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What is Jira Software and How Does It Work?

    What is Jira Software and How Does It Work -

    Jira Software is a project management and issue tracking tool developed by Atlassian that allows teams to plan, track, and manage software development projects in an Agile environment. It is part of the Jira family of products and is designed specifically for software teams to help streamline the software development lifecycle.

    In this comprehensive guide, we will look in-depth at what Jira Software is, its key features and functionality, how it works, and the benefits it offers to software teams.

    What is Jira Software?

    Jira Software is one of the most widely used tools for Agile software project management and bug tracking. It provides software teams with a flexible platform to manage software development projects and track issues throughout the development lifecycle.

    What is Jira Software

    Some key things to know about Jira Software:

    • Developed and maintained by Atlassian, a leading provider of collaboration and product management software tools for teams.
    • Used by over 65,000 customers globally, from startups to Fortune 500 companies.
    • Cloud-based SaaS platform accessible via web browser on desktop or mobile.
    • Integrates seamlessly with numerous other development tools via APIs.
    • Used across industries from software and IT to manufacturing, healthcare, financial services, and more.

    Core Capabilities and Features

    Jira Software provides robust features and capabilities to plan, track, release, and report on software projects effectively. Here are some of the core features:

    • Flexible Project Planning – Ability to plan sprints and versions across multiple teams and projects with easy drag-and-drop functionality.
    • Powerful Search and Filtering – Quickly find issues and information across projects.
    • Customizable Scrum and Kanban Boards – Visualize work and manage projects using Agile methodologies.
    • Configurable Workflows – Model development, review, and approval processes to match team workflow.
    • Customizable Issue Types – Create and manage custom issue types beyond just bugs and stories.
    • Real-Time Reporting and Dashboards – Insights into team workload, velocity, and cycle times.
    • Roadmap Planning – Map out plans and milestones across multiple versions.
    • Release Management – Package features into releases and track progress.
    • Third-Party Integrations – Integrates with CI tools, code repositories, test management, and more.
    • Security and Access Controls – Manage permissions at a granular level.

    These features make Jira Software a powerful hub for software teams to improve coordination, collaboration, and visibility across software projects.

    How Jira Software Works

    Now that we have an overview of Jira Software let’s look at how it works and some of the key concepts and components that make it tick.

    How Jira Software Works


    The foundation of Jira Software is projects. A project represents a software project that a team is working on and serves as a container for all the tasks, bugs, issues, and other development information related to that project.

    Multiple projects can be created in a Jira instance to support different software products a team or organization may be building.


    The main unit of work in Jira is called an issue. Issues can represent different types of work items, such as user stories, bugs, tasks, epics, or other custom issue types.

    Each issue has its own unique identifier and a variety of associated information, such as:

    • Summary – Short description of the issue.
    • Description – Detailed explanation of the issue.
    • Type – The issue category (Story, Task, Bug etc).
    • Status – Where the issue is in its workflow (Open, In Progress, Done etc).
    • Assignee – The person responsible for working on the issue.
    • Reporter – The person who logged the issue.
    • Priority – Relative importance and urgency.
    • Components – The parts of the software affected.
    • Labels – Additional tags and metadata.
    • Comments – Discussion threads related to the issue.


    Workflows represent the different stages an issue moves through during its lifecycle. The stages are transitioned based on defined status values.

    For example, a typical workflow for a bug report would be:

    1. Open
    2. In Progress
    3. Fixed
    4. Closed

    Workflows help teams standardize and manage the progression of issues through different states in the development lifecycle.

    Agile Project Management

    Two key Agile project management concepts used in Jira Software are:


    Sprints represent a fixed time period during which the team works to complete a set of issues and reach the sprint goal. Sprints are commonly 1-2 weeks long.


    Versions represent major releases of the software being developed and provide a way to group issues slated for different releases.


    Boards provide a visual representation of issues organized in columns based on status. The two types of boards in Jira are:

    Scrum boards – Used to manage sprints and view the sprint backlog. Issues move from left to right across To Do, In Progress, and Done columns.

