The Power of Program Level Reporting in Jira Align (Part 2 of 4)

Please note: This is one in a four-part series on the powerful reporting capabilities offered through Jira Align (formerly Agilecraft) by Atlassian. The series will cover Jira Align reports of specific value to agile practitioners at the:

  1. Team Level
  2. Program Level
  3. Portfolio Level
  4. Enterprise Level

Each segment will briefly cover:

  • How Jira Align effectively ties each level into the bigger enterprise picture
  • Which stakeholders are most likely to use the reports available at each level
  • Which Jira Align reports are likely to be most popular at each level and why

In Part One of this series, we described Jira Align as “a cloud-based software designed from the ground up to effectively scale an organization’s agile practice all the way from the individual development teams to the enterprise level.” As such, it “unifies overarching business goals and strategic planning with day-to-day productivity, and provides practical visibility into every level of the organization so all stakeholders can work from a common, accurate, real-time database.”

That unification is the key to successful scaling of agile, a cornerstone of what we do here at Cprime.

How Jira Align Ties The Program Level (Team of Teams) Into The Full Enterprise

Jira Align Pyramid

Part One was focused on the team level. As we move up the pyramid, we arrive at the program level (aka the “team of teams”). We noted two vital steps in establishing and maintaining agile at scale:

  1. “The strategic initiatives coming down from the executives must be effectively communicated to — and guide the daily activity of — those teams.”
  2. “Likewise, all the data generated as team members do the work needs to filter up to stakeholders at each level so decisions can be made, steering can be adjusted, and everyone can verify success is being achieved.”

The leaders operating at the program level are largely responsible for making that happen, and their ability to do so can be facilitated by Jira Align’s reporting capabilities.

Which Stakeholders Will Benefit From Program Level Reporting in Jira Align?

The whole organization benefits from the flow of information facilitated at the program level. However, the roles likely to spend the most time with the specific program level reports we’ll discuss below include:

  • Program managers
  • Release Train Engineers (RTEs)
  • Portfolio managers
  • Scrum Masters (occasionally)

Program managers and RTEs are usually responsible for making commitments of features to all the product teams during each planning increment (PI), much like the Scrum Master at the individual team level. So, it’s really vital for them to be able to access accurate and timely data that’s rolled up from each team, both historically and in real time. They’re also responsible for reporting to portfolio managers and sometimes executives, so access to this information needs to be quick, efficient, accurate, and easy to communicate.

As we look into some specific program level reports, we’ll highlight how these individuals can get the most out of them using Jira Align.

Examples of Popular Program Level Reports in Jira Align

The following reports are among the most popular because they provide Jira Align users wide-ranging snapshots of team and program level activity across one or more sprints and/or PIs. Of course, Jira Align also contains dozens of additional pre-formatted reports that offer an even more granular view when required. And, custom reporting can be setup if specific insights are needed that the available reports don’t offer.

For a thorough explanation of all 53 program level reports, check out this Jira Align support documentation.

Program Board

Jira Align Program Board

Less a specific report and more a living document, the Program Board is a highly visual tool representing an agreement between product management and development teams as to what functionality will be delivered at various points of the upcoming or current PI. It’s an excellent tool to use during planning meetings, but becomes absolutely critical for program managers and RTEs during execution of the PI.

From the Program Board, you can plan out all the features and related stories across an entire program and across multiple PIs, if needed. Features can be moved across sprints to help visualize when a team needs to deliver their stories or standalone features in order to keep the whole program plan on track. Then, as work commences, the Program Board displays a continually updated status of features, dependencies, objectives, and milestones.

Since there’s a lot of data consolidated on the Program Board, it’s been made to be highly customizable. It can be easily filtered to focus on just the teams and/or increments you’re most interested in. It’s also available in three distinct views, each with its own level of detail.

