The hidden gems of JIRA, Confluence and Slack

 In Self-Development, Team Stories, Tech Corner

fter the last blog post “Why we switched from Scrum to Kanban” we got several questions about the tools we use on daily basis. Today, I am looking into how JIRA, Confluence, and Slack make our communication, organization and task management flow smoothly.

No overlapping process, no information bottlenecks and eliminated redundancy of activities. It is not magic, just the right application of the right tools 😊.

All of the project management tools have a vast number of features. The trick is not in utilizing every single option, but in choosing which to work with. This can be different for every organization or team.

1. Atlassian products: JIRA and Confluence

JIRA: customize and optimize

Regardless whether you are using Scrum or Kanban, Jira has a feature for every step of the process. Sportsbook is a complex product that requires simultaneous work on various development projects. JIRA allows customization across blocks, screens, notations, workflows, issues.

Our team has customized the workflow within the control check points, while each issue has a customized requirement. This obliges you to identify the version you are working on before migrating an issue in the IN PROGRESS column. You also need to provide information whether changes have been made in the configuration or/and the base before closing an issue. The information is needed for the following release.

The team also has a different board for a different projects with a separate backlog list for each. One project can also be spread across several boards, and also one board can cover more than one project. Make sure it reflects the intersections of projects in your team.

JIRA keeps you on alert.

Each task that has been on the Kanban board for a longer period of time is marked with red dots implying urgency for resolving that issue. Second, the expedite option is a swimlane feature which picks up on issues with high priority to reflect times when the team needs to swim to a burning issue.


Confluence as a central documentation hub

Confluence is a wiki-style tool that makes structuring and organizing your information very easy and straight-forward. The team has a specific hierarchy of information which they document and update when needed. The beauty of Confluence is that you have a template where you only fill in the required info. This way you ensure all the needed aspects are covered.

The team has customized the templates to their own needs, but they use a standardized format across projects.

We are fun of the macros. This feature give you access to diagrams, charts, road-maps which give your document a visual representation of the information. This explains the process or requirement even better.

The main goal of using confluence is having a centralized documentation covering the development process from start-to-end:

Defining projects specifications and requirements
System documentations
Documents from supporting teams
External files related to the project
One other useful feature of Confluence is the page history that gives you information who, when and what kind of changes has made on the document. You can go back and view older versions making sure nothing is lost.

2. Slack — communication and project management tool

Slack Channels

When you have a team sitting in different offices, even different countries, your Skype can be ringing off the hook. Not to mention the required communication with the supporting teams. This is where Slack saves the day.

The Sportsbook team works simultaneously on several projects dividing the team in sub-teams that are focused on a specific scope of features.This requires a great amount of communication and synchronization.

That is why Slack Channels are of immense benefit for our team. Each project within Sportsbook has a dedicated channel. This way you eliminate unnecessary distractions about aspects that are not in your focus.


Minimize notifications

Choose wisely which channels you join. You can easily join a channel temporarily and leave it if you had a change of focus. You can mute different channels that don’t need your full-time attention. If your immediate attention is needed though, your teammates can use the Slack “tag” feature which will notify you even if your channel is set on mute.

If you are not able to address a certain notification or message, you can use the “remind me” feature that will ping you later that day or the next week. You choose when you want to go back and resolve the question. This way, you don’t feel pressured to jump and reply every message, but you ensure no msg gets forgotten 🙂

You have to be very careful not to overwhelm the channels with to many automation since that will beat the main purpose of Slack channels — eliminating unnecessary distraction.

Slack integrations

Slack can also be integrated with a number of other apps that will automatically post in the chosen channels. The list is long but I will briefly mention the ones our team uses most frequently.

  • BitBucket can prove very useful in the early stage of the development of a new functionality of the software. The application shares the made changes in the code automatically in the selected channel.
  • Jenkins is customizable continuous integration server that will post build notifications to a channel in Slack.
  • InVision App provides visual representation of the made changes. This has been very useful for our Front-End team working on the new UI of the product.
  • JIRA Cloud gives the team an overview of a specific issue in Slack, no need for them to leave Slackl. Namely, the Jirabot will automatically preview Jira issues when they’re mentioned in the channel.

This has been a brief overview of the core management tools that make our process from development, testing to deployment flow smoothly and efficiently. In the next blog post we will cover the tools and apps specific for our Development and Operations. Stay tuned and don’t be shy to comment or ask a question 😉.

Photo cover source: JIRA webpage

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