Why are Jira Dashboards so Useful?

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Jira Reporting can be a pain in the butt, but it doesn’t have to be. The problem is that many organizations do reporting in ways they’ve always been done (which happen to be complex, admin-heavy, and prone to error) and don’t see what’s actually staring them in the face: the humble Jira Dashboard.

When you log into Jira, the Jira Dashboard is the first thing you see. It’s your at-a-glance picture of what you and your teams are working on without having to click on a project, open an email or export any data here, there and everywhere. The various gadgets you can display on your dashboard allow you to view and analyze statistics related to projects, users, and versions, expressed graphically as pie charts, graphs, or any number of customizable visuals.

Frankly, Jira Dashboards are bloody great and more people should be using them. This article explains why. It also gives a list of the best gadgets to use to get the most out of your dashboard.

That Peg Don’t Fit!

If your projects are being managed based on a template the bosses got on a training course stuffed with acronyms, it’s SAFe to assume different teams are regularly forced to shove a lot of square peg data into round holes. Which is, you know, a bit OTT.

Anyone that’s worked alongside a Jira power user sees the true potential of using interactive Jira Dashboards directly in Jira. Sadly, these organizations will often then force these subject matter experts to export the reports into Excel and then Powerpoint.

These are exactly the sort of organizations that will forward round the data in an email chain cc’ing everyone. Or, if they’re hip and cool with the kids, they’ll upload the spreadsheets to a shared folder, and a master weekly report called july_reports_ulitmate_merged_final_3.pptx

Some are able to resign themselves to this minor and unnecessary evil, some complain, but few are able to challenge the growing avalanche of reports.

Unsurprisingly, admin that’s considered a time-consuming or difficult chore isn’t always promptly and fully completed. This makes the reports even less valuable as their accuracy is uncertain. Sometimes management will try and fix this by tying performance reviews to the results in the reports. Well, that fixes all the problems, doesn’t it? And definitely won’t make the reports even more resented than they already were. 🙄

As no one is now sure whether the reports are accurate or not, management will send a Slack or Whatsapp message whenever they need information for the impending meeting.

So why would busy team members update the official reports when a new data black market has emerged? Only the most acquiescent are still complying with the semi-legalized bad data wasteland.

Eventually, the digital transformation consultants will come in and suggest migrating to a whole new platform for collaboration. This takes an enormous amount of time and some key information will inevitably get lost in the move. Meanwhile, the people who most zealously embraced the old process will be the ones most punished for their compliance.

Perhaps the digital transformation consultants will suggest a big data platform with loads more features and automations to make reporting super-efficient. The problem then is that, only the developers know how to use these powerful features properly. Now everybody else is back where they started. With square pegs and round holes. Data silos will persist, and more inaccuracies will seep through.

The cycle begins again.

None of this is necessary. There’s no need to do a ton of admin exporting data to this tool and that tool. And there’s no need to implement a whole new platform either. Why? Because everything the average Jira user needs is already there in Jira Dashboards. Organizations just need to pull themselves out of their silos and realize that the best tools for Jira reporting are already there at their users’ fingertips.

Jira Dashboards Keep Data Closer To Home

If everyone’s exporting their data to reporting tools they don’t use day to day or, worse, don’t understand, then they’re not going to care about the data going into them. But the closer the report is to the work that’s actually being done, the less that gets lost in translation, and the more immediate the response to feedback. Better data in means better reports out and improved data-driven decisions being made.

Jira Dashboards enable this. Out-of-the-box Jira gadgets, together with add-ons from the Atlassian Marketplace, give users the reports they need right on their home screen. They allow reporting to take place in a centralized hub that everyone’s already using. And they’re real-time reports, too, whereas the moment you export data to another system, that data’s out of date.

The visual interface for creating and using gadgets in Jira Dashboards is great and easy to use collaboratively. There are also add-ons such as Custom Charts for Jira Reporting that make it even easier to build the reports you want.

All this eliminates the risk of inaccurate data seeping through the export process because there is no export process. And if everyone’s using their dashboard to create their reports, there are no data silos either.

Let’s get back to basics, basically. For most Jira users, that’s all they need. Because they’re not data scientists, and they don’t want to be.

How To Make Useful Jira Dashboards

In principle, Jira Dashboards are more useful than any other reporting tool out there for the overwhelming majority of Jira users. In practice, Jira Dashboards are only as useful as users make them. They need to be set up with the right gadgets displaying the right information at the right time, and it’s entirely possible to make a hash of it.

For example, there’s a limit of 20 gadgets per dashboard page (which raise the dashboard gadget limit). But no one would tell you to stick 20 on there unless you don’t quite know what to focus on and need to take a scattershot approach in order to locate a bottleneck somewhere. In general terms, we’d recommend 6 max. It is much better to have multiple smaller dashboards with a specific use case for each rather than one giant dashboard trying to show everything. Dashboards are all about keeping things simple. So keep them simple.

In order to choose the gadgets you want to display, you first need to define who the audience is and what information they should see. It might be that you want to show the progress of a particular team in a particular sprint, or maybe a multi-project overview of the whole company. Both can be built, but it is good to decide before you start which one it’s going to be!

Once you’ve decided what gadgets you want on your dashboards, you can use them in your daily stand-ups and in retro meetings. Individual users can create personal dashboards with the work assigned to them so they can keep track. And you can even turn your dashboard into a Jira Wallboard (aka an information radiator), displaying the issues you want to keep at the forefront of team members’ minds on a big wall-mounted TV screen in your office. (This article about Jira Dashboards has more on Jira Wallboards and an alternative for the remote working age to replace them).

