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JIRA Portfolio is available today for JIRA Server. Coming to Cloud in early 2015. Full details below.

Last week, Martin Suntinger, Product Manager for JIRA Portfolio, hosted an introductory webinar on JIRA Portfolio. Attendees stole the show and asked 638 questions (638!). Whether or not he realized what he was signing up for, at the end of the webinar Martin promised to answer all attendee questions. True to his word, Martin read, categorized and answered each distinct question (200 in total). For a complete list of the Q&As look here* or if you want the abbreviated version read through Martin’s top 10 questions and answers. Enjoy!

Martin’s top 10 Q&As

Q: Are estimates in days/hours or story points or both?
A: The current version of JIRA Portfolio (1.6.x) supports time-based estimates, either in days or hours. We are working on story point support, which will be launched within few weeks.

Q: How will story point support roughly work once it is released?
A: There are two major areas of change when introducing story point support: scheduling, and progress tracking. In terms of scheduling, the focus will shift from individual resource scheduling to team-focused scheduling, with a velocity field and velocity forecast on team level (either entered directly, or pulled from the history available in a team’s Agile board). This also means, that entering individual people/resources will become optional, as teams are the unit of granularity relevant for the schedule. Progress tracking will be based on the burndown of points, rather than time spent.

Q: What is a theme? 
A: Themes represent specific, itemized business objectives. Ideally, themes focus on the key future differentiators. The reporting on themes helps to see how much time is spent for work that contributes to each of the themes, i.e., to check if the teams are focused on the actual, higher-level business goals or effort is spent elsewhere.

Q: Can you assign to more than one theme?
A: The general rule is that the lowest level entries in the hierarchy can only be assigned to one theme. Thus, stories can be assigned to one theme only. If an epic has several child stories assigned to different themes, the epic is then assigned to multiple themes. If an epic does not have child stories, it can be assigned to one theme only. Since we want to report on resource allocation it needs to be clear which theme an effort is assigned to (otherwise we’d have to start splitting up or double-counting effort towards multiple themes).

Q: Is JIRA Portfolio introducing additional levels of backlog categorization? How many levels are supported in the taxonomy?
A: With JIRA Portfolio, you can have one or multiple portfolio plans and each plan can be either cross-team/cross-project, or focused on a particular project. Within a plan, work items are structured into three actual levels of hierarchy: Initiative > Epic > Story. Below stories, you can have sub-tasks directly in JIRA. Subtasks are not explicitly represented in Portfolio, but they are considered for aggregated progress tracking and reporting. The structure is orthogonal to JIRA projects, so you can pull data from multiple JIRA projects into one portfolio plan. Additionally, the issues can be assigned to themes (which typically will represent higher-level business objectives or resource investment buckets). Whilst themes are the highest-level items, they don’t actually represent an extra level in the hierarchy since the items within an initiative can contribute to different themes.

Q: Do you have to use epics and user stories or can you import other issue types?
A: JIRA Portfolio is flexible to work with any issue types, so you can import new features or any other types. The only explicit benefit of epics and stories is that their hierarchy is known and can be imported right away. With other issue types, you need to decide at which hierarchy level to import the issue (initiative, epic or story-level of the hierarchy), and select the parent item.

Q: What is the functional purpose of an initiative versus a release? How does it relate to JIRA projects?
A: An initiative groups epics and stories into larger chunks of work. Initiatives typically span multiple releases, with intermediate deliveries along the way. Business initiatives will typically encompass substantial scope and investment, and will likely represent the level of granularity approved by and reported to top management. Initiatives don’t have a direct, binding relation to JIRA projects. In many cases, the epics and stories grouped to an initiative live in multiple JIRA projects. In other cases, all the issues for an initiative might be in one dedicated JIRA project.

Q: Does this also allow for views across multiple projects?
A: Yes, the data in JIRA Portfolio is cross-project data, with issues originating from, potentially, multiple JIRA projects.

Q: Are all changes directly impacting my JIRA projects; how can I work in a sandbox until my plan is ready?
A: JIRA Portfolio is designed to allow flexible planning, working in a protected sandbox environment until you are fine and done with planning. When importing existing issues, a link is established, so progress and status information updates in real time from the issue. Planning changes (such as assignee, release version, etc.) are not automatically pushed back, but can explicitly be synced with the ‘Plan’-> ‘Update linked Issues’ capability. Furthermore, you can create a copy of a plan, compare different scenarios, and then selectively publish back to JIRA.

Q: Is a plan updated automatically every time something changes in JIRA?
A: Status and roll-up progress is always up-to-date in real time. Other changes such as an issue getting resolved or remaining estimates changing don’t automatically get reflected in the plan and you have to do a manual update. The reason for this is to make it very transparent which changes are happening to your plan. With ‘Plan’-> ‘Update from date’ you will get a list of suggested changes (issues being completed, or changed remaining estimate), which you then can confirm in bulk. When teams work in iterations, the recommendation is to do this update after each sprint to have an up-to-date view based on the work the teams have accomplished.

Want to watch it again?

Watch the webinar recording here:

Ready to get started?  Download JIRA Portfolio today!

Try JIRA Portfolio

A quick update on Cloud

Since the launch of JIRA Portfolio at Summit 2014 we have been overwhelmed by the response. Many of you reached out with questions, comments, and ideas to further improve the offering. We have been blown away by your interest in the newest member of the JIRA family and encourage you to continue contacting us.

One of the messages we’ve received loud and clear is that those of you using JIRA Cloud want the ability to roll out JIRA Portfolio to your teams and organizations. When we decided to launch JIRA Portfolio at Summit, we led with a Server offering simply because our Cloud offering needed more work. We want our Cloud customers to have the best possible experience with our products and so we made the call to hold the release of JIRA Portfolio for Cloud.

All of us in software development know forecasting and estimating is not an exact science 😉 But many of you have asked for at least a rough timeframe so you can make plans ahead of time. We think we can bring you Portfolio Cloud early next year, around March. Rest assured that getting this product finished is a top priority for us. Stay tuned!

Thanks again for your continued interest and support. We’re as excited as you are!

Anu Bharadwaj
Group Product Manager, JIRA

*Please note that this is an ever-changing roll-up of Q&As about JIRA Portfolio. Check back to read through additional questions and answers posted after 10/09/2014.

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