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.