For a brief period in September 2018, Amazon.com’s market valuation reached $1 trillion. Amazon’s amazing growth can be attributed to its massive investment in software and infrastructure and the speed at which it can deploy them. One of its key strengths is a corporate culture that can manage key resources and personnel across the company quickly and efficiently. One way for your organization to follow Amazon’s success is by implementing Value Stream Mapping (VSM). In lean manufacturing, a value stream is a group of sequential activities designed to achieve a specific outcome. These streams are mapped across an entire organization to reduce friction and ensure efficient delivery.
For all the benefits VSM provides, the migration process can be a nightmare for large organizations. One major pain point involves how to integrate an existing Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system that has been designed to implement highly formalized business processes. When it comes to managing and mapping value streams, the tools we have at our disposal can most definitely affect the final outcome.
In this article, we look at two software development management tools, Atlassian Jira and Panaya RDx, that can not only help you make the transition to VSM, but also benefit your organization over the long term once you have VSM in place. For both platforms, we look at what they can offer large organizations and which one may be best for you.
Atlassian Jira: The Agile Giant
According to legend, the word Jira is derived from the Japanese word “Gojira,” most commonly known to Western audiences as Godzilla. More accurately, at the risk of mixing monster metaphors, Jira is the 800lb gorilla or King Kong of software project management. Through a mixture of accident and design, Jira is often associated with agile development. This is because when Jira was launched in 2002, the agile movement was entering the mainstream. Jira was one of the software management platforms using agile terminology, and it included core features aimed at agile teams and organizations, such as iteration (sprint) planning, burndown charts, and Kanban boards.
You might also like to read
The Kanban System in Action
Not So Agile After All
From the start, Jira was never an exclusively agile platform and has always offered a wide range of features for assigning, managing, and tracking issues, workflows, tasks, and defects. Jira is a small part of a wider ecosystem of Atlassian products that include Confluence and Trello. Out of the box, Jira can handle a broad range of tasks. But if additional functionality is required, it needs to be extended via third-party extensions and plugins, which can be purchased via the Atlassian Marketplace or developed in-house using Jira’s open SDKs and APIs.
Jira’s openness and flexibility has been one of its greatest strengths. It is, however, also one of its greatest weakness. To understand why, it’s important to grasp Atlassian’s viral, self-service approach to product marketing and sales. Stratechery’s Ben Thompson compares Jira’s approach to its close contemporary Dropbox. Jira lets users try out a product by using limited basic tiers that offer enough useful features to entice potential customers into upgrading and paying for other products and services. In other words, by letting small teams download and use Jira for free, Atlassian created an unpaid sales force out of these users.
Jira’s weaknesses become apparent as its installed base grows within large enterprises. Jira’s self-service approach means that anyone can download and use Jira within small teams. This then means that any team that dislikes their company’s official enterprise platform can ignore it and use Jira instead.
Ultimately, this leads to a situation where each development team can be running their own independent Jira installations. Moreover, due to frequent updates and version releases, it’s not uncommon for different groups to be running different and incompatible versions of Jira. Since each team has different needs and different workflows, it is also not uncommon for teams to customize the basic Jira product in ways that make it incomprehensible to other teams within the same organization. Jira is in fact so customizable that not only can different teams install different extensions, admins can rename system fields and add new custom fields as well.
At best, this leads to a situation where corporate IT and senior management have to step in and take the time to reimpose order. At worse, complete anarchy and a breakdown in communications ensue.
You might also like to read
Agile ALM Tools for Software Development
Panaya RDx: A New Hope
Jira is far from being the Death Star of project management software. Its dominant mind share and sales in this space can influence your organization’s choice of platform by its sheer size and presence. And, as we have noted, Jira more than meets the needs of small, independent teams. But as those needs and your company grow, you will need to consider different approaches, such as Panaya Release Dynamix [RDx].
