Jira was initially created to help developers track bug tickets. Now, all kinds of Agile teams use Jira for project management.\nBecause it was designed for development teams, Jira operates a little differently from other project management tools. It’s packed with features and options.\n\nThat much flexibility is both an advantage and a disadvantage. You can manage projects however you want, even if your workflow is complicated. At the same time, you might find simple processes are more difficult than they need to be.\nWe wrote this article to help you navigate those challenges.\nIn this blog post, we’ll cover:\n\nJira project management pros & cons\nKey features and settings you should know\nJira pricing\n\nJira pros & cons\nOver time, Jira has evolved from a reliable bug tracker to a powerful Agile project management solution.\nIt’s still a popular tool for bug fixes. Some development teams go from tracking bug tickets to managing their entire workflow in Jira. Other companies adopt this tool specifically for project management even if they don’t need a ticketing system.\nThe pros and cons we discuss in this section are relevant for teams that want a project management tool for their Agile team.\nIf you’re not familiar with Agile, it’s a framework that promotes four fundamental management principles:\n\nIndividuals and interactions over processes and tools\nWorking software over comprehensive documentation\nCustomer collaboration over contract negotiation\nResponding to change over following a plan\n\nAtlassian — Jira’s parent company — took these principles and created a solution that prioritizes flexibility and customization.\nJira has features that appeal to a wide variety of teams. Yet, in its efforts to appeal to a broader audience, it fails to please in some areas.\nPros\nCustomizability\nJira’s chief asset is its customizability. It integrates with thousands of applications and plug-ins via the Atlassian Marketplace.\n\nIf you’re reasonably tech-savvy, you can use Jira to create new templates, set up automations, and build informative dashboards. Most customizations are easy to do. You create tasks and workflows that are as basic or as complex as you need them to be.\n \nWhat do you like best?\nCreating tasks, sub-tasks, and spikes are the best.\nGreat ticketing system for all teams like support, Developers, and Quality teams.\nSearch filters and assignment of tasks is really easy to use.\nJira comes with lots of customizable fields. Due dates, assignees, labels, etc and makes it very easy to manage everything.\nG2 user, Dec 10 2020.\n\nConnect other programs and apps to customize your experience even more. For example, you can use Hubstaff to track time in Jira.\nStreamlined communication\nOne of the core facets of Agile is communication. Jira makes it easy for teams to leave comments and track conversations.\nAlso, users can attach images, attachments, and documents.\nIt’s easy to keep your information organized and accessible. The ticketing system is a great way to keep track of simple tasks without cluttering your workflow.\nAdvanced reporting options\nJira project management offers various reporting options, which is great news for managers who like to have a big-picture view of project progress.\nReporting in Jira is detailed and flexible. Build your own reports to view and analyze whatever data you need.\nStrong security features\nJira has robust security features that don’t hinder usability.\nYou can easily restrict which information a team member can see. Each person can get to the information they need to do their job effectively while you minimize security risks with custom access.\n \nA team needs a ticket\/issue tracking system and JIRA Atlassian seems to be used widely in the industry. As a user, it’s easy to use for the most part. Besides having the option of hosting the application in-house, it also has the Cloud edition so from the Systems Team perspective, there’s no need for servers, backups, security, keeping the service up (with fault tolerance), etc.\nDing L, Capterra\n\nCons\nComplexity\nThe most common complaint from Jira users is that the software is complex and bloated. It can be difficult to set up and navigate.\nOver time, Jira has added new features and functionalities to appeal to a wider audience. The features are great to have. However, the overabundance of options and settings can make it tough to use efficiently. The interface is not intuitive, and it’s easy to make mistakes.\nSome users report that using too many features causes performance issues.\nThe complexity can also cause issues with team performance. If a team member struggles to use Jira effectively, that slows down everyone else in the workflow.\n \nJIRA has quite a steep learning curve for less software native users and can appear too complex for the average operational or commercial person. As such, it can be difficult to convince new people to use JIRA without extensive training and hand-holding. This could be improved by guided tours and a simpler interface for “new starts”.\nCapterra verified reviewer\n\nThat brings us to the next downside of Jira.\nSteep learning curve\nMost of Jira’s components are simple to use in isolation. However, using them to their full potential requires setup and takes practice.\nEach time you onboard a new team member, they need to learn how your team uses Jira.\nEven people who have used Jira before may find it challenging to get up to speed. They may have worked within a heavily customized system, or you might use a different set of features than they’re used to.\nTransitioning to Jira from another system is difficult. In most cases, you have to move all of your projects, tasks, tickets, and other artifacts manually. That’s a tedious job that will take a lot of time and patience.\nBuilt for developers\nIf you only want to use Jira to manage development projects, this isn’t a problem.\nBut if you want to use Jira to manage marketing, sales, or other areas of your business, you may find it a little more difficult to use.