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What's the difference between state and process step?

I'm trying to better understand how to use these two fields to drive work. What, practically, is the difference between the two, and how do they work together for people to understand work?

Should I think of this as States containing one or more Process Steps?

Pending Approval - N/A

Ready to Start - N/A

In Progress - Discovery Phase, Development Phase

Dev Complete - Test Phase

Test Complete - Release Phase

Accepted - Closed


Are these fields configurable? It appears Process Steps are, but are states? 

1 answer

1 accepted

2 votes
Answer accepted

Hi Mike,

This is a common question among new users of Jira Align but I hope to clarify the purpose of both fields for you. 


What is a State in Jira Align?

A State represents the current status of the work item in Jira Align. All work items must have a State and it is not configurable/customizable. The reason for this is to ensure consistency among all work items regardless of what Process Flows the work item uses. This consistency highly important for reporting, which can impact planning.

What is a Process Step in Jira Align?

A Process Step represents the workflow status of the work item in Jira. Process Steps are optional. For example, if your Jira workflow for Features have statuses Pending Approval, Ready to Start, In Progress, Dev Complete, Test Complete, and Accepted, then those statuses already match the States in Jira Align and Process Steps are not needed. As you mentioned, Process Steps are configurable.

How do they work together?

Let's say you have the 6 Jira States (Pending Approval to Accepted) and a custom Jira workflow containing statuses Discovery Phase, Development Phase, Test Phase, Release Phase, and Closed. Because the names of the Jira Align States do not match the name of the Jira Statuses, we need a "middle man" to map them together. Process Steps act as that "middle man". Using your example in your post, if you moved a work item in Jira Align from the "In Progress" State to the "Dev Complete" State, an update on the Process Step will be triggered to be changed to "Test Complete". When the synchronization between Jira Align and Jira takes place, Jira will see that the work item's status has changed and is able to match the new Process Step value to the workflow status.

Can a Jira Align State map to more than one Process Step?

Yes, it can map to more than one Process Step. In your example, Discovery Phase may be the stage where the developer is researching and evaluating how to implement new code while Development Phase is the stage where the developer is actually implementing that code and performing testing. For both stages, work has been started on the work item but the code is not ready to be tested by an Analyst, so we consider the Jira Align state to be In Progress. 

Because there can be more than one Process Step per Jira Align State, it is highly recommended that users update the Process Step on work items (when applicable) rather than the State so that the Status in Jira is precise upon synchronization.


I hope this explanation has helped answer some of your questions. Feel free to reach out if you would like more examples or a more detailed explanation.


Best of Luck,

Rebecca Broussard

Hi Rebecca

I was thinking the same way about State but Jira Align has automation that moves State to in-Progress when child ticket moved to Implementation (without changing Process Step of the ticket). This automation is done by design.

I didn't get clear explanation from Atlassian but i suspect State represent state of whole scope (including child tickets):

  • if Process Step moved to Implementing, then State will move to In-Progress
  • If child ticket moved to implementation meaning organization is investing effort/time to do something and this indicates state of whole scope is In-Progress (although Process Step can still be in Reviewing/Analyzing/Draft for example)

Any thoughts?



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