The aim of the present article is to unfold the importance and the potential of email communication in a corporate environment and to give you an insight into how a hypothetical HR Recruitment team can benefit from using Atlassian Jira and Email together.
Emailing is dead...
Email communication was born in 1971 when Ray Tomlinson used the @ symbol for the first time on ARPANET to designate the destination of his electronic messages. Despite ever-growing social media trends and the spread of other online communication platforms, one thing remains unquestionable: email is still the most popular method of communication in our world to this day.
In 2019, 95% of companies considered emailing as their primary and most important tool for communication. That year, there were about 3.9 billion email users throughout the world, and they sent almost 300 million messages daily. These numbers are enormous considering the total population of our planet, but the real exciting fact is that both indicators show an increasing trend: the number of email users is forecasted to grow up to 4.3 billion, and there will be over 340 million emails sent daily by 2022. (Statista.com)
We are wondering, what is the reason behind all those big numbers? Emailing as a platform for corporate communication takes the lead in many aspects: first of all, email messaging is viewed as the most "business-appropriate" tool for communication over newly emerging technologies in the corporate world, such as direct messaging. Employers tend to use what is familiar to them anyway. Furthermore, emailing has a so-called nonintrusive nature: you will never feel the same pressure to read and reply to an email immediately as in case of direct messages. This also helps to avoid continuous context-switching between your messages and daily tasks, so you can focus on your daily tasks and remain productive. However, the greatest and most important feature of email communication is openness. Email does not operate in silos. There is no need for specific platforms, tools, or domains to send an email to anybody. Google, Outlook, no matter which provider you have an email account with, you just need to hit the Send button and voilá, you are good to go!
Or is it?
Now, let's take a step back and see what challenges and expectations does a modern HR Recruitment organization have towards their business processes:
- From a communication point of view, they might want to keep their email channel to receive applications and to communicate with applicants. Because emailing is easily available to everyone.
- From an operations point of view, they might want to:
- Process email-based information, so unstructured information becomes well structured
- Facilitate collaboration within the Recruitment team
- Avoid shared mailboxes and isolated sets of information
- Get data-rich insights into the entire selection process through reports
- Promote seamless integration across all HR processes, enabling an all-around data management at Recruitment, Onboarding, or Learning and Development
- Support the management in their decision-making processes
- Provide data service support for HR Audit processes
In summary, emails are at the disposal of companies - which is very valuable- but it is an unstructured source of data. On the other hand, there is a continuous need for data and process-driven solutions. It is easy to see how this may lead to contradicting requirements and result in a conflict to be resolved.
At META-INF we believe the optimal solution for companies is integration. Integration of Email and Atlassian Jira.
Now that we have both Jira and Email and we recognized the need to integrate them, there is one thing we would like to emphasize: in order to get this integration right, the secure handling, processing, and tracking of the email flow is crucial. Email This Issue for Jira was created by us precisely for this reason: to help you integrate your email communication into Jira in the safest and most reliable way possible.
Integration of Email to Jira
Email This issue for Jira is an end-to-end email client solution between your Jira instance and your mail accounts. Using our product you can build-up email templates from scratch and use them later to send emails manually from within Jira issues or assign them to event and customer notifications or workflow post-functions. Email This Issue for Jira is able to manage multiple incoming and outgoing mail server connections and comes with refined incoming mail handler capabilities, such as condition-based email processing, and automated information transfer from email content to Jira fields which we are going to discover in the present article. Email This Issue for Jira also provides customers with essential tools for troubleshooting email processing.
Let's now return to our imaginary HR Recruitment team and go over a quick summary of the team's Jira Service Management project, which is called Recruitment Project. In this project, issue types embody different areas of expertise; in this specific case, we'll have only one field: Developer Recruitment. Request types represent several position groups for which the Recruitment team is actively seeking new staff, such as C++ Developer Recruitment, Java Developer Recruitment, or Python Developer Recruitment. Requests will denote individual applications where the Applicant will become the Reporter of the request and the Assignee will be the Recruiter assigned to the position group.
In the Recruitment Project, issue transitions represent the communication channel between Applicants and Recruitment team members. This channel is clearly bidirectional. An example of incoming email handling is the "Create" transition: when a candidate sends in an application, it is received by the Recruitment team. The "Schedule Interview" transition represents the opposite direction, in other words, outgoing email handling: through this transition, the HR Recruiter sends out the interview invitation to the candidate.
Figure 1: Implementation - Project workflow
Let's assess how we expect a new request to be created based on the Recruitment team's expectations. We are going to see how an unstructured email is fetched into Jira to become a structured set of data using Email This Issue for Jira.
