What you should know before choosing JIRA

At my current work place, 2 years ago, we needed an application to track the bugs, features and other todo items for several of our projects. We chose JIRA for various reasons:

  • Large feature set
  • Pretty good end user interface
  • Proven stability and reliability
  • Supported by a solid company (Atlassian)

After 2 years of active use and scaling up both in terms of users and supported projects, JIRA does a pretty good job, however, there is one aspect that is such a pain that we would reconsider our choice if we had to do it again. If you are in the evaluation process and considering JIRA, you should definitely know about this…

During these 2 years of use, we found some shortcomings, like:

Key Resolution Summary Created Votes
JRA-3821 Unresolved Priorities per Project and Resolutions per Issue Type 27/May/2004 1948
JRA-1369 Unresolved Reduce JIRA email chatiness 25/Feb/2003 685
JRA-1991 Unresolved Custom fields for Projects 10/Jul/2003 443
JRA-3406 Unresolved Threaded Comments 16/Mar/2004 404
JRA-5006 Unresolved Allow users to watch a project 21/Oct/2004 232
JRA-5493 Unresolved Ability to add watchers during issue creation 14/Dec/2004 564
JRA-6798 Unresolved Allow admins to translate items configurable in the administration section 26/May/2005 265
JRA-8943 Unresolved WYSIWYG / Rich Text Editor 05/Jan/2006 390
JRA-14543 Unresolved Better support for reply emails from Outlook by mailhandlers 28/Feb/2008 122
JRA-22640 Unresolved Filter by fix version release date 29/Oct/2010 162
JRA-24907 Unresolved labels should be case insensitive 24/Jun/2011 420
JRA-28444 Fixed “Add a comment from a non quoted email body” does not set the Strip Quotes to be TRUE 31/May/2012 16
JRA-29069 Unresolved /rest/api/latest/user/search api doesn’t return all values if username is not specified 24/Jul/2012 47
JRA-29149 Won’t Fix Filter out inactive users in the Users list 30/Jul/2012 264
JRA-34423 Unresolved Add the ability to update issues via REST without sending notifications 21/Aug/2013 108
JRA-35449 Unresolved Translation of Custom Field Description 22/Oct/2013 39

At first, we found it great that Atlassian gives us a chance to be able to give feedback, and voted for the existing tickets. Since the number of votes was pretty high, we expected those issues to be addressed quickly. However, after a while, we realized that this is not going to happen. The only updates were pure PR. From my perspective, their updates can be summarized by: “We don’t plan to fix this in a timely fashion, so just deal with it. But please continue to provide feedback that we will kindly ignore”.

If you read the comments of these tickets, you will realize that we are not the only ones frustrated by this situation. Have a look at JRA-1369, JRA-24907 and JRA-14543.

Digging a bit deeper, a pattern emerges: there is a bunch of very old tickets with lots of votes. I think that the 2 following diagrams are showing well how bad the situation is:

2016-01-05 09_53_55-jira-all-tickets.xlsx - Excel

How to read this: the ticket JRA-3821 is almost 12 years old and has gathered 1900 votes (!) since its creation. The request is clearly legitimate, and you would actually even assume that this has always been covered by JIRA. All 1948 voters probably assumed so. Yet, the latest comment from Atlassian is:

Thank you to everyone who has voted or commented on this suggestion. […] Unfortunately, we are not planning on addressing this in the foreseeable future.

Which I personally interpret as:

Dear 1948 customers,  we have absolutely no interest in you or your needs. Deal with it.”

Another diagram showing a bigger picture:

2016-01-05 09_53_32-jira-all-tickets.xlsx - Excel

How to read this: the tickets that are 11 years old have gathered 11000 votes in total since their creation.

From this diagram, it’s clear that Atlassian has accumulated a huge backlog that they fail to process. So the bottom line for you if you consider using JIRA:

  • You should go through the tickets with the most votes and find out if you can live with them never being fixed (or evaluate potential 3rd party plugins)
  • If you find new shortcomings, you should not count on Atlassian to fix them in a timely fashion, however reasonable or obvious they sound, and despite the significant yearly support fees

 

16. Feb. 2016: compare this with how Jetbrains do it with Youtrack…

17. May 2016: here are some alternatives to JIRA:

  • Assembla
  • Axosoft
  • BugZilla
  • Gemini
  • Jixee
  • YouTrack

 

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12 Responses to What you should know before choosing JIRA

  1. JIRA Admin for 5 Years. says:

    It promises so much in what could so easily become the industry standard. However, the lack of bigger picture thought by the people steering the development will prevent Atlassian from making JIRA the industry product.
    I too have become very disillusioned by Atlassians appalling attitude to customer requirements. Whilst I won’t actively discourage its use, I will spend time highlighting the poor response to feedback and the limitations it causes in general. This will cause potential customers to look at other options, and so they should!

