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What's the difference between the usage of Capability and Initiative?

I am trying to create a hierarchy for some of the teams who are using the User stories and Epics format. What is the right method of using Capability and Initiative in Jira?

Does the following structure make sense for reporting and end to end project mapping?

  1. Initiative -> Capability (multiple) -> Epics (several for each Capability) -> Stories.

Happy to hear thoughts about using Features too but the teams are not using it so might not be encouraged. 

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Earl McCutcheon
Atlassian Team
Atlassian Team members are employees working across the company in a wide variety of roles.
Jul 23, 2019

Hi Shripad,

Any levels of hierarchy above the epic level is considered an initiative per the terminology definitions on the structure of the hierarchy.  So your Capability hierarchy level is the first Initiative layer and Initiative hierarchy is the second initiative level as the top level grouping.  

Initiatives work on a parent to child mapping, A single 'initiative' hierarchy is a very large body of work, which is the parent of the epics linked as the child issues at the next level below the Initiative, and the Next Initiative hierarchy above the first is a similar grouping but instead of grouping the epics it is a grouping of the child Initiatives at the next layer down.

The best way to think of Initiatives is as a method to create categories that encompass a specific body of work that needs to be tracked as a single entity due to the relationship of those items.  But overall a categorization effort for like items becoming more and more broad of a term the higher up the hierarchy you go.

A really good break down on the layering can be seen in this blog post: "Epics, Stories, Themes, and Initiatives"


Hi Earl,


Thank you for the detailed explanation. It gives me a fair idea about the structure and hierarchy, which I wanted to understand.


I had read the article before posting it :)

The challenge is, not many fields are enabled/encouraged to be utilised at this stage - including Features and Themes.


Having said that, your answer helps and suffices my question. Thankyou.




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It's funny that the article is called "Epics, Stories, Themes, and Initiatives"  but there is no even a single mention of what theme is =) Seems like outdated artifact

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