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How to create a SAFe compliant structure in Jira


Posted by
Syed Shah

September 27, 2018

The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), which we’ve covered here in more depth, is a concept which many organizations are onboarding. While there are a lot of different points to consider, here we’ll focus on the challenge of having a structured view of relations within issues, which is helpful links, hierarchies and relations.

Within Jira we have the concept of links, and while they do the job of simple relations, they do not give us an overview of the entire chain. For example, if I want to see the exact initiative my story relates to, in most cases I’d either have to do a JQL search or click on the issue links to find out.

To fulfill this gap, I incorporated the Structure for Jira app by ALM Works. This app allows you to create a multitude of different structures, with automations and relations, allowing you to gain full visibility over the hierarchy, as well as tracking different aspects such as estimations and logged time.

For the use of this Structure, we have the following projects in place:

  • Project Portfolio: This project holds our initiatives, with a single issue type called “Initiative”.
  • Project Features: This project holds our features, with a single issue type called “Feature”.
  • Project Software Dev: In our scenario, this project  is where software development is performed. This has issue types such as “Epics”, “Improvements” and “Story”.
  • Initiatives, features and epics are interlinked via issue linking, with the structure set as below.

 

Once we have our data within Jira, we can start of with creating our empty structure by clicking on “Create Structure”.

 

 

We want to be able to customize our structure and create a custom layout, so we select “Empty Structure” from the templates.

We can give it a name, description, and select who we want to share this structure with.

We have a few options which allow us to import data into Structure, such as from a static JQL search,  existing structure(s), or using automation to have dynamic updates to the issues (for example, when new relevant issues are created, they are automatically added to our structure in the correct order). For this we need to click on “automation”  so that it is enabled, and from there we can use the “+” sign to add automations. The first import will contain initiatives, and for this we will use a JQL query.

We first want to click on insert and then JQL query:

 

 

This allows us to add a JQL query to incorporate all of our initiatives:

 

We can now see our initiatives have been added to the structure.

Next, we want to add our features and epics, which we can do by creating another automation rule, this time based on issue links since we want to have a mapping of relations between initiatives and features.

This time we click on “Extend with” and then “Linked Issues”.

 

We select the link type that we’re using between our initiatives, features and epics and the link direction.

 

Once we’ve applied this automation, we can now see that our features have been brought into the structure with their respective epics, as well as indented correctly so we can see exactly which feature belongs to which initiative, and equally which epics belong to which features.

 

 

Lastly we want our stories to be brought in, which we can do with automation. We click on “Extend with” again, except in this scenario we select “Stories under Epics”.

 

We can then apply the automation.

 

We can now see our full plan, with initiatives, features, epics, and stories.

 

 

 

We can also add columns, such as remaining estimates and time spent. These time columns will calculate the values accordingly.

 

 

Once we’ve added the columns we want, we can get a clear view of our structure.

 

 

While we can always view our overall structure using this method, we can also see the structure within an issue and focus on issues related to the current issue.

 

This was a simple example of how the Structure app can help with implementing SAFe within Jira. Having visibility over your entire network of issues allows users to have a clear vision of what is coming next, what is being development and completed.

We can also implement other tools such as Portfolio for Jira, to further increase efficiency around reporting and team management, as well as get an overview of releases and changes. All these tools, when incorporated correctly, allows Jira to become a powerful SAFe compliant solution.

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