It's not the same without you

Join the community to find out what other Atlassian users are discussing, debating and creating.

Atlassian Community Hero Image Collage

Is it possible to have different columns for each swim lane in the same JIRA Agile Kanban board?

I'm looking to migrate from a SaaS Kanban solution and have a license for JIRA and JIRA Agile.  One feature I can't seem to find is the ability to set different columns for each of the swimlanes on the board.  That is, each swim lane refers to a particular process, and each of the columns refers to a process step; hence it follows that the process steps (columns) would be different for each of the processes (swimlanes).

This is a feature that does exist in the other solution I'm using, so I'm not sure if it just doesn't exist in JIRA Agile or if I just don't know how to use it.  I searched Atlassian's site and read just about every article on Swim Lanes and Columns, and I still can't seem to find it.

Any thoughts are greatly appreciated.


5 answers

I've searched this and other topics. It looks like Atlassian fundamentally doesn't understand how Kanban is used.

Having two workflows on one board (i.e. a two swimlanes with different columns to represent different workflows) is a requirement when a single team is dealing with more than one type of work (e.g. project work and minor BAU enhancements or production bug fixes). The purpose being to ensure that the team is not overloaded across its different types of work by being able to manage WIP across both workflows.

If anyone is wondering what that looks like take a look at Leankit.

And if this issue has actually been resolved since this ticket was logged can I pls be pointed in the right direction. Cheers.

Umm, they really do, they've written the Kanban board software to fit in with the pure definitions of Kanban.

Your description is fully supported within Kanban boards, except that the (technically not Kanban, as Kanban is only supposed to have one workflow) split of columns is not side-by-side, you put the different status from different workflows above and below each other.  And there's an annoying failure to be able to move between any stacked status.

Sorry Nick,

they don't. I've seen plenty of posts asking for fairly basic things that are getting no traction or require the user to add expensive plug-ins (e.g. color the whole card, export state transition data, etc.).

And, I'm sorry, but even David Anderson would laugh at the notion of 'pure kanban'. There are some general principles and practices (here Two of those are "visualize the work" and "make processes explicit", which means there are no wrong processes, there are simply the processes you have and the processes you evolve to.

Having this flexibility becomes even more important with large-scale or portfolio kanban. Is there an architectural or design issue that is stopping Atlassian from providing this flexibility?

Here's one from Leankit, who do get it right

2 classes of service.PNG

Like NeoXtreem likes this

No, there's nothing stopping them doing this, other than the fact that the current implementation is simple and correct.

Hi Nic,

As you're using terms such as "pure Kanban" and "simple and correct" I have the following question:

What authoritative source of knowledge sits behind this?

For example do you have a respected source that defines that a) Kanban boards can only have one workflow and b) Kanban boards should be as simple as possible rather than reflecting the current reality?

Like # people like this

@carlw is right, and it's funny how you guys simply deleted my comment with no explanation because i said that some people here used this template most of the time : " I don't quite understand your question" - > "No Jira doesn't do that, it's not meant to do that and what it does is right, if you want more buy a plug-in"

You can't silence the facts.

@Tom Tenaglia i'll advise you, if you want a reliable kanban board just look for a paid plug-in, here, i've just summarized the next answers you'll get from this thread

0 votes

I don't think it is clear what you are looking for here.  Each column in a Kanban (or Scrum) board represents a step in the process (or processes) that your issues are following.  Even when you've got the more complicated scenario where you have your workflows representing different processes for different issue types/projects, and on top otf that maybe got several status in a column, I'm not sure how doing it again in swimlanes is going to be useful because you will end up with a simple grid with groups of issues in one swimlane and one column - you will never have more than one group of issues one one line, and equally, never more than one group of issues in a column

However, I really  don't think I have understood the question, and I've got several vague ideas on what you are really looking for.  

To explain the most likely one, I suspect you have a set of columns that make perfect sense, and you have put all your status in them as intended by JIRA Agile.  Your question about swimlanes then comes down to me not knowing why your "processes" are different, and leads to the obvious question of "How are you telling JIRA which "process" an issue is following?"

Maybe swim lanes wouldn't be the right way to accomplish it. Here's the problem... 


I have one process, say a development one, that goes Analysis, Development, Testing, Elevate, and another process say for general tasks that is Analysis, Implementation, Done. So I want the board to show 4 columns for the development process and 3 columns for the general task process. 


