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Simple, routine tasks need a simple checkbox, while slightly more advanced processes might need a few kanban columns to stay organized. But for large development projects, you need space to list everything that needs fixed and added, plan the work out into compatible chunks, ship the changes, and track what's changed over time. You need a development workflow.
That's why Jira is one of the more popular project management tools for software development. Jira focuses on helping you ship complete tasks as releases, with the standard release notes the App Store has made so familiar. And with deep integrations with its parent company Atlassian's other apps, including Confluence documentation, Bamboo tests, BitBucket repositories, and Stride conversations, it's a tool that fits at the center of your workflow if you're already using those tools.
It starts with your issues, the things that need fixed or added. They don't have to be problems—you can create any issue you need to list new features, routine tasks, improvements, bugs, and more. Categorize the issue, with priority levels, statuses, and resolutions. Statuses are a quick way to set a task's stage in a workflow, perhaps listing the things you're working on or planning to do next, while resolutions let you mark duplicate tasks, finished items, or tasks you'll skip. There are also components, a way to group tasks into smaller sections—perhaps putting writing tasks together in one component, code tasks in another.
Then, it's time to pull the tasks into a workflow. Assign each issue to a project, where you'll arrange tasks either in Scrum sprints or Kanban lists. With scrum, you'll drag tasks into a sprint from the backlog list, then work through them on an organized kanban list. Kanban boards, on the other hand, let you make a workflow of your own with as many columns as you need, each divided into "swimlines" to bring the highest priority tasks to the top.
As you work, tasks will move over to the Done column—and you'll get closer to releasing a new version of your product. Just click the Release link in the top of your project, add release notes, and Jira will clear those completed tasks off of your boards, and archive them under a release for quick reference later.
Everything in Jira is customizable. You can add custom fields to your issues, tweak your workflows and boards, and configure automatic status changes as you move tasks through your processes. Need more features? Jira offers hundreds of add-ons to bring Gantt charts, help desks, diagrams, time tracking, and much more into your projects. That's in addition to the Atlassian app integrations to start Stride conversations from tasks, and link BitBucket builds to your new Jira releases.
There's a lot to tweak and configure—and multiple ways to keep your tasks organized. It all might be too much for smaller projects. But for long-term, ongoing development projects where you're never done but are always working towards the next release, Jira can help keep your team on track and make sure no issue or task falls through the cracks.
Originally published March 28, 2016; updated July 6, 2018 with new screenshots and pricing.