Why we implemented book orders in JIRA

Books. If you are reading this article, the chances are you love books.

And you love order, not chaos. That’s why you track things in JIRA or something else.

Problem #1:

We do not know what books we have.

There were many instances when we did not realize that we already had some books. The idea here was not to backfill all our current books into the system. We were quite open to the idea of ordering duplicate books, because sometimes that is what you need and the cost of a book is an expense that the business can easily absorb. Hence, we did not need to track the books we already had, but knowing what were newly ordered books would be a nice-to-have side effect.

Problem #2:

Ordering bottleneck, ordering that does not scale.

Typically, you have a person in the office who will take care of the logistics. They would place the order and then distribute the books as they arrive. We value people’s time and we realized that handling book orders one by one as they come in can be time consuming. Hence having a list of books to order at once, perhaps monthly, would greatly lower the time investment.

Solution

A project in JIRA with a simple Kanban board.

The intention here was not to create a library system that would keep track of our books, whether they are sitting on shelves or they are with somebody who is currently reading them.

We only focused on the book ordering part of our library. We wanted to have a simple flow that would allow for:

  • book approvals,
  • order placements, and
  • delivery notifications.

⇨ Requested

Anybody can create a new book order that automatically appears in the “Requested” column.

⇨ Approved — Ready for order

A dedicated person reviews the book orders based on relevance to our business and technology. (I am that person for the time being.) When approved, the order moves to “Approved” column.

⇨ Ordered

Another dedicated person comes in once a month, takes all approved book orders and places an purchase order with a book store. These book orders in JIRA are then moved to the next status — “Ordered”.

⇨ Delivered — Ready for pick-up

Once the books arrive in our office, the person who collected them from our mail room then moves the books orders to “Delivered — Ready for pick-up” status, which also triggers an email notification that is sent to people who requested these books. They can then collect their books.

⇨ Collected

All distributed books are then marked as “Collected”.

Benefits

We made the whole process visible to the organization and effectively removed any bottlenecks in this process.

We also know what books we have. We may not know their location, as they could be either on the bookshelf or with somebody, but that was not the problem we wanted to solve.

There is also another side benefit that we did not realize at first. If you want to read a book that we have, you can see who ordered it and can ask that person about his or her opinion about the book.


Fostering a culture of openness in your company is important. You also want to move fast and automation can help with this. Not everything can be fully automated. Some processes still require human interaction.

If you cannot automate it, streamline it.

Implement the process in such form that enables you:
#1 to move quickly from “Ordered” to “Collected”,
#2 to have visibility to the whole process,
#3 to have immediate feedback from each transition in your process,
#4 to be able to improve on each step if required.

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