5 Jira Hacks for Effective Scaling: Simple Changes, Huge Results

Posted on 11.20.2023
Written by John R Worsley

Atlassian’s flagship Jira products are so full of features and flexibility that most organizations don’t make full use of them. These 5 Jira hacks will help you maximize both your Jira ROI and your teams’ effectiveness.

Agile works for more than software development

The popular Agile Development methodology is a powerful tool for scaling your business. Software teams initially created Agile to (as the name reflects) react quickly and adapt to unpredictable changes, and it has successfully made organizationsmore nimble, able to change course quickly and reduce delivery times from fewer huge deliverables to more frequent digestible releases. And that’s exactly what you need if you want to scale effectively.

But the truth is, while Agile does contain some software-specific components, it’s fundamentally a way of managing work – and one that can benefit a variety of team types. At Oxalis, we manage Marketing communication work in monthly sprints using Jira Software, which gives us invaluable data on how much we can get done. That, in turn, enables us to handle the inevitable needs that arise from day to day without impeding delivery of campaign-related work or preparation for planned events.

We’ve been lead consultants for Agile development across many industries, serving as experts who can configure Jira Software to fit any workflow. And we’ve learned that not only is there much more to JS than meets the eye, but that the Atlassian Cloud platform is a stunningly powerful tool for scaling. Our team of Atlassian consultants have worked with Jira Software, Jira Work Management, Jira Service Desk, Confluence, and other Atlassian suite programs to optimize Jira use.

We’ve compiled these 5 Jira hacks so you don’t have to learn the hard way, and we can help you implement them. 

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Top 5 Jira Hacks for Scaling

Jira Hack #1: Use Automation to send/receive data in external systems

Jira’s Automation feature (available for both Cloud and Data Center, though the DC version lags behind Cloud in adding new options) allows a variety of interactions with other systems, including restarting a Virtual Machine in Azure, or sending a message to an Amazon SNS topic or a Microsoft Teams channel, but one option gives you a remarkably powerful ability: you can send and receive data with any system that provides a web request interface. No one wants major new products delayed due to Blocker bugs, but it does happen. With Automation, you could have Jira Software update your ERP system when the fix is released, so that Sales, Procurement, Production, and Distribution can plan accordingly – saving the employee time it would otherwise take for the word to get around.

To do this, add the “Send web request” action as a Then component to an Automation rule. Specify the URL, add any headers you want, choose the HTTP method and web request body (which can use your own custom data format or one of Jira’s), and indicate whether you want the response data to be stored in smart values – which can be used by subsequent actions in the rule.

Send a web request: Jira

You can also create rules that are triggered by an incoming webhook, so that, for instance, your ERP system can update a Jira Software release date based on resource availability – and avoid releasing something you can’t adequately produce or support.

To do this, add the “Incoming webhook” action as a Trigger for an Automation rule. Jira will provide the URL for the source system to post to. You can execute the rule for issues specified in the post body, or for issues returned by a JQL search, or for no issues. The latter may seem like a strange option, but consider that Automations can take actions that don’t necessarily involve an issue, like sending messages. In fact, you can pair an incoming webhook trigger with sending a web request, and use Jira as a bridge between two other systems. Once again, you can access data received by using smart values.

The screen in Jira Automations for adding an Incoming Webhook trigger.

One basic principal of successful scaling is that automated processes scale much more easily and more cheaply than people processes, so using Jira Automations to its full potential contributes directly to scalability.

Issue links are Jira’s way of representing the relationship between two issues, and they make it easy to move between them. The built-in choices include options like blocks/is blocked by and causes/is caused by – but you can create your own. How about amends and is amended by? Or has Purchase Order and is Purchase Order for? And links can connect issues in any Jira product on the same site – or even between sites if you set up Application Links between them.

Use custom link types: Jira

Capturing the connection(s) between issues right there in the issue view is pretty handy. But the real power of issue links comes from using them to pass data between the linked issues. Once again, Automation is the ready solution, making it easy to update linked issues using data from the trigger issue. Just choose Edit issue fields as the Then component, and select the issue link type. You can use smart values to set the value with JSON.

Use smart values to set the value with JSON: Jira

An Automation created within a project will be limited to linked issues in that project, while Global Automations created (by a Jira admin) in System Settings have access to all issues.

With an Atlassian Marketplace app like Scriptrunner, you can modify workflows to use linked issues in similar ways. While such apps cost money, workflow executions are free from the limits on Automation rules. And they’re easier to troubleshoot and maintain in a complex environment – consider trying to sort through how a hundred Automations interact in order to fix a problem.

Oxalis can help you decide which approach best fits your situation and scalability goals.

Jira Hack #3: JSM can enable licenseless users to take workflow actions

Jira Service Management’s customer portal feature lets people interact with Jira from the outside, without needing a license. Out of the box, an admin editing a workflow can configure any transition to show in the portal. This can, for instance, let portal users Cancel their request, or Resubmit after providing additional information. While the primary intent is for users outside your organization to use JSM’s customer portals, consider that JSM’s model works well – and is increasingly used – at the team level, where an “external user” is someone in another team. Any user who doesn’t actually work on issues can probably use a portal. Reviewers and approvers often just need to be able to view the request, maybe add a comment, then use an Approved workflow action. A portal user can do all that, without needing a license.

Jira Service Management’s basic functionality doesn’t include transition screens, so you can’t collect any information, but there are plenty of situations that works for. And if you need to present portal users with transition screens, an app like Actions for Jira Service Management from Atlassian Marketplace can provide that ability – as well as the option of enabling users to edit issues in your portals.