    Kanban boards – Used to visualize workflow states and limit work-in-progress. Columns represent workflow stages, and issues move across based on status.

    Boards allow teams to track progress and work visually.

    Key Benefits of Using Jira Software

    Key Benefits of Using Jira Software

    There are many benefits to using Jira Software for managing software projects:

    Increased Visibility

    Having a centralized development platform provides complete visibility into all work across teams, projects, and product versions. Rather than relying on informal status updates or checking multiple systems, stakeholders can log into one system to see what each team is working on, what issues have been prioritized, and where things stand across iterations.

    This single source of truth eliminates information silos, duplicative work, and blindspots that can occur when work is spread across different systems and communication channels. With an integrated view of the development lifecycle, organizations can make smarter strategic decisions and course-correct quickly when needed.

    Improved Planning

    Robust planning capabilities allow product managers, developers, and business stakeholders to easily map out roadmaps, plan releases, and define sprints/iterations. An intuitive drag-and-drop interface makes it simple to visualize plans, set milestones, establish dependencies, and assign resources.

    Plans can be adjusted on the fly while maintaining traceability and revision history. A flexible planning system with built-in best practices streamlines the planning process across agile teams and traditional project managers. Planners save time while optimizing strategic initiatives’ sequencing, resourcing, and scheduling.

    Enhanced Collaboration

    A centralized development platform encourages greater collaboration across the organization. It provides a common hub for teams to discuss requirements, track issues, review code, share documents, and work together on solutions. Conversations and artifacts remain connected to their context so that knowledge is preserved.

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    Easy information sharing reduces duplicate requests and keeps all stakeholders on the same page. Team members can directly comment and contribute to issues and requirements rather than rely on lengthy email threads. The increased transparency and interaction lead to better ideas, faster answers, and stronger engagement.

    Standardized Processes

    Leading development platforms allow teams to define standardized processes that reflect best practices while supporting flexibility. Workflows can be tailored to enhance — not hinder — how each team works. Common templates provide consistency while allowing for custom data and rules.

    For example, every project can follow the same issue-tracking process but capture different information fields and notifications depending on their needs. Standardized processes allow teams to work efficiently at scale while ensuring compliance to organizational standards. Configurable templates balance process consistency with customization.

    Greater Efficiency

    An integrated dev platform reduces the meetings and status updates needed to coordinate work. When information is centralized, teams spend less time searching for answers or reconciling different versions of the truth. Automated workflows and notifications keep stakeholders informed of relevant changes rather than forcing them to check their status constantly.

    Metrics and reports provide snapshots of progress without pulling resources away from critical tasks. People can focus their time on doing real work rather than chasing down information and manually tracking data. Development platforms enable greater efficiency by minimizing redundant communication and administrative work.

    Effective Issue Management

    Sophisticated issue management streamlines tracking and resolution of defects, stories, tasks, and other work items. Flexible templates allow teams to capture all needed information upfront. Automated rules and triggers define workflows for routing items to the right people at the right time.

    Dashboards and searches make prioritizing and monitoring progress on active issues easy. Customizable reports analyze trends, identify bottlenecks, and improve cycle time. Integrations with source control, test cases, and builds connect issues to code changes, test results, and deployments. With robust issue management, organizations can meet quality standards and provide better customer service.

    Detailed Reporting

    Real-time reporting provides insights into team productivity, release cycles, and application quality. Dashboards, metrics, and custom reports track velocities, defect rates, burndown charts, lead/cycle times, and more.

    Drill-down capabilities allow trend analysis by project, application, team member, or other filters. Graphical displays make it easy to visualize patterns and trends at a glance. Data can be exported to share across the organization or integrated with external BI tools. With detailed reporting, managers, and teams have the information needed to continuously improve development practices.

    Better Quality

    Integrations with testing tools help enhance software quality and release management. Requirements and issues can be linked to test cases for full traceability. Tests can be automatically kicked off by code check-ins. Failures are logged as defects and assigned to developers.

    Manual test execution can be tracked for auditing and planning. Test metrics quantify coverage, validate readiness, and inform release decisions. By integrating with the testing process, dev platforms enable data-driven quality analysis, risk reduction, and release management.

