Jira Dashboards is a very powerful feature if used correctly. In this article, we will share with you the common pitfalls as well as some best practices based on our experiences as an Atlassian Solution Partner.
Why people use Jira Dashboards
Dashboards can be from a macro perspective like % of project completion to micro level on the list of tasks with their statuses.
Some common use cases for Dashboards are:
- monitor the progress of the tasks
- track the KPIs and the health of the project
- highlighting important stuffs (e.g. SLA breach, bottlenecks, shortages) for action taking
- show progress to motivate the team
More organisations are preferring dashboards over reports because of the following reasons:
- live information – able to see the current status which is more accurate
- time saving – there is no need for someone to spend time to compile the weekly/monthly progress reports manually
- interactive – as compared to a chart image in a PPT/PDF
- allows drilling in – you can zoom into the details of the issue for more information
- self reinforcing – it encourages people to update their Jira issues regularly
Common pitfalls and recommendations
Security / Information Disclosure
From our Jira consulting experiences, there are a number of instances where the dashboards and filters are accessible by users without logging in.
Although Jira’s permission scheme will prevent public users from viewing the issues, it is still possible to disclose sensitive information which may not be meant for public eye.
You should check whether there is information disclosure by logging out of Jira and visiting the URLs
- Dashboards – https://<jira-base url>/secure/ManageFilters.jspa
- Filters – https://<jira-base url>/secure/ConfigurePortalPages.jspa
Unless the dashboards/filters are for public access, users should not select Public for the Add Shares option.
Tip: There is a “Sharing with anyone on the web” in Jira configuration which you can disable to remove the Public option if your Jira instance is not for public access.
Performance and utility
Another common pitfall is people tends to create 1 dashboard for each project and cramp everything inside. We have seen a dashboard with over 20 gadgets added. As a result, it clutters the dashboard and is slow because it has to load a lot of information. This can also slows down the Jira instance for other users.
From a design point of view, this is bad because it introduces a lot of noise in the dashboard. As a result, people cannot zoom into the important things that they need to take action from the dashboard.
A well designed dashboard should fulfil the following:
- Targeted for the role/purpose – A management report should not include the micro information like the list of tasks. Likewise a developer will be more concerned about the list of tasks he needs to work on. You can create different dashboards for different roles.
- Incite emotion or action – it should bring attention to the readers to take any necessary action. With correct use of colours and placement, users can determine the severity easily.
- Easy to understand – It should use the correct type of gadgets to present the information in the most direct manner. You can check out the list of Jira gadgets available on Atlassian Marketplace.
- Responsive – it should be fast to display the information without the reader having to scroll through many screens to read the entire page.
A dashboard is useful only when there are people using it. Another common pitfall we observed is that every user tends to build their own dashboards. While this is flexible, there are some disadvantages like:
- duplicated effort to create and maintain the dashboards
- decreased utility since only 1 person is using it
- some users are unaware on the types of gadgets available that they can use for reporting
- some users lack the proper training on how to write complex JQL queries and design good useful dashboards
- no standards on the performance metrics to monitor within the organisation
To tackle this, we advocate to design a set of dashboards as a template for every Jira project. When a new project is created,
- the set of dashboards and filters are also created based on the template
- The filters and dashboards are shared with the project so that people who have access to the project can access them
- Then the dashboards/filters are added to the Jira’s project shortcuts where all project members can access easily
- They can also be added to the Dashboard Folders and Menu Gadgets so that users can easily navigate to the reports
Another common problem that Jira admins face is obsolete dashboards/filters. By default, only the original creators can edit their dashboards/filters.
From Jira 7.12 onwards, it is possible to grant permissions for other team members to edit filters/dashboards. Hence a useful tip after creating a filter/dashboard will be granting permissions to the associated project roles
- to grant view permission to all project members
- to grant edit permission to the project administrators
We also recommend to define a naming convention for filters and dashboards. E.g <Jira project key> – <purpose>.
This is especially helpful for users when they are searching for a filter when configuring the gadgets. For very large instances, you can find multiple filters with the same name while selecting a filter for a gadget.
