Simplify agile, devops, and ITSM with Jira automations

Automating integrations, repeat tasks, or multistep workflows can improve productivity and data quality

Simplify agile, devops, and ITSM with Jira automations
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Late last year, Atlassian announced the acquisition of Automation, a popular plug-in to Jira Software. Until then, automations in Jira were possible by configuring workflow triggers, using marketplace plug-ins such as recurring tasks, or applying IFTTT (if this, then that) rules with tools like Zapier Jira integrations. Jira Automation puts the capability directly into the user interface and enables new types of automation. In addition to automating Jira issues and versions, Atlassian recently announced devops automations enabling developers to trigger actions based on pull requests, builds, and other devops activities.

These enhancements bring a low-code capability to agile, devops, and ITSM (IT service management) teams who want to get more work done and spend less time updating tools. Automations can help reduce multistep processes, address gaps in the workflow, make working remotely more seamless, close security holes, and connect workflows across other platforms. The devops triggers can reduce developer and tester time when code changes done in GitHub, GitLab, Bitbucket, or other tools trigger Jira Software updates. For ITSM teams using Jira Service Desk, automations can enable administrators to optimally route requests and incidents and enable meeting service-level objectives.

Implementing automations may be one way to help development teams stop hating Jira by reducing the amount of time developers spend updating the backlog. Automation can help teams increase release frequency, reduce time to resolve incidents, and improve team velocity.

Understand what you can do with Jira automation

Jira automations work like other IFTTT algorithms, except they have access to all the underlying data and workflows within Jira Software. A Jira automation trigger can be one of several types, including Jira issue types, sprints, and versions. You can design automations for when team members add or modify Jira issues, when scrum masters start or complete sprints, or when team leads create, update, or release versions. These triggers are highly useful for scrum masters, product owners, and technical leads who want to simplify the work needed to keep Jira updated with high-quality data.

Jira automation also supports triggers tied to devops events such as pull requests, builds, branches, commitments, and deployments. These events connect with Bitbucket, GitLab, and Github and update Jira issue or version status based on developer activities performed in version control.

More advanced triggers can run on a defined schedule or respond to webhooks. Teams using these two triggers can get very creative with integrating Jira workflows with other tools or automating administrative tasks on a schedule.

Once you configure the trigger, you have the option to add more filtering conditions or to branch the flow and support different sets of actions.  An action defines one step in the automation. You can modify Jira issues by assigning them, linking them to other issues, logging work, or editing another field. You can also configure notifications that alert by e-mail, Twilio, Slack, or Microsoft Teams

Once you configure the first action, you can either complete the automation or continue the flow with more filters, branches, and additional actions.

Automate request management with Jira automation

Many application support teams develop request backlogs so that stakeholders and users can submit their own application issues and requests. The basic workflow is that the end-user submits the request in Jira, and a member of the agile development team reviews it, asks questions if necessary, and adds any implementation details. The team’s agile product owner then decides whether to add this request to the team’s user story backlog and where to prioritize it with other work.

Jira has several ways to implement this process, depending on the project, issue type, workflow, or screen configuration. Regardless of the configuration, a key design consideration is how to assign the initial request to a team member for review. Before automation, managers had limited options; many left it to teams to decide who was on point to review issues.

Jira automation offers several new options. You can auto-assign issues based on issue type and other submitted data. The automation can then balance the workload across a team using Jira’s support for synchronized, round-robin, or random assignments. But that may not be good enough. What if the person assigned doesn’t respond within a designed amount of time and you need to reassign it to another person on the team? For these situations, reassignment can be scripted with a scheduled automation based on a JQL query that identifies the requests that need escalation.

One last consideration is Jira issue security. Let’s say your team supports an HR application, and requests for this application must be secured and assigned to a small group. Automating issue security is now possible by creating an issue security scheme and defining security levels and assigning teammates to security levels. You can also use one action that assigns issues to security levels and add a second action to assign the issue to someone who has the appropriate security level.

Apply automation in Jira Service Desk

Automations for Jira Service Desk targeting have different configurations than Jira Software, but they work with similar concepts, such as triggers, conditions, and actions. Jira Service Desk triggers include ones based on SLA time remaining and then use actions such as alerting users or auto-approving requests.

I spoke with Thad West, CEO of Isos Tech, an Atlassian solution provider, about applying automations in Jira Service Desk. “Automations can play an integral role in securing the data within your service desk. For example, some HR requests like, ‘Can I get access to training?’ need to be much more visible and less restrictive than say, ‘Hey, I have a complaint about a fellow employee.’ Ultimately, you want to ensure that your service desk can respect the privacy of your users. Automations are a great way to do that.”

Filtering service requests can also help auto-assign priorities and route them to the most knowledgeable people. Using automations, IT service management teams can also route issues between multiple tiers of service teams.

Connect devops operations to Jira Software

One way to increase velocity and team happiness is to reduce toil and administrative work. A developer who commits code or a teammate who completes a pull request would rather not switch to Jira to update the user story status. Similarly, devops teams want to trigger CI/CD (continuous integration/continuous development) pipelines when required, have Jira’s versions updated, and use Jira to send out notifications to stakeholders and end-users.

Teams can do all this with Jira Software’s devops automations, but they first must integrate their code repositories. The integrations supported by the automation features require connecting GitHub to Jira Cloud, Bitbucket to Jira Cloud, or using GitLab’s Jira integration.

One design consideration on devops integrations is the volume and context of triggers. If your team performs hundreds of pull requests daily, consider whether labels or other information can help filter triggers to the essential ones needed to keep teammates and the backlog updated.

Whether you focus on agile development, devops, or ITSM, automating integrations, repeat tasks, or multistep workflows can improve productivity and data quality.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.