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Building a Wallboard in JIRA

What is a Wallboard?

A wallboard is a type of information radiator that displays information about the progress of the development team. Traditionally these would comprise a physical board, with sticky notes, printed charts, etc. But with JIRA, we can create a Wallboard that can be easily edited and will update automatically.

What is an information radiator?

An information radiator is a large, easy to see, display of data that is accessible to everyone. It provides people with the data they need, without having to ask questions and so improves communication without requiring interruptions. A good information radiator:

  • Is large and easily visible to the casual observer
  • Is understood at a glance
  • Updates periodically
  • Is easily kept up to date

Creating a Wallboard in JIRA

First create a Dashboard

JIRA allows you to create wallboards that look great on large screens, have easy to read Gadgets and update automatically.

  1. First you need to create a Dashboard that will hold the Gadgets and display the data that you want. The dashboard is what you see when you first login to JIRA. You can’t edit the default dashboard, but you can create a new dashboard based on it, or create one from scratch.
    1. From the top right of your Dashboard, click on the three dots 
    2. From the dropdown menu, click on Create dashboard to create a blank dashboard, or Copy dashboard to create a copy of the current dashboard.
    3. Fill in the details as appropriate – you can choose who this dashboard should be shared with e.g. a group, project, any logged in user or public. Click Create.
    4. By default the dashboard is created with two columns, but you can change this by clicking on the Edit layout button in the top right.
    5. We’ll stick with the default two columns.
  2. Next we’ll add Gadgets to our dashboard that will display the data.
    1. You can either click the Add gadget button in the top right of the page, or click on Add a new gadget in the relevant box.
    2. You’ll then be presented with the list of available gadgets.
    3. You can add any Gadgets that you like to your Dashboard, but those in the Wallboard category have been optimised for display on a Wallboard.
    4. When you add a Gadget, you’ll be shown some configuration options. These will vary depending on the type of Gadget.
Which Gadgets should I add?

To create an effective wallboard, I like to add the following Gadgets:

  • Days Remaining in Sprint – simply shows the number of working days left in the current Sprint (or another Sprint that you select).
  • Agile Wallboard – shows your Scrum board.
  • Sprint Burndown – shows the burndown chart for your current (or selected) Sprint.
  • Sprint Health – shows your overall Sprint progress based on the time elapsed, work completed and work remaining.

Once you’ve added the required Gadgets, your Dashboard will look something like this. You can drag and drop Gadgets to rearrange them.

 

Gadget colours

Note how the gadgets each have a header with a colour – currently blue. Gadgets in the same column and with the same colour will only display one at a time, but will rotate out every few seconds. If you want to display all the gadgets in a column at the same time, edit their colours.

Viewing as a Wallboard

Once you’ve created your Dashboard, simply click on the three dots in the top right again and select View as Wallboard. The data on your Wallboard will automatically update based on the settings you chose.

 

The Scrum Master should elicit feedback from the team to determine if the Wallboard is displaying the required information. If not, it can be adapted to meet their requirements and using JIRA this is easy to do.

JIRA vs physical Scrum board

There is often discussion in the Scrum community over whether a physical or electronic (e.g. JIRA) task board is better. In reality they both have advantages and which you prefer will depend on your team. Below I look at some of the advantages of each.

JIRA

Automatically create reports and charts

One of the main advantages of JIRA is that it automatically creates reports for you so you don’t have to collect the data manually. When using a physical board and you want to create a Burn Down Chart, you have to know when a task has been Done and record its story points. You also have to bear in mind how your chart will be updated and displayed – if you’re using a paper chart, you’ll need to print a new one every day.
With an electronic board, the charts are updated instantly and you can adjust their parameters to easily see the data you want.

 

Add comments/attachments to a task

Physical task cards/sticky notes don’t have any space for additional comments, documents or images, so these must be stored in another way. An electronic board can show/hide information as required and adapt its display to show this information. This can make it easier to convey ideas to other team members, or to show a bug in action.

 

Easily filter tasks

By default, JIRA has two filters set up that allow you to show only issues assigned to your, or recently updated issues. But you can easily create custom filters to display only the issues that you want. You can do this using the JIRA Query Language (JQL). This is especially useful when you have a large number of tasks on the board and you only want to show certain ones – doing this on a physical board would be much more difficult.

filters

 

Easily create a Wallboard to radiate information

You can easily create a Wallboard in JIRA that will act as an information radiator. Of course you could also do this with a physical wallboard, but using an electronic board means that the information is automatically refreshed so it’s always up to date.

 

Better for distributed teams

One of the largest advantages of JIRA is that it allows distributed teams to easily see an up to date, synchronised board without the need for the Scrum Master to coordinate updating each teams Scrum board.

 

 

Physical

More sense of accomplishment when moving a card

Developers often get more enjoyment from moving a piece of card on a board than from dragging and dropping in an online system. Perhaps it’s because it allows them to step away from the computer for a while or just because of the tactile action it involves.

 

More visible to those outside of the teamvisible

A physical board is immediately accessible by anyone who visits the location it’s kept. They don’t need to know an URL, or login to a system in order to view the status of the Sprint. An electronic board can mitigate these issues by utilising a wallboard that doesn’t require a login and can be displayed in the same way a physical board would.

 

 

Simpler interface

The interface of a physical board is often kept quite simple. This may be partly due to the fact that there simply isn’t space to include comments, labels, etc, like you can on JIRA. But how many of JIRA’s issue properties do you actually use and how many add unnecessary complexity?

 

Conclusion

One of the arguments against electronic board such as JIRA, are that they don’t get updated, possibly because they’re not as accessible as a physical board. But an electronic board can still be made as accessible as a physical board. Simply display the board on a large screen/projector, in the same location you’d have your physical board. If you’re able to utilise a touch screen, team members can physically drag and drop tasks, similar to what they’d do on a physical board.

But at the end of the day the correct approach is to do what works best for your team. Use the empirical approach of Scrum to try new things – perhaps for the next Sprint you can try using a physical board and see how it works. Or if you’re already doing that, give JIRA or one of the alternatives a try.