JIRA software, developed by Atlassian, is a widely recognized tool used for software development teams for bug tracking, issue tracking, and project management. According to the 6sense article, JIRA has a whooping 86% market share in its category, which is super interesting. To me, it raises many questions about key elements of JIRA’s success. Software is quickly becoming a very important element of modern product development and I can see how some engineering and manufacturing teams, especially those developing high-tech oriented products with large numbers of electronic components and software trying to apply JIRA to play a role in the product development process management, a place that traditionally was taken by PDM/PLM software category.
It made me think about two things – (1) what elements of Atlassian and JIRA development can be transferred and repeated to build a successful PLM software for the modern product development process and (2) how to apply the success of JIRA to PLM development?
The JIRA Phenomenon
The main functions of JIRA are bug tracking, task, and project management. While project management is not a unique category, I think, actually “agile” and a combination of scrum and kanban (aka scrumban) brought such a high level of success to JIRA. Simplicity is always key, therefore the organization of the system providing an easy way to manage “tickets” and apply them to virtually any project was a foundation of JIRA’s success.
In my view, the core elements of JIRA’s success lay in a very simple information model that can be extended and tweaked to support multiple types of project work without changing the main principles of agile development and process organization in sprints, epics, and higher-level products.
I have never been a big fan of JIRA user experience, but at the same time, I have to admit its simplicity and extensibility. The most important element was a few UX models implemented by JIRA around task management and the extensibility of this user experience for different project tasks. The ease of connectivity between the UX and the data model was a big deal.
Another element of JIRA’s success was customization. The ability to tailor the data model and user interface around it provided a strong foundation to apply JIRA to many processes. Software engineers always have something special and so far, JIRA was able to deliver the desired level of customization.
The ability to extend JIRA with additional third-party plug-ins made it really strong and allows to software engineering and many software providers to extend JIRA and provide custom features and functions. By itself, it is a very strong element for a system that is playing a role in the integration factor between teams and other software. The plug-in ecosystem is key to JIRA’s success.
JIRA helps teams to work together and share tickets, project information, and tasks. No project can be done by a single person, therefore collaboration between people is key. JIRA promotes team cohesion and the way it does it can be used by PLM too.
It is very interesting to see how JIRA scales. Technically, it allows to scale from a very small organization to a large enterprise. This is something PLM software was failing to do for an entire history.
Feedback Loops and Continues Improvement
An interesting and important aspect of modern software is supported, the ability of vendors to communicate with customers, and be able to continuously improve the product.
From start to finish
JIRA has the ability to support the project lifecycle from the beginning to the completion. You can think about comprehensive software product development lifecycle management. Although PLM was always about end-to-end lifecycle, in practice PLM software was always responsible for a specific “step” like design or planning, or maintenance of a product. Learning how to provide full lifecycle management is an important element of success.
How JIRA is dedicated to supporting a community of users is another example of PLM software to success. Modern products cannot exist without community and PLM vendors can adopt such methods too.
Agile and Beyond
The cornerstone of JIRA was to support agile development methods. For the last 2 decades, Agile became a leading methodology in software development. Manufacturing companies are adopting agile development and agile lessons can be important.
Pricing and accessibility
JIRA provides an interesting subscription plan and also multiple hosting options to support this scale. This is something PLM vendors can learn too because PLM failed to support small organizations and large enterprises using the same product.
What is my conclusion?
Manufacturing companies are transforming. Digital methods of work are becoming important and for many companies, it is a matter of survival in the modern digital world. How to support product lifecycle management and supply chain management, help companies to develop products faster, and mitigate risks during product development? Most product lifecycle management (PLM) and product data management (PDM) systems these days are represented by products and technologies developed 20+ years ago. Most product data management (PDM) is attached to old desktop computer-aided design (CAD) systems and cannot support modern product lifecycle and production processes. At the same time product lifecycle is different these days.
Products are becoming more complex including mechanical, electronics, and software. The development cycles are shorter and customer feedback is extremely important to support the product’s lifecycle. Adopting agile new product development methods is one of the strongest trends I can see in product development. Here are a few examples of how modern software can support agile product development (Autodesk, Onshape, OpenBOM, and many others). To get a competitive advantage, manufacturing companies need to have modern systems focusing on data quality and streamlining processes across organizations.
Here is my short description of JIRA’s success – simple information model (tickets, epics, projects), agile development (sprints), flexibility, and community. How PLM vendors can still JIRA experience and apply it to future PLM platforms? Bad artists copy, but great artists still. This is a call to all PLM software developers.
Just my thoughts…
Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of OpenBOM developing a digital thread platform including PDM/PLM and ERP capabilities that manages product data and connects manufacturers, construction companies, and their supply chain networks. My opinion can be unintentionally biased.