6kites | Expert Tips for a Smooth Upgrade to Jira 8

Earlier this year, Atlassian released Jira Software 8.0, which comes with enhanced loading speed, batched email notifications, native Jira mobile apps, and more time-saving maintenance features.

The company also announced Jira 8.5 as the next enterprise release on the new 8.0 platform. This advance notice allows you to plan your upgrade prior to the end of the two-year support window for Jira 7.6 (November 16, 2019).

That means, if you are still running Jira 7.x, planning a Jira 8 upgrade now will set your team up for the next big enterprise release.

Yes, we understand that software upgrades often have a bad reputation. They can be complicated, with lengthy downtime, and sometimes introduce new vulnerabilities or problems. That’s why a Jira upgrade is often dreaded by busy IT teams and even management.  

Even so, you shouldn’t snooze on Jira 8.x upgrades, especially if Jira is mission-critical to your organization. This next-gen Jira version provides new features, bug fixes, and performance enhancements to fine-tune your experience with Jira. It’s only beneficial to upgrade.

The good news is, you don’t have to do it alone!

Read this article to understand the nuts and bolts of Jira 8 upgrades and get expert tips from our Atlassian-certified consultants to ensure that your upgrades go smoothly.

The Business Case for Jira 8 Upgrade

A Jira version upgrade is not as simple as installing maintenance updates.

Every new platform release is packed with significant feature additions and security patches, which can make it a daunting process. Version 8 also provides substantial, documented performance improvements.

For those of you that use Jira Software Cloud, Atlassian rolls out updates automatically. So, you would want to keep pace with these changes to get the most out of your investment.

You’ll enjoy the following benefits by having the latest version of Jira 8.

–       Get things done faster with an improved Jira – Jira 8 has significantly improved loading speed as compared to Jira 7.x, including board view, backlog view, and JQL searches. Indexing also becomes faster with a Lucene (Jira’s search-based subsystem engine) upgrade. Your team can consistently deliver features without any disruption.

–       Resolve bugs and avoid security vulnerabilities – Bug-fix releases are deployed as per the public Jira instance. Are there known issues that you’re experiencing? Major issues reported from the previous versions have been resolved in 8.0.0 bug fixes. So, it’s important to upgrade to prevent them from being a constant drag on your team’s productivity. Furthermore, Atlassian has very strict security compliance, so it’s strongly recommended to stay up to date with Jira security patches through these releases.

–      Minimize distraction when you work: In this version, Atlassian has refined Jira email notifications to keep them from flooding your inbox. Now, you can batch related events and get all update alerts in a single email. This way, you aren’t swamped by emails or distracted by constant system alerts.

High-performing teams demand high-performing systems. That’s why upgrading is critical to ensuring your long-term success with Jira.

Protip: Whether it’s a new feature or performance improvements that matter to your teams, you need to consult with stakeholders in choosing a version upgrade. Be clear of the reasons for the upgrade, so you can set the same expectation among all team members before diving headfirst into the new Jira platform.


Related: Atlassian Governance: Unified Deployment for Growth at Scale


Preparing for a Jira 8 Upgrade: Three Technical Criteria to Consider

Every Jira instance is unique. That’s why organizations require tailored strategies for a smooth version upgrade. 

At the ground level, there are three key preparation points for every upgrade.

1.      Compatibility research

The first thing to determine is if your current infrastructure and apps are compatible with the upgrade requirements. You can check the supported platforms for Jira 8 here. It is also important to verify that all active Marketplace apps in your Jira instance are compatible with version 8. You need to update these apps prior to the Jira upgrade to ensure functionality continues as expected.

Follow  Atlassian’s upgrade matrix, a document that details all the new features and improvements in the latest release, to compare versions and select the best version for your organization.

Protip: Especially for version upgrades, say, from Jira 7.x to Jira 8.x, we advise that you read the upgrade notes and release notes of every version in between. The reason is simple. You wouldn’t want to introduce new features (and even potential bugs) without knowing what to expect and how they might affect your instance.

