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Best practices for workflows in Jira

Iterate on your workflow

It’s great to plan out your workflow, but don’t worry about getting the perfect workflow on the first try. Teams change, and Jira can adapt to those changes. What’s important is creating the best workflow you can now and iterating based on changes and feedback from the team.

This may seem counterintuitive, especially if your team isn’t used to working agile and want to set and forget the workflows. Keep in mind that Jira workflows are here to serve your team’s needs at the current time. They’re here to adapt to your needs right now. As you evolve, your workflows evolve with you.

Involve stakeholders when creating workflows

When admins don’t involve the team in creating workflows, the workflow may not be the best one for the team. Remember that when you’re building a workflow, you’re doing it for people. These people will be working with the workflow you build, so make it work for them.

We recommend involving a stakeholder from each role on your team. In a multidisciplinary team you may have roles like:

  • Product manager

  • Software engineer

  • Product designer

  • Content designer

  • Quality assurance engineer

Get a representative from each of these roles, find out how they work, and once you’ve created your workflows, check that they’re happy with them. If you don’t, you might end up with statuses and transitions that people don’t use, and you might miss important workflow rules that can speed your team up.

Then take your team’s feedback and iterate. They’re the ones who are working in Jira.

Create a workflow for your team, not everyone else

Some teams create a one-size-fits-all workflow and duplicate it across issue types with only small changes on the way. Depending on the team, that might not work. A status and transition that works for one issue type, for example, might not work for another. Some issues may require specific statuses and transitions, or even restrictions and automations that only work for them. You can mold a template, but it’ll never be the most effective workflow for your team.

Still, the one-size-fits-all approach is tempting. It’s easier too. But ultimately, the people on your team will end up working with a tool not made for them, but for someone else. Remember, as an admin your job is to serve the people on your team. You want your team to work with joy and harmony. You want your workflows to be effective for the people working in them, not easy to create for the admin. Putting in the effort now will have a scaling effect, given that the people on your team have to work in Jira every day.

If not one-size-fits-all then, what do we recommend?

Start from scratch. Start from zero, from nothing. Clear your mind of all templates that exist and do the work of talking to your team. Figure out the steps your team goes through and translate them into Jira. Talk to a representative from each role on your team, and make sure their needs are met. The best workflow is the one that’s tailored to your team, not for everyone else. It’s not easy and it’s going to take time, but your teams will thank you for it.

Learn how to set up a workflow in Jira.

Keep your workflow simple: limit statuses and transitions

Adding a status for every part of your team’s process may seem like a good idea, and Jira definitely supports it. But keep in mind that every status and transition adds more complexity for the team working in the workflow. If you want to move fast, keep your process lean.

After mapping how your team works, include only the statuses and transitions you need. A workflow with too many statuses and transitions can be confusing to understand. Remember that the team working in the workflow will have to understand and use it.

Test your workflow

If you don’t test enough, you’ll have a workflow with so many errors they’re hard to fix. If you test too much too early, you won’t be able to move quickly. Testing is a balancing act. There are no hard rules, but there are two stages where people usually test their workflows:

1. Testing the new workflow in separate project, or instance

Before you get your team to use your workflow, you want to check that everything works properly. To do so you can copy to your workflow to:

  • A separate Jira project

  • A separate Jira site, if you have one

Either way, you want a place in Jira that doesn’t impact people in the project for testing. There you can create sample issues and manually run through every step of the workflow. You can check for things like:

  • Whether the statuses and transitions make sense

  • If the issue ever gets stuck at particular steps in the workflows

  • Whether workflow rules are working properly

  • How a representative from each role in your team goes through the workflow

2. Testing with your team in your actual project

Testing is a continuous process.

After getting your workflow into Jira, there are bound to be problems your team run into that you didn’t consider. That’s why it’s important to get feedback from the people actually using the workflow.

It’s not something you have to do every day, or even every week, but keep in touch with your every now and then. If you have meetings about the tools you use or about how you work, make sure to talk about how the workflows are working for them.

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