Top 3 Jira Tricks for Project Managers

I recently won the honor of bringing a few dozen people up to speed with Atlassian Jira. The directive was to get a cross-functional 40+ team (from investment, finance, legal and PMO), which had never heard of Jira or bug tracking software before, to compose user stories and communicate as productively as humanly feasible.

How did I crack the case? I decided to write an article (that you are now reading) in order to become an expert in a hurry! Learning never stops.

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This post is a portion of the entire brain dump that is most relevant to project/product managers who are becoming familiar with Jira but googling its FAQs every 3.88 seconds. Atlassian already has a comprehensive and well-used knowledge base. Here I specifically aim to address three field-tested tips that have less coverage but are critical functions of any project manager worth their salt.

We will walk through how to rapidly

  • Create & Edit Jira issues
  • Search Jira issues
  • Synchronize Jira issues with Google Sheets & Excel

Shall we?

Create & Edit Jira Issues in Bulk

Whether you are starting a project plan from scratch or bringing in an existing one from another system, the very first step is to get these line items in as Jira Issues. For simplicity’s sake, we will stick with the Task type in our examples.

Last point before jumping into the mechanics: a slightly simpler way to mass create tickets does exist. However, that mechanism does not work for editing in bulk. Let’s hit two birds with one stone with External System Import. Here we go!

Mass Create Jira Issues

  1. Populate an Excel/Google spreadsheet and save as a CSV file. See a sample on my Github. The Key values are left blank because those are only needed when editing Jira issues in subsequent steps.
  2. In Jira, click on Settings > System > External System Import > CSV
  3. Select the CSV Source file that contains your line items.
  4. Optionally, select a configuration file (ie field mapping). A sample of course is available on Github!

The remaining steps are somewhat self-explanatory. A few points worth pointing out:

  • Assignee values must match one of the existing Jira login names (eg kenneth vs kenneth lo).
  • Key values are only needed when editing existing Jira issues, not creating brand new ones.
  • Label values are space-delimited. No label can contain any space (eg dataload vs data load).

Mass Edit Jira Issues

These steps are almost identical to those for mass creation, except the correct Key values must be matched and mapped.

  1. Modify the Excel/Google spreadsheet and save as a CSV file. See the sample on Github.
  2. Unlike creating issues, Key values must be provided.
  3. In Jira, click on Settings > System > External System Import > CSV
  4. Select the CSV Source file that contains your revised line items.
  5. Optionally, select a configuration file (ie field mapping). Sample on Github at your service!

Search Jira & Jira Query Language (JQL)

The token question, for which I should get a dollar every time someone asks, is: how the heck do I find any issue? Regardless of where you are in Jira, simply hit the slash (/) to activate the Basic Search.

Basic Search works well about 82% of the time. More often than not, I proceed directly to the Advanced Search by hitting a Slash + Enter to land on Advanced Search.

Once there, feel free to stay within the comfort of the built-in filters. However, I much prefer the Switch to JQL option — it’s lots more flexible. If you are familiar with SQL syntax, a quick read on Search Jira like a boss with JQL will get you up to speed in a jiff. The screenshot below shows an oversimplified example:

Share the labor of love by saving a search query, making it visible to your team members, and most importantly allowing self-service subscriptions where they opt-in notifications at an interval of their choosing. Worry not, there are still plenty other more higher value-added activities not yet automated to ensure your job security!

Export Jira Issues to Google Sheet (& Excel)

Invariably, at least one person on your team will prefer to bypass the web browser while interacting with Jira. Another use case will be cranking out pivot tables or data visualizations that Jira does not natively support.

Export is one way to bring Jira data into a spreadsheet, but the data becomes stale the second you run the extract.

Jira Cloud for Sheets is a Google add-on that links up Jira and Google Sheet like a boss. The data is not live per se, but refresh is simply one click away and can even be scheduled!

As of this writing, Excel support is also available. I tried half-heartedly few times but got stuck somewhere along the logon process (not atypical of Microsoft products). Theoretically, it should work as well as Google Sheet.

Takeaways

Atlassian has made an ultra capable and versatile tool that many have learnt to dislike. Jira’s rich feature set and flexibility could feel daunting at times. The Jira tips above ought to smoothen the transition. What are your thoughts?