Using Jira as a Product Manager

As a product manager, the ups and downs of using Jira are known to you: creating backlog items over and over again, ranking items, fighting with development over scope definitions and managing an excessive number of items and their dependencies are the unfortunate reality in the work of contemporary software product owners. While most of this makes sense, we want to introduce an improvement for product managers using Jira. 

This article introduces the 50 shades of responsibilities of product managers, shortly introduces Jira and shows, how product managers can connect the customer perspective with a backlog managed in Jira . 

Jira is made for developers, SCRUM masters and development teams. It is the industry standard tool for issue tracking, development backlog management, backlog linking and progress traceability. Development teams use Jira to organize their backlog, define development sprints, manage dependencies between various development items and keep development progress traceable. Usually, a team product owner defines and ranks backlog items. Sometimes, other stakeholders contribute to backlog item definition: non-development roles can post requirements to a team and also team-internal roles can contribute backlog items for team-internal needs like technical refactoring or re-design. The various members of a development team (developers and related roles) use Jira to "pull" their work items. This can be completely independent of other developers or in line with traditional focus areas of team members. The SCRUM master manages work in the team and uses Jira to track and sometimes assign items to team members. Jira is used by development teams to organize and manage their development items.

Jira can manage, track and relate the following items:

  • development backlog items 
  • tasks and sub-tasks 
  • epics (e.g. user stories)
  • issues/bugs
  • changes and activities that need to be executed to support a backlog

Usually, product managers have particular interest in epics and development backlog items.

Product Managers are responsible for aligning customer and company needs with the capabilities of a product. This includes roll-in of new product requirements, roll-out of new product features, managing requirements of customers and company stakeholders and aligning them with the product packlog. Usually, product managers own the product backlog and its alignment with company strategy and development backlog. 

In many organizations there is an overlap between the role of Product Manger vs. Project Manager, especially in organisations with a lack of separation between long term product/program management and development project management. Sometings product managers run operational tasks in project management, sometimes project managers act as product managers.   

  • Project managers are responsible for running in time, scope, budget, and possibly other operational KPIs.
  • Product managers are responsible for aligning customer success, user engagement, sales, product growh and company strategy.

Likewise, there is significant overlap between the roles of Product Manager vs. Product Owner. By definition, depending on the industry and circumstances, both roles fulfill similar goals and tasks. Often, their work cannot be distinguished.

  • Product Managers tend to be not responsible for actually running product growth, often limiting their work to roll-in, roll-out and customer management.
  • Product Owners tend to take full responsibility for running product growth, owning progress of the product. While loaded with the full responsibility of taking product decissions, the before mentioned product management tasks may be outsorced to product manager roles supporting the owner. 

Many flavors of product manager roles are existing, depending on the size and industry context of an organization the following specialized types of product managers exist.

  • Senior Product Manager
    A Senior Product Manager is responsible keeping it all together in a large organization with distributed roles and tasks of product management. He or she owns the long-term product strategy and business context, connects market analysis with sales with pricing with customer success, and also aligns with large client engangements.

  • Technical Product Manager
    The Technical Product Manager is responsible for the technology of the product. He or she monitors technical innovation in the market and technological progress of the competition.

  • Product Marketing Manager
    A Product Marketing Manager keeps an eye on the marketing plan, manages inbound/outbound market communication with SEM, SEO, social media and copywriting and owns the product's marketing plan and budget. 

  • Development Team Product Owner
    The Team Product Owner works with the development team and is responsible for rolling requirements into the development execution process and, likewise, for delivering. He or she is the link between development and product management, acting with complete ownership on the development. 

While Jira is the go-to standard tool for development activities, it may be supplemented with other tools, most notably sheets or slide decks. Working in Jira makes perfect sense when interacting with development teams and actually dealing with development backlog, sprint planning, release planning or issue tracking. 

In contrast, product managers are working with a zoo of tools. There is no de-facto industry standard tool for product managers. Often, the needs and traditions of departments dictate the tool choice and product managers are burdened with the task of keeping data synced between various tools.

Product managers use Jira when engaging and interacting with development teams. To PMs, Jira is the link with development planning and execution. While not owning the use of Jira, it is known to most product managers in the software industry because they interact with it on a frequent basis. The release scope, sprint scope, priorities and dependencies of various development items are visible and managed in Jira. Most often, it is the task of product managers to rank items or to provide additional content info so development items are described in detail and can be built. While team product owners and technical product owners tend to work a lot with Jira, senior/chief product owners will most likely only provide a few priorities and rankings to development backlog. Jira is a tool made for and owned by development activities.

In particular, while development backlog usually lives in Jira, customer feedback is usually collected in sheets or similar tools. Product owners sync customer priorities manually into Jira. To avoid such manual data transfer, which is error prone and repetitive, we at Productific plan to provide a customer feature voting integration with Jira. While the development team uses Jira to manage their development backlog, while the major product roadmap items are also present in Jira to support backlog management, a real feature voting perspective for customers is not included in standard Jira. A Jira integration with Productific will provide a direct link betwee customer priorities and backlog ranking.

Feature voting for Jira 

Productific is a tool for feature voting, to prioritize a product backlog in line with customer needs. To connect feature voting with the power of Jira we plan to integrate Productific with Jira. To receive news about Productific's Jira integration, please subscribe to the feedback item on our own product roadmap