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He needs to do reporting to his higher-ups both on an organizational level and team level (one GIS org consisting of five teams w/ different GIS specialties).

He'd prefer to do one Kanban board for easier reporting. Additionally, a small portion of our org's work items need to be re-assigned/collaborated on between the different teams; another reason we might favor one cross-functional Kanban board.

Is one Jira Kanban board feasible or will it compromise visualizing work items by team which is what most of us will be doing day-to-day?

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    How closely aligned are these 5 teams? Are they all working on a single product or effort? Also, consider that Jira is pretty customizable - experiment will different views that may give the manager a roll-up view (there are also various dashboards and plugins that enhance dashboards) yet will allow a team to stay focused on their work. – Thomas Owens Apr 1 '18 at 11:54
  • Two of the five GIS teams are almost completely independent and only interact with the other four teams a couple times a month during knowledge sharing sessions which are set up to create synergies between the various teams & their skillsets. The other three teams collaborate with each other a couple times a week in different configurations--these 3 teams mainly focus on updating critical GIS data for an internal web viewer map, creating GIS scripts and supporting compliance reporting related for risk management teams outside of our organization. – Jason Apr 6 '18 at 5:27
  • So the alignment is somewhat minimal and the products are many when you consider that each team manages 3 or more key products/reporting tasks. – Jason Apr 6 '18 at 5:31
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It really depends on how similar is the work that the different teams are doing; and also how large is each team and the volume of work they handle on an ongoing basis.

In most implementations that we have seen, most teams (not temporary project teams but long-running functional teams such as Dev, test or Design or Documentation or marketing) prefer to have their own boards for two reasons - one, they can have their own customized workflow(s) for the different type or priority of work they handle; and two, for better visibility, control of flow - and measurement of flow metrics such as CFD, Cycle Time and Flow Efficiency - the typical measures most teams implementing Kanban are interested in. If you have a Kanban board where multiple teams are working, you need to have the capability to let them define swim lanes with their own specific workflows - which I don't believe JIRA supports.

So, ideally, and depending on the response to the questions I asked earlier about the nature of your teams, each team should have their own Kanban boards - and the manager could have a "department-level" board where they can track the status of the work by teams based on some card-hierarchy that links cards on the manager's board to cards on the team boards. If that is not possible, then each team should at least have their own swim lane on a common board so that visualization, tracking, and measurement of metrics can be done cleanly.

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There is no right or wrong answer, it depends, upon how closely these teams are related, number of team members in each team, are they working to deliver a single product or different unrelated products and so on. Also, take in to account the consideration of limit on the maximum number of work items in progress per team or group of teams. And more importantly on your preference and level of comfort.

In JIRA both can be easily set-up, and you can one JIRA dashboard to monitor progress either way. I would like to run these separate and let the team have healthy competition, by keeping these separate in the first place you will be able to monitor CFD and Burndown of each team, while monitoring the aggregate in JIRA dashboard and/or JIRA portfolio add-in.

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In your situation I think a single kanban board is probably better based on the few indicators you have mentioned:

  • Initiative comes from the PM who wants a joint overview of all teams
  • Need for reassigning tasks to other teams is small but not negligible

Most kanban software (including Jira based on cursory research) offers a swimlane functionality. You could use that to structure the board for the different teams while keeping it a single board. This would however prevent you from using swimlanes for anything else (like priorities).

I've not worked with Jira so I don't know the extent of its customization options for tasks. In Kanbanize for example you could color each task and we used that to visualize responsibilities.

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It isn't hard in JIRA to set up swimlanes, so you could fairly easily track five teams on one board. Others have already noted where this won't always be useful, but JIRA is flexible--let your use of the tool evolve so that it best reflects how the teams evolve in their work.

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