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How to get OKRs in Jira

Steps to turn OKRs into a roadmap and then into Jira

By Humphrey Fredriksz

OKRs are a great method to align with your business and stakeholders on what has priority, when it adds value and it gives your agile team focus and freedom to define the best solution. Unfortunately, OKR’s are most often written in excelsheet or powerpoint or at least not in JIRA. So, how do you transform your OKRs into JIRA and be able to track progress. This is a great way to have your team actually working on the OKRs.

You can start with the OKRs and then create a roadmap or start the other way around. Most important is that your team is involved, and you have a good understanding of the dependencies and complexity. Some teams first define their roadmap, see if dependencies can be managed and then commit to the OKRs. Below, I will describe it from the scenario where you start with OKRs.

“There are techniques like ‘magic estimations’ or ‘T-shirt size’ estimations to plan your roadmap. The scrum master can facilitate, and the product owner represents the business requirements.

1. Get the business priority

Together with your stakeholders you work on the top of the backlog and retrieve as much information as possible at this time. This way your team can add the most business value. Normally, you would start at least one month before the new quarter starts. This gives your team enough time to get the information they need to do high level estimations and define dependencies. You already try to high level place your item in some kind of roadmap. 

2. Manage dependencies

Before committing to your roadmap, it’s critical to align with other teams you are depending on. One of the key steps in the OKR alignment process is to get commitment from other teams to support your OKR, they also need to plan in, get a good understanding of the issue and working during the quarter with your team. No commitment on dependencies high probably leads to informing stakeholders that your team can’t deliver.



3. Define how much you can plan in


But how much can you do in one quarter? Planning 3 months ahead is challenging for many teams and some are even too afraid to commit. Even if you don’t know exactly what the solution is, the team should feel comfortable to estimate the size of the epics. There are techniques like ‘magic estimations’ or ‘T-shirt size’ estimations to get your answers. The scrum master can facilitate, and the product owner represents the business requirements.



4. How much can you commit to?


Next steps is to get more detailed on sprint level. Based on how much you can burn per sprint (Velocity), you can aim at planning 70-80% of your capacity for the OKRs. This is a rule of thumb, but each team needs to do this based on their learnings. If you do have many production issues, then it’s better to reservice more time for maintenance and improvements, maybe 60/40 or even 50/50 if you are expecting many adhoc requests.



5. Deal with complexity


If your team doesn’t have enough learnings because they are just getting started. It makes sense to take some time (not weeks) to look at the requirements in a bit more detail, before committing. Run a proof of concept or spike to find out the real complexity. You can do a so called sprint 0. You can address items are architecture, alignment with other teams and make sure the team has all the needed tools to actually start developing. It’s understandable that starting with a new team can bring uncertainties, the solution is the plan in more detail the steps.



6. Convert roadmap items into Jira


Once the development team has given their commitment to the OKRs, you can turn the roadmap items into epics. Where OKR’s are based on business objectives, your epics are a conversion to deliverables. Items which a scope which the development teams can break down in user stories and subtasks. It’s best if epics don’t take more than 2 sprints. You can easily create them in JIRA and add their T-shirt size and description. By using the ‘roadmap’ settings (next gen JIRA), you are able to plot the epics in time.



Read more: Why Agile Fails

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