For product and engineering leaders at small and medium sized companies, staying up to date about work happening across multiple engineering teams can be a time-consuming endeavor. (For larger companies, it very often becomes a full time job.)
This was exactly the problem that Hubert Sugeng, Director of Engineering at KodaCloud, was facing. Hubert oversees four engineering teams and serves as product owner, managing the scope of KodaCloud’s releases and product roadmap. Kodacloud builds an AI-based Cloud Service to proactively monitor, analyze, and optimize Enterprise Wi-Fi experience quality for mission critical networks. People interact with KodaCloud via a Single Page Web Application powered by ReactJS and Redux.
A failed approach: Supplementing Jira Software with spreadsheets and sticky notes
Hubert is a long time Jira Software customer but has always felt Jira Software had one key blind spot. “I was really struggling,” he says, “to see what the bigger picture looked like.” Without being able to prioritize and manage things at a higher level, Hubert wasn’t able to accurately plan beyond one or two sprints. “It just made me and my team frustrated,” he says, “because it was so difficult to keep the scope and plan of releases aligned. Our Jira Software issue lists were way too long, so all anyone could easily see was what’s ahead for the next three weeks.”
With the development of multiple components and features running in parallel, getting the right view of his teams’ work was important for aligning with stakeholders and ensuring all the right things got released. Hubert tried a couple approaches to solve the problem on his own, like exporting his Jira Software issues into Excel and reorganizing them to get the view he was looking for. But this approach was tedious and time-consuming. Hubert didn’t have the time to keep Excel up to date as priorities changed. Next Hubert tried using sticky notes and putting them on his wall to recreate the view he needed, but he knew there had to be a better way than that.
How KodaCloud uses Portfolio for Jira to improve their planning process
As soon as Portfolio for Jira launched, Hubert was an eager early-adopter. Within Portfolio for Jira, he was able to find the view that took so much work to create with spreadsheets and sticky notes. To improve visibility, and manage scope across teams and projects, Hubert primarily leverages Portfolio’s scope table. Within the scope table, he can see each of the epics across teams and quickly drill down to unfold those epics into their respective stories. If any issues need to be edited, he can edit from within the scope table as well. He’s also much more confident that each release has the appropriate issues in it. By toggling to Portfolio’s release report he can get a complete view of all the issues within each specific release at the appropriate level of hierarchy. Hubert notes that Portfolio’s release report view is particularly helpful when reviewing his plans with stakeholders.
Portfolio also helps Hubert ensure the teams’ releases are achievable. He checks within Portfolio whether his teams have capacity to complete their upcoming sprints. If the teams are under capacity, he’ll swap issues from one release to another. One benefit of Portfolio is that it’s easy to view priorities at the Epic level and move them around as needed. So if Hubert needs to push back an Epic from one release to the next, it’s easy to do and then instantly see the impact of that on his teams’ capacity.
Portfolio has also helped to align cross-functional teams, from sales and marketing to QA and executive leadership, around the most up-to-date status of work. Hubert invested a little time training colleagues on the basics of Portfolio, for example where to find the release report and how to identify which Epics or Stories are part of a release. As a result, sales always knows what’s coming in the latest release and his management team has a clear idea of the roadmap and when it will be delivered. Perhaps most important, this means Hubert can focus on work that really requires his attention and doesn’t have to spend as much time giving stakeholders status updates or managing additional tools to aggregate this information.
How KodaCloud builds a Portfolio plan
Each of KodaCloud’s four engineering teams use Scrum boards. To build a Portfolio plan, KodaCloud pulls in both boards and projects as issue sources depending on the team. The reason why KodaCloud uses projects as an issue source is that certain teams have filters on their boards (for example one team filters out bugs), but Hubert still wants to pull that information into the team’s Portfolio plan. That information, after all, is vital to understanding the team’s capacity.
KodaCloud uses versions in Jira Software, which get pulled into Portfolio as releases. Releases for KodaCloud are production releases and they use sprints as sub-milestones within a release.
Tips for getting started
Hubert’s first Portfolio tip is to keep it simple and grow from there. This means not trying to use every Portfolio feature as you get going. He also recommends using one master Portfolio plan with all the projects and teams in it. (If your content isn’t too large to have a single view of everything.) Hubert finds one of Portfolio’s biggest benefits is getting a single view across all teams and being able to manage changes from a single place.
For KodaCloud, getting an interactive, multi-level, and editable plan that looks across teams and projects is fundamental for being able to do status and planning beyond the next couple sprints. Portfolio for Jira has helped the KodaCloud team solve this problem, becoming an essential tool to supplement Jira Software. In addition, Hubert has been able to leverage Portfolio for Jira to have more successful stakeholder meetings because he can show up-to-date status and can make changes during the meeting and view the impacts. By making use of a couple key Portfolio for Jira features, the KodaCloud team has been able to uplevel the way they build products while keeping all extended teams in sync.