There are two main ways of creating reports in Jira. You can go into an individual board, choose a report from what’s available, and Jira will generate it. Or you can create a Jira dashboard, which consists of multiple reports called gadgets. The system dashboard is the main display you see when you log in to Jira and comes loaded with gadgets that can be reordered and added to. You can also create your own custom dashboards covering different projects, teams, and assignments.
We know that some Jira users aren’t clear on the difference between Jira reports and Jira gadgets, or which of the two are better. Let’s walk through it.
What is a Jira report?
A Jira report is a chart, graph, or diagram generated using your Jira data, which you access and configure by going into an individual board and selecting from the options available. There are various reports built into Jira, such as the Sprint Report, Velocity Chart, and Cumulative Flow Diagram.
A Jira report is created and displayed one by one and presents users with a point-in-time view of the data, i.e. the data is fixed at the time you run the report. You’d need to run the report again to update it.
What is a Jira gadget?
A Jira gadget is also a chart, graph, or diagram generated using your Jira data, but which you access and configure directly on a Jira dashboard. Each gadget appears as a window or block on your dashboard screen. As with reports, there are various gadgets built into Jira, such as Two Dimensional Filter Statistics, Sprint Health, and Filter Results.
A Jira dashboard displays multiple gadgets and each one is dynamic rather than a snapshot. In other words it refreshes automatically every time you load the dashboard, or you can configure it to refresh at set intervals, thereby offering users a near-real-time view of their data.
So the difference is…
The main difference between reports and gadgets in Jira is how, where, and when you use them. They’re both reports. Gadgets are just dynamic reports that appear on a dashboard. In fact there are some charts that come in both report and gadget form, such as the Created versus Resolved Chart, Burndown Chart, and Average Age Chart. There are also some charts that are gadget-only and some that are report-only. For example, the Velocity Chart is only a report and the Sprint Health gadget is only a gadget.
Generally project managers will use reports when they want their teams and stakeholders to engage with a specific set of data. For example, they might want to highlight bottlenecks using a Cumulative Flow Diagram to show how long work items are in their various statuses. They’ll also use reports if the report they need isn’t available as a gadget on a dashboard.
Dashboards are capable of displaying multiple charts and graphs at once, in order to give teams and stakeholders a broader picture of what’s going on. For example, you can create a dashboard to cover multiple projects, whereas a report is confined to one project only.
That said, you can use a dashboard for more focused reporting as well. You can, for example, maximize a gadget so that it appears full screen. Or you could, if you wanted to, build a dashboard with only one gadget displayed. It’s entirely possible to use gadgets to get teams to home in on something specific, as you would with a report.
So are Jira dashboards the better way to report?
To be honest, yes. Dashboard gadgets are simply more versatile. You don’t have to go looking for them because they’re all right there in the dashboard, and you don’t need to open them one by one in separate screens. You can display as many or as few gadgets as you want. And they will automatically refresh with new data as often as you want them to.
In addition, you can get Jira dashboard add-ons like Custom Charts for Jira in order to swap out some of the built-in gadgets for more dynamic and customizable versions. See the difference between the built-in Jira Pie Chart gadget and the Custom Charts Pie Chart gadget below. The Custom Charts version lets you customize the colors (you can’t actually have RAG – red, amber, green – coloring in native Jira), as well as add descriptions, percentages, and show an issue total. The built-in one doesn’t.
As Custom Charts for Jira is specifically designed to work on a Jira dashboard, it can only be used to transform your gadgets, not your reports. Another reason why you should maximise your use of Jira dashboards and gadgets and only use reports when you have to.
To be honest, we think the best use of Jira reports is when a gadget version isn’t available. For example, you can’t stick a Velocity Chart or a Cumulative Flow Diagram on a dashboard, and there will be times when your teams need to view those reports. Our hope is that Atlassian will keep doubling up the reports so they come in report and gadget form. Or better yet, ditch the reports framework entirely and just focus on dashboards.
Christopher is a self-confessed nerd who’d probably take the cake on Mastermind if Star Trek: Voyager was his specialist subject. He writes fiction about time travel, conspiracies and aliens; loves roller coasters, hiking and Christmas; and hates carpet, rom-coms and anything with chilli in it. He’s written extensively for technology companies and Atlassian partners and specializes in translating complicated technical concepts, specs and jargon into readable, benefits-driven copy that casual readers will understand.