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Jira concepts and key terms to help you get started

Common Jira concepts and key terms to help you get started

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I remember when I first joined Vectors, I was kind of overwhelmed with everything going on within Jira. Not that the platform was overly complicated, but there were a host of concepts and key terms used within Jira that I wasn’t familiar with and found confusing.

So, if you are looking to use Jira in the future or you are just getting started, then this article is for you. We are going to explore the concepts Jira is based on and walk through a couple of key terms that you should know upon starting.

But first… What is Jira?

In a nutshell, Jira is a project management suite developed by Atlassian. At the beginning, Jira was developed and marketed for software development teams as a bug tracking tool. The platform grew in popularity over the years and started to reach more and more teams and cover multiple use cases through platforms such as Jira Service Management, Jira Work Management and Jira Align. Today, Jira positions itself as a project management suite for all teams designed to enhance processes, manage workloads, generate timely reports and track issues. 

Jira concepts and terminology

Jira issues

Let’s start with the elephant in the room and perhaps the most important yet confusing concept that Jira is based on (at least for me when I started). Jira issues represent basic pieces of work that teams can create and track over time. Issues can range from simple tasks and feature requests to bugs and product defects. For example, an issue for a software development team can be “a new feature request” whereas for a marketing team, an issue may represent a blog article or social media copy.

Create a Jira issue
Create a Jira issue

Jira issue Types & hierarchy 

Issue types are designed to help teams better organize and categorize the issues they have created. This makes issues easier to locate, access and track across a Jira instance. Jira comes with a set of pre-defined issue types based on popular software development methodologies such as Scrum and Kanban.

It is important to understand issue hierarchy or the concepts of parent and child issues. Parent issues are placed above and made of other issues. For example, an epic may consist of multiple stories. Child issues on the other hand belong to other issues above them. For example, a subtask belonging to a story. It is important to note that a sub-task cannot be followed by child issues since it is the last in the hierarchy.

Now let’s explore each issue type in further detail.

  • Epics: An epic represents a large piece of work that can be divided into multiple child issues. For software development teams, an epic can be a new feature they are working on whereas for a marketing team an epic can be a social media campaign. 

  • Stories: A story is a standard issue or a single piece of work that if grouped with other stories will constitute an epic. As their name implies, stories provide a general explanation of the project end-goal from the end-user perspective. It is common practice within Agile teams especially when developing new features. 

  • Bugs: A bug is a deficiency or flaw that prevents the product from functioning properly. Within Jira, this issue type is generally grouped under an epic and provides further description of the issue at hand.

  • Sub-tasks: A further decomposition of stories into more specific, targeted and daily tasks.

Jira issue types
Jira issue types

Jira workflows

Jira workflows represent the path issues follow from creation to completion. The workflow is made of statutes and transitions that are fully customizable giving teams the freedom to integrate and reflect their business processes within Jira. “To do, In progress and done” is a simple example of a Jira workflow. Each issue entering the workflow will be associated with one of the three statutes. A transition needs to be created to move from one statuts to the next.

Jira projects

Now that you have an idea of what issues are and their various types, let’s dig deep into the concept of projects within Jira. Projects represent a large collection of issues grouped together to achieve common goals and objectives. Generally speaking, teams using Jira often create projects per department, team, product or any large initiative specific to their business. There are various types of project templates tailored to any team’s processes including Scrum, Kanban and others. We can break down a typical Jira project as follows: Project > Epic > Story > Sub-task.

Jira Software templates
Jira Software templates

Jira components

Jira components are effective to streamline projects and further divide them into functional sub-sections. Think of components as containers that can group Jira issues  and make them easily accessible via a dedicated page. There, components are shown in further detail including Name, Description, Lead, Default assignee and Associated issues.

Jira labels

Labels are specific tags and keywords that can be associated with Jira issues. It is a convenient way to classify similar issues that don’t belong to the same epic or story. This makes it easier for teams to search and locate issues across their Jira instance. For example, software development teams can associate the “Ready-for-UAT” label to indicate that a feature is ready for the UAT phase of a given project.

Jira boards

Teams using Jira can visualize and track issues within native and fully customizable Jira boards. Boards are part of the chosen project template. There are Scrum boards for teams planning their work in sprints, or Kanban boards for teams focusing on simple workflows and capacity. Any given Jira project can have one or a combination of boards depending on the teams’ preferences and scope of work.

Jira board
Jira board

Jira reports

Reports within Jira are crucial to help teams keep track of their projects, manage workloads, prioritize tasks, identify bottlenecks and predict future performance. We can identify four Jira reports including: Reports for Scrum teams, reports for Kanban teams, Forecast and management and Issue analysis. 

Each type contains multiple reports giving teams rich and detailed insights. For example Scrum reports include Sprint Report, Burndown/up Chart, epic report etc. Kanban reports consist of a Cumulative Flow Diagram and a Control Chart.

Jira reports
Jira reports

Getting used to a new software and especially a large and complex one such as Jira can be a bit overwhelming. We hope this article coming from a Jira novice (not long ago) can help you familiarize yourself with Jira concepts and key terminology. In upcoming blog posts, we will explore more Jira concepts and features in further detail. Stay tuned!

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Jira concepts and key terms to help you get started