- First, a new request (a new application) is created from the candidate's email: the subject of the incoming email becomes the summary of the request, the mail body is added to the request description, and of course, email attachments are also transferred.
- Upon request creation, the issue and request types are filled in and the applicant is set as the Reporter of the request.
Figure 2: Implementation - Required system and custom fields shown on the view issue screen
- We not only want a new request to be created but we would also like to see data parsed from the email content and saved into custom fields such as the name of the applicant, or the so-called Job Reference Number which is extracted from the incoming email's subject
Figure 3: Implementation - Custom fields updated based on the incoming email's content
- Upon request creation, an auto-reply email should also be sent to the applicant acknowledging his or her application.
Configuring Email This Issue for Jira to deal with the above requirements is quite easy: first, you need to set up an incoming mail account from where incoming emails will be downloaded. This can be easily done right from within the app. Then, a mail handler is also to be configured. Through Mail Handlers, we define the set of actions Email This Issue for Jira has to perform for each email item that is downloaded from the incoming mail server.
- Actions framed in blue specify the Project, the Issue, and Request types new requests are created with. In this case, every request is created within the Recruitment project with the Developer Recruitment issue type. Setting the Request type is somewhat trickier because we have three of them: C++, Python, and Java Developer Recruitment. Setting those depends on the Job Reference Number that appears in the incoming email's subject. For instance, if the mail subject contains the "PythonDev" expression, the request will be created with the Python Developer Recruitment request type. If the subject contains "JavaDev", the request will be created with the Java Developer Recruitment request type and so on.
Figure 4: Implementation - Conditional request creation
- Actions framed in green, define what information to transfer and how this data should be transferred from the email to the request in Jira. In our case, if the applicant hasn't got a customer user account in our Jira instance yet, a new account is first created for him or her. Then, the applicant is set as the Reporter of the request. We also have two set issue field actions; one is taking care of parsing the Job Reference number from the mail subject and stores it in a custom field with the same name. The other one updates the Applicant's Name custom field parsing the sender From Name from the incoming email.
Figure 5: Implementation - Actions taking care of transferring data from the incoming email to the request being created
- The action framed in dark blue sends the auto-reply message.
Figure 6: Implementation - Sending auto-reply email using a custom email template
The mail handler not only defines how new requests are created but it also helps you to set up email filtering rules, decide how already existing issues associated with the incoming email are found, and also configure the actions that should take place when an existing issue is located.
- This handler will not process bulk and auto-reply messages; new requests will not be created from such kind of emails.
Figure 7: Implementation - Email filtering rules
- Existing requests are found by issue keys appearing in the incoming email subject. This is the most well-known form of mapping emails to issues. If an issue key appears in the subject, the handler looks up the issue and will use it later on during the process. The handler also investigates the so-called "In-Reply-To" and "References" email headers. If they refer to an issue, the handler searches for it and if it's found, will use it later on during the process.
Figure 8: Implementation - Issue lookup strategies
- If an existing request is found, a comment is created from the incoming email and it is added to the concerning request. This way we can make sure that every time an applicant sends us a reply email, it will be added as a comment to the request that represents his or her application. Also, the request is transitioned back to the "Waiting for HR" status every time a reply is received from the applicants.
Figure 9: Implementation - Actions executed if an existing issue is found for the incoming email
Having both a Mail Account and a Mail Handler configured, we are good to go and prepared for receiving applications in the Recruitment Project.
Let's now see what happens with outgoing emails. In order for us to be able to send emails from within Jira to our applicants, there is only one pre-requisite: setting up an SMTP server connection. SMTP connections define the connection between your Jira instance and outgoing email servers. Email This Issue for Jira supports multiple SMTP connections; this is convenient every time you want to send emails from different addresses in each Project.
Figure 10: Implementation - Configuration of the SMTP Connection
Of course, for a more sophisticated operation, you can further customize outgoing email sending in Email This Issue for Jira by creating custom Email Templates or setting up Event and Customer Notifications.
Takeaways of integrating Email to Jira
And on that note, we have now covered every requirement of the HR Recruitment team. All I have left behind is to share a couple of takeaways with you!
- Don't underestimate the importance of email communication! It is still an asset for companies!
- Convert your unstructured emails into reportable data sets and get the most out of data-driven, enterprise-level solutions
- Email This Issue for Jira is an end-to-end solution to integrate your Email communication with Jira
- And last but not least, monitor the flow! Strive to improve your processes continuously; plan, do, check, and act if needed!