"At Yahoo! JAPAN, WBS Gantt-Chart and Jira are used as project management and problem solving tools by more than 10,000 people throughout the company"

Yahoo Japan
We asked Mr. Yutaka Watanabe and Shinichi Ishihara why they decided to use WBS Gantt-Chart and Jira, and what the results have been so far.

About Yahoo! Japan

Yahoo! JAPAN is the largest general information site in Japan with more than 100 services, including search, news, e-commerce. Net sales: ¥ 853.7 billion (fiscal 2016). No. of employees (incl. subsidiaries): 11,595 (as at end of June 2017).

(*All figures and information in this article are accurate as at the time of publication. Some of the figures have been rounded up or are estimates. )

Using WBS Gantt-Chart and Jira across the organization

How do you use WBS Gantt-Chart and Jira in your company?

We use Jira as a company-wide platform for problem solving and business management, as well as a project management tool for our development department. We use WBS Gantt-Chart as a project management tool with Gantt charts.

We implemented Jira in 2015, and then WBS Gantt-Chart in 2017. We have paid for an unlimited users license since we intend these to be company-wide applications for Yahoo! JAPAN and our Group companies.

Why Yahoo! JAPAN started using Jira

Can you tell us how you came to use Jira at Yahoo! JAPAN?

We originally introduced Jira in 2015 to help us to deal with bugs in the development department, and then expanded its application to use it as a company-wide business management system.

When we used Jira in the development department we would issue a "ticket" for each bug that cropped up during the development process. Through managing these tickets we would always know what bugs we were dealing with, how many of them there were, who was responsible for fixing each bug, what the deadline was, what the current status of the bug was, and so on.

By utilizing Jira, developers could quickly see what tasks they had pending, input their progress rate (so their boss could see), or delete their tasks on hand (through solving the bugs). In addition, managers could see status updates for bugs and check the progress being made on fixing them.

Managing bugs with Jira is so convenient. Once you’re accustomed to it, you won’t want to go back to using email or Excel to deal with bugs. Initially we only used Jira in the development department, but word spread about how easy it was to use, and in the end we decided to roll it out across every department in the company.

Since then we’ve expanded the areas we use Jira in well beyond the development department to general departments such as sales, marketing, legal affairs and accounting.

Expanding Jira out of the development department and across the whole company

Can you elaborate on how you have expanded use of Jira more generally across the company?

The phrase "system for managing bugs” conjures up an image of something that only developers would need to use. However, if you think about it from an abstract point of view, all parts of the company, be they a specialist department like systems development or a more general department like sales, marketing, legal, accounting or human resources, have projects that need to be handled on a systematic basis, or projects with issues that need to be dealt with (such as bugs) as part of the process for carrying them out. This type of business structure is common to all departments. Therefore it follows that tools which are useful for project management in systems development can also be used in other departments.

Based on this perspective, Jira's role in the company has been expanded and redefined from project management software for the development department to being an issue management system that can improve business efficiency across the entire Yahoo! JAPAN group. As well as Yahoo! JAPAN employees, the staff of any external partners participating in a project are also set up to use Jira (and WBS Gantt-Chart).

Controlling Jira user access rights

How do you control access rights to Jira when external staff are using it?

Access privileges for Jira are set according to the “Active Directory”, which is our in-house standard directory system. In other words, external staff members can use Jira (and WBS Gantt-Chart) within the scope of their access privileges while they are registered in the Active Directory. In principle, they can only see the content of those projects they are directly participating in. Jira’s wide range of access management functions and its flexibility of use with other systems such as our Active Directory were a key factor behind the decision to introduce it across the company.

Evaluating Jira

You’ve used Jira for two years now. How would you rate it?

First of all, I like the fact that you can focus down on specific issues by using filters with saved search conditions.

"Dashboard visualization" is also useful. In Jira you can aggregate summary information relating to issue management (bugs) in graph format and list them in the dashboard. That saves you having to make a separate report in Excel.

The backlog and agile board functions are also useful. When you use a Kanban board with sticky notes, sometimes you can’t search, or you need to physically move sticky notes when you change priorities. This is not an issue with Jira Agile.

When you think about how we use Jira throughout the whole company it’s very useful for managing inter-departmental requests and tasks. Departments are separate entities, but one department will often make a request to another department, or respond or ask for assistance. By using Jira tickets, you can easily keep track of what requests have been made, who is handling them or responsible for them, and what their current status is.​

Now using WBS Gantt-Chart company-wide as well

Tell us how the WBS Gantt-Chart rollout is going.

Here at Yahoo! JAPAN we always have a lot of IT development projects going on at the same time. We typically manage our projects using Gantt charts.

Unfortunately, Jira did not have a Gantt chart function as standard, so to work around this we introduced the Jira plug-in, WBS Gantt-Chart throughout the company. Since WBS Gantt-Chart is a plug-in, it is fully integrated into Jira.

That means you don’t need to manage Jira and WBS Gantt-Chart separately on a day to day basis. If you modify a project or its progress status in WBS Gantt-Chart, the changes are automatically reflected in Jira, and vice versa for changes in Jira. ​

Introducing WBS Gantt-Chart means that Jira's project management capacity in our company has been greatly expanded.

Limitations of using Excel for Gantt charts

Tell us why you implemented WBS Gantt-Chart at Yahoo! JAPAN in the first place.

Previously, each division in the company used Excel for doing their Gantt charts. However, the feedback we got was that using Excel for charts was causing users a lot of problems:

1. "It’s such a hassle creating Gantt charts in Excel. It takes time and effort"
2. "If a lot of people are using and editing the same Excel file, the file often gets corrupted."
3. "If you duplicate a file so that different people can use it, you get a lot of similar files. It becomes difficult to manage them all."

