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  • Jimi Wikman
    Jimi Wikman

    Setup Jira and Confluence for success - Part 2: Defining Jira Issue Types

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    In the previous article we discussed what tools we should use for what purpose. Now it's time to define the work we want to do in the different Areas of Responsibility. We do that by defining what different type of work we do in each so we can create a separate issue type for each type of work. This way we can separate work and can evolve the way we work in each through fields and workflows for example. Before we dig into that however we should first identify what issue types really are and how we should use them properly.


    The three levels of issues in Jira

    In Jira we have 3 levels of issue types. Each level is used for different purposes so it is important to understand what that purpose is so we can map our issue types to the right level.

    1. Epic - This is the highest level in Jira and it's purpose is to group and categorize the lower levels. In itself an Epic has no value and you can see it as a box or a rubber band that simply is used to group other items. The term epic means a story that extends over a long period of time or that it is something grand and impressive. This is also how it is meant to be used in Jira as a way to mark stories that are connected and span over two or more time periods.
    2. Standard Issue Type - This is the middle level in Jira and it's purpose if to act as the transitional item to indicate what responsibility area currently own the responsibility to do something. This type is the one that we design workflows for that are flow chart based and not in the form of state diagrams. We will cover this when going over workflows in a later article.
    3. Sub-Tasks - Within each responsibility area we have a need to break down the work so we can mark them as complete. These are referred to as producing items and unlike the Standard Issue Type we do not always use a tranistional workflow, but more of a task management flow of open, in progress, done .We will cover this when going over workflows in a later article. The majority of our issue types will fall into this category.

    Identifying the work that need to be done

    With the issue types identified we can now begin to define what issue types we need for our setup. We previously identified Requirement, Development, Test and Acceptance as our areas that use Confluence and Jira, so we will break down the work in those areas and see what we can come up with.


    • Requirement: Standard Issue Type (optional) - If we want, we can use a separate issue type to act as the object which we work through the requirement process. This should be done in a separate project as it will contain a large number of unprocessed need. This would make managing the development projects less efficient, but we will discuss that in another article.
    • Story: Standard Issue Type - This is the output from the Requirement process and while the name might make you think it comes from the fact that many requirements are written in the form or user stories. This is not accurate however as requirements can come in many forms and shapes. Story refer to the fact that we get the need explained to us as a story, which is because as humans we communicate in the form of stories.
    • Design: Standard Issue Type & Sub-task - Design (UX/UI) can be done separate, which is why we have a Standard Issue Type for it. It can also be done as part of a requirement which is why we have a sub-task for it as well. In some cases we need to make adjustments in existing requirements and there we also use a sub-task connected to a Story for that purpose.
    • Technical Design: Standard Issue Type & Sub-task - Just like with Design we have both a standard issue type and a sub-task.
    • Technical Debt: Standard Issue Type - This is a rare issue type in many companies, but it is used when decisions are made that create technical debt or when clean up need to be done to optimize systems and data. These are IT driven stories in nature with the intent to make sure IT driven concerns are logged and prioritized alongside business need. It is also used to highlight decisions that will have a cost in the future.


    • Development: Sub-Task - It may seem strange that Development only exist as sub-task, but the reason for that is that development only happen when there is a need for it. This need is in the form of a Story or Technical debt. That is why development only exist as a sub-task and it is used for writing code.
    • Build & Configure: Sub-task - Again this is only available as a sub-task for the same reason as for Development. This issue type is used when there is no code related to the task, just configuration. It is also used to build systems such as servers that are again configurations or physical assembly tasks. Common tasks are upgrades or adding new subset of a system through configuration.
    • Defect: Standard Issue Type & Sub-task - The default way to create defects is as sub-tasks connected to a story. This block the story from deployment as it can never be closed with open sub-tasks. The standard issue type is used when defects are found without direct connection to a development or when you want to break out a defect as a known defect, but still close the story for deploy. Defect can only happen before code is put into production. I usually rename the standard Bug issue type to Defect if possible, otherwise I create a new issue type for it.
    • Incident: Standard Issue Type - Incident is used for defects that are found after the code is put into production. It is separate from defect in order to properly identify where a defect has been discovered as that can affect legal aspects. It is also used to allow proper focus and prioritization as production defects usually need high attention. All incidents are standard issue types as the stories they comes from have already been closed.
    • Feature Toggle: Sub-Task (optional) - This is a bit of an odd addition lately and it act as a way to determine what code is in what code based, even if it is not activated. We will not dig to much into this one as it's an article in itself. It is just added in case you work with feature toggle in your project.

    Test & Acceptance

    • Test / Acceptance: Standard Issue Type & Sub-task (optional) - This is again an optional issue type due to the fact that most test add-ons have the functionality needed to keep track of time and effort. In the event that you need a way to add time and effort outside the add-on, then you can create an issue type for this as placeholder for that information.