Program Velocity (Portfolio Program Predictability Report)

The Program Velocity report offers a combined analysis of the entire team of teams’ velocity across one or more sprints within the same PI. Program managers, portfolio managers, RTEs, and even Scrum Masters can dig into this valuable report to get a high level view of predictability:

  • Are the teams consistently meeting or exceeding what they’re committing to?
  • Are there outlier teams that can be coached to improve?
  • Or, does the evidence reveal problems with planning at a higher level?

Monitoring velocity across teams and over time allows stakeholders to plan ahead with confidence, knowing what all the representative teams have historically been able to take on. While the concept of a velocity report certainly isn’t new, standard Jira only offers it at the team or project level. This report adds a dimension that effectively connects teams to the program.

The report includes burn down and burn up views across all the teams in the program, and all the data points can be drilled down to the team level as needed.

Program Allocation

Jira Align Program Allocation

The Program Allocation report is designed to confirm that the workload is evenly distributed across teams and time. To accomplish this, it displays story point allocations and actual performance across teams, sprints, and PIs within the program. With simple color-coding, a program manager or RTE can gauge at a glimpse how many story points can be allocated based on known capacity, and how well the best laid plans are working out in real time, so adjustments can be made if necessary.

Obviously, this report is going to be valuable both for planning purposes and during execution. When planning, a program manager will want to review historical insights and look into known capacity for the PI being prepared:

  • How many points has a given team historically completed per sprint or PI?
  • Is anyone going to be out of the office or otherwise unable to carry their normal share of that workload?
  • Are there any other teams that can take up the slack in order to balance out capacity? Or, will the number of stories to be completed in an upcoming sprint or PI need to adjusted to compensate?

All the teams working on a sprint or program together don’t need to be allocated equally. Ideally, they will be allocated work in line with historical performance so that the overall PI workload can be reliably completed. Of course, if certain teams don’t seem to be “pulling their weight” over the long run, coaching and implementation of stretch goals can be handled at the team level so that overall productivity improvements are possible.

Estimation Trend (Program Planning Accuracy)

Jira Align Work Tree Reports

The Estimation Trend report uses bar charts to compare the total number of story points and value points planned over a specified time period versus what was actually delivered and accepted. It naturally works hand-in-hand with the Program Allocation and Program Velocity reports to assist program managers, RTEs, or others in making future work commitments and identifying any negative trends early.

It’s also helpful to review this report at the end of each release (at the program retrospective) to determine how teams are progressing. Ideally, the planned and actual figures should be nearly equal as that would indicate effective planning. But, at the same time, both figures should be trending up over time, at least to the point that the report shows the teams began to consistently fail to complete all that was planned. That helps to balance a successful plan with optimal productivity, and bears out that the development teams aren’t languishing, but getting better over time.

Work Tree Reports

The Work Tree is actually a collection of five different reports that are invaluable for use at both the program and the portfolio level. The five comprehensive reports are:

  • Strategy
  • Top Down View (from Epic)
  • Bottom Up View (from Story)
  • Team
  • Theme Group

Jira Align Work Tree Report

As you can probably guess from the titles, the Work Tree reports show the full power of Jira Align by displaying roll-up and roll-down hierarchies of past, current, and future work across an entire portfolio. They are highly configurable and can provide the 50,000-foot view or a high level of detail in just a few clicks.

At the program level, program managers and RTEs can use the various views to get a comprehensive perspective on all the WIP that falls into their program or release train, as well as what’s already planned for the future. Since the reports can either hide or display parent and/or child stories that are part of a specific program or PI, they can look outside the here and now to better understand…

  • Past performance during previous sprints or PIs
  • Risks, dependencies, and allocation needs around future work
  • WIP progress as it relates to both

We’ll cover more of the benefits of this valuable set of reports when, in the next installment of this series, we dive into the most popular portfolio level reports available within Jira Align. If you’d like to learn more about how Jira Align can help your organization, we’d love to hear from you.

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Sneha Crews, Solutions Engineer
Sneha Crews, Solutions Engineer