JIRA? Not there yet.

It had been a long while since I worked with JIRA, and I am talking way back, before grad school. A lifetime ago. Due to work, I was reintroduced to JIRA and I was very satisfied with the UI improvements and also with the familiar elements that haven’t really changed much over the years, such as the agile boards, the status transitions, the time estimations, you know, all we could call the basics.

So it was all great! I had the sense that things were getting done, sunshine on the sky and smiles on people’s faces. Until one day…

The basic configuration wasn’t really cutting it. I had to start getting plugins, paying for things that were kind of basic. The disappointment started growing again. Old memories of a system were emotions could run high and the sense that I would walk into a wall of frustration if I made the wrong turn.

Dear JIRA, the new tables look great but how do you resize columns?

Feature or foe? These columns are not resizable.

Looking around I stumbled upon this Stack Overflow thread. Another 14 thousand souls looked there and the solutions were rather hacky. then I caught myself thinking:

It is 2020, this kind of interaction has been solved many times over by many other companies big and small. WHY do I have to waste my time dealing with this nonsense.

Ok, breath. Refocus, and think positively. This is a minor problem. Software is never perfect and things fall through the cracks. Especially with JIRA being so big, trying to cater to everyone’s needs over the years. More objectively, I started believing that this is a symptom of a deeper problem: JIRA users have grown accustomed to the need of finding hacks and workarounds to get things done. This has become a subculture where spending time in mindless workarounds is OK.

Thread after thread it was very evident that I was on the right track. That people’s attitudes out there supported this concept of, there is not much that we can do about it, let’s just try to fix it ourselves, and for those of us who didn’t care to fix things, the option was clear. Complain about it. Let the world know that this is not OK.

The third kind came as people who built entire business in the Atlassian marketplace, where the motto seems to be: pay more for basic things that you know you need but that JIRA does not have.

There are great apps over there, very useful. But just the same, there is a number of apps that seem to be capitalizing on things that you would assume JIRA would have. For example, the other day I wanted to get all the functional requirements ready for QA that did not have a test plan yet. In my mind, this should be as simple as writing a JQL query (yes why not, let’s call JQL easy):

project = 'My Project' AND status = 'READY FOR QA' 
and !linkedIssuesOf('Test Case')

Well, linkedIssuesOf does not exist in JQL (you need an $app$ for that). Later, I found this thread started in 2014, last entry made Sep 2019, and yet, in 5 years, no progress supporting a more comprehensive JQL function library!

And then I think…

why do I need to pay for this? Are my expectations too high?

JIRA has been around since 2002 (18 years ago). The original concept was simple: an issue tracking tool. Right after that, the scope changed and JIRA became a project management tool. Right now, I am not so sure of what category JIRA is in. I know it is a big software, I can’t even fathom the level of accrued technical dependencies that come along with rapid growth to give the appearance of a cohesive solution when through a number of hacks we can see that in reality, it is a highly coupled one.

Nothing wrong with that, however, dear Atlassian: ignoring this reality has lead to software that is very slowly moving forward. A big machine that is hard to maintain and to improve. A big rhinoceros cleaned up regularly through its symbiotic relationships with a marketplace of oxpeckers.

Look around. Skype also thought it had all the time in the world. Then zoom came along and ate its lunch. Now Notions is knocking at your user’s door. The big question is what are you going to do about it?