Workflows are predefined sequences of tasks that help companies complete their work in a planned and repeatable way. They become especially important as your business scales. Inefficient workflows lead to delays and bottlenecks, causing problems for everyone involved. 

Jira includes a workflow engine you can adapt to any company, product, and internal process you may have. As your company grows, Jira workflows grow with you, making it easier for people to work together at scale.

What is a Jira workflow?

A Jira workflow is the process your team uses to work on an issue from start to finish. It consists of transitions and statuses as the issue moves through the software during its lifecycle — stages that typically align with work processes and activities for your team.

Jira uses schemes to define the relationship between issue types and workflows, which can be combined under individual projects to produce the desired outcome. 

What are the components of a Jira workflow?

Jira workflows comprise three unique elements: Status, Transition, and Resolution.

  • Status: This indicates where the issue is within a workflow. Examples include Open, In Progress, Scheduled, and Waiting.
  • Transition: This represents an action being taken to move the issue from one status to another status in the workflow.  
  • Resolution: This is the final status of a completed task. Examples include Closed, Resolved, Completed, and Shipped.

Workflow rules determine if and how issues can transition to another status and what should happen next. 

  • Conditions: These define whether a transition is available for the current user based on role-based control options.
  • Validators: These ensure an issue meets predefined criteria; otherwise, an issue can’t move to the next status. You can customize the criteria and add rejection messages to be displayed as needed. 
  • Post Functions: These actions are triggered after a predefined event occurs in a workflow transition. They enable you to automate tasks or perform actions like updating fields, assigning issues, sending notifications, or triggering external processes — once a transition has occurred.

To better understand Jira workflows, you’ll want to learn about workflow schemes and projects. Projects are collections of tasks that must be completed to achieve a certain outcome. In Jira, they’re a sort of container used to organize the tasks (called issues) across a team. 

Schemes map workflows to an issue type to accurately represent how teams work on them. Projects must be associated with at least one scheme, and one workflow scheme can be applied to multiple projects if desired. 

How to create a Jira workflow

Jira administrators can create, copy, import, and delete workflows to adapt to the needs of your teams and organization. Jira comes with several default workflows you can tailor for your team, or you can create a new one from scratch.

Because workflows must be associated with project types to be used in Jira, default workflows are already created for you. Choose a project type, and the workflow automatically loads for you. Then, you can edit it if needed. 

Copying an existing workflow

To copy an existing workflow (like one of the default ones):

  1. Click the gear icon (⚙️) > Issues.
  2. Select Workflows.
  3. Find the workflow you want to duplicate, then click Copy
  4. Enter a new name and description, then click Copy again.
  5. Use the workflow editor to add or edit statuses, transitions, and rules as needed.

Creating a new workflow

If you want to create (or add) brand-new workflows for your teams because none of the default ones work for you, you can log in as a Jira administrator with global permissions to access and create them.  

To add a new workflow: 

  1. Click the gear icon (⚙️) > Issues.
  2. Under WORKFLOWS, click Workflows > Add workflow.
  3. Enter a new name and description, then click Add.
  4. Use the workflow editor to add or edit statuses,transition, and rules as needed.

If you’re looking for more detail, Atlassian’s got you covered. 

How to apply a Jira workflow to a project

Workflows must be added to a workflow scheme and associated with a project before they can be used. When you do this, the workflow is activated and can be used in Jira. 

If you’re using a predefined project type, Jira already includes a workflow and scheme for it, so you don’t have to do anything else. For new schemes, you’ll add it first, then associate it with a project. 

Jira does make a distinction between company-managed projects and team-managed projects in workflows. For details on creating and managing both types, refer to this page for company-managed projects or this page for team-managed

You can also change the issue types associated with a workflow or change the scheme associated with a project.

Testing a Jira workflow 

Before you release your new Jira workflow into production, you’ll want to make sure it works as intended. If you can, test the new workflow in a separate project or Jira instance to minimize the impact on your team. 

You’ll want to check the statuses and transitions to ensure they make sense, verify that the workflow rules are working properly, and confirm that nothing gets stuck at any point. The final test is to have representatives from each role that uses the workflow go through it and provide feedback. 

Once you publish the workflow in production, your team will probably find bugs you didn’t discover or have suggestions for refinements. Set up a feedback mechanism to capture this information so you can incorporate it into future updates or fixes as needed. 

How to edit Jira workflows 

If you need to change or update your workflow after testing, that’s easy to do in Jira. 

To edit an existing project workflow:

  1. Click the gear icon (⚙️) > Projects and select your project. (Choose View all projects to search through all available projects.)
  2. From the project’s sidebar, select Project settings > Workflows
  3. Click the pencil icon to the right of the workflow to edit it.
  4. Do either or both of the following:
    1. Click Add status to add a new step to the workflow. These can be brand-new statuses you create now or existing ones that weren’t previously in the workflow.
    2. Click Add transition or drag from a node on one status to another to add a transition.
  5. Click Publish Draft.

You can also save a copy of the original workflow if you’re testing this new one or you want to re-use the original elsewhere. Get more information on working with workflows.