One of the key differences between Jira and RDx is that Jira takes a bottom-up, vertical approach to enterprise project management. Panaya recognizes that in large organizations there are multiple different approaches. This is why RDx supports both bottom-up and top-down vertical project management as well as a horizontal or lateral approach across your organization. It lets you drill down to the lowest possible levels, such as a task or reported defect, and lets you see any possible impacts across the entire enterprise. This seamless approach allows you to view all task-related information in a single place or aggregate the status of all tasks and view them as part of a graphical dashboard. This makes Panaya ideal for large organizations that have invested heavily in enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems.
Let’s look at a real-world scenario. Suppose you’re a product manager trying to keep your next release on track. Your first priority is to get a clear, high-level picture of what is happening, the problems you face, and your project’s overall level of risk. RDx’s Risk Cockpit aggregates this information and presents it in one place. This dashboard includes a color-coded risk status indicator for High (red), Medium (yellow), and Low (green) levels of risk. In addition to presenting a breakdown of the different risk types, it also displays an easy-to-understand graphical matrix that shows the interaction between different risk factors.
In RDx, this dashboard feature is available to your organization out of the box, whereas trying to replicate this function in Jira would involve installing at least one extension, reconfiguring your system, and performing extensive integration work with other Jira installations.
RDx: Breaking Down Silos
One advantage of RDx’s vertical and horizontal approach is that it breaks down informational and knowledge silos across your business. As we noted previously, Jira uses a self-service and highly decentralized approach to project management. This means that anybody can download and install Jira. And,in many cases, Jira provides a welcome alternative to your official enterprise project management, tracking, and information systems.
But this alternative approach also has a number of unintended side effects. One such problem is that by letting everybody build their own personal project management system, Jira helps facilitate and deepen existing corporate silos. To be fair, silos can and will occur in any organization with or without Jira. But when evaluating any platform, it’s important to take into account how a system can both alleviate and exacerbate existing problems.
Increased Visibility & Collaboration
Both Jira and RDx provide graphical tools that support agile processes and methodologies. For example, both systems support Kanban boards. As discussed in this post, Kanban creates a visual representation of your process to show how tasks flow across it. Not only was Jira an early proponent of Kanban boards, but Atlassian recently acquired Trello’s popular Kanban-based project management tool used by consumers and businesses.
Even though both Jira and RDx adhere to the basic principles of Kanban, Panaya’s RDx uses Kanban to help promote visibility and collaboration at all levels of your business. Panaya’s approach lets you start at the bottom by recording and tracking individual user stories, work items, and defects. Using built-in analytical tools, such as dashboards, RDx lets you manage workflows and view item and project status in real time. This lets you see problems occur as they happen and resolve them as quickly as possible to prevent the chance of bottlenecks.
You might also like to read
Agile vs Waterfall – How to Select the Right Tool for the Job
Conclusion: Choosing the Right Tool for the Job
Amazon, and especially Amazon web services, show that software is an important competitive advantage for modern businesses. Amazon has also benefited from another advantage most businesses don’t have: They got to build an entirely new type of business from scratch. For organizations that have been well served by their ERP platforms, integrating them with new methodologies, such as VSM, can be extremely challenging. But as Amazon continues to grow and enter new markets, the results of not dealing with this challenge could be worse.
Another important consideration, is to ask yourself: “Are the tools at your disposal up to the task?” For example, Jira provides a specific set of varied tools that you can use for various workloads and scenarios. But the problem with Jira is that once you exhaust its default capabilities, you will need to work much harder to make it do what you want. Jira is the toolbox you simply outgrow. When it comes to choosing a system for managing software development and IT infrastructure projects across an enterprise, you need a tool that is designed to meet your organization’s current needs as well as scale up per future requirements and be able to handle future challenges.
Panaya’s RDx was designed to do just this. As we have seen, Panaya takes a very different and integrated approach to project management. It provides tools that give you both greater transparency and traceability for individual items. It also collects and aggregates data so that you can see what is happening at all levels of your organization and react accordingly. RDx is a single, seamless solution for your entire enterprise today and as you grow. RDx consistently provides the right tools—no matter your present or future needs.