Team working togetherOn May 16, my CapTech colleague Michael Patrick Benning, an Atlassian Tool enthusiast and JIRA / Confluence subject matter expert, presented “Graffiti and Ink: Differing approaches for near-green and brown field installations" to the Charlotte Atlassian User Group. After attending his presentation, I highly recommend you attend any future offerings of the presentation if allowed the opportunity. In the meantime, I want to provide a quick explanation of his presentation's title as well as provide six of my key takeaways.

Explanation of the Presentation's Title:

Upon hearing of Michael's presentation, I was intrigued. Going into the Atlassian User Group that day, I knew Michael planned to present, but I had no idea what to expect as I admit I was not aware of the “green field" and “brown field" definitions even though I had heard them mentioned in previous software projects.

Early into his presentation, Michael cleared things up when he provided explanation of his title by establishing the presentation's key metaphor --> likening “near-green" field JIRA / Confluence environments, based on their open-ended nature, to art using graffiti and “brown field" environments, based on their already existing nature, to the more permanent skin tattoo, i.e. “ink." He chose graffiti and ink because they are two concepts that people likely have established opinions about, allowing attendees to relate to his “near-green" and “brown" field categorization.

Six Takeaways:

1. Current state environment analysis and subsequent planning are extremely important to complete prior to beginning any JIRA/Confluence implementation project

  • This was the key theme of Michael's presentation—as with almost any IT project, you need to make sure you understand the current state environment and depending on what is in place, it will help you and your stakeholders confirm project goals and determine the best approach to successfully achieve project objectives.

2. Best methodologies for JIRA / Confluence implementation projects

  • Due to the iterative nature of these tools and how they are used, reactive methodologies such as Agile Scrum, Extreme Programming, and Lean work best for relevant JIRA / Confluence implementation projects
    • Waterfall and Kanban do not work as well since are much less likely to encounter potentially unforeseen challenges and subsequently adjust the tools' set-ups when using these methodologies

3. The Importance of focusing on how users perform their tasks

  • Michael brought up a very realistic and correct statement regarding users of almost any software tools - if a user finds a quicker way to complete a task in comparison to the provided process, then they will often do it the fastest way and therefore any data-creating steps in the established process may be skipped (and Michael made sure to reiterate that JIRA and Confluence reporting is as good as what users put into them in terms of data).
    • Therefore, it is a key to make sure you understand how the users are using the tools in early iterations of implementations (as well as in the current state) so you can provide corrections and safeguards to promote the user behavior your stakeholders need.

4. Key Project Wrap-up items

  • Michael reiterated the importance of completing several key implementation closure tasks
    • His first point is a key action that is often forgotten—make sure to clean up and sanitize any sandbox/test data you create. It is not likely that you are going to get everything right the first time you try, so you will be left with incorrect or non-relevant data in your sandbox environment. I have seen countless times where projects fail to do anything with their implementation's testing environments and it can potentially become a burden down the road.
    • Make sure to provide your client any necessary documentation and ensure it lines up with the project's deliverables. Confluence is a great medium to create and maintain this documentation.
    • Are any unmade or deferred decisions aggregated to easily revisit in the future? Something that was not important now may be important later and it a best practice to flag these items --> Confluence can again be a great place to do this.

5. Additional Insight on Plugin Selections

  • After Michael finished his presentation and went into Q&A, an audience member asked a question relating to best practices for selecting JIRA/Confluence plugins. Michael and the group established some great best practices here:
    • Make sure to test the plugin in a sandbox/test environment before applying it to production - this is the only way you can find about the plugin's ease of use as well as discover any quirks or undocumented versioning/plugin conflicts
    • Spend some time on the plugin publisher's support forum ---> note how the publisher responds to users, note how many tickets currently exist, and see what current users are saying
    • Check to see if any relevant topics exist on the Atlassian Community Page

6. Is there a colored field beyond brown-field?

  • This question also came up in the Q&A. Michael was not aware of such a defined term, but he shared from his experiences from some of the best environments he has worked in
    • A resulting general theme was that you cannot truly achieve a level of perfection considering how much change is prevalent in IT - Michael has seen several high-quality mature instances, but in each, an adaptive cadence was needed to keep things running well and without that, they probably would quickly begin running into issues.


From my perspective as a consultant certified in both JIRA and Confluence administration, I found Michael's presentation very enlightening—he shared several key concepts that I had thought about and encountered in my previous practices, but I had never put any formal background behind. As we know with IT, there is no single best way to approach every project, but by asking questions, doing some research, and understanding key differences in potential client environments, you can help pave the path to success. I felt Michael's presentation provided the Charlotte Atlassian User Group attendees with some great perception for their personal project approaches.