The rest of this article will explore some gadget options for your Jira Dashboards, starting with those that come out of the box with Jira. We’ll then explore some apps from the Atlassian Marketplace that can make your Jira Dashboards even more useful.

If you’re a Jira beginner and you need help with the basics of creating a dashboard in Jira, this article will help.

Standard Jira Dashboard Gadgets

Filter Results

This gadget gives you easy access to the results of commonly used filters. If you find that you are constantly trawling through menus, dropdowns, and individual filter screens to find the filters you use all the time, Filter Results gives you immediate visibility of them.

Issue Statistics

This gives you a breakdown of issues on a particular project, so you can track workloads, flag bottlenecks in the system, and identify where you should allocate resources. 

Road Map

This lists versions due for release and displays progress bars for each, showing resolved versus unresolved issues. This lets you visualize how you’re doing on each release.

Created vs Resolved Chart

This lets you see whether the overall workload is being addressed or if issues are being created faster than they are being completed. It’s one of the few actual Jira reports that gets imported over into gadgets. (Another is the Sprint Burndown.)

Two-Dimensional Filter Statistics

This shows the data for a particular issue filter in a configurable table format. It lets you zoom in on key areas of interest. For example, you can select a filter to retrieve all closed issues on a certain project or display the workloads of individual team members. 

Sprint Health

This gives you a snapshot of your sprint dynamics, telling you what’s in your ‘to-do’ category, your ‘in-progress’ category, and your ‘done’ category. It also tells you what percentage of time has elapsed and what percentage of work is complete. It prompts discussions about general progress, scope changes, any flagged issues, and roadblocks.

Useful Jira Dashboard Add-ons

Out-of-the-box Jira gadgets are a bit limited, which is why there’s a plethora of options on the Atlassian Marketplace for making your Jira Dashboard more automated and interactive, as well as easier to use and more targeted to the audience’s needs.

Check out the following add-ons as they may be just what you need to enhance your Jira reporting. With the right apps, building a live, user-friendly dashboard within Jira with all of the information you need is a relatively straightforward task for most of your team.

David Berclaz from Apwide has helped compile us the following list. Let us know if we’ve missed any, as we’re happy to keep this list growing!

Idalko’s Jira Pivot Gadget

Idalko’s Jira Pivot Gadget provides spreadsheets and business intelligence functionality, allowing you to take a multi-dimensional view of your data and aggregate or drill down into any information you like. 

Supported dimensions include basic issue fields, all custom fields that can be enumerated, and table grid data.

Custom Charts for Jira and Confluence

With Custom Charts for Jira, you can build fully customized and highly visual Jira reports and charts directly on your Jira Dashboard. With Custom Charts for Confluence, you can create the same customized reports inside a Confluence page. The customization options are broad, but more importantly, Custom Charts for Jira and Confluence are intuitive and easy to use, with no training required. Find out more about how Custom Charts for Jira helps enhance your Jira reporting.

Jira Project Tracking With Profields

Deiser’s Projectrak extends and improves project reporting in Jira and lets you do it right inside Jira Dashboards. With Projectrak, you can create and configure up to 14 different custom fields to store all the information necessary for a project. Then you can add up to five Projectrak gadgets to the dashboard which are based on this data, providing your team members with constantly updated project information.

In addition, Projectrak integrates with Custom Charts for Jira so that the enhanced project information can be translated into meaningful charts on the dashboard. That way, findings can be communicated in a more visual and targeted way. Read more about this integration.

Profields for Jira Dashboards

Golive Release Environment Hub for Jira

If you need a simple way to publish your release plan, a single source of truth for all activities taking place in your test environments, or a project-level timeline, we’d strongly recommend you check out Golive from Apwide. It’s the best way to display and manage information on releases, test environments, and deployments, and is available on Jira Dashboards in gadget form (or even on Confluence pages).

Find out more about the Golive Release Environment Hub.

Apwide's golive Test environment management dashboards for Jira

Conclusion

Jira Dashboards enable you to walk into a status meeting knowing whether things are on track before anyone says a word. They let you come back off holiday and get a quick project update without having to trawl through emails. They also let you know the moment something goes wrong, like when a growing bug fix pile overtakes current velocity, as well as identify potential bottlenecks ahead of time.

As most users aren’t Jira experts and don’t want or need to be exposed to all of its powerful but complex features, Jira Dashboards are essential for helping the programmers and the business teams find the information they’re looking for quickly. The dashboard is the first thing users see and it’s the place where they expect to be able to find all the relevant information for their role, such as a list of issues assigned to them or the progress of the team on a version. The goal of your Jira Dashboard is to incite emotion or action. Providing the right information in the right way is the key to making sure that happens.

Sure, it’s not always possible to get your dashboard right first time. It may not be clear to your audience why the data you’ve included is relevant, in which case, take their feedback and change it. It may take a few iterations to get your dashboard properly tuned to your team and stakeholders. Hey, that’s what agility’s all about.

Using Jira Dashboards is far superior to the square-peg-round-hole situation we talked about earlier. The data’s more reliable, it’s real time, it’s accessible, and it doesn’t take a Jira genius to configure. Most importantly, it’s right there and has been all along. It’s just that some organizations are still stuck in their silos, using older reporting tools, either out of habit or resistance to change.

But in the current climate, how much longer can organizations afford to eschew the super-quick and direct route in favor of going round and round the houses?

Christopher is a self-confessed nerd who’d probably take the cake on Mastermind if Star Trek: Voyager was his specialist subject. He writes fiction about time travel, conspiracies and aliens; loves roller coasters, hiking and Christmas; and hates carpet, rom-coms and anything with chilli in it. He’s written extensively for technology companies and Atlassian partners and specializes in translating complicated technical concepts, specs and jargon into readable, benefits-driven copy that casual readers will understand.

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