Say bye bye to Excel, say Hello To Jira!

5 mins read. May 23, 2013 Excel   Agile   Jira   Atlassian   Development Tech

What? You’re still using Excel as your bug tracking system? You are kidding me right? If your still using excel within your team as bug tracking system you’re not really working on the bugs. No your working on the excel sheet to get all the bugs / feature requests and tasks right in place.

If you think you can … no should do better as a development lead / manager keep reading. Cause using Excel as ticket tool is so 2012! < !–more –> Here’s the new Jira! Say What? Jira! Oh sorry, let’s start at the beginning of my Jira career!

In 2011 I started working at Bax-shop.nl.

Bax shop.nl was founded in 2003 and with more than 150 employees serving the market aimed at music lovers and music makers (dj `s, producers and musicians).

When I started as a Software Development Manager I found a real mess. Developers were developing, but they did not know what tickets there were, who was working on what and what the needs were of their customers (internally & externally)

They worked with this great versioning system called FTP (yeah, that worked really nice :-( ) and the developers where crumpy and could never ever really finish a task or project.

So my first goal was to fix that great Excel sheet they were working with. Well guess what…. the Excel file was not going to solve my problems nor was it going to solve my dev-team problems.

Excel had to go!

But what then? We did not had a good ticket / bug tracking system. So I give one of the team members the assignment to find me the ultimate tool but, (well I am from the province of Zeeland, and those people are known that they are economical), it had to be free (or almost free)

It took him quite some research, and some time to come up with several bugtracking / ticket systems.

Here’s the list he came up with.

  • eTraxsis
  • WebIssue’s
  • Bugzilla
  • Trac
  • Mantis
  • BugNet

Well: the complete list can be found here.

I told him, no no no tried them all…. nothing really works. I need a good system.

Then he came up with a system called Jira. He told me that it just cost a little.

And that is true, for 10 developers you will only pay 10 dollars ! That’s it! Ten Bucks for ten developers.

I looked at this ticket/bug tracking system and thought it really looked great. I just had to convince the board of directors that we had to spend a whole 10 dollars to use this piece of software. :-)

So we started using it. And soon after we started to use Confluence as our Wiki / Intranet. I really hated the Wiki software before Confluence, it was called MediaWiki and you had to have a Master Degree in Coding to use it. Not that I had a problem with that, but my non development colleagues did not understand how to create a page, table or whatever.

I’ll tell more about Confluence in an other blog post.

So Jira, did it work? Well at first not really, that means. Some developers were really not happy with the thought of losing that good old Excel sheet. The learning curve is not really steep, but you have to got every developer on the same track to get it to work.

Soon after implementation we also installed Bonfire on our browsers and on the browsers of the Helpdesk Team of the webshop. No more there’s a problem on this page emails. But good screenshots with arrows or text on it where the problem really is, and what the problem is about.

Also the MS paint lovers removed Paint from their windows machines. (yeah, like that really is possible :-) ), Well they removed the shortcut icon from their desktop.

After we got the hang of Jira, we started to use Jira together with Scrum and the Agile tools of the Atlassian product list. Not only then we could see the amount of work that was being done, we also had a good look on what we still had to do as that was our Backlog.

After one and a half year we where pushing our boundaries even further. As we are a fast growing company, and also the needs and features for our webshop are growing our backlog became bigger and bigger.

Yes, don’t worry, we got a really big amount of the work done, but as Jira and bonfire provided us with a easy tracking system everybody wanted to use it. And guess what, everybody had a big pile of wishes.

So we had this use backlog, and we somehow got to the point were we started. Big pile of work… what to do next.

So we introduced Kanban to the team. And we divided our work into Kanban items (not ready for work) and scrum items (ready to be put on the sprint(s).

Did we come up with that brilliant way of working ourselves? I wish I could say Yes :-), but no Atlassian helped us with this way of working.

Not only are they making great products that helps productivity to a very high level, they also help you solve daily problems, like having big (to big) backlogs.

If your want to know more about the kanban / scrum way of splitting up your big list of todo’s please read : How to Manage a Product Backlog with Ease

Our lessons learned?

  1. Don’t use Excel, use a real ticket/bug tracking system. I guess any will do in the beginning, for us Jira is perfect!
  2. Take your time to implement and learn from the system, take small steps and try to make your way of using the system better and better.
  3. Follow the guys at Atlassian, they really have good ideas!
  4. Don’t stop working on your system if you think it’s okay, you can always do better with it!

So, our team really got better by using Jira. We’re more structured and do more in less time.

If you have any questions about Jira or about this article, do not hesitate to contact me. I’m more then happy to help.