    Anywhere Accessibility

    A web-based interface provides access to the development platform anytime, anywhere, through a browser. Team members can easily collaborate and stay up-to-date on the go via laptops, tablets, and smartphones. Unlike traditional desktop applications, a hosted platform allows access from any location or device with an Internet connection.

    Mobile access enables communication and contributions even when team members are offline or out of the office. The flexibility facilitates global collaboration across distributed teams and remote workers.

    Third-Party Integrations

    Leading development platforms integrate out-of-the-box with the broader software delivery toolchain. Bidirectional connections allow linking plans, issues, and releases across systems. Common integrations include code repositories like GitHub and GitLab, continuous integration servers like Jenkins and CircleCI, test case management tools, error monitoring, and more.

    Teams can continue using their preferred tools while gaining end-to-end visibility through centralized dashboards and reporting. Integrations avoid data siloes, manual replication of work, and disconnected systems.

    Key Jira Software Concepts

    To use Jira Software effectively, it is helpful to understand some of the key concepts and components of the tool:

    Key Jira Software Concepts

    Projects and Issue Types

    Jira allows teams to organize work into projects that represent initiatives, applications, product lines, or other groupings. Within each project, users can create issues that fall into different issue types like user stories, bugs, sub-tasks, etc. The issue types are fully customizable to match each team’s workflow.

    For example, a software project might have user stories for new features, bugs to track defects, and tasks for small work items. Other projects like marketing campaigns or company events could have completely different issue types. This flexibility allows teams to model work in a way that fits their domain. Issues include fields like description, priority, assignee, status, etc. Issue types determine the schema.

    Filters and Search

    Finding the right issues quickly is critical when projects grow. Jira provides many ways to filter issues to focus on what’s relevant. Users can filter by assignee, reporter, priority, label, project, status, or custom fields.

    Boolean search allows combining filters using AND/OR logic to create advanced queries like “priority=high AND status=unresolved.” Searching scans issue titles and descriptions across projects to find matches. Recently viewed issues are also accessible. Filters pin the most useful searches for reuse. With robust filters and search, users can organize and find issues efficiently.


    Jira dashboards consolidate reports, charts, and key data into an at-a-glance view. Teams can build custom dashboards tailored to different roles or workflows. For example, a testing dashboard might show open defects by application module or pass/fail rates from the latest regression run.

    A management dashboard could display burndown charts, open issues by priority, and cycle times. Jira contains built-in reports that can be added to dashboards, like version status, release burnup, open issues per team, and more. The visual nature of dashboards makes it easy to monitor status and trends.


    Jira provides tools for modeling the way issues flow through various statuses during their lifecycle. For example, a bug might move from “New” to “Assigned” to “In Progress” to “Fixed” and finally “Closed”. Workflows are configurable with drag-and-drop transition creation, branching/merging, transitions rules, and status categories.

    Teams can design workflows to match their development process. Statuses can trigger actions like automatically assigning issues, setting due dates, sending notifications, and more. Robust workflows ensure issues follow consistent and logical state changes.

    Notifications and Mentions

    Keeping everyone informed is critical for agile teams. Jira notifications automatically alert users when issues are created, transition status, get assigned/mentioned, or change in other meaningful ways. Team members receive notifications via in-app alerts, email, and, optionally, SMS or push apps. @mentions make it easy to draw specific users’ attention to issues and discussions. Notifications reduce meetings and status checks by pushing relevant updates out to the team. They help ensure the right people are looped in at the right time.

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    Agile teams can visualize and track issues on Kanban-style boards. Each board consists of columns representing statuses. Issues automatically move between columns as their workflow status changes. Columns can be customized to map steps in the process. Swimlanes can group issues by assignee, component, or other field. WIP limits constrain column size to encourage focus. Charts display cycle time, burndown, and cumulative flow. Jira boards provide an interactive way for agile teams to visualize flow and track progress.

    Releases and Versions

    Jira allows teams to group issues into named releases and versions for scheduling and tracking. Releases may represent major product launches, while versions represent iterations or sprints. Teams can assign target releases/versions to issues for planning and then monitor progress by release/version. Reports summarize scope, status, and progress at the version level for insight into iteration health. Releases give product managers and testers insight into launch readiness.

