I’ve been fortunate in my career to work with both Jira and Version One for project and work management. I’ve also been involved with enterprise migrations from Jira to V1 and vice versa. I was first introduced to Jira in 2014 and to Version One a couple of years later. Both have their pros and cons. They also both make sense to use depending on the organization, timing, direction and a host of other factors. Below are a few areas where I had the opportunity to compare both products. I don’t exactly spell out which is better and I’m definitely not advocating one or the other. This is just enough information for readers who have to choose to make an education decision.
Cloud vs On-premise hosting
Jira comes in SaaS and On-premise (server) versions. The costs vary so do the features. Naturally, you get more features with the SaaS version. Version One is exclusively SaaS and also more pricey. Some of the benefits of the cloud version is off-site access as well as access on other devices. The on-premise or server version of Jira means no access outside the network and on unauthorized devices. Depending on your organization, this may be music or bane to your ears.
Program level visibility – Jira Portfolio
You organization may have several business units, initiatives or programs. With proper configuration, both tools offer comprehensive and holistic visibility to what’s happening from a ten thousand feet perspective. Jira needs a plug-in (add on in Atlassian speak) to do this effectively. The plugin is called Portfolio. Version One on the other hand, doesn’t need a plugin. It’s built with a management view in mind. There’s even a CIO dashboard. Version One also has a road map view that show the progress of initiatives over a timeline.
To get started on a project management tool, Jira actually allows you to do a lot before needing constraints for higher level functions like portfolio management. You can spin up an instance of Jira and start with the To Do, In Progress and Done work statuses out-of-the-box, you can them add columns or firm up your usage guidelines as your adoption grows. Not so with Version One. From day one you’ll need an administrator and technical hand-holding to get things setup with Version One.
- You can customize Jira anyway you want. Jira doesn’t have to be a strictly agile tool.
Tech vs biz use case
The type of use cases or user demographics for Jira is pretty wide. Version One is finely tuned for teams that are intentionally trying to be agile. As an agile delivery team in an enterprise, you will benefit from the guardrails in Version One. Jira is a little more loosey goosey. Operations teams that just want to track WIP (work in progress), Jira makes a lot of sense. If you’re not interested in program level visibility, business initiative, and all that. Jira is your initial go-to. If such aspirations are in your sights, you may want to consider Version One, especially if you have the budget. Business and Marketing teams can benefit from both. Either Jira or Version One will meet your needs. My only consideration will be how large your organization is and how deeply you want to implement your task/project tracking.
Integration with other tools
JIra has about 1,800 plug-in (which Atlassian calls Add-ons), while Version One has a few dozen, though one can use API calls (if available) to get similar functionality. Depending on what your organization does, both tools support integration for typical delivery categories of tooling:
- Source Code Management
- Continuous Integration
- Test Management
- Continuous Integration/Delivery
- Change Management
Both tools can also be configured for SAFe compliance.
User provisioning is where these tools seem to differ a bit. The On-premise version on Jira as of when I installed and configured it a couple of years ago, didn’t integrate with Active Directory. There was an additional software Atlassian provided for user management, Crowd. Version One on the other hand integrates with Azure Active Directory, and since it’s cloud hosted, can be accessed anywhere. This was a relief, as I spent a lot of time trying to expose an internal Jira instance for offsite access. Again, this may not be a requirement for your organization, you’ll have to choose the tool that fits your organization’s needs.
The first project where I worked with Jira, I was the defacto Jira admin on Day One. The engineering team has quickly installed it and the teams started using it for a few months before I joined the project. Some clean up was needed, but for the most part Jira was meeting their agile needs. It took another month before we brought in a real Jira administrator and by now there was several GBs of data in the database. All the teams were fully relying on Jira. Such was the lift. While we hired a dedicated Jira admin who was super. We could have got by on growing admins on the teams. A few of us were actually doing admin work already, just not officially. I’m not sure that is possible with Version One. During the migration to Version One, we didn’t even touch the tool without an army of administrators and agile coaches. While there were other reasons for that. The tool certainly didn’t come across as something trivial. The lift was rather complex and years later, users are still unclear about how to do certain things. While we could have growth admins for Jira and survived, Version One needed expertise that had to be sourced. This is just my own experience with both tools.
Since I worked exclusively on the Atlassian stack at the lift stage of a program, I was constantly engaged with Atlassian support for Jira, Bamboo and a host of other needs. I was dealing with outages, version issues, you name it. Their support was fairly sophisticated and responsive. I never really needed to escalate or give a false sense of urgency to get the service I needed. I even got to know some of the east coast support reps by name. A lot of this was around the time Atlassian went public, so I’m not sure how much of that was a factor. Version One on the other hand wasn’t nearly as mature in their support department. Often, our admins solved problems even before their support responded to a raised ticket. They played catch up a lot. Now, their onsite sales engineers were first class, and I preferred them to Atlassian (who seemed to prefer partners than their own homegrown sales engineers). Also, the Atlassian community has a bit more information than the Version One/Collab Net knowledge base community. I even find solutions to Jira problems on StackOverflow. Since the merger with CollabNet, things have improved with Version One, but they still have some catching up to do.
I’m still working with both tools, still dealing with enterprise-level migration, integration and a host of other things. Which do I prefer? Honestly, it depends on what team I’m working with and what their needs are. A program level organization with business teams can definitely benefit from Version One, and a delivery/operations teams will love using Jira. Even though you can use either interchangeably, that’s really how I see it.