Johns Hopkins University Case Study
A Conversation with Geoffrey Corb, IT Director, Johns Hopkins University
- Baltimore, Maryland USA
- Higher Education
- Student Information Systems
- # of JIRA users
- # of JIRA issues
- Upwards of 10 thousand
Founded in 1876, Johns Hopkins University became the first research university in the United States. Its aim was two-fold: to advance students' knowledge and to advance the general human knowledge through discovery and scholarship. Today, more than a century later, the University spans across nine academic and research divisions, each of which are grouped among the finest schools of the country. With its emphasis on learning and research, Johns Hopkins University has revolutionized higher education within the United States.
You've been one of our first customers, going all the way back to JIRA 1.0. Why did you choose JIRA?
A number of years ago I was with a small e-business consultancy in the Northeast and we needed an issue tracking system. We found ourselves at the 'buy-versus-build' dilemma. We did software engineering, web development and so on. It would not have been a stretch for us to develop our own, but to develop something perhaps as robust as JIRA would have cost us far more time and money than it would take to license JIRA. We stumbled across JIRA in web searches. The price was right, the polished look and feel was right for us along with the image we were trying to portray for our business and to clients who interacted with us. So we tried it.
How did JIRA make its way into Johns Hopkins University?
When I came here to Johns Hopkins in 2003, we used an issue tracker, which had been provided by an integration partner. That issue tracker was really poor in terms of its usability, features, scalability, and security. So I turned to my director and said, "I used a product, JIRA. We didn't spend a lot of money on it and really got our bang for the buck. And I think we could benefit a lot from replacing this system." She gave me the green light.
So I turned to my director and said, 'I used a product, JIRA. We didn't spend a lot of money on it and really got our bang for the buck. And I think we could benefit a lot from replacing this system.' She gave me the green light.
— Geoffrey Corb, IT Director
How is JIRA different from the issue tracker the University previously used?
Largely, it is truly usable. Our old system was clunky and required a lot of handholding just to complete a routine task. It had little reporting built in, so the capabilities that JIRA provides with filters — to be able to find anything on a whim — was leaps and bounds ahead. We found JIRA to be intuitive to our users.
Even though we're eligible for academic licensing we purchased the commercial license so that we could have access to the source code so that we could customize JIRA to do some of the functions that our other system did and to which our users were accustomed.
How is JIRA used in the University?
Right now, we use it to support our principal project: the deployment of a new student information system. It is primarily used for workflow, including facilitating our change management process, defect tracking, and task management. If a user or power user engaged in our project has a problem, they use JIRA to submit it to us. In that regard, JIRA serves as our trouble-ticket system. Through its use, in terms of defect tracking and change management, it has become a de-facto knowledge base. When we investigate a problem, we begin by searching JIRA to see if we have seen it before, and if so, what the resolution was, perhaps link a new issue to a new an existing issue, and grow the web of knowledge we have to about a problem or a circumstance.
JIRA serves as our trouble-ticket system...it has become a de-facto knowledge base.
— Geoffrey Corb, IT Director
I've heard the clinical group within Johns Hopkins Medicine is using JIRA.
I consulted with the clinical group when they were looking for a solution. I conducted a number of demos to show them JIRA and Confluence and then specifically how we use JIRA in support of our project. Their principal problem is the difficulty in tracking defects and interacting with an outside vendor with whom they work. They had been tracking everything through Excel spreadsheets and Access databases. Our group had the similar experience: we actually customized the system to interact with our vendor. This allows us send an issue to our vendor at the click of a button, by way of a customized JIRA workflow. They then could click on the issue and get into JIRA to see the details.
Seeing that you deployed both JIRA, an issue tracker, and Confluence, a wiki, do they interact with one another at all?
We use them together — mostly through the use of JIRA filters in Confluence. For example, we have Confluence pages that enumerate issues related to a particular release of a product and then populate the page with additional notes or related commentary. In a JIRA issue, we might reference a Confluence page in the body of the issue or in the comments.
What's been the best JIRA feature?
For me, the dashboards are the big thing. I have a number of different dashboard pages set up and dozens of filters defined on my profile. I have pages with statistics so that, at a glance, I can gauge performance of our organization. In fact, my favorite dashboard page is the one that I call my 'Recent' page. Here I have a filter in one column that shows me the open issues, issues created, and production versus non-production issues that were created in the last seven days. In the other column I have statistics graphs for issues that were created in the last seven days based on status. It is a nice way to gauge how we're performing since most of our operations, and really anything we do, is logged into and managed through JIRA
It [the dashboard] is a nice way to gauge how we're performing since most of our operations, and really anything we do, is logged into and managed through JIRA.
— Geoffrey Corb, IT Director
How do you see your use of JIRA changing or developing over the next couple years?
JIRA will continue to be at the center of our operations, especially as we complete the implementation of our system and move into support and maintenance mode. I will be looking to use JIRA to get a more complete view of our performance based on key metrics (volume of issues logged, mean time to closure, etc.). We will also be looking for other ways to extend JIRA through additional workflows and automation via custom services.