  2. Sergiy Lizenko says:

    Great analysis!
    Problem with 3rd party plugins that Atlassian quite often proposes as a workaround – useful plugins are not free, so using 5-10 3rd party plugins usually increase the cost 1.5-2 times.
    We cannot afford it.

  3. gnustavo says:

    Great post!

    I’m administering JIRA since 2008 and my main instance has 1.000+ users and 500K+ issues.

    I too take issue with the way Atlassian handles requests for improvements. Some seem to be so easy to implement and have so many votes that it’s difficult to understand why they let them linger on.

    You can see my list of current pet peeves here: https://goo.gl/I1y5Yv

  4. exJIRA Users says:

    Excellent analysis!

    If you really want the issues to be resolved hit them where it hurts. The pocket book. Expand your search a little bit more into other JIRA products and you’ll see that it takes anger and losing customers for them to react. See: https://jira.atlassian.com/browse/GHS-8776

    It’s really too bad Atlassian has become this way. Issues like label case sensitivity are 1 dev day fixes that have huge customer values. Their product prioritization is broken. It is a clear indication that the company failed to scale with growth.

  5. ocroquette2 says:

    Thank you all for your comments.

    @Sergiy one of my colleague actually thinks some of the tickets are not processed by Atlassian to keep the plugin developers in business.

  6. ocroquette2 says:

    It’s interesting to compare the situation with Jetbrains… http://blog.jetbrains.com/youtrack/2016/01/10-most-wanted-features-in-youtrack

  7. Thanks for the article. Well written! I started to do a little research myself – but rather into Atlassian’s cash-money-stock state and came across the following blah-blah-money-quarterly-numbers-nosebleed-feelingsick-now-please-stop type article: http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2016/02/05/why-atlassian-corporation-plc-stock-plunged-today.aspx

    Interesting money quote from the co-CEO dude:

    “We continue to leverage our highly automated distribution model to make deep investments in product development,” Farquhar went on, “which most notably resulted in the launch of three purpose-built versions of JIRA that takes our flagship product into new markets. With products that support every aspect of team collaboration, we’re well positioned to reach the Fortune 500,000 with the tools needed to create a more open and productive way to work.”

    Deep investments? Deep investments in “… not planning on addressing this in the foreseeable future.”

    • ocroquette2 says:

      Thanks for your comment and the link.

      The phrase “With products that support every aspect of team collaboration” makes me sick, seeing how customer feedback is repeatedly ignored. Atlassian is obviously focusing on getting more captured users instead of supporting their current user base.

  8. Two obvious fails here.

    1/ watchers and voters rarely unvote, unwatch, so just because something was once an issue, doesn’t mean it still is

    2/ users want something that fixes their particular use scenario, but often it compromises the wider product use case. If someone wanted onboard coffee facilities in jira and coffee heads voted, Doesn’t mean they should do it..

    I have used jira, mantis, TFS and numerous other products, JIRA blows all the others out the water, out the box it works great, but it’s ability to be tweaked and adapted with plugins and huge configuration options make it the defacto standard. It’s development life cycle tracking when hooked up with confluence stash and bamboo is Very VERY powerful indeed. TFS doesnt even come close, and costs 6x the price….

    • ocroquette2 says:

      Hi Mark,
      the obvious fail that I see is yours to read. Read what all those JIRA users and admins are asking for with their votes, and read what this post is about. Go through the tickets and spend the time to understand them. They are no corner cases or esoteric requests, but shortcomings that affect the usability and availability of JIRA to a great extent. No offense, but your comparison with requesting “onboard coffee facilities” is just stupid.
      And of course these issues are still actual, otherwise Atlassian would have closed the tickets, and people would not vote for them anymore.
      Read the post again, the point is not that JIRA is better or worse than other products, but that there are shortcomings that affect hundreds of customers for years, and that Atlassian just won’t fix. On this aspect, other vendors clearly do a better job.

  9. Matt Doar says:

    Most companies don’t let you see their lists of bugs and feature requests, so you don’t know how long a bug has been known about. Most companies that I’ve worked with have problems they have known about for years. Atlassian isn’t unusual in that – you just get to see their details.

    Atlassian are clear about the process they use to choose what to work on. And while I am sometimes frustrated by the choices made, I understand they have limited resources on a large body of old(ish) code.

    For a balance of total cost, what the product can do and extensibility, I haven’t found a better choice than JIRA yet. For a general issue tracker at least

    I do not speak for my employer, ServiceRocket, who is an Atlassian Partner.

    • ocroquette2 says:

      I agree that Atlassian is a role model as far as transparency is concerned, but this is not what my post is about. It’s about them ignoring since 5+ years the requests of their paying customer about limitations or issues that create real, repeated pain, and for many, don’t seem that hard to fix. Other companies do a much better job as far as this aspect is concerned. That’s all I am saying.

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