    Apps and Integrations

    Jira offers hundreds of apps via its API to extend functionality. Apps are available on the Atlassian Marketplace in areas like agile planning, reporting, time tracking, repository integration, test case management, and more. For example, teams can link Jira issues to GitHub pull requests, monitor build failures, track time spent on issues, manage product backlogs, and much more. With an ecosystem of apps and integrations, Jira can be customized to fit each team’s delivery process.


    Jira manages permissions at a granular level to control access to data. Access can be defined per-project, per-issue type, or per-issue. Users or groups can get different permissions like view, comment, assign, transition, edit, delete, etc. Permission schemes ensure users get appropriate access. For example, executives might get view-only access to high-level plans and reports while team members need edit access for issues they work on. Granular permissions enable transparency while protecting sensitive data.


    Jira captures data throughout the development lifecycle, providing a rich reporting basis. Its built-in reports include burndown charts, version reports, release reports, workflow metrics, open issue counts, time tracking, and more. Reports can be filtered, grouped, and segmented via parameters to deliver insights for different audiences. Managers can identify bottlenecks while teams improve estimation and velocity. The ability to customize dashboards and dig into report data empowers data-driven decisions.

    Getting Started with Jira Software

    Getting Started with Jira Software

    Ready to get started using Jira Software? Here is a quick step-by-step guide:

    1. Create an Account

    Signing up for a Jira account is quick and easy. Simply go to and click “Try it Free” on the Jira Software product page. Complete the short registration form with some basic contact information and create a password. Jira offers a generous free trial so you can test it out before committing to a paid plan. Within minutes, you will have a new Jira site ready for setup and configuration.

    2. Set Up Your Project

    Once logged into your new Jira account, click Projects in the top navigation and then create a new project. Give the project a descriptive name and a key used for the URL. Select a template like Kanban or Scrum to configure the workflows and issue types automatically. Then, customize the permissions, components, user roles, workflows, and notifications for your team’s process. Configuring your Jira project with care upfront will pay dividends as your project grows.

    3. Model Your Issues

    Issues represent units of work in Jira. Take time to thoughtfully set up issue types like user stories, bugs, sub-tasks, etc. Define fields for each issue type like Priority, Description, Steps to Reproduce for bugs, etc. Issues can be linked and organized with labels. Investing in modeling your issues enables capturing the right information upfront. Track work at the right level of detail with well-defined issue types.

    4. Build Your Team

    Add team members to your Jira project by inviting them under People in Settings. Configure their permissions to control access appropriately. Review the various project roles and decide which roles suit each team member. Get early feedback on your workflows and issue types as people use the system. Promote team adoption by personalizing Jira to suit their needs best.

    5. Plan Your Sprints

    Use versions in Jira to represent sprints or iterations. Create sequential versions and assign target start/end dates. Add issues to each version from the product backlog to represent the work planned for that sprint. Estimate issues in story points for capacity planning. Move issues to the current sprint version as work begins. Planning upfront sets the stage for an organized, successful sprint.

    6. Use Boards to Track Progress

    As work kicks off, track progress visually on boards. The columns map to workflow statuses. Move issues across columns as work progresses. Monitor the sprint burndown chart to ensure progress stays on track. Use boards for daily standups. The board provides an agile view into the status and flow of work.

    7. Report and Retrospective

    After each sprint, run reports to analyze metrics like velocity, cycle time, resolution rates, etc. Review what went well and where improvements could be made. Refine the workflows, processes, and team collaboration based on data and lessons learned. Continuous improvement begins with retrospectives grounded in data provided by Jira’s extensive reporting capabilities.

    Jira Software Use Cases

    Let’s look at some common use cases and examples of how teams can use Jira Software in real-world software projects:

    Jira Software Use Cases

    Agile Project Management

    Jira Software provides extensive support for agile methodologies like Scrum and Kanban out of the box. Teams can utilize quick iterations called sprints to break down projects into manageable chunks. Requirements and tasks get captured as user stories in the backlog and prioritized for implementation.

