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How to manage workflows in Jira

We’ll learn about how workflows and project boards work together to visualize the steps for completing tasks and how you can begin planning a workflow that best suits the needs of your project. 

READ TIME: 4 minutes

This article created October 2020

What you’ll learn

  • What is a project board
  • What is a workflow?
  • Modeling workflow on a project board

NOTE: This is a general introduction, with links to further resources in and out of the Atlassian Community.

What’s a project board? 

Like a checklist, a board is a two-dimensional view of the work to be done by a team and is used to help visualize and manage the work.

Boards may be referred to as a task board, a project board, a kanban board, or a Scrum board. Boards can be physical (such as sticky notes in columns) or digital (such as Jira boards).

Agile teams commonly break up a project into manageable tasks—or issues—and work on them in a series of steps that are shown on the board as columns. 

On a Jira board, each issue is shown as a card, which displays a convenient subset of the issues’ fields for easy visualization. The columns and fields displayed on a card can be configured to match the team’s needs. Depending on which template you choose when setting up a project in Jira, a board can be automatically created (and updated) for you.

Atlassian_Topic2_JiraBoard-May2021.png

With a board, you can easily see which items have not been started (TO DO), which items are in progress (WORKING), and which are done (DONE). 

Boards are very transparent in that they show the true state of the project, not only to the project team, but to any stakeholders who have access to the board.

Related Resource:

What’s a workflow?

As mentioned earlier, the columns of a board represent a series of steps for completing the work – otherwise known as a workflow (or process). 

Even though a workflow is technically a model of a process, you often will find the terms workflow, process, and business process used interchangeably. They all represent breaking down the work into defined statuses or steps. 

Atlassian_Topic2_JiraMovingIssues1-May2021.gif

You can see that workflows and boards are closely related. 

The board visualizes the workflow. When you move an issue to a different column in the board, you are changing the value of its status field. Similarly, when you view an issue’s details and change its status, you will usually see the issue change columns on the board.

Related resource:

Modeling workflow on a board

Jira boards are highly adaptable and can be tailored to your specific project needs, such as the number and names of statuses (columns) and the information shown on the cards. 

So how would you go about designing a workflow for your project? 

Let's take the simple process of ordering and delivering a customer's food at a restaurant and model it as a workflow: 

Atlassian_Topic2_RestaurantWorkflow.png

Step 1: Wait staff takes the order from the customer.

Step 2: Wait staff adds the order to the cook's queue (it's placed in a queue because the cook only can start the order when they have bandwidth).

Step 3: Cook takes the order from the incoming queue and begins to prepare the order. 

Step 4: Cook has finished the preparation and adds the order to the delivery queue (it's placed in a queue because the cook usually doesn't directly deliver the order to the customer and the wait staff might not be immediately available).

Step 5: Wait staff delivers the order to the customer. 

Now that we’ve defined the steps in the workflow, we can create a Jira project with columns of the board to match.

Atlassian_Topic2_JiraBoardRestaurant.png

Even though this is a simplified example of a workflow, it shows the basic idea of breaking down the work of a project into steps

You can model any process that you want using this simple block diagram approach. 

While some projects may only need a simple workflow with a few steps and transitions to get to completion, others may require a bit more planning. Keep in mind that workflow design should be a team effort involving your project stakeholders—including those doing the work—to set the stage for success. 

Jira workflows are highly adaptable for whatever the project need and work style. At the end of the day, how a team functions is ultimately reflected in its workflow: a repeatable process that makes it easier for people to work together at scale.

To learn more about designing workflows, be sure to check out our workflow guides in the related resource below.

Related resource:

Continue learning

This is a general overview of boards and workflows. Keep learning:

2 comments

@Dorin Shen  Thanks for the explanation!

Like G subramanyam likes this
G subramanyam Community Leader May 01, 2021

Nice read and well written @Dorin Shen 

Like Dorin Shen likes this

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