How to Manage Workflow in Jira

There are thousands of hundreds of teams in this world. Big and small, distributed and in-house, software, and non-software. Add to it the fact that no two teams are identical; you’ll realize that their workflows also come in all levels of complexity. With Jira’s workflows, putting together your custom process is simple, yet so powerful.

In this article, you’ll learn the ins and outs of Jira workflows, why it’s essential to have a custom workflow in Jira, how to create one and fit it within some of the best practices in Jira, and make the best of Jira issues using checklists.

What is a Jira workflow?

As stated by Atlassian, “Workflows can be associated with particular projects and, optionally, specific issue types by using a workflow scheme.”

A Jira workflow defines your process and lists all the steps (statuses) that a task goes through – from start to finish. More about statuses later.

Jira Workflows are the behind-the-scenes process of your tasks. From start to finish, they list all the steps that the issue walks through using statuses. So project workflows will allow your issues to move from the backlog to “to do” to “done” and everywhere in between depending on the process you’ve established for your team.

The complexity of the workflow will vary based on your needs and you can use automation to either speed it up or set some ground rules in place (a certain task or subtask can’t be moved to a different columns in Jira unless certain, pre-defined criteria are met).

In addition to that Atlassian offers certain pre-made project templates that come with specific workflows for various teams like service management or DevOps, etc.

Note: Workflows in team-managed and company-managed projects have certain differences. For starters, Project Admins can make changes to workflows in team-managed projects as opposed to Jira Admins. That being said, the workflow scene will be specific to a project so you will not be able to share it across several Jira boards.

In addition to that team-managed projects have certain limitations like the inability to have specific workflows per each issue type.

Moreover, there is a specific difference for Jira Service Management users. Each request type has its own workflow in team-managed projects whereas company-managed projects have workflows that are independent of request types. This means that multiple request types can have the same existing workflow, however every change will affect all of them.

Why do custom workflows matter?

The goal of custom workflows is to create a transparent and visualized process that meets your company’s needs on one Kanban board. It also simplifies communication in an organization and provides an overview of a project’s or sprint’s progress thus helping with sprint capacity planning in Jira.

Jira comes with ready-to-use default workflows to copy and use for your project, for example, Jira Core for project management which lets you define issues as To Do, In Progress, and Done.

In reality, however, things get far more complicated than just these three statuses. You know the drill, tasks need to be reviewed, tested, approved, or even put on hold. So, it’s better to build your custom workflow and adapt it to the way your agile team works – precisely. 

Another reason for customizing workflows is the fact that “one workflow simply won’t fit all needs”. To state the obvious: the same approach to work management for software development teams will not work for content teams or customer support teams. This is great for certain use cases when different support requests must go through a set of similar workflow steps.

What are the building blocks of a workflow?

Now, let’s break a Jira workflow into pieces and look closely at each. A Jira workflow has four main parts: a status, a transition, an assignee, and a resolution.


Statuses describe the current stage of the task – it can be “In Progress”, “Accepted”, “Reopened” or “Done”. There can’t be two statuses for one task at the same time.

Once again, the way you customize your statuses depends on what your team needs. For example, the “In Negotiation” (if we’re talking about leads) status will make perfect sense for a sales team workflow, but it wouldn’t be of much use for the QA team members.


An assignee is a person responsible for something. Just as an issue can have more than one assignee,  every status can have its own assignee. Meaning, a developer will be responsible for writing the code of a new feature when the issue is “In Progress”, but it’s the QA Specialist that takes it over when it’s “Ready for Testing”.


Transitions are the links between statuses. A transition is exactly what it takes for the issue to go from one status to another. You can compare it to driving down a one-way road from point A to point B, a transition between two statuses will be that road linking them together.

For example, between “In Progress” and “Done” you may need a transition named “Reviewed.” As a Jira Admin, you can prevent users from transitioning issues, either all of them or chosen ones.


Resolutions are the last stage of the issue’s workflow journey. They specify why an issue is closed, like “Done”,  “Published”, or “Fixed”. 

Here’s a tip on how not to use resolutions and why – don’t create an “Unresolved” resolution. This is because Jira displays any issues without a set resolution field as “Unresolved” by default. As a result, “Unresolved” issues are treated as “Resolved”.

How to create a Jira workflow

Let’s get under the hood and see how to create a new workflow in Jira. Please note that you will require Jira Administrator permissions.

  1. Add Statuses and name them.
  2. Define Transitions between Statuses.
  3. Add Workflow Conditions to control who can execute transitions.
  4. Set Validators that check if the information is valid before an issue transitions to its destination status.
  5. Configure automatic Triggers to automatically transition issues. For example, move an issue from “In Review” to “Done” when the code review has been closed. 
  6. Apply Workflow Properties to the workflow. You can, for example, prevent users from logging work when an issue has a certain status.
  7. Add a Workflow Scheme and assign your workflow to it. At this point, Jira will also ask you to assign issue types to your workflow.
  8. Done!

Enrich your Jira issues with a checklist app

How many times have you felt the urge to just “tick things off” in a Jira task? With Smart Checklist for Jira, you can create checklists and edit them the way you want to keep things more organized.

  1. Once installed, the Smart Checklist option will be available for all your Jira issues at the bottom of the right-hand panel, but you can move it to the center. Click Open Smart Checklist.
  1. You can start adding your checklist items one by one or click the Pen icon to edit the entire list in the Fullscreen Editor.
  1. In the Fullscreen Editor, you can use Markdown features to customize every item on the list. For example, to mark an item as “To do” put a hyphen “-” before it. As you format your list, please don’t put spaces between the text and the markdown. Otherwise, the text will not display correctly in the Jira issue. Other options include:

– to do

+ done

~ in progress

x canceled

  1. Apart from displaying items with different statuses, Smart Checklist also allows you to mention teammates and highlight dates on lists. As in the screenshot above, to mention a person, use “@”. However, please remember that the person you tagged will not get an automatic notification.

Last but not least, if you’re using Smart Checklist on a Jira Data Center, update your Smart Checklists items upon workflow transitions. You can also read more about it here.

  1. Once you’re done editing, hit Save and view your Checklist in all its glory.

Try Smart Checklist for free!


The topic of Jira workflows is vast. We hope that by covering why it’s important to have custom workflows and how to enrich them with a Smart Checklist, managing your work will be as easy as it goes.

Would you like to know more about effetely working with Jira?

Everything is simpler when the process is well-documented and the progress is visible at a glance. 

Help your team create and manage task lists with Smart Checklist!