As well as these stand-alone problems with Excel, we were also faced with a new set of issues when we introduced Jira because we increasingly needed to use Excel Gantt charts with Jira. When we did that, all of the data in Excel needed to be transferred to Jira manually, and vice versa. That led to problems of duplicated effort and inefficiency.

The more we used Jira, the more frustrated and annoyed we became about this issue. So that’s why we decided to use a Jira plugin to resolve this.

Criteria for selecting the Gantt chart plugin

How did you choose which Gantt chart plugin to use?

Whichever Gantt chart plugin we used, we decided it needed to fulfill the following criteria:
Criterion 1. "An easy to use Gantt chart tool with all the basic functions”
After introducing the new tool, we needed to encourage a large number of internal users to move over that tool from Excel. To do that, as a bare minimum requirement for keeping our users happy, the new tool needed to have all the basic Gantt chart functions and to be intuitively easy to use. Ultimately we wanted to be able to do everything that we could do in Excel in the new tool.

Criterion 2. "Full integration with Jira"
Although it sounds slightly contradictory to what I said for Criterion 1, ultimately, whatever tool you introduce, it’s hard to beat Excel for ease and functionality. So on that basis, in addition to the "basic functions" and "ease of use" mentioned above, we felt that "ability to integrate fully with Jira" was absolutely critical if we were going to get internal users to move over to the new tool. However easy to use Excel was for internal users, we knew that if we could find a new tool that brought maximum convenience and time-saving by linking with Jira, then it would be superior to Excel in every respect. So in terms of "Jira linking ability" WBS Gantt-Chart was absolutely perfect for us. In particular, we loved that you can "directly read and write native Jira database tables” in WBS Gantt-Chart.

Criterion 3. "Combined support and helpdesk"
Ideally, we wanted just a single point of contact for support for the new tool and for Jira. That would mean that we wouldn’t have to identify who to ask depending on the problem, or where the fault lay. In this respect WBS Gantt-Chart was ideal for us because the developer is Ricksoft.

A lot of the plug-in software for Jira is foreign-made, and support for these tools is all in English. Ricksoft on the other hand provides support in Japanese, via email, phone, or face-to-face. Also, because Ricksoft has developed WBS Gantt-Chart we can give them feedback about the improvements we’d like to see in future version upgrades, as well as asking them when we need help in using the product.

We have used plug-ins in the past, but our experience has often been that the compatibility with the main platform is quite limited, and there tend to be frequent issues with integration. Support capabilities are the key requirement for us when implementing a plug-in, especially when rolling it out across the whole company.

We compared and reviewed a number of products based on the criteria above, and in the end we decided to go with WBS Gantt-Chart because it was the best fit with all of our requirements. We implemented it this year.

Evaluating WBS Gantt-Chart

How would you rate WBS Gantt-Chart so far?

WBS Gantt-Chart has been as good as expected in terms of "Jira linking ability", its basic functions and ease of use. Moreover, when I use it, I’m always struck by how convenient it is, particularly functions like sharing progress with other project members with just one URL notification, or the fact that everything is automatically rewritten in WBS Gantt-Chart once it’s entered in Jira. Other functions such as templates, progress display and resource display are also useful.

Advice from an existing user

Do you have any advice as an existing user for enterprises currently considering introducing WBS Gantt-Chart?

Initially, I thought that WBS Gantt-Chart was primarily a tool for development projects. However, if you think about it, it’s very suitable for wider use for general departments as well. I think that it would be great if we could get more people in our organization interested.

It’s been relatively easy to roll out WBS Gantt-Chart and Jira in the development department because they will naturally use project management tools for their job, and their IT literacy is high. The development department has a clearly defined need for and affinity with these tools. On the other hand, it’s less easy to encourage the take-up of this kind of software in other departments such as sales, marketing, or management.

We can broadly divide the responses that we’ve had from other departments to Jira and WBS Gantt-Chart into the following three categories:

1. Very keen ("We’ve been waiting a while for this!")
2. No interest ("I’ve no need for complex software like this"; “I have email, so I’m fine just using that”; "I’m perfectly happy with the way things are at the moment.")
3. Wait and see ("I don’t think I need it right now, but I might do in future so I’m not rejecting it outright”; "I’ll keep an eye on this and see how others get on with it."

The largest number of potential users is in Category 3 (“Wait and see”). To really promote wider use of WBS Gantt-Chart in the company, we need to find a way of appealing to this group.

Promote company-wide usage through on-demand workshops

What are you doing to promote take-up of WBS Gantt-Chart in this group?

At the moment we're offering "on-demand workshops" for new users, in other words tutorials for anyone who requests them.

Even if the "Wait and see category" does not have a particularly strong interest in the product right now, they might become more favorably inclined if they hear that that other departments are finding it useful.

In order that we don't miss out on the opportunity to promote WBS Gantt-Chart to these users, we send out notices regularly to let people know what training sessions in the systems department are available for anyone who is interested in Jira and WBS Gantt-Chart, as well as one-to-one tutorials."

We can make good progress if we catch people as soon as they express an interest in the tool or feel that they need to start using it. Existing users can teach anyone who shows an interest. And if these people start using it successfully, then other departments will hear about it and in turn ask for training...I think this kind of word of mouth ripple effect is much more effective than just forcing people to do a training session.

Future expectations

What would you like to see from Ricksoft in future?

Here in the Yahoo! JAPAN systems department we'll continue to work on initiatives to improve productivity, and to make our business more efficient, thereby increasing the value of our business to our customers. We're looking to Ricksoft to provide us with support and assistance in these initiatives through continuing to supply high-quality products and technology, and timely backup. It’s going very well so far and we look forward to a continued successful relationship in the future!
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