    • Epic: Epic - This is standard in Jira and it is used, as described above, to group standard issue types.
    • Task: Standard Issue Type & Sub-task - Tasks and Sub-tasks are standard in Jira and they can be used for any task not defined in other issue types. This can be things like scheduling meetings, organize workshop or buy cake for the team.


    Color coding for visual guidance
    In order to make it even easier to identify what the different issue types will be used for I always create custom icons and color code them. This visualize the area of responsibility as well as the purpose of the issue types. My way to color code is based on color theories and my own preferences, so feel free to adjust if needed.

    • Requirements - This is an interpretation of the business need to Development. I tend to color Business in blue/teal as corporate colors and Development as red. The combination of those two is purple, so I make the Issue types related to Requirements as purple.
    • Development - This is the heart of the work flow. We tend to want incidents and defects highly visible as well, so we pick the color that match those requirements. We tie this into the traffic sign colors used in test and acceptance as well. This is why everything related to development is red.
    • Test - This is where code is either allowed to pass to acceptance, or pushed back to development for further adjustment. It is something we want to make sure it has good attention and we also follow the traffic sign color schemes used in development and acceptance. this is why test is yellow, sometimes with a orange tint to tie it closer to development.
    • Acceptance - This is where a need is given the thumbs up or the big GO. We use the traffic sign color scheme to signal this and for that reason Acceptance is green.

    I use icons that I feel is matching the issue type itself to further clarify purpose. I also use en inverted design to distinguish between standard issue types and sub-tasks. You can see some of the icons in the download section. You are free to use the icons in your Jira instance as they are created by me using the free version of fontawesome.


    Setting up Issue Types in Jira
    Now that we have defined the issue types and designed the icons it's time to set this up in Jira. I will set this up in my Demo Jira which is cloud based. If you use Server or Data Center version the way you set this up will look a little different, but the functionality will be the same.

    In order to get the new issue types into our project we will need to do three things:

    1. Create the new Issue Types
    2. Create a new Issue Type Schema and add the Issue Types to that Schema
    3. Assign the Issue Type Schema to our project.


    Create Issue Types
    In Jira Cloud we do this under Jira Settings -> Issues -> Issue Types. Please note that you need admin access for this step. Here you will see a list of the current Issue Types and in the top right corner you will have a button that say "Add issue type". Clicking on that will give you a popup where you can create a new issue type.

    Skärmavbild 2019-08-28 kl. 12.30.56.png

    Once you add the name and description of the new issue type, then you select what type of issue type you want it to be. You can not add an image at the time I am writing this, so you will get a generic icon for it when you click add. Once created you simply find it in the list and click edit to change the icon by uploading a new one.

    Next to the icon click "Select Image" and then "upload avatar" in the popup. Select a new image, close the poup and then click on update to save the new image.

    Skärmavbild 2019-08-28 kl. 12.34.31.png


    Create a new Issue Type Schema
    Under Jira Settings -> Issues -> Issue Type Schemes you find a list of the different issue type schemes you currently have in your Jira. In the top right corner you find a button with the text "Add Issue Type Scheme". Click that to create a new scheme. Please note that you need admin access for this step.

    When you create the scheme you add a name for the scheme, a description and then you drag the issue types you want to add to the scheme from the list on the right to the list on the left. Once you have done that you can select "Story" as the default issue type. This will make Story the pre-selected issue type when we click on Create in a project using this Scheme. Once done, click save.

    Skärmavbild 2019-08-28 kl. 12.41.52.png


    Add Issue Type Scheme to your project
    Go to your project and then click on project setting in the left menu. It should be at the bottom of the list of areas for your project, but if you can not see it then you may not have admin rights for your project and you need to get some help with this step. If you have access then in the project settings go to Issue Types.

    This view will show you the current issue type scheme and the issues included in that scheme. In the top right corner you will see a drop list with a cog wheel that say "Actions". Clicking this will allow you to edit the issues in the scheme, but we want the other function called "Use a different scheme".

    Skärmavbild 2019-08-28 kl. 12.49.08.png


    Simply select the Issue Type Scheme created earlier by first making sure you select "Choose an existing issue type scheme" and then the correct issue type scheme in the list below. Click OK and your project will now be associated with the new issue type scheme we created and with that we now have our new issue types.

    Skärmavbild 2019-08-28 kl. 12.52.05.png


    We now have the proper issue types we need to work, but in order for them to really useful we need to make sure we have workflows that match the work we do. This is what we will focus on in our next article: Setup Jira & Confluence for success - Part 3: Defining Jira Issue workflows.

    Edited by Jimi Wikman

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