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Your Go-To Jira Glossary

JIRA Desktop@2x.png

Sometimes, the lingo can be the steepest part of the learning curve when getting started with Jira (and the Agile methodology). Below, we have compiled a list of some of the basic (and more obscure) terms associated with Jira. Did we miss any? Add your own terms and definitions in the comments below!

Backlog – A backlog is a list of the outstanding user stories, bugs and features for a product or sprint.

Board – The tool that teams use to visualize units of work moving through their specific workflow. It can be adapted for different styles of agile development (e.g. a Scrum board shows work items moving from the product backlog to the sprint backlog whereas a Kanban board typically has a three-step workflow: To Do, In Progress, and Done).

Burndown Chart – A Burndown Chart shows the actual and estimated amount of work to be done in a sprint. 

Control Chart – A Control Chart can show the cycle time or lead time for your product, version or sprint.

Cycle Time – Cycle time is the time spent working on an issue – typically, the time taken from when work begins on an issue to when work is completed, but also includes any other time spent working on the issue. For example, if an issue is reopened, worked on, and completed again, then the time for this extra work is added to the cycle time.

Daily stand-up Also known as a daily scrum, a 15-minute mini-meeting for the software team to sync.

Epic – An epic captures a large body of work that needs to be broken down into a number of smaller stories. It may take several sprints to complete an epic. The hierarchy for units of work in Jira Software is as follows: Project > Epics/Components > Stories > Tasks > Subtasks

Filter – Filters determine what is visible on each of your boards. Using Jira's simple query builder (JQL), you can customize exactly which issues are displayed on your board. 

Issue – An issue is simply a unit of work within Jira that will be traced through a workflow, from creation to completion. It can range from representing a single unit of work, like a simple task or bug, to a larger parent work item to be tracked, like a story or an epic.

Kanban – Kanban is a system for visualizing the flow of work and limiting work in progress. Kanban is not oriented towards sprints, like Scrum development methodology, as it is more ongoing. 

Scrum – Scrum is an Agile development methodology where the product is built in a series of fixed-length iterations called sprints. It gives teams a framework for shipping software on a regular cadence. 

Scrum of Scrums – Scrum of Scrums is a means of scaling Scrum to large, multi-team projects. Scrum of Scrums is the Agile version of what is traditionally known as program management.

Sprint –  A sprint — also known as an iteration — is a short (ideally two to four week) period in which the development team implements and delivers a discrete product increment, e.g. a working milestone version.

Sprint planning – A team planning meeting that determines what to complete in the coming sprint.

Sprint retrospective – A review of what did and didn't go well with actions to make the next sprint better.

Story – A story or user story is a software system requirement that is expressed in a few short sentences, ideally using non-technical language.

Story Point – A story point is an estimate of the relative complexity of a story.

Swimlane –  A swimlane is a means of categorizing issues so that agile teams can see which issues they should work on next.

Sub-Task –  A sub-task can be a "child" of any issue type, depending on the Issue Type Scheme of the project. 

Task - A task is another out-of-the-box issue type in Jira.

Velocity – The velocity of a team is a measure of how much work that the team can handle within a specific time period, i.e. how much of the product backlog can be completed by the team in a sprint. Velocity can be calculated on the basis of story points, business value, hours, issue count, or any numeric field of your choice.

Workflow – Workflow is the logic that drives movement of a stories / sub-task along their development journey on a scrum or kanban board.

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Want more? Browse more Jira articles or ask a question about JIRA.


MattS Rising Star Jul 12, 2017

This is great. If it could be added to the Atlasian JIRA Software documentation, that would be great too

Thanks Katie. Very helpful.

Product backlog - A list of the outstanding user stories, bugs and features for a product owned by the Product Owner. Anyone can add to the list, but the Product Owner priortizes or ranks the items.

Sprint backlog - A list of the outstanding user stories, bugs and features for a Sprint which may include tasks, sub-task, story points, and other issues needed to complete the theme/goal of the sprint. The Sprint backlog is owned by the Team and on one should add to this backlog, except with approval of the Team.

Like # people like this

Agree with both Matt and Chris.  Add the addition terms and publish in official Software documentation.  :)

A bit confused regarding the Task - isn't it called a sub task in Jira? Am I missing something?

Task is it's own type. A sub-tadk can be a "child" of any issue type and depends upon the Issue Type Scheme of the project.

But the Task issue type is not contained within a story as mentioned - it has no relation to a story in the OOB. The relation should be done via the links, right?

Agree with @Orit Nachshon and @Tanya C. A task is a (standard) issue type in Jira exactly like a story is. Connecting a story and a task is indeed done through issue linking.

@Katie Bilotti - Could you update the list to change Task to Sub-Task?  Or change Task definition and add Sub-Task? The current definition is misleading.  Thanks

@Tanya C @Walter Buggenhout _ACA IT_ @Orit Nachshon Thank you all for the feedback! We appreciate your input in order to make all our Community articles the best that they can be. Went ahead and created separate definitions for both task and sub-task.

Awesome! 😊

Thank you Katie, this was very helpful!

 @Matthew Bordas I'm so glad! Let us know if you think of any others to add :)

Great post Katie! We recently wrote something similar on our blog for Jira specifically:

Like Gayle Murphy likes this

Good post Katie..!!! Just keep posting ...

Story Point - a field you don't get when you move to Kanban.

Monique vdB Community Manager Oct 10, 2018

@Rob Chirico is this what you were looking for?

Yes Monique.  Thank You.  

Hi Katie, can I also recommend that this now be expanded to included newer project terms, such as Kanplan and Scrumban?

Hello @Katie Bilotti, the description of an Epic is misleading. There it says "The hierarchy for units of work in Jira Software is as follows: Project > Epics/Components > Stories > Tasks > Subtasks".

This suggests that Tasks are located on a lower hierarchy level than Stories and can be children of Stories, when the truth is that they are both on the same level. Both Stories and Tasks are of type Standard Issue as opposed to Subtasks which are of type Sub-Task Issue.

So Tasks cannot be attached to Stories as child issues, they can just be linked.

I agree with David.  I think putting story/task will be more accurate.

I second @David Waldhans and @Tanya L Christensen too on this. To be precise, components are somewhat off topic as well, since they aren't issue types. The following graphic pretty much illustrates the hierarchy from project down to the subtask level. It also includes components and versions, which you can use to organise issues from a category (components) or time/roadmap (versions) perspective:

Screenshot 2019-01-18 at 15.30.48.png

Epics can be parent of any other standard issue type (story, task, bug, test or anything else you want at that level). And those can in turn be parent to subtasks.

Every issue can be associated with 1/more components or versions, even Epics.

Like Amrita O_Sullivan likes this

I think I need to provide every new project admin the graphic you've included in your comment  These concerts are often difficult for new users to grasp. 

Thanks @Walter Buggenhout _ACA IT_

Could you please add Lead Time to the Glossary? Thanks!

Very informative overview. Thank you Katie!

Very useful and helpful:) Thank You!


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