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Here’s why it’s so painful using Jira as a product manager

Here's the science behind how using task-management, execution orientated tools like Jira impacts your ability to ideate, plan, and work effectively as a product manager.

Elad Simon, CEO, Craft.io

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5 mins read

As product managers (PMs), we’ve seen firsthand how inconvenient Jira can be. Jira was created with developers in mind and lacks many features that are necessary for effective product management. While it excels as an issue-tracking tool, trying to bend it to fit the demands of a product manager can be as unpleasant as it is unrewarding.

PMs require a holistic view of all moving pieces at all times, which includes strategy, prioritizing, planning, progress tracking, deployment, and more – and Jira can only ever be one tool in a PM’s toolkit. When you try to remove a screw with a hammer, you waste more than just time: the incorrect tools for the job may negatively affect capacity planning, long-term strategy, and many other aspects included within product management.

So, let’s take a look at why Jira and other task-management software might be harmful if you use them entirely to manage your product.

Why does Jira fail to fulfill the requirements of product managers?

In recent years, Atlassian has thrown out a slew of features to position Jira as an all-in-one solution for scrum masters and project managers, and product managers were dragged into the Jira vortex somewhere along the way. It was already being used effectively by developers. As PMs, you do more than review and prioritize to-do lists. You’ll need a solution that takes a macro perspective and ties development aspects into your product strategy to make sense of the noise, persuade stakeholders, and keep the train going ahead.

The Issue with Perspective

A matter of perspective
Source: https://www.everyvowel.com/evcartoon/perspective/

It’s easier said than done to devote the proper amount of time to product strategy. Respondents to the Pragmatic Institute’s 2019 Product Management and Product Marketing Survey said they spend only 27% of their time on strategic activities but believe they should spend 53% of their time on strategy. Why, however, do product managers get mired in the tactical weeds despite knowing how crucial strategy is to the process? The instruments they utilize, notably how the law of the instrument works to upend our efficacy and efficiency in equal measure, is a large part of the explanation.

Using an execution-focused tool inhibits your capacity to create a high-level, cohesive plan or strategic themes as a PM. The lack of perspective is caused by working in a tool like Jira. You’re only ever exposed to one view: sprint monitoring, reviewing issue backlogs, and bug tracking. Each of them may be necessary for you to do your work in terms of development management, but they can only give you one piece of the picture. Jira can’t assist you in collecting and reviewing customer feedback or offer you a bird’s eye view of how you’re doing with milestones. Once a ticket is closed in Jira, it simply dies and vanishes, taking with it all the valuable contextual data you could be using to inform your strategy.

Complexity from Multiple Tools

So, what happens when product managers use a solution like Jira that doesn’t fully meet their requirements? Aside from the usual hair-pulling, most people rely on various additional methods to fill in the gaps. Typically PMs choose to use old-school spreadsheets for scoring prioritization. Powerpoints for painstakingly handcrafting presentations to communicate with stakeholders or enlist a handful of external task-management tools like Trello or Asana to bridge the gap between the dev team and the rest of the workforce.

The end is you reduce your capacity to generate cohesiveness and establish the product confidence required to persuade and align stakeholders effectively. You’re not a lousy product manager, but because your attention fragments from using inappropriate or excessive tools, you become the unwitting victims of cognitive burden.

Dealing with Cognitive Load

Cognitive Load Theory
Source: https://davidrweller.medium.com/what-is-cognitive-load-theory-2dc8d16150be

We have a fixed amount of mental processing power as humans, and executing too many sophisticated activities, just like a machine, can significantly slow us down. 

According to cognitive load theory, our output and learning capacity deteriorate when we are overburdened with complexity (intrinsic cognitive load), presentation (extraneous cognitive stress), or the processing, building, and automation of mental processes (germane cognitive load).

Juggling Jira’s interface, making sense of its developer-oriented features, and trying to remember how closed issues affect your current plan all add to a product manager’s cognitive load. The consequences don’t stop there: if you can’t see the broad picture and are always focused on the small stuff, your ideation, planning, and optimization become muddled and impossible to execute. Adopting a Jira attitude, whether on purpose or by accident, eventually degrades some of the fundamental attributes required of product management: nimbleness, iteration, and the use of perspective to improve your plan.

Product Management Tools

So, what’s the answer? Extend your view. Product managers, who sit at the crossroads of software development, shouldn’t be afraid to use technical tools to assist them in accomplishing their jobs, but they should choose them more carefully. Adopting a solution intended for product managers guarantees that, as a PM, you can accommodate and streamline all elements of your day-to-day job, not just the executive branch.

Craft.io, for example, enables you to build strategy, prioritize, communicate plans, gather and analyze client feedback, coordinate development, and cycle through iterations and optimization without having to dig through a backlog cemetery. Using a tool like Craft.IO means you can manage the individual moving parts while still having fast access to the big picture, reducing the cognitive burden and allowing you to focus on creating excellent goods.

Craft.io integrates collaboration into every aspect of the platform. Discussing priorities, communicating status updates, and aligning stakeholders can be done in real-time, skipping the maze of task-management software and putting everyone on the same page.

Product managers require (and deserve) a comprehensive tool with a friendly user interface, robust connectors, and act as a system-of-record. Everyone involved in the product management process, including product owners, developers, designers, senior stakeholders, and customer success teams, must have a single point of reference and be able to readily access a single source of truth to guide their respective workstreams. 

Trying to adapt Jira to check those boxes is impractical and challenging. Jira just doesn’t cut it when it comes to simplifying processes and decreasing the cognitive burden for PMs.