Why Discovery Trees Outshine Jira: Simplifying Visualization and Collaboration

Erik A. Ekberg
5 min readJun 29, 2023

To achieve high-performance, effective cross-functional collaboration and communication are paramount as a team.

While Jira has been a popular choose for managing projects, Discovery Trees are emerging as a superior alternative.

Discovery Trees simplify how teams breakdown, track, and communicate change in status, priority, assignment, dependency, and scope all in a single view.

Visualizing a Project with High Clarity

One of the key advantages of Discovery Trees over Jira lies in their ability to simply visualize work.

Jira uses both icons and ranked ordering to convey priority and hides dependencies within menus and unless a team is extremely diligent about updating both systems, at a glance it is difficult to know what is the most valuable thing to work on.

Discovery Trees present a clear and intuitive representation of the project landscape using simple boxes, arrows, and colors.

With a glance at a Discovery Tree anybody can easily understand the big and small picture promoting alignment and informed decisions making at all levels of the organization.

Simplified Communication of Status

Effective communication of the status and dependencies of work is critical for successful project management.

Work is visualized through boxes in a Discovery Tree and the color of the box is used to visualize the status of the work just like swimlanes in Jira.

Each color represents a different status unique to the team’s workflow.

Similar to Jira, at a glance team members, leaders, and stakeholders can quickly see the progress of the overall project.

Simplicity of Scope

In the dynamic world of product development, much of the work unfolds during the project’s course rather than being fully known upfront.

Discovery Trees excel in communicating this dynamic scope cost-effectively.

Unlike Jira which involved navigating complex menus and updating multiple fields, Discovery Trees simplify this process to just adding, removing, moving, or modifying boxes and arrows by the team.

Modifying the Discovery Tree immediately reflects the new understandings, insights, and technical requirements of the business problem being solved.

If at any point the known work becomes too much or unknown work become too uncertain teams can easily cut branches (i.e. scope hammering) and pivot to something new.

This simplicity significantly reduces the time and effort required to adapt to and communicate change fostering agility and minimizing waste within the team.

Streamlining Alignment and Conversations

Achieving alignment within a team is crucial for efficient flow.

Discovery Trees promote this alignment by focusing conversations on the highest priority branch of work.

Discovery Trees used ranked ordering to communicate priority.

This allows teams members to easily see the most critical work at a glance and engage in collaborative cross-functional conversations to solve them.

Additionally, this prioritization in Discovery Trees lets anybody add questions or concerns around branches to be addressed at the next most responsible moment without needing to interrupt the team’s flow.

This streamlined approach focused effort and ensures all aspects of the project are given due attention if and when necessary to minimize waste.

For example, if a team spent time days answering detailed questions on a low priority branch that was ultimately skipped that would be days of waste.

Fostering Technical Innovation

Discovery Trees have also proven invaluable in improving our team’s technical alignment and ability to innovate.

Before even writing a single line of code, teams brainstorm how to break down the work.

This early collaboration allows teams to pool their collective expertise, receive feedback, and make innovative decisions with buy-in from the team.

By eliminating the need to backtrack and rework code that usually comes up during code reviews, teams save valuable time while ensuring a more robust and efficient development process.

Capturing the Journey

A Discovery Tree serves as a comprehensive annotation of a team’s journey throughout a project.

It captures the evolution of ideas, decisions, and progress, creating a visual narrative of the team’s collaborative efforts.

As the team explores different ideas and iterations, the Discovery Tree documents the paths taken and not taken, the challenges faced, and the solutions discovered along the way.

It becomes a living artifact that not only represents the work needed to deliver a feature but also encapsulates the team’s collective knowledge, decisions made, and the rationale behind them.

With each addition, modification, or adjustment to the Discovery Tree, it becomes an annotated record of the team’s growth, learnings, and achievements, providing valuable insights that can be referenced and reflected upon in the future.

Conclusion

Discovery Trees are a superior project management and collaboration tool compared to Jira for breaking down and tracking work.

Through simple boxes, arrows, and colors Discovery Trees excel in visualizing projects, facilitating alignment and conversations, simplifying communication dependencies, and providing clarity in prioritization.

Moreover, their flexibility allows teams to easily adapt as they learn new information or requirements change.

By embracing the power of visual simplicity, Discovery Trees offer a cost-effective, simple, and efficient solution for modern product teams to navigate complex projects with greater clarity, alignment, and success.

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Erik A. Ekberg

Software engineer with a background in human psychology and data analytics who affords both customer and engineer delight through Agile software architectures.