change the name of a group


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See Renaming groups after creation (currently not possible)

how safe is a SQL update to the fields? any gotcha's?

Very unsafe frankly. You must never do it on a running Atlassian system. A backup is highly recommended. You need to re-index afterwards. Most importantly, you need to be VERY sure that you understand the potential impacts. I'd place a large bet on you not having thought that you may need to update filters, gadgets, dashboards, sharing, permission schemes, notifications and the rest. I'd place an utterly massive bet on you not having considered group-picker fields.

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