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Jira is an incredibly flexible, powerful tool, but without the proper structure in place, it can get messy...fast. Early on, I was part of a small Jira implementation team with limited experience. We did the best we could, but in the end, the foundation wasn't quite right. I've supported instances that have been configured with purpose, but grew so quickly that they became cumbersome. I've also supported Jira instances in which someone decided that it was simple enough to "just install and start using it," and then, of course, it wasn't. And, I've seen Jira instances that were implemented by large, experienced teams, but too many people had admin rights.

What do you do if you created or inherited a Jira instance that has become unwieldy or unmanageable? It's not possible to turn back the clock, but there are some actions you can take to help clean up some of the mess.

Following are 7 actions you can take that will make a big difference:


Limit Administrator Access

When I was learning Jira, this piece of advice was given to me more than any other tip. The best way to prevent your Jira instance from becoming messy is by limiting who can make configuration changes. You wouldn't stop mopping the kitchen floor before turning off the water that's flooding it, right?  Don't start mopping up Jira until you eliminate the flood of admins making changes.


Establish Governance

Ensure your admins and users understand how Jira is to be used. Establish rules/policies and make sure they're documented and published for reference. Consider limiting customizations, at least initially, after first installing Jira. And when you do make them, follow change control procedures.



Related to governance, standardize your workflows, permission schemes, etc., as much as possible. Not only will this help reduce the administrative overhead, but it will also result in consistent use and simpler, more valuable reporting.


Simplify Your Workflows

I've seen many situations where a workflow is designed with so many bells and whistles that the users become confused, find workarounds because of the complexity, or just stop using it altogether. Start simple and introduce complexity incrementally. Often, a simple solution will be "good enough" for a very long time.  Plus, a simpler workflow can be deployed more quickly so you start realizing value sooner.


Allocate Resources to Jira

Jira is usually a mission-critical application, but surprisingly, it isn't always treated like one. Make sure you dedicate resources to implement it the right way the first time. Then allocate resources to support it beyond the initial implementation: support staff, training and training materials, wiki pages/knowledge repository, and a budget to accommodate growth (especially for licenses and apps/add-ons/plugins).  


The Care & Feeding of Jira

Jira is not something that can be implemented and forgotten.  As an organization's business needs change, those needs often need to be baked into Jira workflows and other configuration items.  Also, because Jira is simple to learn and use, it tends to start growing organically within an organization. Often a development team starts using Jira, but then IT operations or change management catch wind of it, and then business teams like HR or Legal jump onboard.

Since all of these teams work a little differently, their needs within Jira will vary. Regularly evaluate your environment and make sure it's still meeting the needs of the organization. Clean up old/unused configuration items, archive projects and issues, and don't forget to solicit feedback from your user base and make adjustments based on that input. Consider establishing a Jira committee comprised of various subject matter experts (SMEs) so that you have regular touch points with your user base, and use those as opportunities to educate or gather input or announce changes.


Engage Atlassian Experts 

There's a lot that's involved in Jira configurations and it can get out of hand pretty quickly. Sometimes the best course of action is to engage experts to help implement and/or bring some order back to your Jira. Yes, that means an investment up front, but the long-term benefits of clarity, consistency, and a well-implemented Jira instance will more than pay for themselves.

When describing Jira, I often rave about how easy it to customize for teams to help them track and manage their work, but that strength can also be a challenge. While this flexibility can present many options, it can result in overly complex and cumbersome instances. Use these tips to regain control and benefit from a tidy Jira instance.


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