2.      System health check

A routine health check for Jira ensures that your instance is in good operating condition before you upgrade. Through this, you will be able to declutter unnecessary custom configurations or third-party apps that might conflict with the new version updates. At the same time, make sure that your operating system, database, and hardware comply with the new version requirements.

Protip: 6kites includes a prescriptive action plan as part of our health check report. Our insights help to uncover hidden issues that may snowball into more serious problems in the version to which you are upgrading. So, we are able to identify the key release notes that might affect your Jira instance and tailor the right upgrade path for your organization.

3.      Upgrade method and documentation

Define your upgrade method and the steps that will be used. By documenting the upgrade and every step that is taken you will have an accurate record of the process which will make the next upgrade that much easier. If you document the customization of your install, it will allow every admin to know how things work.

Protip: For all upgrade methods, we always advise customers to document a fallback plan, which is a default step in 6kites’ Exceptional Support plan, to ensure that your system can recover quickly in case the upgrade fails.  


Related: Health Check: Performance Optimization for Growth


Lessons from Common Upgrade Mistakes

Navigating the complexity of a Jira upgrade can be overwhelming, and mistakes are bound to happen. In fact, many Jira customers have reported errors during upgrades even though they follow the procedure closely.

If you have experienced upgrade failures in the past and are reluctant about the next upgrade, well, it happens to the best of us. That’s why we are here to help!

Below, we capture some of the most common mistakes that you should look out for when planning your next upgrade.

Mistake #1: Fail to replicate production environment for testing.

Every Jira admin knows the importance of testing before going live with a new Jira version. However, not all staging environments are created equal. You need to communicate with stakeholders to track and validate all add-ons and customizations in a staging environment before rolling any changes into production. To avoid upgrade roadblocks, make sure your staging environment is identical to your production instance.

Mistake #2: Reuse staging database.

Without proper documentation, you may not be aware of the changes in database settings, which happen more often than not. And when you reuse a staging database from the previous upgrade and push to production, the restored database isn’t configured for the larger pieces of data. Because these issues won’t be visible until production, you won’t be able to validate your upgrade success even through testing. So, it’s important that you set up a fresh staging environment for your next upgrade and, in the meantime, document any changes in a central place.

Mistake #3: Overlook add-on compatibility.

Even if you are not passing a platform release, say, from 8.0 to 8.2, you still need to validate the compatibility of all add-ons to prevent potential failures. You can manage add-ons from the administration page, where you can check for upgrade compatibility and update them if required.

Execution: Checklist for a Smooth Jira Upgrade

You shouldn’t rush into upgrading before completing the preparation steps above. Once these steps are complete, there’s one final pre-upgrade task: the Jira upgrade checklist.

The checklist covers the following key components:

  • Check if your Jira license is still validJira will not allow you to upgrade without an active maintenance license.
  • Check your upgrade plan (upgrade version, upgrade methods, assign stakeholders) – All parties involved should know this plan inside and out
  • Document a fallback planYou need to be able to recover if the upgrade fails. By documenting and testing this process you will be able to get the system back online in its previous state.
  • Ready your environmentPerform your system health check and check add-on compatibility.
  • Test upgrade in the staging environmentIf you do not have a test/staging environment we highly recommend implementing one. Even if it is only up and running to perform the upgrade test.
  • Backup all files and dataUtilize your normal backup processes but also have a fresh copy of the database and file structure in case fallback is needed.
  • ExecutionDo the upgrade

By following this checklist you can perform the Jira 8 upgrade with confidence and be ready for any outcome.

Upgrades aren’t easy, but they allow you to unlock the latest features and functionality of Jira. Following the guidelines above will help ensure a smooth upgrade process and avoid common pitfalls.

Need help? We provide expert tips on Atlassian governance, system upgrades, routine health checks, security patches, and more in our Exceptional Support packages. Contact us today for an expert-led Jira upgrade support plan.

Have a question? Get in touch