    By dividing projects into continuous sprints, teams can adapt quickly to changing needs and focus on producing working deliverables. Jira’s boards give full visibility into the status and flow of user stories and tasks across each sprint. Charts track the sprint burndown so the team can monitor real-time progress. Daily standups, retrospectives, and sprint planning are all facilitated by capabilities purpose-built for agile.

    With Jira Software, teams release better software faster by employing agile techniques. The tool fades into the background, enabling collaboration while providing visibility through reports and dashboards. Jira flexibly supports both new teams getting started with Agile and traditional teams transitioning to Agile.

    Issue and Bug Tracking

    Comprehensive issue and bug tracking improves software quality and developer productivity. Jira provides end-to-end tracking of issues from creation through prioritization, assignment, work in progress, resolution, and closure. Bugs, tasks, stories, and other issue types go through customizable workflows that match each team’s process.

    Teams can easily link related issues to identify dependencies and duplication. Detailed issue reports and audit history provide insight into the lifecycle timeline. Dashboards give managers visibility into open defects and cycle times. Developers can reference attached files, comments, and descriptions while resolving issues. Email, mobile, and integrations with IDEs and repository commits facilitate issue creation and updates.

    With flexible issue types, customizable workflows, and insightful reporting, Jira Software becomes the team’s issue and bug-tracking command center. This prevents details from falling through the cracks so developers can deliver quality code quickly.

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    Product Roadmapping

    Jira Software helps product managers outline both long-term product strategy and near-term release details through its robust roadmapping capability. Versions represent major releases which can span months or quarters. Epics break high-level strategy down into executable initiatives.

    Product managers can map epics and issues to different versions, seeing the plan stretch over multiple releases. Teams focus on the active version while keeping future versions visible. This coordination between strategy and execution continues throughout the delivery cycle, facilitating adjustments when circumstances change.

    Detailed issue information, status tracking, and reports keep stakeholders informed of roadmap status without getting lost. Jira Software helps convert strategic plans into reality with a data model purpose-built for product management.

    Reporting and Dashboards

    Data is essential for improving team performance and processes. Jira Software provides real-time reporting and dashboards that surface key trends and metrics at a glance. The sprint burndown report tracks completion status during each sprint. Velocity charts measure the rate of issue completion to inform future sizing and planning.

    Cycle time metrics identify bottlenecks in the development process. Reports can be filtered to provide segmentation and drill-downs. Key data is consolidated into dashboards personalized for different roles – from executives to Scrum masters. Jira integrates with business intelligence tools to share data widely.

    With insightful reports and dashboards built-in, teams can see how well Jira processes are working. They waste less time manually tracking data and can make data-driven improvements.

    Release Management

    Jira facilitates release management by allowing teams to bundle issues, epics, and features into named releases. Mapped issues can be scoped into specific project versions representing iterations or sprints. Version status provides visibility into the readiness of each release.

    As code freezes and testing milestones approach, version status indicates which issues are on track vs. at risk for the release cut. Release reports summarize each version’s scope, completion status, and quality metrics. Teams can coordinate issue prioritization, development, testing, and deployment seamlessly.

    By integrating release planning, issue tracking, and agile sprints, Jira enables organizations to deliver higher-quality releases on time consistently. Streamlined release management reduces risk and improves predictability.

    Test Case Management

    Although Jira doesn’t include native test case management, it integrates seamlessly with the Zephyr add-on which provides robust test management capabilities. Zephyr allows teams to create detailed test cases including steps, data, and expected results.

    Test suites group sets of test cases for execution. Teams can map tests to Jira issues and execute tests directly from Jira. Execution status, including pass/fail outcomes, gets tracked against each test and version. Reporting provides metrics on test coverage and quality.

    This integration connects issues, development activity, and testing for end-to-end traceability. Shared data between Jira and Zephyr improves coordination across the team.

    Backlog Management

    Managing the product backlog is critical for agile teams since it contains all incoming requirements. Jira enables flexible backlog management with drag-and-drop ranking of issues, powerful filtering, rapid re-prioritization, and visual boards.

