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To Do column not needed on active board, but getting rid of it hides my backlog

I have a number of columns on my sprint board. One of them is To Do. This is always empty because only things that are in a status of "Ready for Dev" (the subsequent status) appear in my sprint.

However, if I configure the board to NOT show the "To Do" column, then no issues appear in my backlog.

What am I doing wrong?

3 answers

2 accepted

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Answer accepted
John Funk Community Leader Oct 07, 2019

Hi Jim,

The status has to be on your board somewhere for the issues to show up, even if the issue is just in a Backlog column. So, having said that, our teams have created a Backlog column as the first column on the board. Then you can even have a To Do column or whatever you want for items that have advanced past the Backlog stage in the second column. 

Ok - so as I understand it, Jira makes no distinction between things that are just in the backlog, and things that are ready to be brought into a sprint. So "To Do" (the default first state) needs to mean both, "I just thought of this thing we might want to do," and, "This is fully elaborated and ready for us to start building."

If you add a state to make that distinction, you're forced to have an empty column in your Sprint board in order to see all the issues in the backlog.


John Funk Community Leader Oct 07, 2019

No, Backlog is just a status and could literally be placed anywhere - it's up to your team for implementing best practices. Also, it depends on your workflow - typical workflows have issues going straight to the Backlog status for Software projects, it it could go to another one. Ya gotta start somewhere and backlog is usually that  :-)

Right. So how do I have a backlog that is visible in backlog view but doesn't need a column in my active sprint view?

If I use the standard starting status of "To Do" then the only way I can see the issues in that status in the backlog is to also have a column/status called "To Do" in my active sprint board. If I remove that column in the active sprint board, then all issues in the status in the backlog are invisible in backlog view!

I'm talking about backlog as a set of issues that are not yet in the sprint, rather than as a status. I guess I'm after the same sort of behaviour you get on the Kanban board, where you can hide the backlog column but still see the contents of the backlog when looking at backlog view

John Funk Community Leader Oct 07, 2019

You can't - theoretically, if it is an active Sprint, then there is no Backlog - only active issues being worked as a part of the Sprint. 

Your Backlog still exists - but is not on the actual active Sprint board itself. See screenshot.

Sprint Backlog.PNG

Now, one of our teams has a "Backlog Pullable" that exists in the first column that represents issues that are not a part of the current active Sprint but could be pulled from if there is space in the active Sprint to do more work.

Does all of that make sense?

Thanks, it does. I think I was right to begin with, although perhaps not explaining myself correctly. The "visibility filter" applies equally to both backlog and active sprint views, even though actually they serve different purposes.

Any pre-sprint statuses have to exist as columns on the sprint board if I want to see them in the backlog. Right...?

John Funk Community Leader Oct 07, 2019

Right - if they are not in the Backlog status, you have to put the status in a column for them to show up on the board. But they won't show up in the Backlog if they are not in the backlog status

Ah - okay - I get what you were saying earlier now. I inherited the Scrum project and there was no indication of a "Backlog" status. Which led me to believe that "To Do" was the only standard starting status available.

When I go into the workflow editor the initial transition is from a blob to "To Do." The transition is called "Create" and I can't change it. So although I can add the "Backlog" status I can't actually use it as the initial status.

Is this a permissions thing?

John Funk Community Leader Oct 07, 2019

You should be able to edit the Workflow to add the Backlog status and then change the Create Transition to go to it before To Do. Then either drop To Do add a new Transition from Backlog to To Do. 

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Answer accepted

For an issue to appear on a board , it needs to be selected and shown by the board.  If you remove status from the board (by not mapping them into a column), then you are telling Jira that the issues should not be selected for view, which means they should not be in the backlog.

You do not need a to-do column to be there specifically, but you should map every status available into a column to stop things dropping out of the backlog/board.

That's just it: I DON'T want my backlog items to appear on my sprint board (who would :-) ?). But if I remove the "To Do" column (which is always empty) from the Sprint board, the issues also disappear from the backlog.

Are you saying that I MUST have an empty column on my sprint board in order for the backlog to be viewable? That makes no sense, and certainly wasn't the case on a previous project (to which I no longer have access, so I can't compare statuses and workflow directly)

The alternative is to assume that the status of every backlog item doesn't change when it's brought into the sprint, in order to populate the leftmost column (To Do). Which, of course, ignores the basic principle that something must be Ready to come into a sprint, but doesn't need to be Ready to be in the backlog.

My statuses are To Do (not fully defined but we know we probably need it - ie, on the backlog), then "Ready" (defined and ready to be worked on in a sprint), and then a series of statuses heading towards "Done."

It sounds like Jira doesn't make the distinction between backlog and "Ready." Is that right?

No, you don't have to have an empty column.    What you need for an issue to appear (on the board or in the backlog) is for it to match the board filter, and be in a status that is mapped into a column on the board.

To draw things into a sprint, you don't change their status, you just group them together with the sprint.  When you start the sprint, the issues appear on the board, without needing a status change.

You are correct, Jira just has a backlog from which you draw a sprint.  Everything in the backlog is "ready" assuming that means "it needs something doing to it"

Yes, I get that. My point is that if I want to see the entirety of the backlog, all the issues in that backlog need to have a status that is mapped to a column on the active sprint board. I can't have a backlog full of issues in "To Do" and then have a sprint board that DOESN'T have a "To Do" column.

My statuses are as follows:

"To Do" (Stuff we think we're going to do but haven't refined - they're not ready to be implemented)

"Ready" (Stuff we've elaborated and it's ready to build)

[some other statuses that we'll push through during the sprint]

"Done" (meets Definition of Done)

don't want to see the "To Do" stuff in my active sprint because it's not ready to build; so I hide the "To do" column. But now I can't see the issues in the backlog, because they're in a status of "To Do" (because they're not yet "Ready." Remember, I don't want to bring anything into the sprint that isn't "Ready." This is pretty standard stuff. Show me a team that brings stuff into the sprint that isn't ready to build, and I'll show you a team that isn't performing.)

So I can either have an (empty) "To Do" column in my active sprint board, and see the backlog of "To Do" status issues in the backlog view. Or I can see only stuff that's "Ready" (or further along) in the active sprint - but then I can't see the backlog which is full of "To Do" issues.

Or I can just pretend that "To Do" also means "Ready" in Jira-world and have to put a different field or flag or label on the stories that actually are ready to bring into a sprint.

If there's a way of having a visible backlog full of issues that are "To Do" without having to have a "To Do" column on my active sprint, it's eluding me!

So, you need to decide if you want to see the "to do" stuff in the backlog or not.  To include it, you need it mapped on the board, but remember that it will not appear on the board because you won't be drawing it into a sprint, so you can have your first column contain "to do" and "ready". 

Starting a sprint won't remove any to-do stuff from the backlog, it just skims off what you chose for the sprint (which presumably will be only things you have as "ready")


Quick question.

I have the same issue and all I could do was move the columns to the right so I wouldn't have the empty columns as visible on the Board.

I also have statuses that are meant to manage items in the Backlog previous to accepting them into a sprint. Did you find another solution?


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