Introducing Jira Align – Agile Scaled for the Enterprise

Jira Align

As organizations grow, the potential benefits of scaling agile increase across the board. However, the challenges standing in the way of effective scaling grow and change as well. The most common of these challenges fall into three main buckets:

  • Lack of alignment – various levels of the organization are disjointed and are therefore unable to move forward efficiently toward established goals, or unable to effectively communicate what those goals are.
  • Lack of predictability – with numerous development teams working simultaneously without effective alignment, releases become more and more complex and unwieldy and KPIs are routinely compromised.
  • Lack of governance – metrics, reporting, and monitoring are poorly controlled and slow in affecting action, so agility is sacrificed in favor of bureaucracy.

There’s a point at which an enterprise’s development organization is too large and complex to effectively stay agile without an overarching management platform that takes a top-down approach to monitoring and managing widespread development teams.

That’s where Jira Align comes in.

What is Jira Align?

Atlassian Jira Align (formerly known as AgileCraft) is a solution built from the top down to effectively fill the “complexity gap” even large enterprises end up facing as they try to scale agile. It was rated as the unmatched industry leader in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Agile Planning Tools in April, 2019, and for good reason. As the newest member of the Atlassian tech stack, Jira Align fills that vital role above and beyond where Jira and Jira Portfolio have admirably performed.

Built to align organizations around common goals and objectives, Jira Align provides that overarching platform that starts at the very top — with business goals and strategies — and carries those guidelines down all the way to the individual team level, offering visibility and context to every stakeholder along the way.

With Jira Align, everyone in the project lifecycle can see what’s happening in real time. The solution integrates seamlessly with the tools you’re already using — like Jira, Trello, and more — to keep everyone apprised of current and future status. And, that “golden thread of data” becomes more visible and useful to everyone. With over 250 reports built in and custom reporting capabilities, real time and historic monitoring becomes part of the fabric of the agile organization.

What features make Jira Align stand out?

Jira Align is a cloud solution, available in two variations:

  • Standard
  • Enterprise

In all cases, the goal is to provide visibility and monitoring capability into every level of the organization so that development activities can be handled with agility.

Some of the key features that make this possible include Rooms, in which stakeholders at various levels of the organization can access the full store of reporting and monitoring, geared toward their individual roles, all in one place.

The Integrations also create powerful efficiencies by breaking down barriers between disparate teams who may be using different applications. For larger enterprise organizations who are seeking unification following a merger or acquisition, this can be an especially valuable tool to get everyone on the same page quickly.

Value streams help managers monitor ongoing work without micromanaging or slowing down progress. This keeps development teams and release trains running “on schedule” while ensuring they’re working in line with strategic business goals.

As already noted, Reports are centralized to ensure that every stakeholder receives any and all data they need, quickly, accurately, and consistently. As opposed to ad hoc spreadsheets prepared differently by every division manager, one centralized database provides coherent reporting to every level of the organization.

In addition to these core features, Jira Align allows for unification in terminology, consistency in controls, and a clear, fundamental understanding that extends organization wide. As a result, it drives visibility, predictability, and velocity across all development teams.

Who is Jira Align for?

As already noted, Jira Align is especially beneficial for larger organizations in which the “complexity gap” has started to create problems. It also works very well for highly regulated industries that need a more thorough level of real time monitoring and granular reporting at every level of the organization.

Small to medium-sized businesses are likely able to accomplish what they need using Jira. Medium-sized organizations that have matured to the portfolio level of their agile journey can often benefit from upgrading to Jira Portfolio, but still may not need all that Jira Align has to offer.

Large companies and enterprise organizations that want to experience the benefits of scaling agile effectively from the top down are really the “sweet spot” customers that can get the most out of Jira Align. These companies are often trying to integrate 4-5 levels of agile scaling and may even be running multiple instances of Jira already, so alignment has become a real challenge.

Within those optimal organizations, aspects of the Jira Align platform will appeal well to program managers (or RTEs), product managers, portfolio managers, and C-suite executives alike. All stakeholders can benefit from a centralized management platform and reporting database that covers the agile development process from every angle.

Stay tuned for a future article diving deep into how Jira Align benefits each of these roles.

With metrics and scorecards that provide transparency into what the teams are actually working on, Jira Align will save a considerable amount of time and have it all in one solution. Jira Align provides real-time visibility into:

  • Portfolio Value to Spend
  • Budget vs Estimate vs Actual
  • Strategic Governance
  • Resource Management
  • Metrics and Scorecards
  • Project Funding and Status

Jira Align vs Jira Portfolio

Since Jira Align is relatively new to the Atlassian tech stack, many existing customers are curious how it compares to Jira Portfolio, which they may already be using, or to which they had planned to upgrade.

In a nutshell, Jira Align and Jira Portfolio fill two different and complementary roles in the full agile management ecosystem. Neither effectively takes the place of the other for the same organization. Instead, they represent the perfect solution for two different stages of an organization’s agile journey.

Jira Portfolio does a phenomenal job getting you well situated for reporting and metrics in the portfolio and program levels. For smaller enterprise organizations running one instance of Jira, where development teams generally collaborate to on individual initiatives or epics over time, Jira Portfolio offers the right combination of management and simplicity to effectively remain agile.

However, Jira Portfolio does not support multiple Jira instances, and it’s not really the optimal solution for organizations managing multiple portfolio-level initiatives at once, or large, ongoing software initiatives that require a lot of enablement. In those cases, Jira Align offers more flexibility while connecting enterprise and product strategy from the top down.

In more general terms, Jira Portfolio is often sufficient for organizations with less than 500 developers and 20 teams, while Jira Align is usually the best option for enterprises with more than 500 developers on staff and more than 20 teams operating simultaneously.

See this Jira Align vs Jira Portfolio chart for more detail.

Jira Align pricing

As a true enterprise solution, Jira Align does carry a higher price tag than other flavors of Jira. The price is dependent on a number of factors, including number of users, add-ons selected, and the level of solution your organization wishes to invest in.

Prices start at $75 per user per month (billed annually) for Standard Jira Align (Enterprise Jira Align will be higher due to functionality offered). However, as user numbers rise, significant volume discounts apply. It’s also important to note that Jira Align pricing is arranged to allow four integrated users for every “seat” you pay for. So, you can divide your development organization by four to determine how many seats you’ll need to purchase annually.

Learn more about how Jira Align fits in with your organizations

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Cassidy Knight, Technical Agile Writer
Cassidy Knight, Technical Agile Writer