This is a guest post by Dzmitry Hryb, Atlassian Apps Marketing Manager at Deviniti – an Atlassian Platinum Solution Partner Enterprise and a Gold Top Vendor on the Marketplace, based in Poland. Dimitry is an acclaimed contributor to the Ecosystem who received Atlassian Community Content Awards three times in 2018.
How much time at work is actually spent working? This question has always consumed the minds of entrepreneurs and managers who have wanted to reduce costs and increase efficiency. Nowadays, when more and more jobs require a computer and Internet access, the number of possible distractions is growing exponentially. The final image won't be exciting at all if we think about our team’s performance.
Common work distractions and time wasters
According to a survey by Salary.org, 39% of American workers spend about an hour a week on non-work related items. That’s followed by 29% who spend up to two hours a week wasting time at work, and 21% who waste up to five hours a week. It might make the employees feel better, as they're just blending their lives together with work as well as socializing and building relations inside and between teams, but the figures are pretty scary from the business perspective. A software developer who is distracted for three hours a week on average wastes over $5000 of his salary per year. What if a company has a hundred employees? Or a thousand?
OK, we're all people and not robots. We need a bit of rest during the day, and research says that socializing at the workplace actually increases productivity and engagement into solving problems. But even work-related activities can be extremely time-consuming, and by no means effective. According to an IDC white paper, in 2012 Western European knowledge workers were spending nine hours a week on creating documents, six on reviewing, and over four on just searching for them! Newer data from Tempo shows some progress in this area, but still, administrative work can take us up to one-third of our working time.
Another stats compilation by Atlassian shows us three of the most dangerous work-related productivity killers: emails, needless meetings, and interruptions. If we look at it from a broader perspective, we'll see that all three are related to communication. We've already seen why it's so hard to keep it clear and concise, and a good choice of a medium is crucial in order to achieve this. Meanwhile, 95% of organizations still use email as their primary internal communication medium, so the average worker can spend as much as 13 hours a week reading through and responding to emails. What's even more, according to Atlassian, unproductive meetings, which constitute around half of all the meetings, take up to 31 hours a month, or 8 hours a week.
So during a working week in the office, we have 15 hours of paperwork, 13 hours of emails, 8 hours of useless meetings, and 2 hours of being totally distracted. We add this up, and we're left with just 2 hours for doing the actual work! Now we can see why so many people take plenty of overtime to finally get anything done.
A rigid and outdated approach to choosing proper communication media leads to imprecise messages and thus a strong need for correcting them, which in its turn costs even more. Communication coach Stacey Hanke cites research data showing that a company with 100 employees spends an average of 17 hours a week clarifying communications, which translates to an annual cost of $528,000. On a higher level, miscommunication can cost businesses 25 to 40 percent of their annual budget.
Here's how much being distracted for just 3 hours a week can cost the employer
Jira as a time saver
So what can we do when facing such enormous costs? If we're just a small start-up with a team of three to five people, it's not a big problem for us... yet. It becomes one when we start scaling up rapidly or are already a big organization, often distributed geographically. The bigger the project and the more people participate in it, the more difficult it becomes to get the work done on schedule and budget, because people find it hard to keep track with what's going on. When the number of tasks to distribute at a time becomes too high, it becomes crucial to set up some kind of a work tracking system.
However, when each team does it their own way, it's not too good, either. Someone may be using a number of separate Excel charts, creating physical Kanban boards with post-its, or applying a dozen of different software tools across the organization. When these teams need to collaborate, this approach leads to confusion, inconsistency, and a lack of transparency (which costs a lot, as we already know). And even for separate projects inside a company, more tools means more bills to pay each year.
This is why more and more companies from SMBs to global enterprises choose a unified project tracker like Jira to manage their project scopes and track progress. What started as a bug tracker transformed into a fully-powered project management machine with lots of features and templates for different kinds of teams, not only software but also non-technical. It allows gathering tasks, assigning them to the team members, following the work progress, setting time estimates, and comparing it with the actual time spent on completion.
Here are the 5 main things that Jira can offer for solving the aforementioned problems.
A single source of truth for all tasks and files
Imagine a bunch of teams who collaborate with each other and track their work on separate Excel spreadsheets. With such a setup, there's always the need to continually update on the status of particular tasks. People have to ask for updates on Slack, by email, or at short meetings a couple of times a day. In the long run, it costs them countless hours that could bring far more value to the project.
When teams don’t have a centralized system for creating, organizing, and monitoring their work, getting on the same page takes a lot of time. With Jira, every team member can access all the tasks inside the projects they have permission for. Transparency is critical for team productivity and also for the quality of delivered work. By seeing how particular tasks fit into the bigger picture, people have a greater understanding of the project and sense of ownership.