Get more out of Jira workflows with automation

As your organization grows, your Jira instance complexity increases. Automation can play a pivotal role in easing the burden associated with your most demanding tasks. It can help teams increase productivity, create more time for high-impact projects, and reduce busy work so employees can rest, be creative, and innovate. 

Jira’s native automation enables users to build if-this-then-that-rules based on events in Jira from a no-code rule builder. It enables the creation of custom rules and triggers to automatically perform actions such as updating fields, assigning issues, sending notifications, or transitioning issues based on specific events or conditions, and more.

As Jira’s native automation has execution limits (premium users have 1,000 global and multi-project rule executions per paid user per month) and don’t offer validators, you might find it worth considering third-party automation apps from the Atlassian marketplace.

The most popular and established workflow automation apps are:

JSU Automation Suite for Jira Workflows: JSU is an entirely no-code automation solution that enables you to customize Jira workflows in an intuitive, code-free environment with the Universal Rule Builder (URB).

Jira Misc Workflow Extensions (JMWE): If you need to automate beyond workflows, try JMWE. The app combines power with flexibility, offering no-code, point and click configurations and simplified, low-code scripting.

Power Scripts – Jira Workflow Automation: If you need something that provides full flexibility, try Power Scripts. The app helps you create tailored solutions and control every aspect of Jira, from the user interface to custom field calculations, integrations, and more.

Not sure which would work for your team? Find out which Jira workflow automation solution is right for you

5 benefits to Jira workflow automation

Now you know the what and the how of Jira workflow automation, but you might still be wondering why you should bother. 

Here are five reasons to automate your Jira workflows using both the built-in automation and Marketplace apps. 

1. Streamline repetitive and manual tasks

Even with all the technology available, every team has a few tasks they have to do manually. Tasks like that are annoying and take up a lot of time. But they’re also important to their processes. So are the repetitive tasks you need to do every day, week, or month. 

2. Increase workflow consistency and accuracy

Ask several employees on a team how they handle a task, and you’ll often get different answers. They all achieve the same outcome, just in unique ways. 

3. Improve team collaboration

Workflow bottlenecks and delays are common problems for teams. Even worse is when team members aren’t aware of a delay or bottleneck and have no way of checking on the status of a project. 

4. Ensure legal and guideline compliance 

Many organizations must work within regulatory, industry, or legal guidelines today. There is no option to skip steps or not document workflows. 

5. Improve workflow scalability

Organizations need efficient ways to scale workflows across changing requirements, team structures, or project complexities. Waiting for upstream deliverables because you don’t have the right applications or information is no way to work. 

Getting the most out of your Jira workflows

With so many options and features available for your Jira workflows, some team members might be (understandably) tempted to over-tinker. Stick to some Jira workflow best practices when building and managing your own. 

These tips will help you keep your workflows optimized and working as intended, and reduce the management burden on your teams. 

  • Keep workflows simple. Stakeholders and business leaders often want to include every possible use case, status, and possibility in each part of a workflow. But complex workflows make reporting difficult and are hard to maintain. Create simple, scalable workflows instead. 
  • Learn to ask “why?” when users or stakeholders make Jira workflow requests. You need to understand where the request comes from and what led to it. There’s no sense disrupting tasks and projects if you can address stakeholder concerns some other way.
  • Speak to your stakeholders. Workflows are all about collaboration, so you’ll need to know how teams work and what they really need from a workflow. Get their input early and often. 
  • Customize transition rules. Optimizing your workflow with custom transitions ensures it matches the way your team and organization work. 
  • Create workflows that are scalable. When creating workflows, create something that can grow with your organizational requirements. 
  • Define different roles and permissions in Jira. Use the role-based permissions built into Jira to make sure that the right people are working on relevant issues at the right time. E.g., only Jira Admins can add or edit Jira workflows, and users can only see parts of the workflow related to their issue work. Add more granular permissions with apps like JMWE and Power Scripts.
  • Always, always, always test your workflows. We already mentioned this, but it bears repeating. Test your workflows during development and after deployment. Refine them based on user feedback, and revisit them regularly to ensure they still meet your needs.
  • Keep your instance clean. Ensure you’re working in a clutter-free, organized environment by deleting unused objects and workflows. Clean up unused configuration objects with Jira CLI.
  • Document your workflows. This is typically done while developing new workflows, but it’s worth doing for existing workflows, too. Having an overall view can help new team members understand how each workflow operates, so they can maintain it with ease. 
  • Consider marketplace apps. Use plugins to help you to create more sophisticated, flexible processes.

Optimize your Jira workflows today

To empower your teams and refine how you work, contact Appfire today. Our trusted partners can help you reduce the time you need to create, maintain, and scale work processes by using Jira workflows. Respond faster to market changes without stressing your teams and straining your budget. Focus on the meaningful business outcomes you set out to achieve with custom Jira workflows. (Automation is faster to set up and easier to use than you might think!)

Explore the Appfire Workflow & Automation Solution

Last updated: 2023-07-31

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