Project management apps range widely in terms of sophistication. They can go from simple tools that address a single employee’s needs, to comprehensive environments for managing an entire portfolio of projects. This article is targeted at those who want to bring order to work management, centralize processes, and create a single environment for running multiple activities. We introduce the most important functionalities users gain by combining Jira with Structure and Structure.Gantt from ALM Works.

Project management – for whom?

Having an environment for efficient project management is of particular importance for companies where teams of specialists share tasks that are grouped into consecutive (or parallel) stages of execution. The first choice in such a situation is an array of free applications that fulfill basic project needs but are not integrable with other programs; as a result, teams must meet frequently to discuss work progress, and the manager can only rely on their own hastily taken notes or data gathered from various sources of information (e.g., from a Trello board, Excel sheets, email information, or worse – word of mouth). This is not comfortable for either the project leader or the individual specialists.

In such situations, those who coordinate tasks try to centralize operations and invest in a stable set of tools for teams.

Jira – task management software

One answer is the Jira system (Jira Software, Jira Service Management, or Jira Work Management) – its native functionalities allow for:

  • creating tasks for individuals,
  • grouping them through corresponding labels,
  • tracking the progress of tasks by monitoring statuses,
  • monitoring the working time that has been allocated to individual tasks,
  • collecting attachments relating to a specific activity,
  • generating reports summarizing quantitative data (time spent on tasks, number of tasks, task occupancy of individuals, etc.).

In addition to features that allow for collaboration and gather insight into the flow of activities, Jira offers another critical feature: it is flexible. That means you can “add more blocks” to it – in other words, integrate additional applications that extend its capabilities. This allows the company to digitize various processes gradually while remaining in one environment. Thus, an enterprise can start managing tasks in Jira, and over time add apps such as the Structure add-on from ALM Works, thus gaining dedicated project management capabilities.

Digitization of business processes in Jira – benefits

  • Collaboration – Jira’s native functionality is used to manage tasks.
  • Flexibility – the add-ons and proper configuration allow users to adjust task information and adapt to the needs of various people/departments based on their unique processes. This is not a rigid solution that applies everywhere and always looks the same.
  • Scalability – the flexibility of the system makes it capable of being expanded to include more processes; the system grows and develops with the company. Project management is just one of the many processes a company can handle with it, with the right configuration and add-ons.
  • Ease of use – by choosing the Jira system and upgrading it with new processes, the company does not need to learn any additional tools; everything works the same way, even though the system gains new, high-end capabilities. Employees who are familiar with the Jira system get used to handling new processes in a familiar environment faster than if the company had chosen a separate tool.
  • Availability of Partners – in Poland, 15 companies are Atlassian Partners (Atlassian is the developer of the Jira system) of which 5 have the highest, Platinum level of partnership (we belong to this group). If an organization needs any assistance, it can count on the support of specialists in Polish (feel free to contact us).
  • Extensibility – more than 5,000 applications can be found on the Atlassian Marketplace platform to extend Jira’s functionalities; this means almost unlimited possibilities for developing the environment and digitizing company processes.

When to decide to expand the system to include project management?

Companies start looking for more advanced project management solutions when the number of tasks, dependencies, and activities start to become overwhelming and instead of organizing the work, introduce nothing but chaos.

Reason for seeking a project management solution:

  • Too many teams, projects, and dependencies between them – the team leader and manager have a hard time identifying the most important challenges, the task boards are too elaborate, and it is difficult to extract the most important priorities from the plethora of information.

Needs that arise in such a situation:

  • Better planning and monitoring of the process flow between tasks, project teams, as well as sorting out dependencies, roles, workflows, and information.
  • Prioritization.
  • Balancing the number of tasks per person on the team.
  • A reflection of the company’s strategic business plans in the project structure.
  • Improving the efficiency of the team.
  • Improving communication.

I find Structure to be truly invaluable for my task and project management. There is simply not another tool that comes close in empowering the user to create views to manage projects at any level of view that they want. The automation coupled with the JQL option really puts all the power into the users’ hands to form whatever view they want.

– Jason Kim, Director of Software Engineering, TrueCar.

 

Our team has been looking for a tool to help manage projects and resources across the company/teams to incorporate into our Jira instance. It took a few tutorials to get into, but once we did, we realized just how powerful Structure and Structure.Gantt really are. You could use an easy setup or customize it to fit your highly specific needs (which is what we did). We’re now using Structure to organize our Jira projects for easy reporting to the rest of the company. We’re also using Structure.Gantt to keep track of just how much work is actually assigned to a team member for mid- and long-term planning and to easily reschedule if needed. This makes it so much easier to keep everyone in the loop and avoid conflicts while managing projects.

– Kristina Smirnov, SBK Siemens-Betriebskrankenkasse.

Source of quotes

Project management in Jira+Structure

Jira+Structure vs Jira native capabilities:

 

Features

Jira+StructureJira

Filtering with JQL

Sprint planning

Exporting data to Excel

Group update of tasks

Excel-like calculations directly in Jira using Formulas

X

Queuing based on dependencies between tasks

X

Full visualization of work breakdown (WBS)

X
WBS-compliant data aggregation

X

Creating links between tasks using the “drag and drop” method

X

Dynamic grouping of tasks

X

The most important advantage of the Structure application and the Structure.Gantt extension is the clear view of the projects in progress it provides. Another great advantage is the easy grouping and filtering of the issues the user wants to see in the structure, as well as the ability to share the structures with others.

Structure gathers Jira issues from multiple projects into a hierarchy you can customize, for example:

A screenshot from the Structure application integrated with the Jira Cloud system, showing a view of ongoing projects. The most important thing the screenshot illustrates is the ability to easily filter the levels of tasks the user wants to see in Structure.

