JIRA for Marketers: How It Works and Why We Picked It
by Taryn Collins
What’s your plan for managing your enterprise content creation strategy? If it’s “attempt to keep track of everything in a spreadsheet,” you’re going to have some problems — trust me, I’ve tried!
It’s a given that large enterprise organizations produce and maintain a large library of assets, but implementing and maintaining a system to keep the process of creating and managing it can be a major challenge. About a year ago, we determined we needed to better handle our content management woes. With an expanding marketing team and an even faster growing global company, we were really struggling to maintain a system that could track all open content projects, new project requests, and project statuses that were searchable and viewable by anyone across the organization.
Before embarking on a full-fledged search for a solution, we created a list of must-have functions and features. We started by looking at our current system — a very manual process dependent on Google Docs — and noted the struggles and missing capabilities that we would need to addressed in our future solution. Some of these needs included the ability to:
- Manage items in several different asset types, including blogs, product pages, and ebooks.
- Handle requests from any source, including our product and sales teams, any individual within the global organization, or externally from partners and customers.
- Ensure that items are created on schedule and meet deadlines.
- Use automation as much as possible to reduce menial tasks and send updates regarding any item’s status automatically and on request.
- Be transparent, to ourselves and to our internal customers.
We considered many options — from third party platforms and Drupal plugins like Workbench, to even overhauling our current Google Docs-based process to see if we could make it more efficient and effective. When none of those options seemed to be exactly what we were looking for, we looked at other tools already in use at Acquia and realized that Atlassian JIRA might be a possibility. As someone entirely unfamiliar with JIRA, I was resistant at first. It seemed to me to be a tool for developers and more technical practitioners. But our internal JIRA champion gave us a walkthrough, and after much back and forth, we decided to give it a try.
Why use JIRA for content marketing project management?
For our organization, JIRA primarily made sense because every Acquia employee has access to it, and we had an internal JIRA champion who could help onboard us and customize the system to meet our needs.
(We also determined that by using JIRA in marketing, we could be more collaborative with our engineering department, since they already used JIRA on a daily basis, giving us more credibility and another avenue for collaboration with them.)
That said, at first it wasn’t easy to get our content team to adopt JIRA. As a tool that isn’t built for marketers, it felt unnatural and foreign. Some of its terminology (like issues, boards, and components) used language that wasn’t a part of our marketing team’s vocabulary, so we had to train ourselves to recognize what the terms mean in our world. For example, issues are individual projects, boards are visual collections of projects, and we used components to provide features and facts about each project. One how-to doc and a training session later, and we were up and running.
How we’re using JIRA for marketing
To get an overall sense of what we’re working on, we use a specialized board that displays information about all of the content items in progress. The board is like a matrix, with the columns and the rows providing specific, useful information.
The columns indicate where an issue is in its life cycle. Everything starts as an Open project, and then moves through Researching, Writing, Editing, Localization, Design Layout, Ready to Publish, and, ultimately, Done.
The rows on the board are called swimlanes by JIRA, and they group the projects based on when they’re due. For example, we have rows for Due in Less than 7 Days, Overdue, and Everything else.
Each of the projects are also sorted vertically in each column, with the projects due sooner being listed at the top.
For submitting new projects, users within Acquia can submit them directly through JIRA, but we’ve also created an email address that users across the organization can use to create new project requests via email, simplifying the process.
Everyone at Acquia has access to this board, and they can use it to both see what we’re working on, as well as track how their projects of interest are doing (without having to send us an email or swing by our desks — a huge improvement!)
What kind of projects can you track in JIRA?
Because JIRA is flexible and customizable, we’re using it to track all content projects, including:
- Data Sheet
- Case Study
- White Paper
- Press Release
Filters and Reporting
In addition to being able to track projects as they’re in-progress, JIRA also has extensive filtering capabilities that allow us to look at any number of things, including an individual’s workload, production times for certain project types, the number of discrete assets we create in a defined timeframe, and much more. This has helped members of our larger marketing organization on tracking and reporting on deliverables on a monthly and quarterly basis, but also helps us gain insight into where we’re spending the majority of our time, and the lead time for certain types of assets.
How we’re doing
As with any attempt to change how you do things, we’ve had our successes and failures, but I think we’re heading the right direction. Understanding that content creation has a lifecycle and tracking that transparently has enabled us to get a much greater sense of what we’re doing, and then plan accordingly.
Since we started using JIRA on the content team, our Marketing Operations team also adopted it as their main request management tool, which helps to make us even that much more aligned and successful.
JIRA isn’t my favorite tool I use, and it’s not always the favorite tool within our content marketing team either, but it doesn’t have to be. It keeps us accountable, on track, and transparent to the rest of the organization, which is exactly what we needed to achieve with our new content tracking tool. For those reasons, I’m happy we picked it, and our team will continue to use it going forwards.
The most critical tidbit you should take from this post is: you don’t have to use JIRA, but you can, and it works. What’s more important is to have a plan in place to manage your content throughout the entire production lifecycle, and using a tool like JIRA to help you with that can be so worthwhile.