Sorting JIRA Agile "Work" board by Story results in unprioritized list

Hello all,

I'm facing an issue that seems wrong to me, but maybe it's just a JIRA Agile limitation, any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

We keep our backlog in JIRA, with stories linked to Epics (typically defined features for a release). We plan sprints from said backlog, typically doing so by Epic. For example, Epic #1 and #3 are most important for this sprint, so we pull stories from those two epics, disregarding Epic #2... etc.

Most recently, we planned and started a sprint, then decided we wanted to organize the "Work" board by Stories rather than by Epic in the hopes that this would give us a better view of what the actual priorities are of the stories and committed items. (Note: when organizing the "Work" board by Epic, the inherent priority of the stories gets lost, and this is ultimately what we are trying to solve).

So, my ultimate question/curiosity is: is it possible to organize the "Work" JIRA Agile board by Story and have it prioritize the stories by their specific rank (as set in the "Plan" tab).

Update: I've just read the fine print below the "Base Swimlanes on Story" option which says "Group sub-tasks under their parent issue. Issues without sub-tasks will be shown in their own group at the bottom."

And now realize that I'm even more confused than ever. Why the heck would you be allowed to organize your board swimlanes by story if it's then going to completely disregard the rank/priority you have set for each? That seems counterintuitive to me... My team wants to be able to look at our Sprint "Work" board and see all of their committments in the SPECIFIC and PRIORITIZED order that we planned it in. Why is this not a possibility?



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Wow, Amanda, you have a great question here.

So, first, you say you generally prioritize via Epics. Just to be clear, the ranking that JIRA Agile remembers is story by story, not Epic by Epic.

Okay, so diving in further: When starting a sprint, if you don't use any swimlanes, JIRA will default to displaying stories (and their subtasks) in the order in which it was in your planning board (by priority). So, that might be your solution. I actually don't like the swimlanes-by-story option, because then you never actually see the story itself moving across the board. Losing that visual cue is a big problem.

Okay: so when using the swimlanes-by-story method, the issues do get sorted by that priority, except any stories without subtasks are dumped to the bottom. That's obviously problematic for the sorting there. I don't think there's anything you can do about that. So I suggest not using swimlanes at all.

One more point, that may or may not apply to your situation (so excuse me for butting in): in my opinion, prioritization is really only for sprint scoping and planning. Once your team has commited to sprint goals, any further talk of prioritization endangers the completion of the sprint. The team shouldn't be able to point to the bottom and say "well, this is the least important it's fine to leave that till the end." The highest (and hopefully only) priority should be to complete the entire sprint, because a partial completion is really just a complete failure. This is similar to a frequent novice Agile question about "stretch goals" and if a team can say okay, here's our sprint goal and here's our stretch goal. This allows teams to aim lower and then maybe hit higher if possible. One of the benefits from Agile is greatly increased productivity, and including stretch goals or priorities in this manner often sabotages this goal.

Thanks for your response, Justin. I realized it's all just JIRA limitations that my team and I have to find workarounds for.

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