When a user adds a new dashboard themselves, the system dashboard will disappear.
Actually the System Dashboard is very important because it is tedious to go through the list of project dashboards.
The System Dashboard can complements by
- providing a consolidated view and highlight the important things that matters to the user
- as well as a landing point where the user can navigate to other places
In conclusion, here is a checklist that you can use:
- review the list of public dashboards/filters and decide whether to disable public sharing
- set editing permissions for the shared dashboards
- define a set of dashboard templates for your Jira project
- define a naming convention for dashboards and filters
- install apps from the Marketplace that you identified that are useful
Check out Best Practices in Jira – Dashboard Reporting (Part 2) for the continuation of the writeup.
If you like this article, you might be interested to check out our best practices series
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This is an ebook on a collection of Jira best practices that Atlassian has gathered from Jira experts around the world.
The title “Be a Jira Hero – A guide for Admins, by Admins” is well deserving. Therefore we recommend all Jira administrators and wannabes to read the 25 pages ebook.
Jira Best Practices ebook
The ebook is well-organised into different sections with short but clear snippets of wisdoms:
- How to keep Jira clean and simple for your users
- How to use issues effectively
- Best practices on managing Custom Fields and Screens
- Things to consider when building workflows
- Tips on managing backlog in Jira
- How to get people to work on the issues
- Best practices on designing the Jira dashboards for even more effective reporting
- Shortcuts & Hacks to work faster with Jira
- How to make use of automation to make life easier
One Common Mistake
For example, the book has highlighted in Tip #20 to incorporate Resolution into the workflows. We observed that a number of Jira admins who did not have formal training tends do not understand the concept of resolution. Consequently, they overlook this important step while creating new workflows. While the Jira appears to be working, the implications are some built-in reports may be inaccurate and an important piece of information is missing.
Our Additional Jira Tip
Dashboards are very useful if they are used correctly. Team members can have visibility on the progress and be reminded on the outstanding tasks. Furthermore, Management can have clear visibility without spending a lot of time preparing routine reports. As a result, users will understand the value of updating their tasks in Jira.
To sum up, if you are a Jira administrator, you should download the ebook and review whether you have been applying the Jira best practices.
There is no need to provide any email address to download the book. To add on, you may also want to check out the following resources:
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This is a “lengthy” guide on the best practices on choosing and managing a Jira app. Coming from our years of experience as an Atlassian Solution Partner, it covers
- How to evaluate a Jira app
- How to better manage the apps installed in your Jira instance
- Things that Jira administrators need to watch out
Jira Apps from Atlassian Marketplace
By installing additional Jira apps, you can add new features to your Jira. For example, some of our popular Jira apps
- Attachment Checker for Jira – prevent users from uploading unauthorised or virus infected file attachments
- Multiple Filters Chart Gadgets – plot disjoint sets of data within a single chart or table
- Out of Office Assistant – reassign issues automatically when you are away
- Gauge Gadgets – useful gadgets for data visualisation on Jira dashboards
There are many more useful Jira apps available at the Atlassian Marketplace.
Evaluating a Jira App
Being an Atlassian Solution Partner, there are a number of criteria that we consider before recommending a Jira app to a customer. They are:
Fit to Purpose
The app should be able to address the requirements fully. It should be easy to use. The additional feature should not cause confusion to the existing users. We will also assess their design is robust and does not conflict other plugins or use cases.
Atlassian Marketplace Listing
It is very important to check out the app listing on Atlassian Marketplace. It contains a lot of useful informations like
- Rating and Reviews
- Number of Active Installations
- Vendor Accreditation
- Compatibility with the latest version of Jira
Rating and Reviews
While the rating and reviews do not mean much for a newly listed app, they do give insight of poor services or badly designed apps. Typically, users will flag out any issues that require attention. So, if there are no negative reviews, it is safe. And if there are a number of good reviews, then it is very safe.
Number of Active Installations
If an app is popular with a significant number of active installations, that is a good sign that the app is useful and functioning without major issues.
