Friday, 27 January 2017

Why should charities use Jira and Confluence to get things done?

I recently spoke at an Open Charity meetup event in London about how charities can save thousands, reduce waste and create awesome digital products using tools made by a company called Atlassian. Here are some of the main takeaways from that presentation. Powerpoint slidedeck can be downloaded here

What are JIRA and Confluence?


Jira is used to track tasks and issues for your project and helps you deliver more work, faster. It is popular with software teams but is by no means limited to them. A team using Jira can easily track many types of work, from simple tasks to bugs and user stories common to agile teams. We use multiple management styles at Cancer Research UK, and Jira is well-suited to many situations. The main benefit of Jira over good old white board and post-its is its reporting capability: all the work your team has ever done is kept in Jira so you can set up powerful dashboards and reports which empower managers to better forecast future delivery.

A Cancer Research UK JIRA board


Confluence is essentially a wiki for your organisation. it is a great tool for team collaboration and document management. Have you ever spent half an hour searching for that really important information buried somewhere in your email inbox? Confluence allows your teams to have 'one source of truth' for collaborative documents and meeting notes. Powerful macros allow you to dynamically display content to keep landing pages fresh. If integrated with Jira, you can dynamically link to lists of work items and dashboard widgets (See 'examples of good user stories' Jira widget below).

Examples of some user stories at Cancer Research UK. The columns are key, summary, team, created and updated.

Why should I care?

If you are a registered charity and you have the capability to install and configure these programs in-house, they are completely free for you. This would include many add-ons which normally cost thousands.
These tools allow teams to be on the same page with high visibility and transparency of their work (see project dashboard below). They are highly configurable such that they can scale from a tiny startup to a massive enterprise-grade company. Dynamic reporting tools and dashboards eliminate what might otherwise be manual effort. 
A JIRA dashboard

What about other tools?

At Cancer Research UK, we use a combination of tools for Digital delivery.  We want delivery teams to be free to choose the tool that is right for them. There are competing products but lately we've found Slack, Trello, JIRA and Confluence to be the most useful. But it is a crowded field. Competing in this space are Sharepoint, Yammer, Skype, Hipchat, VersionOneMS Office and Google Drive to name but a few. For a charity which needs to watch their budget, I recommend Trello, the Atlassian tools, Slack and Google Drive.  Pivotal Tracker is also worth a mention, as they have a significant free plan for non-profits.


Whether you’re a charity of 5 people or 500, the tools described here will help you deliver high quality work, quicker, across multiple projects varying in degree of complexity. See below for further reading and video tutorials. 

Open Charity Meetup

Open Charity is a public meetup based in London. For several years it was a rag tag group of charities and their partners meeting privately, but as of late 2016, their public events feature guest speakers, lightning talks and networking. Their focus is on bringing charities and partners together to collaborate and share open solutions to create value in the digital space. If you are interested in sponsoring, speaking or providing a venue, please get in touch via one of these channels. 

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