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Initiative / feature / epic / story - can't get initiatives/features working properly

I read in a blog post that it is best to contain Initiatives and Features within their own project.  

I've created a plan that has 2 sources (one for the project with initiatives and features), and the other containing epics and stories.

Initiatives are parents of features, and features are parents of epics (and the reverse child relationships are set up too.)

When I import all this into the plan, I see features with a (0) beside it even though there is an epic with stories attached.  

Anyone here able to explain how they've implemented Initiatives, features, epics and stories successfully?


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Earl McCutcheon
Atlassian Team
Atlassian Team members are employees working across the company in a wide variety of roles.
Jan 28, 2020

Hello @justmark ,

Thanks for reaching out, and as you mentioned the process of Adding the initiatives as a separate project is the recommended process when you are working cross project initiatives, but is not recommended in scenarios where you only need additional levels within projects individually as covered in "Configuring initiatives and other hierarchy levels" :

Adding the initiative level to multiple projects

An issue can live in a single Jira project. However, if your organization is working on several projects, you might want to consider having your initiative to span multiple projects.

If you're working with cross-project initiatives, you can create a dedicated Jira project, where the cross-project initiatives are stored, and then use the project as an issue source in your plan.


Adding the initiative level to a project

If you need more hierarchy levels in your project, and your initiatives don't span multiple projects, then you can choose to add the initiative level to just your project.

You can use this approach in cases where you need more hierarchy levels within your project, and when your initiatives will rarely be cross-project.

So depending on the approach you want to take either approach has its advantages.

As for the Hierarchies not showing the link from the first initiative level (Feature) to the Epics, this is odd, and a first step I would recomend checking the value in the Parent Link field on the Epic is correctly set to the desired Feature issue type. 

To do this make sure that the 'Parent Link' field is included in either the View issue Screen or the Edit Screen for the project that the Epic is in, as covered in "Showing Portfolio custom fields in Jira" and check the value present in the field for the Epics that you are aware of that should be mapped to one of the features as its parent. 

The Article also includes some additional points to check under the Expandable section titled "Conditions to consider..." int the Parent Link details section.

Check this out and let me know what you find.


Hi Earl,

Thank you for your very detailed answer.  It lead me in the right direction, and ultimately I got it to work.

I created an initiative and feature in a single project, and got that linked to an epic and story.  Then I noticed the difference between what I had configured, and what actually worked.


In my incorrectly set configuration, the initiative and feature were set to "is parent of" and "is child of" rather than the "parent link".  Once I saw the issue, it was very easy to resolve.


It might be a good addition to your online docs to specifically state note to use the "is parent/child of" linkages.  Having a "Parent link" in addition to these link settings per issue is somewhat confusing though!


Again, thanks.


Like Earl McCutcheon likes this

Hi - does this solution work for the Cloud version of Portfolio?  If not - is there a roadmap to bring in these same features into the Cloud version?


Thanks so much for the previous answers - they were helpful!

Earl McCutcheon
Atlassian Team
Atlassian Team members are employees working across the company in a wide variety of roles.
Feb 05, 2020

Hi @staceyking ,

Good question and Yes, the same logic will apply to Jira Cloud Projects linked to a Portfolio plan as well when dealing with cross project plan vs project focused plans.

The Portfolio documentation is structured slightly differently for the pages relating to Server and Cloud, as there are some difference in the application across the two platforms currently, but the cloud version of the doc that mentions this can be found as a child page of the "Configuring initiatives and other hierarchy levels" document at this link "How to add a new initiative level to a Jira project"  noting the mention:

How to add the initiative level cross-project

An issue can live in a single Jira project but you might want your initiative to span multiple projects. If you are working with cross-project initiatives you can create a dedicated Jira project where the cross-project initiatives are stored and then use it as a source in your plan, then, follow the steps above to add the initiative.