    Product owners can quickly re-order issues in the backlog priority sequence as needs change. Teams can filter the backlog to focus on certain projects or issue types. New requests get added easily and linked to related items. The backlog view surfaces the right details to make good priority decisions.

    Boards augment backlog prioritization by providing a Kanban-style visual flow view. Having a structured yet fluid backlog management process allows agile teams to build the right functionality at the right time.

    Popular Jira Software Integrations -

    Jira integrates with many popular third-party tools used in the software development lifecycle via its API. Some examples include:

    • Git– Sync commits, branches, and pull requests from Git to connected issues in Jira.
    • Jenkins – Trigger builds from Jira issues with the Jenkins integration.
    • Confluence – Link and share content between Confluence documentation and Jira issues.
    • Bamboo– Automate build deployment for issues marked as “closed” or “done” in Jira.
    • Bitbucket– Connect Bitbucket repositories and see associated commits within Jira issues.
    • Zoom– Embed Zoom meeting details directly on relevant Jira issues.
    • Slack– Receive Jira notifications and updates right within Slack channels.
    • Amazon Web Services– Connect Jira issues to relevant workflows in AWS services.
    • Microsoft Teams– Sync Jira projects to Teams and collaborate from within channels.
    • Figma – Edits made to Figma designs and prototypes will self-synchronize with the linked Jira task.
    • Gliffy – Gliffy makes diagramming simple. Bring clarity and speed to issue resolution with visual diagrams.
    • Invision – With Invision, integrate design directly into your Jira workflow. Provide real-time design context to every issue for a seamless experience.

    These integrations help connect Jira to the rest of the software delivery toolchain. You can find out what most apps integrate with Jira if you need more information.

    Jira Software Alternatives

    While Jira is one of the most widely used solutions, there are some alternatives teams may want to consider for managing software projects:

    • GitHub Issues– Issue tracking tightly integrated with GitHub’s source code management.
    • GitLab Issues– Similar issue tracking solution built into GitLab repositories.
    • Asana– Web-based task manager with some light Agile project management functionality.
    • Trello– Simple Kanban-style boards with easy drag-and-drop functionality.
    • Clubhouse– Lean project management centered around story mapping.
    • Azure DevOps– Provides Agile planning, tracking, and version control features.
    •– Visually customizable project management with an Agile focus.
    • Wrike– Feature-rich work management platform with roadmap and gantt views.
    • Airtable– Allows custom fields and views to manage issues and tasks.

    Each has its own strengths and weaknesses depending on a team’s needs. But Jira remains a mature and fully-featured choice.

    Limitations of Jira Software

    While Jira Software has many benefits, there are some limitations to be aware of as well:

    • Steep learning curve – Can take time to fully grasp Jira’s extensive features and nuances.
    • Clunky interface – The UI can feel unintuitive and clunky at times compared to newer tools.
    • Configurability can complicate setup – Highly customizable but can require significant upfront configuration.
    • Not designed for non-technical teams – Some features tailored more for software teams than business teams.
    • Can be slow – Performance can drag at times with large projects or instances.
    • Price – Can get very expensive for large teams with multiple product additions.
    • Rigidity – Some users complain Jira feels rigid and constrains productivity.

    Understanding both the benefits and limitations of Jira can help teams determine if it is the right choice for managing their software projects.


    Jira Software provides a powerful platform purpose-built for software teams to successfully plan, track, release, and report on software development projects and issues.

    With its robust feature set including customizable workflows, Agile boards, version planning, reporting, and third party integrations, Jira enables teams to improve collaboration, visibility, quality, and efficiency across the software delivery lifecycle.

    While it has a steeper learning curve than some competing tools, Jira Software is a mature and proven solution used by thousands of teams across virtually every industry to support a more streamlined software development process.

    Taking the time to properly configure Jira for your team’s specific needs and processes is key to getting the most value. But in the right environments, Jira Software delivers tangible benefits to development teams of all shapes and sizes.

    So for software teams looking for a flexible, scalable, and full-featured project tracking tool, Jira Software is certainly an industry-leading option worth considering.