Setting up more people to use customer portals doesn’t just save you licensing costs. JSM’s portal pages are simpler to interact with than the full Jira interface, which saves workers time. And making the best use of your workers’ time is one of the keys to scaling successfully. Oxalis can help you maximize the effectiveness of your customer portals.

Jira Hack #4: Use JSM for all your teams

This hack builds on the previous of our 5 Jira hacks. Jira Service Management provides an effective model for most teams to handle incoming work. Almost any team can be viewed from a service management perspective, with workers outside the department generating the need for work which team members perform. As noted above, it saves workers time to use a portal page compared to using Jira’s agent interface. And it certainly saves team members time to manage work via a JSM queue compared to doing it in email. Atlassian itself uses 130 service desks internally to keep work flowing.

Consider, for example, the following:

  • HR receives requests for sick time, PTO, etc.
  • Facilities receives requests for maintenance, general questions, etc.
  • Legal receives requests for new/updated contracts, as well as general questions, etc.
  • Sales receives requests regarding orders, proposals, reviews, and quotes, as well as general questions.
  • Marketing receives requests for asset creation, campaigns, and content reviews, as well as general questions.

All of those requests can be submitted via the team’s JSM portal, and worked by agents within the team. JSM comes with twelve templates for different teams, and can easily be customized for any team. The more teams you use Jira Service Management for, the more you standardize the way work is managed. And the more standardized work management is, the less time employees lose trying to figure out how/where/who to get help from.

But it gets better! JSM projects can connect to Confluence spaces that serve as Knowledge Bases – and use those KBs in their portals. A knowledge base provides three key time-saving services: it enables portal users to answer their own questions; it saves agents time by suggesting relevant KB documents they can reference; and it builds a library of previous requests that agents can consult to see how previous similar requests were handled. Put together, these three things can turbocharge a team’s effectiveness and contribute to scalability. Read more about how well ITSM principles serve non-IT teams.

Oxalis can help all your teams get the most out of Jira Service Management.

Jira Hack #5: Use everything Jira has to offer

We’ve discussed how Jira Service Management can help business teams manage external work more effectively. In the same vein, Jira Software makes agile project management useful for business teams that work in cycles. As mentioned above, at Oxalis we use it for managing Marketing’s content-related work. Jira products have a long history of proving useful in more ways than they were built to do, so take a good look at what they actually make possible, even if you think the product doesn’t fit your needs. And explore all the nooks and crannies of the products you pay for – don’t leave efficiencies on the floor. For example, JSM offers a chat channel you can create issues from, and an embeddable widget that can connect users to your portals from any website. Explore Atlassian Marketplace for apps that will help you do more with your Jira products.

What’s more, Jira Software and Jira Service Management come with Jira Work Management built in. Jira Work Management takes a project management-oriented approach to managing work, offering a variety of ways to add, update, and track the tasks, resources, and timeline in a project – including the popular Gantt-style view. JWM makes it easy to keep track of progress, identify potential roadblocks, and keep everyone informed and in sync. It’s a good choice when a full-featured service management approach seems like overkill. Learn more.

If you have Jira Software Premium or Enterprise, then you have Advanced Roadmaps, which turns Jira Software’s roadmaps feature into a full-featured cross-project planning tool. With Advanced Roadmaps, you can plan work across all teams and projects, identify dependencies, adjust plans based on resource capacity, explore alternative planning scenarios, create custom plan views for differing audiences, and give everyone in each team the same visibility based on the real-time work they’re doing in Jira Software. Learn more.

And then there are the other Atlassian products made to work with Jira, forming an ecosystem that expands every year or two. Did you know the Atlassian Cloud platform has 19 products as of this post? Here are some highlights:

  • Jira Align – Connect business and technology teams to align strategy with outcomes at enterprise scale. For Enterprise plans only.
  • Jira Product Discovery – Organize and prioritize ideas, share product roadmaps, and connect business and tech teams, all in Jira.
  • Statuspage – Incidents happen. Keep your users informed and ditch the flood of support emails during downtime.
  • Opsgenie – Notify the right people at the right time with powerful incident alerting and on-call schedules
  • Trello – Collaborate and get more done. Trello boards enable your team to organize projects in a fun, flexible, easy-to-use, and visual way.
  • Atlas – Stay in sync, async by connecting the dots across teams, their apps, and work, wherever it happens.
  • Compass – Bring your distributed software architecture and the teams that collaborate on it together in a single, unified place.
  • Beacon – Detect, investigate, and remediate suspicious user activity with intelligent threat detection, designed for your Atlassian Cloud products.

Each of these has a free plan so you can try it out easily.

Atlassian’s goal isn’t merely to help teams. Atlassian aims to fundamentally transform the way teams work into a powerful, efficient, user-empowering engine. The more you do with the Jira products you’re already paying for, the transformative Jira will be for you – and the more effectively you’ll scale.

Our 5 Jira hacks can turbocharge your teams’ work and your scalability. The Oxalis team of experts has configured Atlassian-suite software from large enterprises to local firms, and we can configure and customize Jira to meet your company’s or client’s needs. As award-winning Atlassian partners, we’ve seen it all and done it all. If you need help implementing these 5 Jira hacks, if you need help scaling by migrating to the cloud, or if you want to optimize your existing Jira products, Oxalis is here to make it happen.

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