Structures are created based on the issues teams already have in the Jira system. If a company has previously used the Jira system to manage tasks for its teams, after deploying Structure, all the company needs to do is configure the overview or the structure accordingly. This can be done using simple filters or the more advanced capabilities provided by JQL.

Once a structure is created, the user can see all the steps they took to create it, which is useful when, for example, they want to teach another employee how to create their own. These steps – or generators – can be easily hidden when the user wants to focus on the content rather than the structure settings:

A screenshot from the Structure application integrated with Jira Cloud, showing the project list view and filters that help the user navigate the view. Among there are functionalities such as Add sub-task, add issuses belonging to epics, sort by rank. The content on the screenshot is in English.

It is also quite convenient to be able to determine what information the user wants to see in the columns of their structure. This can be any information that can be found in tasks created in the Jira system, such as:

  • Assignee (person performing the task),
  • Reporter (person who supervises the execution of the task),
  • Created date (date of task creation),
  • Due date (a deadline for the task before which it must be completed),
  • Status,
  • Priority.

and additional ones that are offered by the Structure add-on, such as:

  • Progress (the progress of the task, an automatic calculation based on the input of time estimates or statuses)
  • Story points (number of tasks within an iteration)
  • Time spent (time spent on task)
  • Formula columns (Excel-like calculations and formatting directly in Jira)

Data can be edited in-line from the structure, without needing to open the Jira issue. This is useful, for example, when a project manager needs to assign particular tasks to people other than the ones currently assigned or to change task deadlines. ALM Works, the developer of the Structure add-on, has introduced functionality for people who have such an expansive view that requires scrolling through successive columns. When this happens, it is possible to freeze the first few columns so that they are constantly displayed in one place – this way the project manager always knows which task he or she is looking at:

A screenshot from the Structure application integrated with Jira Cloud, captioned: ALM Works, maker of the Structure add-on, has introduced a convenience for people who have such an expansive view of projects that they have to scroll through column after column. In such a situation, it is possible to stop the first few columns so that they are constantly displayed in one place - so the project manger always knows what task he is looking at.
The above actions represent only the first, basic step to using Structure in the Jira environment. We would like to provide you with a short demo showing how Jira + Structure work in the context of building a project view:

Project management in Jira + Structure – key capabilities:

  • Creating a structure for waterfall projects.
  • Creating a structure for agile projects.
  • Creating a custom issue hierarchy per project.
  • Flexible grouping and filtering to create ideal project overviews.
  • Managing project structures.
  • Creating Portfolio Roadmap views.

Tweaks for Team Leaders and Project Managers:

  • Configuring the project portfolio overview according to their needs.
  • Sharing overviews (structures) with the whole team or organization.
  • Controlling the task parameters of their choice.
  • Quick identification of downtime sources.
  • Planning for the next steps and creating a work schedule.
  • Monitor progress, time spent on tasks, and time left to complete a particular milestone.
  • Rapid prioritization of tasks and assigning the right people to them.
  • Generation of reports to be submitted to management or the client.
  • Creating work plans based on data from previous projects.
  • More effective anticipation of potential problems.
  • Faster response to problems.

What makes the Structure for Jira project management application so outstanding?

  • Flexibility and scalability – the company can adapt the structures to different and differently-run projects, regardless of their size.
  • Visibility and transparency – project managers can easily see the important information across Jira and present it at any level, from the team view to the higher-level overviews for managers.
  • Ease of use of the application, thanks to integration with Jira and a user-friendly interface.
  • Effectiveness in leading projects and coordinating team activities, when teams can work in the same place.
  • Top-notch support – Structure has a vibrant Slack community and a top-notch support team ready to help.

Business benefits of implementing a PMO in Jira with the Structure add-on:

  • One place to create and manage projects, as well as coordinate and monitor the progress of work.
  • Easy configuration: anyone can build the structure that works for them with just a few clicks.
  • Real-time sorting, grouping, aggregating and filtering of data; limiting the number of additional plug-ins or utilities.
  • Jira + Structure provides an environment for managing projects conducted in any method; the application is customized to meet the team’s requirements, not the other way around; no imposed way of how things work.
  • Expandable with further automation and advanced features. Structure is integrable with such add-ons as: Tempo Timesheets, Advanced Roadmaps, and custom-coded integrations.

PMO in Jira + Structure – recap

Structure for Jira tops the rankings for project management applications in the Atlassian environment. On the Atlassian Marketplace, the most purchased project management add-ons for Jira are (as of July 2022):

EazyBI Reports and Charts and Tempo Planner also ranked high. We recommend all of these applications to those who are looking for a good project management solution or tweaks for slightly simpler task management, without sophisticated and complex features. Also, please feel free to get in touch with us – our teams are experienced in implementing and configuring various applications. Based on your needs and an overview of your existing processes, we recommend the most optimal solution.

We are a solid option in terms of consulting and implementation work, as we boast a Platinum level of partnership with the Atlassian brand, as well as years of experience working with clients, including those who are digitizing administrative, accounting, HR (and various other non-technical) processes using the Atlassian environment. We also provide technical support i.e. configuration, implementation and testing of deployed environments. We are a partner of Tempo.io, which has merged with ALM Works. This means that both companies are now working together. We are in constant contact with add-on authors and can help you solve problems with Tempo and ALM Works applications faster, we also offer the discounts we are entitled to under the partnership agreement.

More information on Structure for Jira:

Do you want to organize your teams’ activities and have a better overview of the workflow at each stage of the project? Are you using Jira and looking for the right extension to make this possible? Consider Structure for Jira as a proven, well-appreciated, and relatively inexpensive add-on that makes this possible. Contact us and tell us about your company’s needs. Together we will find the best way to digitally transform your business.

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