What makes the best Agile Project Management Solution?

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Everyone in software engineering knows JIRA. It’s been around for over 20 years and it’s of no surprise that it attained its current reputation as the leader in this space. But, is it the best?

The answer is – it depends on how you see it. To be completely honest the most popular, market leading solution does not have to be the best solution. There are other reasons that may propel the software to be more popular. In this article, we’ll take a look at the history of Agile Project Management software, how it evolved, and what makes the best tool for the job today, in 2023.

It all began with JIRA

Technically, you may say that Microsoft’s MS Project was the first. That’s true, however, despite being used in software before Agile Methodology was introduced, it’s definitely not the solution for Today’s Agile software projects and has largely been forgotten in the software industry. JIRA is the current standard.

What makes JIRA so special? Well, in the days of the Agile boom in the early 2000s, there were lots of tools that popped up for Agile, but the dot com bubble burst and with it lots of ideas in this space. Some may remember tools like Scrum Works, XPlanner, and others which were too early for their time. JIRA on the other hand, which launched in 2002 started as a bug tracking tool. It quickly gained popularity for the simplicity and ease of use. When the need for a good Agile tool became apparent, JIRA made a brilliant decision to tweak some of its bug tracking abilities and all of a sudden became an Agile tracker.

It wasn’t a blistering solution with tons of functionality, but enough to beat any process of handling development in Excel ( and bug tracking, since both are common pain points in software engineering ).
JIRA has grown tremendously by many means, but the biggest is through acquisitions. It snagged Trello as a simple Scrum Board back in 2017. It acquired Agile Craft in 2019 to make it into Atlassian’s JIRA Align product. And many, many, more.

With over 65,000 companies as customers, JIRA is a monster. But one thing for sure, it’s definitely not the best software for the Agile Space – it’s just the most popular. Just type “Hate JIRA” in Google and you’ll find plenty of comments from regular users to experts in Agile and Scrum to have quite a few complaints about the product, which is known to solve as many problems in Agile Management as it introduces in Agile anti-patterns and is constantly criticized for its complexity, slowness, and poor user experience.

The Competition

JIRA obviously is not the only solution on the market. There have been many. Lots disappeared by being solutions that were too complicated to use. Some are still around. Others like Clickup, Asana, Monday, and others keep nibbling at JIRA but barely make the impact. Why?

Clickup, Asana, Monday and others are valued billions of dollars, however, most of their business is made going after Agile in many disciplines outside of Software Development and selling their products to lots of small teams. They were unable to penetrate the Software space significantly enough primarily because they just became a copy of JIRA with a slightly improved interface, but largely with the same functionality.

All of these tools have the Scrum Boards with swim lanes, backlog management, sprints, epics, and other basic functionality. However, there isn’t anything novel about these solutions as compared to JIRA. The buyers just have to make a choice – whether to go with something considered standard that everyone knows, or experiment with something new, maybe even cheaper but something not generally used by software developers.

It’s not uncommon to find comical scenarios where companies in software development buy a lot of different tools “a la carte” – JIRA, Asana, Monday, Wrike – providing a different solution for different parts of the organization.

The Point of Inflection

Despite the seemingly competitive space in the Agile Development tooling, few have been built specifically for software development. All are very similar, almost identical solutions which became too large to retain the ability to innovate while there has been a continuous evolution in how software engineering teams operate. We now have lots more remote teams due to COVID crisis, modern instantaneous CI/CD and DevOps delivery to Production, and Product Management discipline that changed from focusing on outputs to produce better outcomes, and many many more. This brings not only the opportunity to revisit how teams build software, but also fix the anti-patterns caused by lack of adequate solutions that plague the development teams from their ability to be their very best.

What can be improved? Well, Agile projects are still at 64% success rate with only 18% of large and 31 % of medium Agile projects succeeding. This number is very low, despite the benefits of Agile Methodology which shows a 1.5 times success rate increase over waterfall. This means that teams need solutions ideal for multi-team environments. Solutions that support specific multi-team layouts such as Component Teams vs Feature Teams as well as Multi-Project Teams that perform work for multiple projects at the same time. Therefore scaling Agile Teams and supporting organizational scalability is the next priority.

The ability to maintain one backlog across multiple teams is a consistent struggle, as well as the ability to bring in product road mapping into the planning aspects. Ability to understand where the team, product, or project is currently along their execution path towards the goal, analytics to help assess areas of self-improvement and many, many, more.

The reality is that today, more than ever, development teams need the right tooling to help them get the job done.

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“ The leader in this space to date has been JIRA. After 20 years, if your team is still using JIRA, you should seriously reconsider and sign up for Project Simple. ”

Mark MitchellVP of Engineering, MedSurvey

Works like a GPS of Software Delivery! Be always "in the know"