Create and Run Your First Agile Jira Board: A Beginner’s Guide to Managing Scrum and Kanban Projects in Jira Software

Create and Run Your First Agile Jira Board: A Beginner’s Guide to Managing Scrum and Kanban Projects in Jira Software

Has your Agile team used a physical or digital task board to manage projects, and now you’re considering switching to Jira? Or maybe you’ve purchased Jira Software and are ready to set up your first Jira project? 

Like any new software, Jira has a learning curve. However, once you master the basics, you’ll discover how powerful Jira is as a project management tool. Small Agile teams create and manage simple project boards in Jira, gradually adding in more complex functions as the business grows.

Because Jira is so popular, many other apps, like Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Gmail, have built integrations with it. Among visual collaboration tools, the Whiteboards app offers Agile teams uniquely deep Jira integration. With Whiteboards, your team can manage all your Jira projects during planning sessions on your digital whiteboard. Choose from 100+ templates and host any type of team meeting. Convert Whiteboards’ virtual sticky notes to Jira issues in a couple of clicks. Import issues from Jira and update them to align with the project plan. All changes made in Whiteboards or Jira sync automatically, keeping your project management seamless.

Try Whiteboards Pro now and benefit from powerful two-way integration with Jira Software. Keep reading to learn how to set up your Jira Scrum or Kanban board and manage it in Jira and Whiteboards. 

Getting started: Jira Software 101

We’ll assume here that you’re new to Jira but not to Agile project management. If you are new to Agile, start with our guide How to Go Agile the Right Way, then read our Guide to Task Board Basics. Learn about Scrum, Kanban, Agile terminology, and how to manage workflow on an Agile task board.

What is Jira Software?

Jira’s parent company, Atlassian, offers several Jira products, including Jira Work Management, Jira Service Management, and Jira Software. Jira Software is tailored for software companies to manage Agile development projects. Its users can also work in the Jira Cloud mobile app.

Who uses Jira Software?

Software development companies of all sizes, from startups to Fortune 500 companies, use Jira Software. Because the software is flexible and scalable, small Agile teams can get started easily. Advanced Jira features will accommodate them as they grow.

Is Jira Software just for the development team?

Not at all! The whole company, from design to development to marketing to finance, often uses Jira Software. Because Atlassian created Jira for Agile teams, it’s easy to set up cross-functional project boards. Jira project boards can include team members from any department as well as outside stakeholders you invite to join the project.

How do I create a Jira Agile project board?

Set up your Jira Scrum or Kanban board in a few easy steps.

Learn to use Jira by creating a dummy project, or go ahead and start managing your first real project. Jira has a lot of options, so we’ll just explain the basic steps to create a working Jira project board. Master the basics and use your Jira Agile board for a while, adding in more sophistication as you go.

1. Create a project.

When you first open Jira Software, it will prompt you to create a project. Note that the “Project templates” sidebar on this screen defaults to the template you want: “Software development.”

2. Choose Scrum or Kanban.

When you create a project, choose which type of Agile Jira board you’ll use: Scrum or Kanban. A Jira Scrum board and Kanban board have different default settings and available options to support their different workflows:

Scrum BoardKanban Board
To use your board, you must start a sprint. You can add issues to your board as soon as you create a project.
Your board displays separately from the project backlog. Find both options on the sidebar.There is not a project backlog unless you enable this feature. 
You’ll need to move issues from the backlog to the board to start each sprint.Your team creates issues directly in the board’s “To Do” column at any time.
You can assign story points for sprint estimation and tracking.There are no story points in Kanban.
Jira generates reports to track key metrics, including sprint burnup, burndown, and velocity.Kanban reports focus on work in progress and deployment speed.

If your team already follows either a Scrum or Kanban system, your choice is easy. If you use a hybrid or alternative framework, decide which Jira board supports your workflow best. Jira Kanban boards are quick and easy to set up and manage. If your team works in time-boxed iterations and wants robust reporting options, Scrum complements your project management style better.

3. Decide if the company or team will manage the project.

Now Jira Software will ask whether your project is team-managed or company-managed. This choice, like choosing Scrum or Kanban, cannot be changed once the board is created. 

In a company-managed project, a dedicated Jira admin configures board settings and permissions for the entire company. This option lets businesses manage all departmental workflows in a single virtual location.

In a team-managed project, a board administrator creates the project and configures the board. A team-managed project does not have access to certain advanced Jira features. However, many companies prefer the decentralization and flexibility team-managed projects offer.

4. Name your project.

On the next screen, enter a short project name. Notice that Jira generates a 3- or 4- digit project key, which you can edit manually. This key is attached to all the project’s issues for identification and tracking purposes.

5. Add team members to the project.

Invite team members to the project by clicking on the gray “Add people” icon above your new Jira board. As the project creator, you are the default board administrator. Configure board permissions under “Project settings” > “Access.” Designate team members as fellow administrators, members, or viewers:

  • Administrators can do everything you can do as the project creator, including adding additional administrators to the project. Many teams limit admin status to one individual, such as the Scrum Master or Project Manager.
  • Members can create, edit, and move issues on the board. Give all project team members “member” status so they can update the status of their assigned tasks.
  • Viewers can view and search the project board. Use this option to allow other teams or external stakeholders visibility into your team’s workflow.

