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How Jira Issue Ranking Works

How does Jira ordering work? What happens when users prioritize issues differently or on different boards? How do I know if ordering is functioning correctly?

Answer

Jira provides a way to order and prioritize issues. On a board, simply drag an issue above or below another issue to determine ranking.

Ranking is a global concept. Issues are ranked against other issues regardless of their Jira project, issue type, or associated board. Ranking is not related to other standard fields like “Original Estimate”, “Story Points” or “Priority” but you can use these concepts together to influence your prioritization process.

An issue only has one rank even if it’s included in multiple boards. The display order is based on an issue’s relation to other issues on the board.

If you change an issue’s ranking on one board, the ranking changes automatically on other boards. Project Managers, Team Leads, and Product Owners need to work together to determine overall strategic priorities.

More about Ranking

Before a sophisticated ranking system was available in Jira, we all created a static, custom number field to track order. This was tedious to maintain. When priority changed, we had to manually renumber the values in the custom field. This was especially problematic for long issue lists.

Luckily, today, there’s a better method. Today’s system is called LexoRank and it uses numbers and letters for maximum ordering flexibility. An issue’s order is stored, as a string, in single field called “Rank”. Jira Administrators can see the field on the “Custom Fields” page, but it is “locked” and not editable. Admins might also see remnants of old ranking fields marked “obsolete” too.

Order by Rank with JQL

In addition to viewing issue rank on boards, you can also order issues by rank with JQL. This is useful for filters and dashboards. To see issues in one project, ranked from highest to lowest, use a query like: project = project-name ORDER BY Rank ASC

Troubleshooting

Jira periodically rebalances or “recalculates” issue order. The application checks for and handles rebalancing automatically, as a background service. It detects problems like missing minimum or maximum values, strings that are too long, or duplicate ranks in the database. Jira administrators can see the rebalancing status and check for integrity problems from the following page: Admin > System > LexoRank management.


Jira Server LexoRank management page

Here’s a screenshot of the LexoRank management page in Jira Server. (The page looks similar in Jira Cloud.)

The middle of the page shows information about the ranking field and its status. In the example, there are 188 ranked issues and the rank status is “OK”.

You can manually trigger a rebalance by clicking the “Balance all fields” button or the “Balance field” link. To check ranking integrity, click the “Run integrity checks” button (not pictured) at the bottom of the screen. You can perform these actions without impacting Jira’s availability.

Resources

Use these additional resources to learn more about ranking.

3 comments

Well-explained! And I like the linked talk by Ahmad too. Two questions I get asked that I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on are:

1. What would you say to people who say they want to order their issues on their board by Priority instead of Rank?

2. And what about people who ask you to put the Rank field on their screens?

Rachel Wright Community Leader May 18, 2020

Hi @Matt Doar__ LinkedIn ,

My take on your discussion points:

1. I see the "Priority" field as a data point belonging to the Reporter.  And of course, their "super important, need it done yesterday" priority may differ from reality.  ;)  I use "Priority" to inform initial importance and the "Rank" field to communicate actual importance when compared to other initiatives in the pipeline.  So what's shown on the board and how it's ordered depends on the audience.  Also, many issues can have the same "Priority" value, but the "Rank" value is unique.

2. The rank values are stored as alphanumeric strings not in an easy to read format.  Unless everyone has a secret decoder ring, to understand what rank "1|hzzv7b:" vs rank "1|hzzz73:" means, I don't see much value in displaying this field.

What does everyone else think?

Rachel Wright
Author, Jira Strategy Admin Workbook

Great and simple explanation for Jira Issue Ranking. Great work @Rachel Wright !

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