JIRA as ClearQuest Replacement: Customization

Somewhat later than expected, here is a summary of JIRA’s advantages and disadvantages over CQ, customization-wise only. These are only issues I encountered myself, I’m sure there are more…

Before I list them, I’d like to mention a couple of must-have (free) JIRA plug-ins: Behaviours and JIRA Suite Utilities. Another popular one which I have not yet used, but seems promising, is Script Runner.

The Good:

  • built-in conditions and post-functions (even more with plug-ins) – less scripting, less bugs
  • Can have multiple transitions between the same two states
  • No single ‘schema’ for workflow, screens and fields – just re-use what you have, and modify what you need for the specific project or issue type.
  • Updates on-the-fly – no need for ‘database schema upgrade’ (which force all users to re-connect)

The Bad:

  • Customization is quirky: Some things are conveniently done in GUI (e.g. fields, workflow), some require plug-ins (e.g. validators), others involve writing code in Groovy, Jython and other Java-oriented languages (e.g. dependent fields), and there are even those which require updating configuration files (e.g. default values for system fields).
  • No ‘pre-action’  functionality (JRA-16157).
  • No way to have ‘no default’ priority (JRA-13048).
  • Priorities are global, can’t define them per-project (JRA-3821).
  • No lock-while-update (JRA-1917)
  • No customization history – can’t document when and why a specific change was done (JRA-3157).
  • Attachments are not stored in the database, hence require a separate backup mechanism (JRA-1866)

Bottom Line:

JIRA is a flexible issue tracker tool, which can meet the requirements of almost any team of any size and work method, but in some cases this may take considerable effort. It needs some work in order to streamline its customization and administration.

ClearQuest allows you to customize the behavior at any level – field, state, action – and at any point – before, during, and after an operation – while using a single scripting languages. However its rigid schema-based approach may not fit teams which are constantly developing or improving their methodology, as well as teams which require flexibility to quickly adhere to customer’s or regulatory demands.

These are my conclusions so far – again, only regarding customization and administration. From a user point of view, I personally would prefer JIRA over ClearQuest without hesitation – ClearQuest is a cumbersome, aging tool, which Rational would probably phase out in favor of RTC.

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