Learning agile as I go. How do I plan better?

My dev team have been using JIRA as a “to-do” list only.

I understand it is hard to estimate and plan but I want to be able to get a bit of a roadmap happening so I can plan better. I also need to see if we need to expand our team.

I am seeking some advice on how to do this? Tempo planner add-on looks good.

Also, should I insist all the JIRA issues have estimates and due or start dates to help with planning?

This is probably a question better suited to the JIRA community and not so much to the developer community.

I think that you should first try to familiarize yourself more with the Agile methodologies such as Scrum or Kanban and try to apply them first before actually looking for tools. JIRA Agile comes with all the tools you need in order to have a proper hold on planning and execution. At some point, you might need more tools to do the job and this is where you should be looking at new add-ons. But not at this point in your Agile journey.

Some pointers:

  1. Create Epics/Themes for the major areas of your application. Then, create user stories under the form “As a [User Role], I want [Something] so that [Rationale]”. This form allows you to provide some context for the task and makes it easier to remember why it was written later on. Link each user story to an Epic.

  2. Order the stories in your backlog based on how important it is for your customer and how difficult it is to implement. This is the basis for the Story’s Business Value (highly important to customer and low development efforts should be at the top of the backlog). Ask for help from your team on the relative difficulty for implementing the story.

  3. For the stories at the top of the backlog, ask your team to either provide a story point estimate (0, 0.5, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 20, 40, 100) or a T-Shirt size (XL, L, M, S, XS). Make sure that the stories also have clear acceptance criteria. If you want to be even better make sure they follow the INVEST criteria - but that’s the icing on the cake. For each of the stories that are completed with these information, label them with a label called “Ready-Ready”. Don’t do the entire backlog now, only the first few at the top, maybe 10 to 20 of them.

  4. Ask your team to only take for development the stories labeled “Ready-Ready” which are at the top of the backlog. Track how many stories they accomplish over a specific span of time. When, you’ll have done this a few times, you’ll have a basis for your team’s velocity. Use the graphical reports provided by JIRA Agile to track some of these things.

  5. Every week, go over your backlog. Add new item, delete some, reorder them and make a few more of them “Ready-Ready”.

  6. Over time, based on the number of items left in your backlog and their relative size (story points or T-Shirt size), you will be able to use your velocity to have an idea of the time required to implement them and even determine if you should hire more team members.

  7. You backlog with its Epics and Stories and their relative order is now your roadmap.

  8. When you have a good hold of this and need more tracking, better planning, etc then start looking for other add-ons. Otherwise, you’ll spend money on add-ons and it will be useless. Get the mechanic of it first.

  9. If you are serious about going the Agile way, ask for some coaching by someone who’s done it before. It doesn’t necessarily mean to hire an expensive consultant (good if you can) but a lot of people (including me early in my career) think that they know everything about Scrum from reading. You think that until you get the opportunity to work with people that have real experience with it. Don’t under estimate this.

Good luck!