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Lead Your Team Managing

Atlassian JIRA: Best Agile Project Management Software

Credit: Atlassian

After conducting extensive research and analysis, we recommend JIRA as the best agile project management solution for 2017. We chose JIRA from a pool of dozens of project management solutions we considered. To understand how we selected our best picks, you can find our methodology and a comprehensive list of project management solutions on our best picks page.

JIRA, a project management solution from software company Atlassian, is primarily focused on issue tracking for software teams. However, it is a highly flexible solution that includes significant project management functions for teams of any size and in any vertical, whether it's for software or business applications.

You can host JIRA on the cloud or locally, making it a viable solution for small businesses wanting to deploy quickly, larger companies looking for an enterprise-wide solution or any organization in between. JIRA brings a comprehensive slate of project management features to the table, including a deeper "process management" template that gives project managers granular control over the entire project from start to finish.

Ready to choose a project management solution? Here's a breakdown of our complete coverage:

Editor's Note: Are you trying to choose a project management solution? Use the questionnaire below to have Software Advice provide you with information from a variety of vendors for free:

The first thing that stands out about JIRA is its wide array of available features. Even without the advanced Data Center package, JIRA provides every aspect of project management we were looking for as well as some additional functionality that comes in handy for many teams. Even the core features are highly flexible, and the additional features – beyond those we've come to expect from project management systems – were uniquely impressive.

  • Core features: Not only does JIRA include essential core features like time tracking, collaboration tools and reporting, it goes above and beyond, granting a level of customization and control to managers in nearly every aspect. Automated tools, like conditions and validators, for example, allow managers to set specific parameters that automatically determine whether a completed task should be accepted or not. Moreover, tasks and subtasks can be assigned and reassigned on the fly, updated with a due date and priority level, given descriptions, labels, etc., and you can include attachments. All of this can be changed from moment to moment.
  • Project types: JIRA includes a variety of different project templates, giving project managers greater control over the specifics of workflows, permissions and other controls. For example, a basic task-management template serves to mainly assign and track tasks by team members, while the more advanced process management template gives managers the ability to drill down into specific aspects of each project. JIRA includes templates for specific functions like lead generation, document approval and software development.
  • Roles and permissions: Roles and permissions-setting is especially detailed with JIRA. Not only can individual users, groups and roles have their permissions restricted in general, but also with respect to each task. Moreover, roles and groups can have visibility restricted, a useful feature for when external users – such as clients, partners, or freelancers – are working on your system and your team would like to protect proprietary information. Project managers and administrators level of control is, once again, focused down to the granular level.
  • "Roadmap" planning: JIRA's roadmaps, which are essentially highly responsive Gantt charts that update in real time, are a great way to schedule deadlines on both tasks and entire projects as well as forecast actual completion based on the pace your team is moving. Roadmap planning also makes the project manager's task of allocating resources effectively much easier by displaying individual team members' and groups' workloads at a glance. If one team member is bogged down and another is working on low-priority tasks, it's as simple as a few clicks to reassign work – and the assignments can be easily confirmed using JIRA's collaboration tools, such as the chat application.
  • Reporting: Reports are dynamic, thorough and customizable. JIRA offers over a dozen different reports that slice and dice data to help you examine workloads, task progress and your backlog with ease. Color-coded graphs and charts make analyzing reports a quick and simple task.
  • Integrations: JIRA is highly interoperable with third-party applications and other tools your team might already be using. With developer tool integrations, Atlassian's network of thousands of add-ons and open APIs, JIRA is able to communicate with a vast array of tools.
  • Mobile applications: JIRA features a mobile application that provides team members on-demand access to projects from anywhere, on iOS and Android platforms.

In addition to its comprehensive slate of features, JIRA boasts a highly flexible workflow that makes it a suitable solution for virtually any team and any project. This versatility was apparent in tools like scrum and Kanban boards, as well as the personal dashboard, which easily helped team members and managers collaborate on current tasks and review completed ones.

JIRA's offerings reflect its flexibility; cloud-based services, for example, are suitable for small and mid-size businesses, and offer enough plans for those companies to scale up as their business grows. For enterprise customers, JIRA offers locally hosted solutions, which can accommodate beyond 50,000 users and include access to immensely powerful tools and added services – such as Atlassian-supported disaster recovery – through the top tier Data Center plan. JIRA's ability to serve as an effective project manager for a team of less than 10 or a team of tens of thousands sets it vastly apart from other contenders for the mantle of most agile project management system.

