Back in December 2021 Atlassian announced that there would be some changes coming to Epics and in April we learned that Epics would see an update to how Jira manage Epic Name and Epic Summary. What does all this mean, and when can you expect to see the changes in your Jira instance? Let us dive into the information we have and see if we can answer those questions.
Why is Epic changing?
Having the ability to change, or rename rather, Epics have been requested for well over a decade and up until recently it has been ignored. It was only when SAFe started to become popular that Atlassian started to consider this, however:
We know many teams using Safe Agile Framework (SAFe) struggle because they’re unable to reflect their issue hierarchy in Jira Software Cloud, namely Features as the parent of stories, rather than epics. Non-software teams can also benefit from terminology that better reflects their work, e.g. campaign, candidate, etc.
This is not the only change that SAFe have initiated and for everyone working in an enterprise company where small agile teams may not be the norm, this is a positive thing. I will talk more abut that in the future.
So what is happening to Epics?
The changes are pretty big from a technical point of view, but even from a consumer perspective, there are pretty big changes as well. The reason for this big change is that Atlassian is merging features from Advanced Roadmaps into the core Jira experience. In doing so, they change the old architecture quite a bit and things will certainly move round a bit as a result.
Here is what will change:
- Move issue hierarchy in Advanced Roadmaps to your admin setting
- Rename Epics will reflect everywhere (no more language hacks)
- Change what Epic fields are shown in different areas
- New colors based on team based projects
- Epic link will become Add Parent and move to breadcrumbs
Move issue hierarchy in Advanced Roadmaps to your admin setting
The issue hierarchy that currently reside inside the settings for Advanced Roadmaps will move to the global Jira admin settings. You will find them under Issues by heading to: Settings > Issues > Issue hierarchy. This means that even if you do not have a Premium license, you will still be able to see these settings and when the Epic changes roll out you can edit the name of Epic from this area.
Rename Epics will reflect everywhere (no more language hacks)
This is a big one and the one that has been causing frustrations for many, many years. Once you rename the Epic in the Issue hierarchy, you need to rename the Epic issue type as well, and then all areas where Epic is referenced you will see the new name instead. So if you rename Epic to Feature, you will see Feature everywhere you see Epic today, including the Epic side panel in your backlog!
Change what Epic fields are shown in different areas
This is more of a technical change, but what it means is that what currently is shown in the backlog will see some changes. This could cause some issues that you might need to adjust when the change happen in your Jira instance.
Epic name → Issue summary
Currently, the board and your backlog show Epic Name and after the update it will instead show the Issue Summary. This make more sense, and I suspect that we will see the Epic Name removed in the future as Atlassian adjust Epics to be presented the same way as other issue types. If you have been putting different information in these two fields, then you need to update them to be the same before the changes happen. There are several solutions for this, but I think the solution Bogdan Gorka suggested in the Atlassian community using automation seems like a good way to do it.
Epic status → Issue Status Category
In the current solution you have Epic status, which is only available in the Epic panel, that define what Epics should be shown in the Epic Panel. In the new solution, the Epic panel will instead look at the Issue Status for each Epic to determine if it should be shown or not. If the Epic issue is in a green status (done), then it will not be shown, unless there are still open issues inside the Epic.
Again, this makes sense as it shift Epics to behave the same way as other issue types, which align behavior in Jira.
New colors based on team based projects
This is something that comes from team managed boards, and I am guessing this is an architectural decision to have a uniform design that can be expanded later using the Parent Link feature from Advanced Roadmaps. In Theory, it would allow you to treat any parent link the same way, and you could set any story color to the issue. To make that useful, there would need to be a change to the Epic panel to show the levels above epic as well somehow.
For now however this will just be a slight color shift when the upgrade comes as the upgrade will match the nearest color.
Epic link will become Add Parent and move to breadcrumbs
Perhaps the change that will confuse users the most is that the Epic link will become Add Parent and that this functionality will move from the standard locations to the breadcrumbs. This makes sense from several perspectives, but it will have a learning curve for many users. Changing the Epic Link to the Parent link from Advanced Roadmaps will once again align Epics with other issue types and allow for a uniform handling of the issues hierarchy.
This is a great change, not just because it will allow us to change Epics to Features (or whatever we want), but also from a technical perspective. It breaks down Epics unique behavior and replaces it with something that can scale, which is exactly what I have wanted for more than a decade.
In the screenshot over the new issue view you also see that there is a pretty significant change to naming for subtasks as well where we now instead see "Child Issues". This is again a way to make way for a more flexible structure that is uniform regardless of level.
This is absolutely a great step in the right direction from Atlassian and it makes me very happy to see.