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Project managers are often pulled in two separate directions by the people they serve: their team and clients. Developers want to protect their autonomy, while clients want to be kept in the loop. Most project managers rather not give clients direct access to Jira. It’s like bringing guests into your kitchen, where they might catch a glimpse of dirty dishes. Hence it has become common to export Jira data and share the exported static copy with customers and other 3rd parties. The exported file gives a sense of control – you control which issues are shared and what fields are included.

But, exporting to a file is not without its problems. First, there is a question of how to share this file- email is difficult to trace and manage as a long-term collaboration tool. So this means you need to put it wherever you put all the project documentation, decide on a filing and tagging method, and keep this consistently. To be honest, this becomes double bookkeeping for the project. Second, the Jira data is only part of what you want to share with the customer. There is a lot of background information that you want to add to any report. You need to convert the data into an editable format- import your CSV to a WORD doc and then add the rest of the text. . This method does not lend itself to good redlining of the data coming from Jira. A problem because redlining different versions of the report is one of those things that careful budget owners like to do. Third, exporting from Jira does not provide for a multi-level option. For example, if I want to export all the project tasks and their subtasks, it’s impossible to do this kind of export straight from the platform.

There should be a better way to export data from Jira and share it with clients. Meet Jira Snapshots – Time-Stamped Exports Into Confluence. Our own Confluence App streamlines Jira data exports and solves the hurdles of exporting Jira data to file.

Let’s see how to configure Jira to streamline client reporting- so that you have the data you want to share when you need it. Once data is ready in Jira, we’ll leverage Jira Snapshots to achieve export epiphany.

How to use Jira and Confluence for project collaboration

A combination of Jira and Confluence is the perfect solution for project managers to help both clients and developers perform at their best. The setup I’m sharing checks all the essential boxes for an optimized system and has the following benefits:

  • The internal team has full autonomy: They use Jira openly without worrying about how things might look from the customers’ perspective, free to discuss the sticky bits, previous projects, and concerns.
  • The customer gets a satisfying view of the project’s progress and is clear when the development team needs their input.
  • There is no double bookkeeping — the system is the solitary source of truth.
  • The setup is easy, and it’s mainly under the project manager’s control. There is no need for support from system admins, nor is there any dependency on sophisticated synchronization apps with complicated setups.

What’s Jira’s role in this setup, and what needs to be configured?

Jira is where your internal development work happens. The Jira instance is used for all different projects and is your team’s main playground. The sprints rhythm, the Kanban board columns, and the custom fields and permissions follow a common framework. Even the split of issues to different projects should follow your internal organizational structure and is not dictated by a specific customer project.

This is the key point: the customer does not have access to Jira. It is your internal kitchen, and there aren’t any client “chefs” allowed.

This configuration is extended with custom fields, which create the foundation for sharing information with the customer.

  1. Customer project: When issues related to several customer projects are managed in a single Jira project, this field associates the issue with the customer project.
  2. Notes: This field is solely used by the project manager.
    1. The team knows that they should not use or modify this field.
    2. Ideally, the project manager reviews this field weekly and updates it to reflect the current state of the issue.
    3. The language and level of detail should be relevant for the customer, highlighting specific information requiring their attention. For example: “Information provided to your purchase team (David Nusbaum, email 12/9/2021), and waiting feedback,” or “Currently in internal testing, expecting to install on UAT environment around the end of October.”
  3. Customer status: This field communicates the status of the issue from the customer’s perspective.
    1. It’s like the field “Status name to show customer” in Jira Service Management.
    2. The project manager can handle this field manually. It can be set when they review the “notes” field, or automation can be applied to calculate it directly as a function of the workflow status.
    3. It is essential to have one status like “Waiting for customer” to flag issues requiring the client’s immediate attention.

Jira's role in project collaboration

Note: The development team stays out of these fields. The project manager’s role is to regularly review each issue and keep the notes and customer status current.

What’s Confluence’s role, and what needs to be configured?

Confluence is where the collaboration with the customer happens. Each client project has a space, and that’s the only area they can access.

Now that Jira is on the Cloud, it’s easy for the project manager to create a new Confluence for each customer project. This way, you can have many spaces in that instance, each for another project with the same customer or serving different areas of the collaboration.

Regardless of the scenario, Confluence should have the following parameters:

  • Any development team member who needs to collaborate with the customer has access.
  • The customer team has access.
  • It’s installed with Jira Snapshots for Confluence, which is configured to retrieve data from Jira.
  • There is a status page where the customer can view all the Jira data that applies to their project.

The customer-facing status page is the key to keeping the customer in the know. I recommend using Jira Snapshots for Confluence to display the Jira data in the most impactful way:

  1. First, each time you complete the weekly update and cleanup of the data in Jira (paying particular attention to the notes and customer status fields), take a fresh snapshot of this status page in Confluence.
  2. The JQL that retrieves the data should be tuned to get only the issues of that project, so there is no way that data from other customer projects can leak here.
    1. For example, a JQL that retrieves only Epics from the project DEVT, which belong to the customer project “Blue Sky” : “project=DEVT AND “Customer project[Dropdown]”=”Blue sky” AND issuetype=Epic”
  3. You also have full control over which fields are shown, so the customer doesn’t see any fields used for internal communication. For example, avoid bringing in the field “description” if your team often puts technical details in there that should be kept private.
  4. Also, be sure to set up the page so that the customer has NO edit permissions. That means only the project manager can dictate when a new snapshot is taken —and then there’s no risk that snapshots are taken at “uncontrolled moments.”

If you’re like me and have issues organized in epics, then you’ll want the snapshot to be organized in epics as well. Jira Snapshots can do multilevel reporting, so that’s easy to set.

Last but not least, the DIFF view provided by Jira Snapshots is invaluable. It helps the customer see what changed from the previous week. I had a customer who reported, “Just having this DIFF view shortens my review time three times. I no longer need to rely on my own memory to identify what changed.”

Now that’s customer service!

fresh Jira Snapshot on Confluence

So, for example, if I have a status meeting with my customer each Wednesday afternoon, then my routine looks like this:

  • On Wednesday morning, I review and update the Jira data.
  • Then I take a fresh Jira Snapshot on Confluence.
  • The customer is “watching” the Confluence page, so they get an automatic notification about the update and can review the page ahead of the meeting.

This way, the meeting is easy to prepare and flows very efficiently. The “notes” and “customer status” provide the client with the information they need to help the project move forward. Jira data export on steroids.

A setup that works for many situations

Now that you have a simple setup that checks all the boxes for Jira data exports, you’re in business!

Your development team works how they want, with full autonomy, and the customer gets the information they need. Best of all, there is no double booking, and you, the project manager, aren’t asking for favors from your system administrators to get the job done.

The flexibility of this setup doesn’t stop here —there are plenty of other scenarios that can be solved with a similar setup. For example, you can use this setup in an audit scenario.

What other situations can you think of that this setup can help make your life easier?

If you have any questions about how Jira, Confluence, or Jira Snapshots for Confluence can work best for you and your company. I’m happy to help. Use this link to schedule a chat.