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How to improve your agile project visibility
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How to improve your agile project visibility

Georges Petrequin
Georges Petrequin
8th April, 2024
An illustration of a Jira board with a magnifying glass over it, representing improved agile project visibility
Georges Petrequin
Georges Petrequin
8th April, 2024
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What is visibility in an agile project?
Why does visibility matter to agile teams?
What are the causes of visibility problems in agile teams?
Finding the source of visibility problems in project teams
3 steps to improving visibility in your agile project management
1. Remove knowledge silos to unlock improved visibility
2. Get your whole team onboard with process change
3. Make sure your visibility improvements changes stick
Wrapping up

Discover how you can unlock unprecedented visibility into your agile projects by eliminating knowledge silos and building a culture around effective communication.

Visibility is a critical component to the success of any agile team. If everyone on your team has good visibility, communication and prioritisation is easy.
If your team doesn't have good visibility, you'll quickly hit blockers that'll slow down your project and hurt overall performance.
In this guide, we’ll share insights based on our learnings at Upscale that you can use to spot potential visibility problems in your team and share tips on how you can solve these to unlock improved visibility, making it easy hit your most important project targets, every single time.

What is visibility in an agile project?

Visibility in the context of project management refers to how well anyone on the project can see and understand what’s going on.
Factors that contribute to good visibility include people knowing:
  • Knowing the status of tasks
  • Clarity into how different tasks relate to each other
  • Knowing who is responsible for different parts of the project
  • Access to data indicating project progress
If your project has good visibility, everyone will be on the same page.

Why does visibility matter to agile teams?

Visibility is crucial to agile teams because agile projects typically have tasks with dependencies. This means that one task is related to another task.
For example, if you’re running a mobile app development project, you’ll have a task like 'Design new dashboard User Interface'. This task needs to be completed before the next tasks such as 'Implement the new dashboard User Interface' or 'Start user testing the new dashboard' can start being worked on.
If a project only has a few moving parts like in the example above, visibility isn’t a big challenge. It’s easy for the Project Manager (PM) to see task dependencies and keep their team on track.
But, most agile projects have many more moving parts than this.
It’s hard for PMs and individual team members to have visibility into the relationships between every task, especially if their communication has been siloed across multiple platforms.
If visibility issues start rearing their head, they'll quickly cause delays and frustration for everyone involved.

What are the causes of visibility problems in agile teams?

There are multiple causes of visibility problems, but most of them boil down to one thing: knowledge silos.
There are several ways knowledge silos can emerge.
The first trend we've seen that causes knowledge silos to become more prominent is when a team moves to remote work rather than in-person.
The reason for this is that communication is simple for in-person project teams. You can walk up to someone and ask them a question. A team member can tap you on the shoulder and let you know that they’re waiting for you to finish a task and they need you to prioritise it. This in-person ease of communication instantly adds visibility, even if it’s not a perfect system.
However, the move to asynchronous and remote work has removed this immediate layer of visibility.
Another common cause of knowledge silos is the adoption of digital tools.
Information in an asynchronous team can be spread across multiple tools such as Jira, Confluence, Slack, or even hidden in one-to-one direct messages.
This means important information can become siloed, even if unintentionally, and it won’t be long before this has a negative impact on your project outcomes.

Finding the source of visibility problems in project teams

To help us understand this problem more, we asked Phill Fox, Principal Customer Success Advocate at Adaptavist, his thoughts on solving visibility issues in agile teams.
He told us that the reason it's so hard to initially spot visibility problems is that:
'Most organisations don’t even realise they have a problem with knowledge sharing, information silos, communication, or visibility, and this is one of the hardest parts of solving this issue!'
Unfortunately, this is the case for most teams struggling with a lack of visibility.
The problem doesn’t manifest itself in a single way, so it can be hard to spot it in the first place.
Here are some questions Phill Fox recommends asking yourself and your team that can help you identify a visibility problem:
  • What was the cause of an individual not delivering a task on time?
  • Are the next steps your team will take to complete a project always clear?
  • Can you always identify the key reasons for delays in your project timeline?
If these questions are hard to answer, chances are, you have a visibility problem.
But, don’t worry—this problem can be solved. Let’s find out how in the next section.

3 steps to improving visibility in your agile project management

Ready to unlock unprecedented visibility in your agile projects?
Here are the steps you need to take.