The other tool I currently use reflects this with different columns for 2 swim lanes. That is, in one board, there is a 4x1 grid and a 3x1 grid, reflecting columns by lane. 

Hmm, that's an odd approach, you might as well throw away the boards if you're going to do it that way, as you probably should be doing the processes separately for each type of issue. Jira Agile won't do this. A column is a column, that's it. A column represents a collection of status (often just one). The closest you can get is to simply look at the project and issue type, because that will tell you which workflow an issue is following. Of course, you could then use those as swimlanes, so you have a swumlane for each (you define a filter for each), but you'll find it looks very odd, because a board is usually expected to group things together, not re-separate them!

Hello Tom

You can create as many columns as you want in JIRA Agile (though, it is always better to keep it simple).

The columns don't really map a transition or action but a set of statuses. When you create a column you have to set which statuses are shown in it.

You can also create different boards for the same project. Each board is just a representation of a query. So, in your case you could create two queries, one for development and the other for general tasks, and create one board for each query. Then you would add the columns you need for each of your boards.


Okay, from those answers, I'm thinking the assumptions we have are fundamentally different.

We are using a board for a team.  That team's board represents each of that team's processes in the form of swimlanes.  Each of those processes has an activity step in the form of a column.

I'm not very familiar with Jira's concept of workflows or states/statuses.  Reading some more, I can't quite tell if workflow would be the same as the columns.  If it is, that's half way there for me.

Next would be how would we see multiple workflows on one board.  That is, the team has one place to look to see each of their processes.  If I'm understanding the answers, the suggestion is to keep one process to one board?  From that, one team might have 5 or 6 boards though.  There's a lack of visibility overall for a given team, let alone I can't set board WIP limits, etc.

Does that sound right?

If I can display multiple workflows on one board, that would be closer to what I'm after.



Hello Tom You don't see workflows in the board columns, what you see are the different statuses that you configure for each of your columns. How you move from one status to another is ruled by a workflow, and will somehow reflect in JIRA Agile as the ability to drag one issue from one column to another (you can drag, as long as you have the correct worflow permission to execute a transition from one status to the next).

Okay thanks.  So, for a team, I guess there's no way in JIRA Agile for them to see all of their processes on one board?  Not to mention I haven't found a way to put "In Progress" and "Done" columns on the board either (that is, for each of the columns, such as "Development In-Progress" and "Development Done", "Testing In-Progress" and "Testing Done" - we normally have a header of "Development" for instance and then that column is further subdivded into two more, one for in progress and one for done, to capture done waste).

It just seems very underdeveloped from a Kanban perspective.

Of course you can see all the processes on one board - you add the columns you need and map the workflow status into them. What you're asking for is for groups of columns, which Jira Agile does not do. It has a basic group for "new", "in progress" and "done", which is a standard for both Scrum and Kanban, but no sub-groups within the columns. A column is a column and it represents a step in your process (usually a single status, but sometimes more than one)

The latter that makes sense, thanks. The former, I'm referring to where there are multiple processes that have different steps, hence we would need different columns, some that apply to one process and some that apply to another. While I could add all the various columns for each process, then filter the cards into lanes by which process they are, that then implies it'll be staggered pictorally, as say columns 1 and 3 and 5 might apply to process A, whereas columns 2, 4, and 6 apply to process B. That is, since I cannot uniquely define the columns for a given lane. To me, the lane is the process, and the columns are the steps in the process, so if each process has different steps, it needs different columns, and I can only have one set of columns on one board. Am I missing something? (sorry for the delay - it wouldn't let me post a response sooner since I don't have 25 points yet)

Suggest an answer

Log in or Sign up to answer
Community showcase
Published in Jira

The add-in you’ve been waiting for: Jira Cloud for Excel 🙌

Introducing Jira Cloud for Excel Here at the product integrations team at Atlassian, we are thrilled to announce the new Jira Cloud for Excel add-in! This add-in lets you export Jira data directly ...

964 views 8 25
Read article

Community Events

Connect with like-minded Atlassian users at free events near you!

Find an event

Connect with like-minded Atlassian users at free events near you!

Unfortunately there are no Community Events near you at the moment.

Host an event

You're one step closer to meeting fellow Atlassian users at your local event. Learn more about Community Events

Events near you