Atlassian has a Top Vendor program who has met the following requirements
- App traction – Their paid apps must attain at least 500 active installations
- Timely support – Has a Service Level Agreement (SLAs) and committed to provide at support for their users
- Support Website – Customers can raise support request easily via a website or email when necessary
- Vendor reliability – Atlassian conduct checks periodically to ensure they offer great customer experiences
For those exceptionally good ones, they are further recognised as Gold/Platinum Top Vendor.
If the app is only compatible with an older version of Jira, that is a big warning. You do not want to be left dangling helplessly for your next Jira upgrade.
Some apps are explicitly marked as unsupported. Unless you can accept the risks, it is better to avoid them.
Data Center Approved
Data Center approved apps are those that have passed Atlassian’s stringent criteria for use in Jira Data Center environments. As it takes considerable effort to become a Data Center Approved App. vendors will usually do that for their established apps. Therefore this is a plus point.
Although some users will usually dive in without reading the user guide, it helps when the documentation contains
- A quick overview of the functionalities
- Comprehensive writeup and how to use
- FAQs to facilitate on-boarding and best practices
- Up-to-date release notes
- An easy to navigate structure
Unless the app is really simple or open source, it is a risk to install an app with a one pager documentation.
Last but not least, the pricing of the app is also an important consideration. The app should have a reasonable pricing so that you will be assured of support for long term. It is also possible that you will upgrade to higher user tier or Data Center as Jira becomes an enterprise application. Hence the pricing for higher tiers should not exceed your budget.
For free apps, they should be from a credible publisher with significant number of installations. Otherwise, the publisher may withdraw support in near future.
Before Installing an App
Downloading the compatible version
There is a common mistake for Jira administrators who are unable to download the app via the Atlassian Universal Plugin Manager. The default download link on the Marketplace listing is for the latest version of Jira.
If you are not using the latest version of Jira, the correct steps to install/upgrade the app will be
- Click on the Versions tab
- Select See all … versions
- Hover on the topmost version which matches your Jira version
- Click on the Download link
- Upload the file via Atlassian Universal Plugin Manager in Jira
It is a best practice to install the Jira app on a Test environment first. It is not advisable to install an app directly onto the Production environment. This is because some apps may make changes to the database. Some changes are not be reversible when you uninstall the app later.
Maintaining a Change Log for the Apps
We usually advise our customers to create a Confluence page to track on the app installations, upgrades and uninstallation. This best practice helps to keep all the related information organised neatly on a single page.
The change log table can include the following information
- Date of Change
- Changed By
- Name of App
- Action Performed (e.g. install/upgrade/uninstall)
- From Version
- To Version
- Jira Issue Key
- Additional Notes
This will be useful especially when there are multiple Jira administrators who can perform changes. Although the audit log has a record of the changes, the default data retention period is only 90 days. It is also not that easier to read.
By using a Change Log, the administrator can link the change with a Jira issue and add notes. The Jira request helps to identify the user who raised the request to install the app together with the background context.
When there is an incident, the App Change Log will be useful to identify issues caused by app changes.
Things to watch out
It is not the end of the story after installing the app. There are a few useful tips for Jira administrators to watch out.
With more apps installed, it is likely that the memory footprint might increase over time. It will a best practice to check on the JVM memory utilisation from the System Information page after people start using the features. Likewise, CPU usage monitoring is also a best practice.
There are a handful of apps which will stop working without an active license. So be sure to renew your licenses before they expire to gain access to support and newer releases.
You can click on the Watch app link on the Marketplace listing. By doing so, Atlassian Marketplace will send you an email whenever there is a new version released.
Upgrading the Apps
As a best practice, it is important to upgrade regularly to get newer features, performance improvements and bug fixes. For security vulnerabilities, you should upgrade as soon as possible once you received a security advisory.
Although there is no need to schedule a maintenance downtime for installing/upgrading Jira apps, it is a best practice to do that during off-peak periods. During an app installation, there is a short interval where the Atlassian Universal Plugin Manager removes the old version and installs the newer version. You do not want any critical operations in between that period.
Also some apps may execute jobs during the upgrade to do some data crunching to support a new feature. Therefore, please read the release/upgrade notes for the app before you click on the upgrade button in Jira.
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