And as the platforms are currently deviated in feature sets to go a bit deeper into the difference of the cloud and server versions of the application, that may help you out in the future if you are running into questions on Cloud vs Server capabilities; Cloud is currently running on Live Plans with feature parity to Live plans on Server, where Server has an additional capacity to use a New Planning Experience with the differences covered in the following documents discussing the feature parity changes that occur in the new experience:

And Portfolio on Cloud also has a limitation with the new Next-Gen project types detailed here:

Also, a follow up question for both of you relating to where @justmark noted:

It might be a good addition to your online docs to specifically state note to use the "is parent/child of" linkages.  Having a "Parent link" in addition to these link settings per issue is somewhat confusing though!

I do see a bit of confusion around the Parent link field in Portfolio regularly when users starting off and setting up portfolio, especially as the terminology has some overlap in various scenarios, EXE: a story is a parent of a subtask via the parent field, but the Epic is connected to the parent initiative via the Parent Link field, and is easily crossed in terminology, and I am looking to get the information reflected a bit more clearly, we do have a explanation of the parent linkage functionality documented here "Linking issues to parent issues", but this is a separate location than the other documents listed And more of a process explanation than a function one. 

Also @justmark  had noted working from a blog post do you have any feed back on where and why you were looking at that specific blog, and what the blog post was, as well as where you think would be the best place to add in the info about the parent link to the other portions of the documentation, and the blog post you were looking when you were thrown off during configuration steps noted, so we can look into an update to the content to clarify this a bit more.


Hi Earl,

I have a similar issue and this is best single article so far on trying to troubleshoot hierarchy issues that I have seen.

My issue is that my organization wants to move to Initiatives within projects instead of a separate Initiatives project.  In trying to enable that,  I am seeing a bug where users may add Initiatives as an issue to an Epic.  Initiatives, in fact, appear as the first type that may be created when choosing to add an issue to an Epic.  

I have Parent Link field configured on the Epic screen correctly. I do not see where this configuration is found for a Cloud instance.

" initiative and feature were set to "is parent of" and "is child of" rather than the "parent link".     

Is this a configuration I can access for Cloud?  We are in a mixed mode right where we have some projects using Initiatives directly and the bulk are still in the Initiatives project. Is that even supported or do you need to pick one or the other mode for Initiatives in Project or Initiatives in a separate project?

Could workflows be impacting too?  We have the same flow for Initiatives, Epics and Stories.

Thanks sorry for the length.



Earl McCutcheon
Atlassian Team
Atlassian Team members are employees working across the company in a wide variety of roles.
Mar 18, 2020

Hi @Pat Ryan ,

Thanks for the feedback and I'm happy to hear I could provide clarification on this for you.

The behavior you are running into with the Epic and initiative loop is a a Bug we are tracking at the following links, noting it affects both the Cloud and Server versions:

The work around I have on the bug reports does require some manual searching and updating to catch and fix the issues that are both the Parent Initiative and a child of the an epic and would be as follows:


You can use the following JQL to identify issue in this state:

issuetype = "initiative"  AND "Epic Link" is not EMPTY 

perform Bulk Update to remove the Epic link

I would also recomend that you save the filter and set up a dashboard using a filter results gadget that you could use to perform regular checks for any issues that fall into this state for quickly identifying any that get erroneously linked to an epic.

As for displaying the Parent link on the issues, check out this KB for a referance point on the configuration steps:

But you noted having the field set on the screens for epic issue types, and with this set up the Parent link field should be present on the screens you set it on, with an exception in the View screen, and something that might be happening here is that the Field will not be displayed on the view screen until it has a value present, but if you have set the parent Link field to a transition or to the edit screen it should be avaliable in these locations when no values exist yet.

I also recomend adding a vote to the following Request to alter the behavior of the Parent Link field to act more like the Epic Link field as it sound like it lines up with some of your concerns as well:

On your note of:

Could workflows be impacting too?  We have the same flow for Initiatives, Epics and Stories.

You could set up different workflows per issue type if you need the issue types to behave differently, check out the Workflow Scheme documentation for steps to set this up:


I think i am having an issue related to this post. Not all of the initiatives we have created can be seen in portfolio. Plan includes the whole project and filters are off and I am still not able to see some initiatives in portfolio. Also Portfolio is seeing these as without parent even though when you go into the epic you can see the correct parent link is there. Any suggestions ? Using Jira / portfolio cloud

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