Managing large IT projects such as SAP S4/HANA implementation or upgrade, requires controlling a lot of items, their statuses, people responsible, budgets, and deadlines. The critical role plays the methodology (such as Activate) outlining the project delivery process supported by the progress reporting, which helps to control this process. This methodology and reporting can be very well enabled by Jira Software.
Jira Software used as Project Management Information System (PMIS)
The success of Jira comes from its flexibility. I guess you already know that Jira after install does not have too many processes which are ready to use. Actually, I cannot think of a single example when a customer used some Jira configuration without any changes to it. The fact is that if you want to use this software for some more customized purposes, such as managing large IT projects delivery, you need to configure it to suit your needs.
Reporting app - Custom Charts
A very good thing about Jira is that its core functionality can be extended with so-called Apps (previously called Plugins). There are many Jira Apps for various purposes and a few of them are used to visualize data stored in Jira - reporting. Some reporting functionality is available in Jira ‘out-of-the-box’ but it is very basic (if not rudimentary). That is why for more advanced reporting you need an App which will extend Jira's functionality in this direction.
My favorite Jira App for reporting is Custom Charts, which is available for Jira Server/DC and Cloud. In this article, I will show you a few tips on how you can use this tool to build a Solution Readiness Dashboard for implementing SAP S/4HANA.
Status reporting in SAP projects
I do not want to go into too much detail here about managing SAP projects. However, for the purpose of this article, you should know that:
- such large projects are normally organized into Phases (or Stages). During each of these stages a delivery team, which is organized into Workstreams, delivers various project products - tangible results, which can be tested and handed over to a client
- there is a limited period of time and resources available to deliver a certain amount of project products
- there are hundreds of these products and each of them needs to be kept under control. Jira, with its workflows and flexibility, can be adapted to be used to manage and control the status of every project product delivery.
To visualize the delivery status of project products in an aggregated way, as a Project Manager you need a Reporting Dashboard. In SAP Projects, such dashboards are sometimes called SAP Solution Delivery Dashboard.
Status report elements
The dashboard that I am presenting in this article is just an example to showcase some of the capabilities of the Custom charts and some other Jira functionalities.
General overview gadget
Each status report which is presented to higher management needs to have some sort of executive overview.
This needs to be brief and concise, especially when you create a weekly status report. For this purpose, I used a text gadget, which is disabled by default. You can read in this article how to enable this gadget. However, please note that this solution is not recommended if your Jira server is available from the Internet. This is described in the aforementioned article too.
The tile chart
With this type of chart, you can show a summary of issues, story points or budget spent in a form of tiles with rounded edges.
Just like with any other functionality for visualization, you can easily get carried away and overcomplicate your chart. You need to be critical and follow the rule ‘less is more’.
My advice - do not put charts like the one above as this will not help the reader to understand your project’s status.
2D line chart
No matter what reporting tool you use, it is always a challenge to select data and chart type to answer a question your management has. If you have a lot of data that you want to compare and squeeze into one chart, a 2D line chart can be a good choice.
In this example, I wanted to show the main project product groups and their statuses comparison across all streams. In this way I know if some streams are not lagging behind compared to the Phase elapsed time.
Classic bar charts
In a reporting application classic bar charts could not be missing.
There are quite a few interesting functionalities here but I would like to mention my favorite only:
(1) you do not have to worry about the series names. I used the Components functionality in Jira to assign each project product to a specific Workstream. But in reporting, I can rename Jira elements like 'Components' to 'Workstreams'
2) you can combine a few series and display them together - this a great functionality to have
Numbers bar charts
Sometimes you need to simply display a series of numbers in the most simplistic way possible so it is legible for your project stakeholders. Custom charts have two formats for you - 1D Table and 2D Table.
What is missing in Custom Charts?
I cannot say that there is something urgent needed for me now in the Custom Charts now.
However, to make the Status Reporting informative I also need to display the status of some key products as a simple table with filter results and statuses. The generic colors offered by Jira do not fit into how I want my report to look like. If something, for example, a Milestone, is at risk, I want to be able to show it in Red. For this purpose, I am using some less know functionality in another plugin for Jira.
Before you go...
There are other alternatives on Atlassian Marketplace which will show up if you type Reporting.
In my opinion, a massive advantage of Custom Charts is its intuitive interface. It truly is an 'easy' reporting app for everyone. To use this app you do not need to even read their user manual because you will learn the basics yourself just by experimenting (of course you need to know the JQL basics).
Later, when you want to find out more advanced features and best ways of using them, I would suggest reviewing the documentation.