Optimizing collaboration between Software Engineers and Product Owners by integrating JIRA and Targetprocess

As Software Engineers, we tend to get lost within our ivory towers. We are logical people, and crave logic in the world around us. The real world around us, though, is messy and frustratingly illogical. I am happiest, and most productive, when I have a well-defined Epic to work on, with clear requirements and acceptance criteria. My team and I can silently work away on the code, and resurface into the world when the job is complete.

The problem, though, is that the requirements are not always clear, and the acceptance criteria is often incomplete or missing altogether. This is where that messy, outside world invades our ivory tower. Locating the missing information and context, and communicating with Product Owners, was often a tedious mix of meetings, emails, and frustrating demos. I often felt that half of my job was to be the Product Secretary, keeping track of all the decisions, requirements and acceptance criteria on the original Epic.

As it turns out, I was duplicating all of this information. The Product Owners have tools to keep track of the requirements and acceptance criteria, and we work in our own tools for development. Since we don’t both access each other’s tools, we were forced to keep our own records of everything during meetings and update our own copies of the Epic.

The obvious solution was to be granted access to each other’s tools. In the Engineering department, we are using Atlassian JIRA, with the Agile tools for Kanban. This provides an excellent view into the current state of our project. Meanwhile the Product team uses Targetprocess, a tool designed for project management. Both teams are happy with their respective tools, and have built internal processes that fit with them. However, this satisfaction didn’t extend to collaboration.

Even with access to the other team’s tool, we Engineers still ended up manually duplicating most information into JIRA as there’s no synchronization between the tools. I quickly became frustrated at the constantly changing feature boards in Targetprocess, and having to switch back and forth between the two tools. And since not all of the Engineers had access to Targetprocess, I had to copy everything into JIRA for any fellow Engineer who required the information.

The Product Owners also had their struggles with JIRA.  Our Kanban boards tend to be an undulating pipeline of work items, only a portion of which are the Epics and Stories they are familiar with. The rest of our boards contains Defects, Tasks, and Technical Debt filled with overly complex technical details.

What’s more, by granting access to each other’s’ tools, we had created an even larger issue. Neither side used the other’s tools unless prompted, yet both sides assumed their changes were now visible to the other team. Collaboration actually got worse.

This is where Tasktop Integration Hub came in. We set up Integrations between Targetprocess and JIRA to synchronize Epics (called “Features” in Targetprocess). This meant that any change I make to the Epic are instantly updated on the Feature in Targetprocess.  When I want to ask questions, I just comment on my JIRA Epic. The Product Owner can then reply in their Targetprocess Feature.

Now I am able to stay within JIRA, my tool of choice, and I no longer have to be the product secretary. Even better, the integration removed the need for many of our time-consuming meetings. For example, when an Epic falls out of the release, I can just change the associated version number in JIRA. This change is then instantly updated in Targetprocess, sending configured emails to the Product Owner.

I can now return to my ivory tower and become productive once again…

If you’re working within the software value stream and want to know how Tasktop Integration Hub can dramatically improve the way you work with all other practitioners in the lifecycle, contact us today.

Colin has been writing software since the late 1980s on a Commodore 64. He is currently an Engineering Manager at Tasktop.

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