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Navigating the challenge of assigning Jira issues to multiple users

Jira was primarily designed with the assumption that a single individual is responsible for a specific unit of work to prevent tasks from being overlooked. So, when multiple users are involved in a task, the recommended approach is to break down the issue into subtasks and assign them to those responsible for carrying them out. There are a few workarounds though, available both within Jira and with the help of third-party apps where you can plan for multiple users to work on a task at the same time. That being said, opinions on whether a task should have multiple assignees differ.

To assign or not to assign (to multiple users)

The supporters of the “one task-one assignee” approach believe that if multiple people are accountable for something, at the end of the day - nobody is. Things might be overlooked or left undone because everyone thought the other person would take care of them. On the other hand, when the assignee knows they are solely responsible for the task's completion, they will be more likely to give it the necessary attention and effort. 

That approach is believed to simplify the decision-making process: there’s no need for discussions, debates, and consensus-building. This can help to avoid potential bottlenecks and make progress faster.  

When there's only one person in charge of a task, it's also easier to communicate about it. You can send updates, ask questions, and have discussions with just that one person. It helps information to flow smoothly and makes tracking progress easier.

A single-assignee approach will also eliminate the risk of duplicate work. We’re only humans, miscommunication happens and team members may start working on the same aspects of a task without being aware that others are already tackling it. The result is unnecessarily wasted time and resources.

Nevertheless, this solution also has its opponents who believe that by not allowing multiple assignees, Jira actually limits the team's ability to think and approach problems in a flexible way.  

In contrast, when tasks are assigned to multiple users, it encourages teamwork and exchanging of ideas. Everyone can contribute their unique skills and perspectives and inspire others to come up with new, creative solutions. Diversity in thinking can also lead to more effective problem-solving. Each person may approach the problem from a unique angle, sharing their insights and perspective. 

This kind of teamwork can bring people together. They get to interact closely, share ideas, and have meaningful discussions. It's a chance for the team to connect with each other. And the relationships they build have a big impact on how they work together and, ultimately, on their success in the project.

In some cases, assigning tasks to multiple users can also minimize the risk of delays or disruptions. If someone is unavailable, there’s no need to look for a replacement as others will keep the work moving forward. 

It shouldn’t go unnoticed that when multiple users work together on a task, they have the opportunity to learn from one another. Sharing knowledge, best practices and approaches can contribute to the growth and development of team members.

How to approach multiple assignees in Jira

Despite the fact that Jira doesn’t allow multiple assignees, there are some workarounds you can utilize to assign more users to Jira issues. 

  • Managing Issues via a Queue - you can set up your project so that issues are initially assigned to an 'Unassigned' queue. This means that when users access the project, they can choose which issues they want to work on from this pool of unassigned tasks.
  • Managing Issues via Group Ownership - in Jira you have the possibility to add a custom field where you will specify which users and groups should be linked to a specific issue. This feature comes in handy, especially for projects where a single team handles all issues of a specific category.
  • Managing Issues via a User Account -  there’s also an option to create a user account to represent a group of people (e.g. 'developers'). Then, you can assign tasks to this group account. This way, everyone in the group can keep an eye on the tasks assigned to them by checking their own dashboard. If you've set up an email list for the group, they will also receive email notifications about the tasks.  

Assigning a task to multiple users with a Jira app

An alternative option you can explore is planning tasks with a Jira app like Team Planner - Resource Planning and Capacity Planning. With it, you can visually represent your plan with users and tasks assigned to them on a timeline. Multiple assignees can work on the plan together in real-time and edit it simultaneously. All changes will be immediately seen by all collaborators. 

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When it comes to the app, it works for both scenarios: you can either make one person responsible for a task at a time, or you can plan for multiple users to work on the same issue simultaneously. Depending on a particular task, project, or your team’s needs and preferences, you can choose the most suitable approach.

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Summary

Although opinions on whether we should assign tasks to multiple users or not vary, it's important to note that Jira itself doesn't provide an option for that. Nevertheless, if you are on the “multiple assignees” team, there are workarounds you can employ. These include managing issues through a queue or group ownership, as well as creating a user account. There also is a solution that could appeal to both sides of the debate - planning your project with a Jira app. It offers the flexibility to either assign a task to one user or have multiple users collaborate on it together, so each team can choose whatever works for them best.

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