1. Remove knowledge silos to unlock improved visibility

The first step towards improving visibility and enhancing your agile project management is creating a culture where knowledge sharing is a priority and removing silos is seen as essential to team and individual success.
If you can remove knowledge silos, you’ll have better visibility over what everyone is working on and a vastly improved information flow from individuals into the group.
Phill Fox shared a question that you can ask to see if your team is approaching knowledge sharing in the right way:
'Are people challenged by a lack of individual knowledge or are they empowered by improved team knowledge?'
If it’s the latter, your culture is headed in the right direction.
The more people who are onboard with this culture of knowledge sharing, the easier it will be to remove silos.
One simple but powerful way to unlock project-based knowledge silos is to use Hierarchy for Jira. After installing the app and setting up your project, you can link issues together and build a custom issue hierarchy.
If a team member is working on a specific issue, they’ll instantly be able to see what other issues are related to their task and who is working on them.
a screenshot of hierarchy for jira app, showing a list of linked issues
This improved visibility into task dependencies streamlines communication and means your team won’t need to manually share key information about what they’re working on—it’ll be automatically communicated and visualised by Hierarchy for Jira.
Combining this with effective project planning means knowledge silos won’t hold your team back from hitting their project goals.

2. Get your whole team onboard with process change

Process change is hard and most teams go about it in the wrong way.
It typically starts by teams adding new tools or creating standard operating procedures and hoping that everyone will follow them.
However, they don’t take into account the fact that, as Phill Fox put it to us:
'Process change can’t come at the cost of individual productivity and ease of work.'
If even a small number of people on your team aren’t onboard with the change or feel that it's slowing them down, it won’t stick.
Your process changes — whether it’s adding a new tool or adding a new step in your project workflow — will only work if the people involved see real benefits from it.
As a PM, you need to communicate the benefits of your new process change without it being a burden.
One simple way to do this is with Hierarchy for Jira.
Once installed, it allows PMs to customise your Jira project hierarchy to fit your team’s unique needs. Your Jira project structure can be customised to every new project you’re working on, making everyone’s work easier, instantly.
If your team feels it's easier to do their work thanks to a change like this, it'll be simple to get your whole team onboard with the process change, and you'll quickly start seeing improved results.

3. Make sure your visibility improvements changes stick

Once your team has verbally committed to change and started to follow your new process you need to make it sticks. This is the hardest but most important part of any positive change.
The first thing to consider is your timeline.
You’ll need to accept that change won’t be instant. Some team members will adapt quickly, but others may be harder to convince if they think their personal knowledge is more important than the team’s shared knowledge.
The best way around this is to build a culture where knowledge sharing is seen as a good thing on both a personal and team level.
This is possible, even in a remote team. As a project lead, you can take actions to encourage this, including:
  • Set up formal group knowledge-sharing and learning sessions to boost your team’s knowledge around specific practice areas or topics.
  • Encourage your team to set up informal knowledge-sharing sessions, such as Zoom coffee chats.
  • Add a 'Learnings' section to every sprint retrospective where you discuss takeaways that you can apply to future sprints.
If you can build a culture change that gets everyone on your team onboard with knowledge sharing, it’ll be simple to maintain your positive changes.
If you're using an app like Hierarchy for Jira, knowledge sharing will become second nature. Everyone will instantly see their task dependencies and know who is working on issues related to theirs, facilitating faster and easier communication between your entire team.
And remember, even if your process change appears to be working, it's still important for PMs to take the time to check in with your team and make sure your new processes are working for them.

Wrapping up

Unlocking visibility in agile teams is key to getting the most from your team.
There are multiple reasons visibility can be hampered, but at the core, a lack of visibility reflects the presence of knowledge silos.
Luckily, there are strategies you can implement to fix the issues of knowledge silos and improve visibility in your project, whether it's by using tools like Hierarchy for Jira, or by building in more effective systems to help your team communicate more effectively.
While it can often be hard to quantify, improving the visibility that everyone on your team has into how their work relates to the bigger picture is vital to success. The more complex your project, the more this rings true.
The journey to improving your team’s visibility isn’t always quick, and isn’t easy, but it’s one worth taking.
This improved visibility means:
  • It’s easier to set project timeline expectations from the start.
  • Project managers can help their team prioritise tasks based on their dependencies.
  • Reporting to key stakeholders on progress becomes easier.
Ready to start unlocking visibility in your agile team?
Written by
Georges Petrequin
Georges Petrequin
Content Marketing Manager
Georges is a Content Marketing Manager at Upscale with a focus on our Jira apps. He spends his time crafting content that helps our customers solve their everyday work pain points and get more out of their Atlassian tools.
Project Management