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March 27, 2023

Not only epics and stories: understanding Jira issue types

Jira Project Management
Agnieszka Sienkiewicz

Jira software solutions, along with BigPicture, utilize different issues to categorize, describe, and track individual work items. But regardless of what kind of work the specific Jira issue type represents, the primary role of an issue is to grab somebody’s attention and provide them with everything they need to know to successfully complete the work.

In this post, we will talk about various Jira issue types across Jira products. Specifically, we will explain their structure and purpose, and also provide examples of potential use cases in the daily operations of the respective teams.

What is an issue in Jira?

In general, an issue means a topic or important matter that you need to discuss or have in mind. Despite the common misconception, an issue is not entirely the same as a problem. Although both an issue and problem indicate something challenging, the problem additionally implies that a particular matter is unwelcome and even harmful.

Likewise, an issue in Jira refers to a matter that requires some sort of action from a project team member. What is this action? It could be anything that must be done to move the project forward. For example, testing a new mobile app feature; writing a blog post on a specific topic; drafting a monthly report; or hiring a bricklayer for the upcoming construction project.

Since each issue stands for one activity (e.g., hiring a contractor), it makes project progress tracking easier as you can see whether a particular piece of work is progressing as it should or not.

Jira issue types: meaning and differences

To accommodate the unique needs of every project and organization, Jira offers several issue types that represent different pieces of work. Each of the issue types can differ in terms of

  1. Set of information associated with work.
  2. Workflow required for completion.
  3. Category of work.
  4. Size of work.

Therefore, Jira issue types not only give you all the information you need to get started but also tell you how you should proceed with an individual issue step-by-step until you complete it. In other words, you can think of an issue type as a template that helps you categorize, describe, and put into motion an activity necessary to move the project forward.

#1. Issue fields: a collection of information about the piece of work

Each of the Jira issue types can hold a different set of information depending on the needs of the teams or organizations. That is possible thanks to Jira fields that comprise issues. Your Jira admin can add as many fields to a specific issue as you deem suitable to your team’s specific needs.

Issue fields provide a whole spectrum of information about an issue, covering the very issue description and assignee all the way through the start and end dates. Thanks to this, you and your team members can add and look up all the necessary information relevant to a given work whenever they create, edit, or transition an issue.

Additionally, if your project calls for a more unique piece of information that built-in fields do not cover, your Jira admin can create custom fields for particular Jira issue types in your project.

A list of built-in and custom issue fields we can add to a particular issue type in the “House Build” project in BigPicture.

 

The top three fields marked with an asterisk, namely Project, Issue Type, and Summary are the default and mandatory fields that appear in every issue. They provide the core information about the work and help you and your team members quickly identify what they need to do.

#2. Issue workflows: a structure for your work process

Jira issues also let you create a different workflow scheme for every issue type. The workflow tells the person handling the issue what steps they need to take to successfully complete the work you assigned them. A Jira workflow is made of a set of statuses and transitions that your individual issue moves through during its lifecycle (from start to finish).

For example, a very basic workflow for an issue involving writing a blog post could look like that:

A custom Jira issue workflow tailored to the marketing team.

 

Workflows go in hand with issue types and projects. It means that you can create several workflows for the same Jira issue type but across different projects.

#3. Standard Jira issue types: to categorize and estimate the volume of work

Each Jira product comes with a set of standard (default) issue types that you can customize to match your management methodology. The standard issue types are nothing more than regular business tasks. They categorize the daily work your team members need to discuss or carry out. Since the solutions Jira offers are tailored for different project types, the application-specific features (including issue types) will also differ.

Those solutions are Jira Work Management (for business projects), Jira Software (for software projects), and Jira Service Management (for service projects). The standard issue types present in the Work Management and Software solutions follow a hierarchical structure, meaning there is a parent-child relationship between them. (We will cover issue hierarchy later in this article.)

Jira Work Management issue types

By default, business projects come with one standard issue type (Task) and one child issue type (Subtask). For business teams, standard issues represent and track tasks your team members work on a daily basis.

A list of standard issue types in Jira Work management with descriptions and examples.

Jira Software issue types

In Jira Software, you will find one parent issue type (Epic), three standard types (Bug, Story, Task), and one child issue type (Subtask). For software teams, standard issues estimate and track the effort required to build a piece of software.

A list of standard issue types in Jira Software with descriptions and examples.

Bugs, tasks, or stories?

The three standard issues, namely stories, tasks, and bugs are typically on the same hierarchy level. And because different issue types stand for different categories of work, the difference between them lies in their usage context. Such a design of Jira issue types provides you with the flexibility you need to establish your own work taxonomy. So what certain issue types will exactly mean in your project, what information fields they will contain, and what workflow they will follow is entirely up to you.

Jira issue type hierarchy: because the size of work matters

Jira issues types are the basic units of work that must be completed. Depending on the volume of work, you can break an individual issue down into even smaller issues to make the larger piece of work more manageable. This way, you can build a hierarchical structure of work items where each issue can vary in “size.”

Currently, Jira supports three hierarchy levels. In BigPicture, you can have as many hierarchy (nesting) levels as you want. Typically, the hierarchical approach in Jira Software begins with epics, followed by tasks, stories, and bugs, and then by subtasks.

A visualization of a typical hierarchy of Jira issue types in Jira Software.

Jira Service Management issue types

The final Jira product on our list features 8 standard issue types: Change, IT Help, Incident, New Feature, Problem, Service Request, Service Request with Approval, and Support. For service teams, standard issues represent and track different requests made by your teams and the team’s customers.

A list of standard issue types in Jira Service Management with description and examples.

Custom issue types in Jira

If none of the default Jira issue types cover the work specific to your project, a Jira admin can add a custom issue type for you. For your new issue type, you will need to provide the name and description and decide whether it will be a standard or a subtask issue type. Afterward, just like in the case of the default types, you can create a custom set of issue fields and workflow.

Native issue functionalities in BigPicture: milestones and basic tasks

BigPicture application for Jira hosts a couple of issue functionalities that you will not find among standard Jira issue types. The first one lets you convert Jira standard issue type into a milestone issue type.

In BigPicture, a milestone issue is displayed as a diamond on a Gantt chart. On the WBS side, it has its own distinctive icon so you can tell it from other issues. The app also lets you create a milestone issue right off the bat without the need for converting any other issue.

A milestone issue in BigPicture that you can use for Agile, Classic, and Hybrid Jira projects.

 

Please note that you cannot directly create a Gantt chart in Jira and the app does not support the milestone feature either. Therefore, the milestone you create in BigPicture (or BigGantt) will be shown as another issue type in Jira, e.g., as a story or task.

The second issue-related option you may find very useful is a basic task. Unlike milestones, basic tasks exist solely in BigPicture. It means you will not see them when viewing your project in Jira. You can, however, convert a basic task into a Jira issue and thereby make them visible in your Jira project as well.

Right-click on a basic task to convert it to a Jira issue. You follow the same method when you want to convert a Jira issue into a milestone.

 

Basic tasks have many use cases. You will find them useful when, for example, you want to quickly prototype a project structure; need a placeholder for another task; want to keep Sprint goals visible; or even structure Sprints on a Gantt chart.