\nBecause Jira started as a bug tracker, it’s very developer-focused.\nThe terminology within the app, the standard templates, and the core functionality were all designed with dev teams in mind. Your marketers and customer support agents may find Jira more confusing than most project management tools.\n\nLooking for an alternative to Jira? Try Hubstaff Tasks, an Agile project management tool that helps teams get more done.\n\n\nJira’s key features\nStarting a new Jira project\nAlready familiar with how to create a project in Jira? Skip ahead to learn about more advanced Agile features.\nA project can be anything from a single item to a massive collection of issues. Everything in Jira is entirely customizable.\nTo start a new project, select Choose Projects > Create Project from the header menu.\nNext, choose between a classic and a next-gen project.\nEnter a name for this project. To make it easier to find later, include the team that will be responsible for this task. For example, you might call it “Product Feature Announcement – Marketing.”\nFinally, click on Create.\nSetting up your team\nSet up each team member as a user so they can access projects.\nTo create your team, head to Settings (the cog icon) > User Management. Then, enter the name and email address of each user. They’ll receive emails inviting them to join.\nTo make a user an admin, select the person and click Add group. Add them to the site-admins group. Now, they can manage users on your behalf.\nManaging permissions\nPermission schemes create permission patterns that can apply to many projects. Once you’ve created a scheme, you can add it to the projects where you want the same permissions.\n\nTo set up a permission scheme:\n\nOpen Settings > Issues\nSelect Permission Schemes\nClick Add permission scheme\nEnter a name for the scheme and a brief description\n\nNext, attach your permission scheme to a project:\n\nOpen Settings > Projects\nSelect the project to open the Project Summary admin page\nFind the Permissions section in the lower right corner. Click the name of the current scheme to display its details.\nClick the Actions drop-down menu and click on Use a different scheme.\nNavigate to the Associate Permission Scheme to Project page. Select the permission scheme you want to associate with your project.\nClick the Associate button to associate the project with the permission scheme.\n\nConfigure estimation and tracking\nJira can measure the amount of work in the backlog (estimation) and the time spent on a sprint (tracking). These features help you manage project deadlines and team workload.\nUse story points or other metrics to measure both estimation and tracking.\n\nTo choose:\n\nNavigate to your project’s board\nSelect more > Board settings\nClick the Estimation tab\nIn the Estimation Statistic field, select Story points, Original time estimate, Issue count, or <Custom field>\n\nAgile features in Jira\nCustom workflows\nJira workflows represent processes in your organization. You can customize them for projects, issues, and subtasks.\n\nThe colored blocks represent statuses, and the arrows show transitions. Every workflow has both, allowing you to keep track of project progress at a glance.\nThere are a ton of valuable features. You can design workflows from scratch or download pre-built ones from the marketplace.\nSet up approval conditions for specific tasks to make sure all steps are completed before a project moves forward. You can also set functions to trigger automatically when specified transitions take place.\nTime and progress tracking\nBy integrating with time tracking software, you can track work time to specific Jira tasks.\nUse time tracking with a Chrome extension, such as Hubstaff, so that you can track the time spent on active tasks. When you switch tasks, starting and stopping the timer is as easy as clicking a button.\n\nPermissions\nPermissions are super flexible and customizable in Jira. You can give certain team members the ability to edit, comment on, or assign tasks within your team. If you need to change permissions in the middle of a project, that’s easy, too.\n\nYou can dictate permissions based on security.\nFor example, suppose you have a project that includes sensitive customer data. You don’t want everyone to have access to that information, but some people need to see the actual data.\nYou can allow users to see only a specific set of issues within a project. They can still view the project as a whole, but not the issues themselves. That way, you keep sensitive information secure without causing workflow issues.\nAll paid versions of Jira include the Anonymous Access feature. Administrators can give limited access to external users. Use Anonymous Access if you would like clients or stakeholders to leave comments or propose issues.\nProject phases and milestones\nProjects in Jira fall into four levels to keep everything organized and easy to find.\n\n\nLevel 1 contains project categories. You can think of these as themes.\nLevel 2 houses your current projects. It also shows sub-sections and milestones.\nLevel 3 is for specific issues. You need to address these issues to move forward.\nLevel 4 holds subtasks, where you can manage the smaller pieces of complex issues.\n\nProject summaries and reports\nProject summaries show recent activity and upcoming due dates.\n\nYou can also create reports for open issues, popular issues, or specific team members. All these reporting options mean you can gain deep insights into your project at any time.\nComponents\nYou can easily break down complex projects into “components” or subsections. These are great for listing issues within a project. You can also use them to assign team members to tasks.\n\nSubtasks\nComplex issues are made easier to handle by splitting them into subtasks. Jira treats each subtask as a separate issue. These subtasks can be assigned to different team members and given deadlines.