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Have a dependency on a team outside of Jira Align? There's a toggle for that!

**Updated to reflect recent changes to Jira Align in Version 10.81**


One of the most powerful aspects of Jira Align is the functionality it provides around dependency management. One question that always comes up though is...

"I have a team that's not in Jira Align...can I issue them a dependency?"

You bet you can! Within Jira Align there is the concept of an External Entity that a dependency can be associated with. This functionality is not typically on by default, so in order to enable the functionality do the following:

  • On the Jira Align Administration page and go to Settings > Platform 
  • On the Team Tab, click Manage Dependencies

You'll be presented with the following screen where you'll be able to configure toggles to enable external entity selection for dependencies (as well as other selection types).

Screen Shot 2020-02-07 at 5.59.07 PM.png

Now that the functionality is enabled in the system (yay!), we also need to enable the ability to create External Entities for each System Role (note that you only need this permission if you are going to create/edit/delete a new External Entity...everyone will be able to select one as long as you have enabled the functionality outlined earlier). To give a Role the permission to modify an External Entity, do the following:

  • On the Jira Align Administration page and go to Access Controls > Roles
  • Select the Role you would like to update 
  • Expand Program > Manage then locate the Dependencies row and toggle on the Manage External Entities option 

Screen Shot 2020-11-09 at 10.51.22 AM.png

Hit Save at the bottom of the screen and that's it!


Now that everything is enabled and you have the permission to create an External Entity, let's add one to a dependency! To do this, got to the Dependencies Grid and in the top right corner click on More Actions > Manage External Entities.

Screen Shot 2020-11-09 at 11.13.38 AM.png

In the window that opens, add the Entity name and Owner (a Jira Align user who will be the proxy for the External Entity), then click Add.

Screen Shot 2020-11-09 at 11.12.38 AM.png

That's it! Close the window and when you create a dependency you will see the entity you selected within the External option when specifying who your team is dependent on.

Screen Shot 2020-02-07 at 6.11.33 PM.png

To learn more about the amazing power of dependencies within Jira Align, check out the following Dependency Overview page.



Great article @Mark Cruth , and thanks for linking to the Help Center!

Like # people like this
Emily Koch Atlassian Team Feb 07, 2020

Thanks for this overview of external dependencies! I love that you can account for all sorts of different entities as you create dependencies, including ones outside the organization.

Like Mark Cruth likes this
Rich Sparks Atlassian Team Feb 09, 2020

External dependencies work great when you're trying to coordinate the work of vendors or partners. But they can also be used with other teams in your own organization when they're not yet using Align.

You probably won't add every single team to Align all at once (nothing like a Big Bang approach to Agile transformation!) so your teams that are using Align can set up external dependencies for those teams that aren't yet using Align. 

That way, the teams that are using Align manage all their dependencies in a consistent fashion. And more importantly, those teams that aren't yet using Align can see all the work that is being requested of them in one place.

So just remember "external" doesn't have to mean "outside my company"; it can also be used as a way of coordinating work with other teams within your company that aren't yet using Align. It makes the transition smoother, and when they're onboard, you've already set up a common process for managing dependencies.

Like # people like this
Mark Cruth Atlassian Team Feb 09, 2020

Great callout @Rich Sparks ! Being able to create a consistent way of thinking about / managing cross team / organization dependencies is hugely powerful!

Like # people like this
Don Miller Atlassian Team Apr 09, 2020

Also make sure that your Admin>Program>Manage>Dependencies>Manage External Entities toggle is turned on.  I did that but still didn't see the More Actions button until I read your article.  Thanks, @Mark Cruth !

Hi @Mark Cruth I have done my PIP and my board is done with all dependencies. Now along the way I have changes, how can JIRA Align track those changes, so that at the end of the PI I can analyse and make improvements?

Is there a report on changes on the Programme Board changes?



Mark Cruth Atlassian Team Feb 16, 2021

Hi @Sundaresen Rungasamy ! Great question! Best way to do this is to use the History report on the Program Board (see red box on screenshot below).

Screen Shot 2021-02-16 at 7.38.50 AM.png

Jira Align Help Link:

On the History report you'll be able to see all the changes made to features on the program board (movements and by who made the moves). Unfortunately you won't be able to see changes made to dependencies here. The best way to see the history on dependencies is to check out the Audit Log on an individual dependency. 

I hope this helps!


Thanks @Mark Cruth I think in the future it would be great to visually see the shifting path of the feature instead of having to dig into the history. What we want is to see onthe system what we can see visually... like a projection of the physical into the virtual. 

Hi @Mark Cruth I was wondering if there is a way to add an external entity for the "Requesting" field, not just the "Depends On" one. We have teams within our organization that do not use Align yet, but they have work for my teams. I wanted to add a dependency for my team (Depends On) that is being requested from the team that does not use Align (Requesting) for the sake of visibility, however, I don't see that "External" is an option for "Requesting". Is there a way to do that? :) Thank you, sir!

Like Rich Sparks likes this
Rich Sparks Atlassian Team Oct 29, 2021

@Frances Cottrell What I've seen a couple of our clients do is create "Interim Programs" in Jira Align that represent the teams that are not yet in Jira Align. Then they can create requests that go into the existing teams. 

If you're going to take this approach, you need to think about which particular group you are optimizing for. You could create one single "interim program" representing all the teams that aren't yet in Jira Align, and that program would need to be included in any relevant PI's. That way you can create a Dependency request for teams that are in Jira Align. 

At the other extreme (and I don't recommend this), you could create a separate "Interim Program" for every team that isn't in Jira Align, and that way you can tell where all the requests come from. I am not sure this is really necessary, or it may be a lot more work than it's worth. 

Remember, a Dependency is created in relation to an existing feature of epic. So if an "Interim Program" is going to create a dependency, it's going to have to create a representative work item to connect the items. That can be tricky, because when you eventually do bring that team into Jira Align, you won't be able to move the dependency from that representative item to the real one.

Depending on the problem you're trying to solve, it might be easier just to label work somehow to indicate it's a dependency. Or you can consider using the "Source" field on Feature work items to indicate the Source of the Feature is due to an outside request.

Like Mark Cruth likes this

@mark  Would you know of a way to switch a Dependency from an External Entity to an "internal" Team once it has been created?

Mark Cruth Atlassian Team Oct 11, 2022

@Jason - unfortunately there is no way to convert it, both from external > internal, and internal > external. During the creation process they follow a difficult set of backend procedures. And unfortunately you can't copy either (because the copy process will take it through those same procedures in the backend). The best option is to manually recreate. 


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