody’s data will be up to date and accessible.

  • People won’t come to different conclusions from the same data just because it’s presented differently.

  • Everyone will benefit from the same level of support no matter what team they work with.

  • You will improve transparency, integrity, and communication across the whole organization.

If you want organizational autonomy for different brands or regions, you might want to look into whether an entire separate division could benefit from using other tools, but size shouldn’t be the driving factor behind that decision.

While centralization can seem like a bit of a scary word, it is essential to the agile philosophy. Planning sprints, understanding project priority, and being able to iterate and constantly improve your workflows will only be more difficult if your teams are all working in different places, with different types of data, and in different ways. 

Jira Enterprise allows large organizations to create up to 150 separate Jira instances. Even having separate instances for different divisions is preferable to having a mix of proprietary platforms; it’s much easier for two Jiras to talk to each other than it is for Jira to talk to non-Atlassian software.

For example, you may want to add someone to your instance, a simple task if they’re already an Atlassian user as opposed to if they’re working in Google or Microsoft. Overall, companies benefit not just from enhanced team efficiency and corporate oversight, but from having uniform security, compliance, scalability, and software support across divisions.

This is why it is also best if all your Jira instances are using, at least broadly, the same add-ons. Because then there will be common work templates and reporting mechanisms, and a comparable flow of work.

You may, for example, want to add a user to your instance so you can present them with data on how a different region or brand is performing. The new user will be able to understand the data much more quickly than if you present them with an unfamiliar report in an unfamiliar tool.

3. Use the right tools

Getting everyone using the right tools is important – but those tools also need to be the right ones for the job at hand. 

You might think that the best course of action is to go for the most advanced tool on the market, but the big spend might not always be the best fix. 

The reason these tools might not work is that they are over-engineered and often require much more effort and learning than the average Jira user has time or inclination for. As a result, people start reporting their own way, and incompatible reports and data start to creep back in.

You also might also want to seriously consider moving teams away from older tools that don’t integrate with any databases or project management tools. These are often called “siloed” software and the problem with working with programs where you have to export data is that it locks it in at that point, making the report out of date as soon as it's made.

It can also mean the way people present data on old spreadsheets will differ from person to person and from report to report.

Manual data entry risks errors, it’s time-consuming, and that means you can make the wrong conclusions and take the wrong actions. Don’t risk it and consider moving your teams into software that integrates with other places you are working in.

Assuming your company uses Jira, choose a complementary suite of Jira add-ons like the Tempo stack. Tempo offers an understanding of how your time and money is being spent, user workloads and capacity, financial performance, and how you’re tracking towards releases, milestones, and company-wide goals.

The data you’re producing in Jira, and what to do with it

When you use Jira, you produce data on all the Jira issues you create and work with. This includes data on various default and custom fields, such as status, sprint, assignee, labels, dates, times, components, and other data specific to your company’s work processes.

This allows you to produce reports that look at things like how sprints, epics, and releases are progressing; how workloads are distributed; proportion of the type of work, e.g. features versus bugs; how quickly service requests are being resolved, etc.

These reports can be made within a project, or you can create reports on a Jira dashboard for a broader overview.

The takeaway

Data is more than just data. You need to be aware of the challenges (and risks) that come from applying it incorrectly, try to unify the systems your teams are working on to get uniform data, and make reporting a habit.

That’s where Tempo can come in and help. We have developed a suite of easy-to-use, modular, and flexible tools that are ready to drop into your Jira workflows and start helping with the ways you plan, collect, and report with your data.

You can find out all about them over on https://www.tempo.io/products and for more on our campaign to help you and your teams understand and deploy data more effectively, check out our guide.

Find out how your teams can deploy data more effectively

Check out the guide