3 Caveats of Using JIRA for ERP

Having been a homeowner for more than 20 years, I’ve tried my hand at all sorts of projects around the house.  Through some trial and error, I’ve learned that painting is best left to someone else, plumbing always seems to elevate my blood pressure, and while I’m semi-capable when it comes to electrical work, whenever I need to deal with the electrical panel, I always consult someone who really knows what they’re doing.  Touching up brush marks on a wall is one thing, but accidentally touching the wrong wire can ruin your whole day.

In addition to getting the right people, though, I have also learned that having the right tool for the job can make all the difference.  Saws are a perfect example.  Hand saws, coping saws, and miter saws are essential parts of every arsenal, not to mention the power tools that you soon realize you can’t live without.  Whether it’s a circular saw, table saw, jigsaw, or a reciprocating saw, there’s a specialized saw for almost every job imaginable.

Finding the Right Resources for Your ERP Project

When it comes to ERP projects, the inventory of tools you need to effectively plan, manage, develop and test your system can be just as overwhelming.  Furthermore, on top of the tools you already own, systems integrators (SIs) typically have their own assortment of “power tools” for project management, change management, data, and even testing.  And just as having a table saw can make quick work of a job that you would dread tackling with a hand saw, many of the tools that your SI brings to the table can improve both the quality of your system, as well as the quality of your experience as you deploy that system.

The moral of the story is pretty clear: get the right help for the job (yes, you really do need an electrician) and make sure you have the right tools at your disposal.  Skimping on either one will lead to inferior results – at a minimum – and can even jeopardize the delivery of the system.  That being said, there is one tool in particular that should come with a disclaimer when it comes to ERP projects: JIRA.

Is JIRA the Right Answer?

Jira is a proprietary issue tracking product developed by Atlassian that allows bug tracking and Agile project management.  Originally, Jira was designed as a bug and issue tracker.  But today, Jira has evolved into a more robust work management tool for all kinds of use cases, from requirements and test case management to Agile software development.

But remember the urban legend about someone using a lawn mower to trim their hedges, and then suing the lawnmower manufacturer for not including a warning label?  While you may not lose any fingers by using JIRA incorrectly on your ERP project, you’ll most certainly feel the pain if you don’t take heed of the following precautions:

1. JIRA is a great tool for helping you manage your next 3-week sprint, but it’s not so good at ensuring that ALL of your development, testing, training, etc., crosses the finish line together 15 months from now.  So just as you wouldn’t try to make your wrench double as a hammer, don’t try to make JIRA take the place of tried-and-true project management practices that are best suited for a true project management tool.  Sure, JIRA can track all of your RAID items, tasks, and even your dependencies as if they are just another user story, but good luck turning all of that data into information that can be used to effectively manage the project.

Caution: Unless your organization is already very proficient in using JIRA for managing large-scale projects, stick with your project management tools as the means to effectively plan, track, and manage the overall project.  Even though it might be possible to manage your ERP project completely from JIRA, your ERP project isn’t where you want to figure out how to do it.

2. Change control is another area where the idea of simply “using JIRA” can be deceptively alluring.  After all, since JIRA specializes in managing the backlog of your user stories (i.e., your requirements) it makes intuitive sense that JIRA would be able to track changes.

Caution: It actually does make a lot of sense to use JIRA for tracking changes to requirements and scope if JIRA is going to be the tool of choice for managing your development teams; however, it’s going to take more than a report out of JIRA to manage change control effectively.  This information needs to feed seamlessly into your project management processes so that dependencies, test plans, training plans, and particularly resource plans, can be kept in sync and up to date.

3. Speaking of resource plans, JIRA was founded upon the Agile philosophy that considers your resource capacity to be virtually static, whereas your scope is an ever-moving target.  This isn’t going to work very well for your ERP project, since the scope is still fixed and will require a detailed, robust forecast to ensure that you can line up the right people at the right time.

Caution: Don’t lose sight of the fact that a “hybrid Agile” methodology is less “Agile” than “hybrid.”  Since your scope is effectively fixed (you don’t have the option to implement 90% of core financial processes) and your go-live date isn’t flexible, that means that your capacity – both from internal staff as well as from your SI – will have to adjust to get everything done on time.  In order to make sure you don’t get surprised, a comprehensive resource forecast needs to be regularly maintained and reviewed.  This can be tricky to get out of JIRA unless you are managing every last task and activity in JIRA which, as I’ve already pointed out, may not be the most practical option.

Don’t get me wrong, JIRA is a powerful tool that is virtually indispensable when it comes to managing your Agile development processes; but as we’ve noted in other blogs, ERP is not Agile.  There’s a reason every SI touts a “hybrid Agile” methodology and not an “Agile” one, because there is simply nothing Agile about that go-live date that requires all the moving parts of an ERP project to be properly planned, coordinated, tracked, and managed. So, when it comes to running your ERP project, make sure you use the right tools, to help ensure that you’ve got the right people, at just the right time.

Follow me on Twitter @sstamp_ue.  Find my other UpperEdge blogs and follow UpperEdge on Twitter and LinkedIn. Learn more about Project Execution Advisory Support.

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