Versatility was a pro when it came to JIRA's reporting functionalities. Not only is each individual report customizable so you can drill down into miniscule aspects of your team's performance, but the software offers a dozen different kinds of reports so you can visualize aspects, including the age of backlogged tasks, individual user workloads, newly created tasks and so on. JIRA's reporting allows users to dissect data to gain whatever insights they're after, which makes it highly effective for organizations both large and small.

Finally, despite the significant detail JIRA brings to the table, it's relatively easy to use. While there is an immense learning curve simply due to the number of tools and the depth of the program, nearly every tool operates intuitively with a few clicks or with drag and drop functionality.

The user interface is friendly and accessible, avoiding the intimidating appearance of other highly powerful project management solutions. Spending time with your team members on JIRA during the free trial and providing the resource material available on Atlassian's website should be more than enough for the average user to quickly grasp the workings of the system. This makes it adaptable to small teams that lack access totech-savvy members and large teams that don't have the time or resources to individually train each user on every detail.

Pricing for JIRA is based on number of users as well as whether you've selected cloud or local hosting. Each plan comes with access to a free trial – 7 days for cloud solutions and 30 days for locally hosted ones – which gives your team an opportunity to try out JIRA ahead of time – a useful offering, given the density of the software. All prices listed below are billed annually.

Small Teams: The cloud-hosted solution costs $100 per year for up to 10 users. Every major feature of JIRA is available at this level of service, including project and task tracking, scrum and Kanban boards, customizable workflows, developer and add-on integration, open APIs and thorough reporting. JIRA was one of the least restrictive pieces of software reviewed even at its lowest subscription level.

Growing Teams: The cloud-hosted solution offers the same features and level of service as the Small Teams package.

  • 15 users: $750 per year
  • 25 users: $1,500 per year
  • 50 users: $3,000 per year
  • 100 users: $4,500 per year
  • 500 users: $7,500 per year
  • 2,000 users: $15,000 per year

Server: Locally hosted servers include all the cloud-hosted features and levels of service, plus the added control of maintaining your own system and hardware, a free year of maintenance, and perpetual licenses for a one-time cost. Each price below represents a one-time cost for licensing and single-server deployment. Local hosting is recommended for teams with the capacity to take on the added complexity of maintaining their own servers.

  • 10 users: $10
  • 25 users: $1,800
  • 50 users: $3,300
  • 100 users: $6,000
  • 250 users: $12,000
  • 500 users: $18,000
  • 2,000 users: $24,000
  • 10,000 users: $30,000
  • 10,000+ users: $36,000

Data Center: JIRA's Data Center package gives administrators by far the most back-end control as well as the security of Atlassian-supported disaster recovery services. In addition to the APIs available in the cloud and server solutions, the Data Center includes built-in SAML2.0 support, making further integrations and communication possible. JIRA Data Center also includes "zero downtime upgrades," which allow you to upgrade your system without disrupting service. It is, however, significantly more expensive than the other solutions, making it most suitable for truly enterprise clients. Price points range from $12,000 per year for 500 users to $450,000 per year for 50,000+ users. For a full breakdown of the Data Center package, visit JIRA's pricing page.

Our customer service experience with JIRA's representatives was excellent. We never experienced a wait, and representatives were knowledgeable and friendly. We weren't ever placed on hold, all of our questions were answered to more than our satisfaction, and we never felt pushed to buy when we explained that we were early in the decision-making process.

On our second call, the representative dove into the details of each feature and explained the logistical differences between hosting on the cloud and locally. They thoroughly explained the benefits of the Data Center plan and the reasons for the disparity in cost.

We were particularly impressed with the time each representative took to explain JIRA's features, which are numerous and in depth, especially those that are highly customizable. They were patient when we asked questions about each feature or required them to reiterate, which was frequently. All in all, we came away from our discussions convinced that we had received reliable information that wasn't designed to make us more or less inclined to purchase.

The biggest limitation we encountered with JIRA was the learning curve that comes with the software. While it is relatively easy to use and highly intuitive to navigate, the software is naturally dense. Its comprehensiveness and customizability demands that users spend a lot of time familiarizing themselves with the software and consulting resource materials to understand its breadth and depth. The free trial period is highly recommended, which allows your staff and project managers to fully familiarize themselves with JIRA's vast functionality.

Editor's Note: Are you trying to choose a project management solution? Use the questionnaire below to have Software Advice provide you with information from a variety of vendors for free:

Adam C. Uzialko

Adam received his Bachelor's degree in Political Science and Journalism & Media Studies at Rutgers University. He worked for a local newspaper and freelanced for several publications after graduating college. He can be reached by email, or follow him on Twitter.