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May 22

Which tools make up the perfect Atlassian project management suite?

Is there a valid reason why project managers google “Atlassian project management tools” whereas they could just search “Jira”? We think there is. While Jira is often considered an ‘essential’ or ‘central’ tool for any project manager, most organizations will want to include two more within their toolbox, namely Confluence and BigPicture.

Atlassian project management tools

Atlassian project management tools. We recommend Jira + Confluence + BigPicture as they supplement each other.

Why a suite of these three tools and not just Jira? Let’s spell out the three chief reasons:

  1. In multi-project organizations, Project charters are crucial, and: (a) Jira alone cannot produce appealing project charters but, (b) the three tools together, can.
  2. Initiation and planning phases of any project call for a flexible tool, such as Confluence. The further a project progresses, i.e. execution and closure phases, the more important tracking and data-format-enforcing tools, such as Jira + BigPicture, become.
  3. With small teams of up to 20, flexible tools, such as Confluence might theoretically suffice to manage a project, whereas with teams of hundreds Confluence tends to become “clogged” and broken up by carelessly entered data. With large teams Jira shines – with its “fixed” data structure.

Now that we know you need three Atlassian project management tools and not just one, let’s look closer at how they complement each other.

How Jira + Confluence + BigPicture complement each other

Table 1: Atlassian project management tools compared.

Confluence Jira BigPicture
Structures data, enforces its consistency yes yes yes
Most usable at stages of a project (1) initiation, (2) planning (2) planning, (3) execution (1) initiation, (2) planning, (3) execution, (4) closure
Proves more effective in small vs. large teams small teams large teams small and large teams
Text / visual tool text and visual text visual
Focuses on bird’s eye view vs. fine, detailed information detailed + strategic detailed strategic + detailed
Sample applications Hompepage of all projects. Keeping project documentation. Unstructured text, files, pictures Tracking tasks and project progress Presents Confluence&Jira information in graphical, human-readable way. Visually represents workflow (Gantt chart). Facilitates strategic planning (roadmap). Provides graphical gadgets (Gantt/risks) for project charters (sample project charter pictured below) in Confluence. Full list


Why do I need these three tools for Project Charters?

A project charter is a single-sheet (or single-screen) compendium of a given project. Popular with large organizations that run, say 30 projects at a time, a project charter supplies an “at a glance view” of a project for project managers and stakeholders.

Project charters, as pictured below, tend to be prepared in Confluence, but:

  1. there is no point in having an outdated project charter so,
  2. a project charter needs to somehow import data from Jira on-the-fly but
  3. since a project charter is to fit a single-screen, wouldn’t it be irrational to import hundreds of Jira tasks into it?
  4. Thankfully, BigPicture lends a helping hand with its visual, data-aggregating gadgets for Confluence, i.e. the Gantt chart gadget and the risk matrix gadget.

Which leads us to the complete Atlassian project management set of tools, namely Confluence + Jira + BigPicture.

A sample project charter in Confluence with self-updating BigPicture visual gadgets:

Project charter Confluence

A project charter made with the “Project Poster” template available in Confluence. The two graphical gadgets were supplied by BigPicture.


About The Author

With his automotive background Marcin goes beyond the 'Jira + software development' standard. He likes simple, up-to-five-sentence answers to complex questions.