Visualize your Workflow with Kanban Boards in Jira

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Kanban Boards in Jira Header Image

If you think your team could fix bugs and release builds faster, consider using Jira Kanban boards.

A Kanban board is a visualization tool that enables teams to track and optimize workflows. The board tracks all work items in columns that correspond to workflow states, such as To Do, In Progress, and Done. This provides more flexibility in terms of planning and execution. And your team’s work is delivered continually in Kanban rather than in time-based sprints, as in Scrum.

Why use Kanban in Jira?

Kanban is designed for teams that are more flexible, systematic, know the role of each member, and are comfortable with tracking their own progress. It focuses on flow rather than strict time boxes like with Scrum.

When using Kanban in Jira, you will be able to utilize the entire Atlassian suite. You can track your team’s progress in Jira, keep documents in Confluence, and manage your code repository in Bitbucket. When you can easily manage your projects in one ecosystem, you don’t have to worry about building and maintaining integrations between the tools.

Creating your Kanban Project in Jira

Create Kanban Project Screenshot

When you log in to Jira as an administrator, you can choose to create a project. Jira Cloud comes with a full Kanban template, namely a project and board with pre-configured workflows. During this process, you can choose to optionally connect your development tools, or connect them later once the project has been created.

Once you’ve created the project, your team’s Kanban board will be the first thing you see. This is where your team will keep track of their work and progress.

Blank Jira Kanban Board

Configuring your Jira Kanban Board

Configuring your Kanban Board Screenshot

The Kanban project has a standard workflow template with Backlog, Selected for Development, In Progress, and Done. You can configure your Kanban board in the board settings by clicking the ellipses in the top right of the screen. Then you can edit the number of columns and add statuses, swimlanes, and quick filters. In these settings you can also configure WIP limits (Work In Progress limits). Using WIP Limits you can set a threshold for each column, including a minimum or maximum number of tickets. Note that this will flag the column if you’ve breached the limit, but not prevent your team from moving tickets in or out of the column. Once you’re done configuring your Kanban board, you can start adding items to your Backlog.

Adding Jira Issues to your Backlog

Adding issues to your backlog in Kanban

Click on the Create button, check to make sure you’re in the right project, and then choose your issue type. Start adding Tasks, Bugs, and Stories. When creating an issue, it is best to keep the summary simple and provide comprehensive details and descriptions. You can even attach files and video recordings for bug replication.

Things to Consider when Creating a Jira Issue

Make sure the summary is concise and easy to read

Your teammates don’t want War and Peace. They want you to get straight to the point of the issue.

Select the issue type properly, or it will cause confusion among your team

When you create a ticket, make sure you select the appropriate issue type. This will make backlog grooming and troubleshooting move much more smoothly. Some teams choose not to use tasks or sub-tasks and stick to stories and bugs. What matters is that you and your team decide on a definition and stay consistent.

Describe the work or issue properly to save time

Be as detailed as possible in the description or other custom fields so the team member who is assigned to the ticket can get right to work. This is especially important for distributed teams since you can’t always reach out to the person directly if they’re in another time zone.

Attach documents, screenshots, or videos that will speed up your process

In Jira, attaching videos, documents, and screenshots of a bug report is very easy to do. Use the attachment field that is present on all issues to help the team diagnose the issues faster.

Assign an item to the correct person, especially when reassigning or reporting a bug

Incorrectly assigned tickets can introduce delays to the process while team members try to find the correct person to complete the work.

Choose an appropriate priority level

Priority is a great tool for Kanban teams to help identify the order that your work will be completed. This can also be useful to communicate between product teams/QAs and developers. When a review is needed for pending issues, priority can be the first indicator for developers.

Updating your Kanban tickets

After creating an issue, you and your team can update it, i.e. change its status or reassign it to another team member when you’re done with your chunk of the work. Your board should look similar to this when items are added to it.

Jira Kanban Board with Issues

For more information, check out this guide to Jira swimlane best practices.

Issue Tracking in Jira

Issue Tracking in Jira Kanban

When a team is about to release a build, it is very important to keep track of pending or new issues. Making sure bugs are fixed before a release is critical in software development. In Jira Software you can easily keep track of issues that are labeled as bugs. This increases the visibility of your workflow and raises urgency in your development team where appropriate.

Generating Reports in Jira

Jira burnup report

Team meetings are necessary, as much as we sometimes hate them. This is where workmates share their work, provide updates, and give reports. In Jira Software, you can quickly generate different diagrams that show the team’s progress. The cumulative flow diagram above shows the team’s progress over a few weeks. The chart will show a bottleneck or an increase in the number of issues or backlogs that are behind. Overall this will help the team improve their progress and raise awareness to any team member that is falling behind. From the board reports, you can also see other charts like the Control Chart, which allows you to see the cycle time of your issues. Cycle time is an important metric for Kanban teams, as it shows how quickly work is moving through your process.

Add Atlassian Marketplace Apps to Jira

Jira Atlassian Marketplace Staff Picks

If you’re looking to improve your Jira experience further, then you can integrate apps into your project. In your Jira project, click “Apps”, then select “Find new apps”, and you will be redirected to the Atlassian Marketplace where multiple plugins are available. I suggest using Git Integration for Jira. This plugin allows your Jira project to track commits into your code repository. Furthermore, it can improve the tracking of Kanban tickets. Stories and bugs can now quickly point to a specific commit or branch, therefore improving the team’s process.

Conclusion

Kanban is great if your team is looking to be more agile but your work isn’t consistent enough to be planned into sprints (or you’re just not interested in strict time boxes). Kanban boards are simple to create and use and can be easily connected to your development tools. Because these boards are flexible, you can adjust them for any type of team that is looking to manage a consistent flow of work. The focus on visibility and throughput means that even if you’re just dipping your toes into agile processes, your team can work more smoothly.

Chris Cooke CEO Old Street Solutions

Chris founded three successful startups in Thailand: one was a Scuba Diving School/ Eco-Tourism company dedicated to saving turtles. Once he’d saved enough turtles, he moved back to the UK to pursue his dreams in software.

It was while working for the Atlassian Platinum Solution Partner Clearvision that Chris met Jacek. The two decided there was a gap in the market for easier-to-use Atlassian tools for Jira and Confluence users who don’t have a clue how to code (of which there are many).

“If we’re not making mistakes, we’re not trying hard enough.”