\nLinking\nYou can link any two issues in Jira to create an association. These associations include things like “relates to,” “duplicates,” and “blocks.” These links help team members understand how issues connect.\nYou can also create custom links that add helpful information to your project. For example, a “causes” link can give more context on bugs.\n\nAutomation\nJira allows you to set “if this, then that” rules to automate tasks. No coding is required, so you can configure these without development skills.\nFor example, you can create a rule to reopen issues if someone leaves a comment on a closed task.\nJira’s automation works with many integrated tools so that you can automate tasks in other apps as well.\n\n\nStart tracking time in Jira for free\nDon’t pay for two weeks\n\n\nSecurity\nAtlassian Access for centralized security\nOnly Jira’s Enterprise tier includes a subscription for Atlassian Access. If you need secure access for a large team, it’s worth the upgrade.\nThe subscription includes:\n\nSingle sign-on and verification for secure logins\nSecurity integrations and auditing\nSupport from a global team of experts\n\nEncryption\nAll customer data stored within Jira is encrypted using TLS 1.2+ with Perfect Forward Secrecy. Encryption protects your data from unauthorized access.\nDisaster recovery\nAll price tiers include disaster recovery. If the Atlassian servers are ever compromised, your business can get back up and running.\nAdmin insights\nPremium and Enterprise plans include improved insights and reporting for administrators. You can easily track access and security data.\n\nMore project settings and capabilities\nThere are a seemingly infinite number of ways you can customize your Jira projects. The following are some of the most useful.\nIssue types\nCreating custom issue types gives you a more detailed picture of your project.\nYou can also use issue types to assign the best people for the job, estimate time, and prioritize your tasks. Projects can have multiple issue types.\nScreens\nA screen is a specific collection of fields. In the Screens settings, you can create and edit screens and assign them to events.\nSetting up screens can be time-consuming, but it can save you a lot of effort in the long run. When you only see the fields you need, you can work much faster.\nCustom fields\nBesides the standard fields, you can also add and edit custom ones in the Custom Fields settings. Custom fields are an excellent tool when you need to include more detail in a task.\nKeep in mind that too many custom fields can lead to performance issues. Use them sparingly and delete old ones when they’re no longer needed.\nSandbox\nThe sandbox is a test environment that allows teams to roll out new apps and updates in a controlled space.\nIf something fails after a roll-out, you can fix the issue without risking the system’s integrity. Think of the sandbox as a staging area here you can test ideas and try new things.\nRelease tracks\nRelease tracks allow organizations to control when to apply Atlassian software updates.\nThe default setting downloads and applies software updates immediately. Updating this way keeps your system secure and makes sure you have the best version of Jira.\nHowever, admins can opt to batch the updates and install them in fixed intervals. Release tracks give leaders more time to notify their teams and perform any necessary testing. Use this setting if you use a heavily customized instance of Jira.\nJira plug-ins and integrations\nPlug-ins and integrations extend Jira’s capabilities. You can install plug-ins via the Atlassian Marketplace or by uploading the files to Jira.\nHere are a few popular Jira integrations:\n\nHubstaff – Seamless time tracking, task management, and reporting\nSlack – Simple, quick team communication\nOutlook – Email integration within Jira\nSalesforce – Data exchange between Jira and Salesforce\nGoogle Sheets – Export issues to Sheets for easy tracking\nScriptRunner – A collection of Groovy functions to enhance and automate workflows\nJira Workflow Toolbox – Conditions, validators, and post-functions for workflows\n\nHow much does Jira cost?\nJira is free for teams of up to ten members, and the free package includes most core features. The main drawbacks are the limited storage and support options.\nTeams that need more advanced capabilities can opt for one of the following plans:\n\nStandard – Starts at $7\/user\/month for ten users. It includes everything in the Free tier plus:\n\nProject roles\nAdvanced permissions\nAnonymous access\nAudit logs\n250 GB of storage\nCustomer support during local business hours\n\n\nPremium – Starts at $14\/user\/month for ten users. It includes everything in the Standard plan plus:\n\nCapacity planning\nProject archiving\nAdmin insights\nIP allow-listing\nSandbox\nRelease tracks\nUnlimited storage\n24\/7 premium support\nGuaranteed uptime of 99.9%\n\n\nEnterprise – You must contact the Atlassian sales teams for a cloud enterprise quote. The enterprise plan includes everything from the Premium plan plus:\n\nAn Atlassian Access subscription\nData residency\n24\/7 enterprise support\nOrg-level billing\nGuaranteed uptime of 99.95%\nCentralized per-user licensing\n\n\n\nThe best Jira alternative\nIf you want something more intuitive or better suited for creative teams, consider alternative project management tools.\nHubstaff Tasks supports custom workflows. It’s an excellent tool for Agile teams, and it’s packed with time-saving features like Automated Stand-ups and visual Timelines.\nManage projects and tasks visually using Kanban-style boards.\n\nCombined with Hubstaff’s time tracking, it’s a very effective way to manage projects.\nSee how Hubstaff Tasks compares against Jira here.\nReady to improve your Agile project management? Read more of our guides:\n\nHow to Make Agile Better with Hybrid Project Management\nHow to Introduce Agile to Your Non-Tech Team\nA New, Agile Way to Work: Hubstaff Tasks Project Management\n\nThis post was originally published in May 2017, and updated April 2021.