Whatever an agile purist might say, agile teams need to see and understand the bigger picture, and that means reporting on multiple Jira projects at once. There are various reasons why a team might need to do this:
- Your project or release depends on issues from other projects and you need to see overall progress, e.g. your marketing team might be using a separate project for their tasks, or maybe you have a sub-contractor using a different tool that’s connected to Jira.
- You’re working on a program consisting of multiple related projects and you want the status of all of them.
- You want to be able to see all the risks that need your attention.
- Your team are involved in different projects and you need to see their overall performance.
Cross-project reporting is about capturing the whole story for your team or boss so that you can motivate your people, monitor their workloads, balance priorities, and identify bottlenecks.
So how do you generate a report that will present the most important information from multiple projects and assure that it stays in the minds of those viewing it? It’s actually pretty simple and quick and you don’t need much knowledge of Jira to do it. What you do need is Custom Charts for Jira or Custom Jira Charts for Confluence. These are dashboard reporting apps that let you create beautiful and targeted cross-project reports using handy dropdowns and drag and drop. You can then present these reports to Jira and Confluence users, to customers via the Jira Service Management portal, and in time, to everyone, everywhere.
Cross-project reporting with Custom Charts
First, create a dashboard in Jira or open an existing one and add the Custom Charts gadget. Alternatively, if you’re using Confluence, add the Custom Charts macro to your page. Next, select the chart type and enter your chart title. Select “Projects” from the Source dropdown. Then from the Projects dropdown, select the projects you want to report on. (You can tick as many as you like.)
A cross-project status report is for reporting progress on the following:
- a portfolio (a collection of different programs and projects which might be related or unrelated)
- a program (a collection of projects which have the same organizational goals and are often managed as a group), or
- projects that depend on tasks from other projects in Jira, or an external tool used by your subcontractors that can integrate with Jira, e.g. Trello or Azure DevOps.
Pick the pie chart from the list of available charts in the chart types section in Custom Charts. A pie chart is good for this as it shows the percentages of the whole and is most suitable for such a report. The next step is to specify the range of data to report on using the Source field. When selecting a source, if you want every issue from a project to be included, you can just use the project selector. If you want to filter down further, you can use an existing saved filter or write your own Jira Query Language (JQL) directly in the Source.
Next, select your Chart By option. Status Category is a useful field for all teams, no matter how complicated your workflow is. This field takes all of the statuses in your Jira environment and groups them into three categories: To Do, In Progress, and Done. This is particularly useful when reporting across projects as teams may use different status names to convey similar process steps. By using status category we can cut out the noise and focus on just the high-level progress.
If your team does not estimate their work, you’ll use issue count to track progress. However, issue count can sometimes be misleading. For example, you have two tasks on your to-do list, and have completed one of them. That means you’ve completed 50% of the work when measured using issue count. However, if we estimate this work and find that the first task requires one hour of effort and the second task nine hours, then you’ve completed 10% of the work. Using Custom Charts you can use any estimation statistic that teams use – time estimates, story points, etc.
The last step is to give your chart a title so that viewers know what it represents. If you cannot decide which of the fields to pick, you can adjust the legend to include additional fields. Simply add columns to the table to give you a more detailed overview of the progress, like showing Original Estimate next to Remaining Estimate or Time Spent. Additional columns are available on pie charts, funnel charts, and one-dimensional tables. When your chart is ready to publish, click the Save button.
Hover over a segment to show the detail or just have a look at the legend. Looking at the “Done” category, I have completed 26.5% of the work in my projects based on an issue count, but only 19.8% based on the estimated time.
Resource consumption by project
You can utilize the time tracking field, Time Spent, to see how much time and money you’ve spent on each project. Pick the pie chart as the chart type and we’ll adjust the legend to show the important detail in the form of a table. Select the projects which are already completed, or if you want to monitor your resource consumption as you go, select currently running projects. Use the Sum option and Time Spent field from the Calculate dropdowns. The last step is to adjust the legend. In this case, each work item has a cost estimate, so let’s add it to the legend. Select the legend configuration (the grid icon) and add the Cost field, then save your chart.
A risk is something that may negatively impact your projects. They can be grouped into major categories such as stakeholder risks, regulatory risks, technological risks, external risks, and execution risks. In order to mitigate or avoid a risk, you need to identify and understand them, and plan your mitigation in advance. While there are different risk assessment techniques, one of the most popular is a Project Risk Assessment Matrix. A simple spreadsheet would work, with risk probability on one axis and impact on the other. Each risk should then be rated by these two parameters to determine the level of risk that’s most important. For example, if the probability of occurrence is high but the impact is low, the resulting level of risk will be also low and might not require any additional mitigation, i.e. it’s an acceptable risk.
To create a cross-project risk report, first make sure that you have a dedicated field in your Jira to indicate the risk level. You’ll need Jira admin permissions if such a field is not available and you need to create it.
- Go to Jira settings → Issues → Custom fields
- Create custom field
- Pick Select List (single choice) and name it “Risk Level”
- Add options such as Low, Moderate, and High. You could also add an extra one like Extreme, to make sure it catches attention.
- Associate with the appropriate screens
In Custom Charts, select one of the available chart types. A tile chart is a good option because you want to clearly show that there are a couple of high risks that need your attention and the percentages are not that important. Select all the projects you want to report on and use the previously created Risk Level field. Be sure that the Calculate dropdowns are showing the issue count. You might also want to adjust the colors so that the Extreme value is red and the Low value is light green.
You can see that there are quite a lot of risks that need your attention! Only 4 that are ‘extreme’ though, so that’s good. Click on the category to view the Jira issues that pertain to that level of risk and keep them on your radar.
The best way of getting a high-level overview of multiple projects is with a dynamic dashboard made up of targeted and up-to-date (and colorful!) charts. Dashboards let you look at multiple reports at once, which is much more suited to getting an at-a-glance view of cross-project progress than building one report at a time. Meanwhile, charts allow for faster and easier consumption of the most important facts.
The other thing is making sure those reports and charts are presenting live data. Reports generated using other tools are often ‘static’, offering a point-in-time view of the data that’s out of date by the next morning. And sometimes you have to spend oodles of time just creating one chart.
Custom Charts for Jira and Custom Jira Charts for Confluence don’t have these problems. Building them on your Jira dashboard means you can have multiple charts side by side, all of which can be configured to update regularly so that you’re getting live data. And because of the intuitive user interface, creating an informative cross-project dashboard takes minutes. With advanced customization, such as grouping of elements, legend editing options, and comprehensive descriptions, your reporting dashboards will not only look great and stylish but also allow for an instant understanding of the bigger picture.
Morgan is a Seattle born and raised lover of rain and software, particularly software that isn’t a pain in the bum (like some Atlassian tools can be). This is why she’s a Custom Charts for Jira superfan and jumped at the chance to contribute to the solution herself. She specializes in Agile, Scaled Agile, and ITIL in the Atlassian app space, loves a cross-country road trip, and is on a mission to find the cutest coffee shop in every town she visits.