People & Process Thoughts

Thoughts and musings all things people and process

Gemini or Jira -- Which Would You Choose?

With Microsoft announcing plans to ship vNext, a cross-platform offering of .Net, the long-standing debate over .Net versus the rest is about to enter a new phase. The gloves will be off for all the software vendors who build .Net products, so the Java and PHP boys are about to discover just why it is that C# is rated the best commercial software development language in the world. We'll be able to do everything that they can – only faster and in a more robust and scalable manner.

So, one question may soon be answered at a purely technical level - which is better, Gemini or Jira? Sadly, while we expect to paste them technically with a 30Mb download of goodness that delivers more bang per buck than they can dream of, we think the answer will prove elusive. Gemini and Jira are just too different for a true comparison, it's like asking if Peoplesoft is better than SAP; the reality is that the same organizations would look at both but for a variety of reasons those that bought the one would never have purchased the other. The competition is an illusion.

Rather than focus on which is better, which of course depends on what you want to do, it is more appropriate to ask which is more suitable? This question of whether Gemini or Jira is the more suitable tool comes up frequently (more often than we would like) but is not difficult to answer. The products have some overlapping functionality and share the same IT audience but they are directionally different. The degree of divergence is evidenced by the use of both tools in many organizations, even by members of the same department.

How would we classify Jira?

Jira is an ALM tool, this means that it is used by software development teams to track their work especially if they are working to a methodology known as Agile (hence the variant of Jira that is Jira Agile). Once commercial software has been released it requires continuous attention – bug fixes, enhancements – and so Jira is also a bug and issue tracker as there is little difference between the people and processes involved in new and old code. As a tool for software developers Jira is pivoted towards that audience and serves it very well. It has more integrations than Gemini, although we would hold that the Gemini apps framework is better built and we beat them to having a RESTful API. Jira traditionally relied on integrations to provide functionality such as a help desk, which Gemini has built in, but there are clear signs of Atlassian being prepared to commoditize its add-ons – it's the law of conservation of modularity. This is why it was entirely predictable that Atlassian would launch Jira Service Desk as a competitor to their erstwhile integration partner, Zendesk.

There are pros and cons to the models of multiple best-of-breed as opposed to fully integrated from a single vendor, and much to consider, not least that you get an all-in-one price for Gemini, which comes with Breeze email-to-ticket built in, but have to buy the same functionality from Atlassian in bits (Jira Agile + Jira Service Desk). I could say more but this topic is deserving of a write-up in its own right.

How do we classify Gemini?

Gemini is a process and workflow product, designed to sit between IT, the business and its customers. In many sites Gemini is not used to directly track software development at all, that it does so in others is simply a by-product of the fact that it is designed to support delivery teams, of which Agile software developers receive added focus. Gemini is versatile enough to track just about anything. Gemini's core is super light and all about process and workflow. Agile features such as Roadmaps and Changelogs, project document management, source code, code review and 3rd party integrations (flowdock, Slack, TFS etc), are provided as free Open Source plugins. As examples of non-IT usage, Gemini is used by the UK National Health Service (NHS) for procurement, by a major Lloyds of London insurer to manage communication between brokers, underwriters and an outsourced administration team, by a legal firm as a Risk Register, by a mobile phone company to track defects in handsets etc. These multiple uses, while illustrating that Gemini can be used in a wide variety of cases, really illustrate that Gemini is one of the most flexible business process tools in the world and the users in each of the organizations will tell you that Gemini speaks ‘their' language and manages ‘their' people, processes and workflow.

What is significant is that the insurer and the legal firm also use Gemini as a fully-fledged help desk, with no compromise on data capture, workflow, permissions, notifications etc. No ALM tool on the market offers Gemini's flexibility at simultaneously supporting the needs of IT, Software Development, Customer Service/Help Desk/Service Desk, Business Users and Customers.

A Gemini implementation delivers 3 obvious benefits over traditional ALM solutions:

  1. It kills noise. Features like a fully integrated help desk with SLA, auto replies, alerts and notifications stop problems escalating out of control and provide visibility over issues with products and service delivery.
  2. It lets the team track and manage software development or whatever the delivery output is. Gemini is not pure ALM but it has strong ALM features and is fully integrated with tools like Visual Studio, Git/Mercurial/SVN, TFS etc. Gemini also has a superb RESTful API, and an Apps framework in which its Open Source add-ons are built.
  3. 3. It puts everyone on the same page. Gemini's Workspace-based architecture and highly granular project permissions means that all stakeholders can be involved in the work of the IT team without anyone having to be concerned about constant interference, reporting, escalation, communication or the tracking of progress. It seems odd that Atlassian recognized the benefits of workspaces with Confluence but did not extend the same concept to Jira.

Of course there is the simple technology distinction, which takes us back to the opportunity afforded by vNext. Gemini is .Net and ultra modern, being built in MVC4 and utilizing the most advanced client-side tech, with key Microsoft integrations to Exchange and TFS; while Jira is Java based, an older, slower and less robust technology. You can get the source code to both, so if the goal is to pick up a product that can provide a 100% fit then it could simply be a choice based on the development team's platform of choice.

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