Another big problem of knowledge workers is sharing project files that are frequently updated and come in many different versions. The best way to address this is by setting up a central file repository. This can be enabled simply by attaching files to the appropriate issues. Moreover, the history of every Jira issue is tracked in the system, which also allows tracking the changes made to those files. The issue view also includes a comments section for sharing information about the updates.
Full control of the progress of tasks and projects
Jira allows project managers to plan and organize tasks, and also track and monitor entire projects. No longer do we have to reach out to individual team members to learn what the status of their task is and when they’re going to finish it. All this information can be easily logged into individual Jira tickets.
Moreover, project managers can create reporting dashboards which display the number of tasks that have been finished and those required for the project to reach its completion. Burndown, Created vs. Resolved, and other types of charts available in Jira come in handy for assessing the status of the project and evaluating its progress. Calendar, Roadmap, and other types of managerial gadgets enable having a high-level perspective of what's going on and what is to be done next. All these can be displayed on a single screen, which saves much of the managers' time for tracking projects.
Jira’s project tracking features are also a perfect fit for teams following the Agile methodology. In this context, a burndown or a sprint health chart generated per sprint will give the team leaders a good clue about their team’s productivity. We can even create a Wallboard and present this data on a large screen for all the team members, which can motivate them to do better.
If out-of-the-box gadgets are not enough, you can always visit the Atlassian Marketplace and find dedicated apps extending this functionality.
Here's what a project tracking dashboard can look like. Source: Atlassian
Clear and documented workflows
In medium-sized to big companies, teams usually should follow formal documented processes to deliver projects on time and work seamlessly together. Jira comes with a set of standard workflows which can be customized to match the unique needs of a given team in a particular department.
The most basic workflow takes a task from To Do to In Progress and finally Done. You can add any number of steps in between, specify possible transitions between them, and include conditions to be fulfilled on each step. For example, you can create a workflow for your legal team that forces the team members to get approval from their supervisor before passing the revised documentation on. Software teams have to consider code reviewing, testing and deploying phases. Sales reps also can process leads through Jira, but they would need to model their sales funnel.
Apart from conditions and validators for workflow transitions, Jira offers the possibility to define post functions - automated actions happening right after an issue transitions to a specific status in a given workflow. This feature enables automating many things in Jira, like adding comments, updating another issue's fields, creating sub-tasks, and many more. There are lots of Marketplace apps that provide additional workflow post functions, and your developers can create custom ones in Groovy or other scripting languages.
Long story short, setting up proper workflows for your teams in Jira and following them makes their work more standardized and thus faster. The additional features help automate otherwise manual actions and really make this software stand out on the market.
Project boards instead of unproductive meetings
When a workflow for a project is in place, it's time to design a task board according to it. The most basic type of board in Jira is Kanban, which aims at substituting physical boards with post-its (which doesn't mean both cannot exist alongside each other). Unlike with physical boards, you can remove the Done column from the board view, or put a WIP limit on the In Progress column, which means highlighting it when the number of issues in it exceeds a predefined number. Also, you can control which issue fields you display as icons right on the board, so the important data like Due Date or Priority can be visible without having to click through to the issue view. In addition, Scrum projects include task backlogs and sprint planning features, and Service Desk requests are managed by support agents in so-called queues.
All these features help save time on unnecessary status meetings and miscommunication, as all the up-to-date information can be seen at any given moment inside the project.
A powerful search engine
And what if we need to find a file or a piece of work which causes a problem really quickly? If we use a couple of tools for tracking different teams' work, it becomes practically impossible or at least takes very long. But in Jira, we can search through the database really quickly with Jira Query Language, or JQL. It allows us to search objects in Jira by fields' values and narrow or broaden the search results by using special operators and keywords. The displayed data can be sorted or ordered in specific ways, which makes data presentation much easier.
Not-so-technical users can enjoy clicking through Simple Search and Quick Filters predefined by the project admin, i.e. for displaying only the issues reported by or assigned to a particular user, or just the issues in a given status inside some project. Imagine how much time this search engine saves to find a year-old issue on an instance which has a 100,000 of them!
Here's how JQL queries are constructed. Source: Atlassian
Work-related activities can be extremely time-consuming and absolutely unproductive at the same time, in fact distracting us from doing the actual work. Miscommunication, lack of clear processes and many authority sources for all the teams' tasks and files can cost businesses up to 40% of their annual budget. Working on Jira issues can be really effective and save a lot of time due to the many features of the software, which enable transparency and a greater understanding of the work being done, as well as quick searchability and a streamlined delivery process. It can also be easily customized with apps providing additional functionalities like time tracking.
Tempo and Deviniti hosted a webinar on this topic! Uncover the mysteries of how to properly track your team’s work time and share more advanced ways to save it using Jira Software: You can watch it now here.