6. Create Jira issues.

“Issue” is Jira’s general term for all work items. Jira issues can be epics, user stories, tasks, sub-tasks, bugs, or custom issues created by the board administrator. You can create a new issue using the blue “Create” button on the main menu. 

Choose the project and issue type. Write an issue summary and description, and create the issue. New issues appear in the Kanban “To Do” column or Scrum backlog. You can also create issues directly in those locations. Navigate to your Scrum backlog from the sidebar.

Probably the most confusing decision you’ll face in this process is when and how to use each type of Jira issue. Agile teams new to Jira often assume Jira follows a parent-child issue hierarchy of Epic → User Story → Task → Sub-Task. This logical assumption has new users looking for ways to nest tasks inside stories, which is not a Jira option.

In Jira, epics are the parent issue of stories, tasks, and bugs. To add to the confusion, sub-tasks can be child issues of either a story, task, or bug. How your team uses any of these issues is up to you. A Scrum team, for instance, may use only epics and stories, adding sub-tasks to stories when helpful. Or the team may work mainly with stories, but designate an issue as a task when it isn’t part of any user story on the board.

Kanban teams might skip stories altogether, sticking with epics and tasks (and maybe sub-tasks), the default issue options on a Jira Kanban board. (To enable stories and bugs on a Kanban board, choose “Project settings” > “Issue types” > “Add issue type.”) 

In short, Jira issue names don’t quite follow Agile logic, but don’t let that trip you up. Keep it simple to start, experiment, and discover what works best for your project management:

  • Stories: These are your Agile user stories: “As X type of user, I want Y functionality so that I can have Z benefit.” For Scrum projects, add your estimated story points to each story to help plan and track sprints. 
  • Epics: Create epics conveniently by choosing “Roadmap” from the sidebar. Add all your epics to your project roadmap, then create child issues by clicking the “+” to the right of the chosen epic. (If you create child issues first, you can assign them to epics later, but why not do it the easy way?)
  • Tasks: Tasks and stories are functionally parallel in the Jira issue hierarchy. Decide if you will use just tasks or stories, or a well-organized mixture of the two.
  • Sub-tasks: Add a sub-task to a story, task, or bug by opening that issue and choosing “Add a child issue.” Note that sub-tasks don’t appear as separate issues on the board or backlog, unless you configure your board’s swimlanes by sub-task. Issues with subtasks display a special “linked issue” icon on their board and backlog views. Open the issue to see the subtasks. Assign subtasks to any user, regardless of the parent issue assignee.
  • Bugs: Use this issue type instead of “task” to highlight bugs within the general workflow.

7. Configure columns and swimlanes.

Columns: Jira boards start with three default columns. Click the “+” to the right of the “Done” column to create additional columns. Drag and drop columns to reorder them, and click on any column name to edit it.

Swimlanes: Create swimlanes, if desired, using the “Group by” drop-down to the right of your board. Visually organize your workflow by issue assignee, epic, or sub-task. Company-managed boards also allow you to create custom swimlanes. In our Guide to Organizing Your Project Board Around Jira Swimlanes, you can learn about more advanced ways to set up company-managed boards.

How do I manage my Agile board in Jira?

Bring in the team and launch your first Jira project.

With your board configured and issues created, here’s what you need to know about using a Scrum or Kanban board with your team:

Running sprints on your Scrum board 

Plan your sprint as usual. Make sure the stories in your Jira backlog have story points assigned, and that you’ve enabled Reports under “Project settings” > “Features” > “Reports.”

Click “Create sprint” on the upper right corner of the backlog. In the new sprint, click “…” > “Edit sprint” to enter the sprint duration and name the sprint. Drag and drop all chosen issues into the sprint, then click “Start sprint.”

Assign issues to users if you haven’t already. Any user can view their assignments under “Your work” on the Jira Software menu. Each team member should update their assigned issues as soon as the issue work status changes. Open an issue to update its status, or drag and drop it to a new column on the board. 

Track and manage your sprints on the Sprint Burndown Chart and view other helpful Scrum metrics under “Reports” in the sidebar.

At the end of the sprint, choose “Complete sprint.” If you have open issues or issues with open subtasks, Jira will prompt you to return them to the backlog or add them to another sprint (if you have a future sprint created). You’re ready to set up your next sprint!

To keep your sprint planning on track, follow good Scrum practices with our Scrum Events Step-By-Step Guide.

Managing workflow on your Kanban board

Add tasks to the board’s “To Do” column or under epics on your project roadmap. Pro tip: Divide your Kanban board into swimlanes according to epic. Adding tasks to a swimlane then automatically assigns them to that epic. 

Set your WIP limits by clicking “…” on any column and selecting “Set column limit.” Choose the maximum number of issues that column should hold. Jira will highlight the column if it exceeds that number, alerting your team to make adjustments to the workflow.

Move issues up and down the “To Do” column (or enabled backlog) regularly to keep the most important ones at the top. Remind team members that when they pull a task from the “To Do” column they need to assign it to themselves, so everyone can see who’s doing what work.

Finally, remember to enable Reports in order to track and analyze your workflow from the project sidebar.

Team Collaboration

However you use Jira Software, the most important thing is that the team is on the same page. Collaborate with your team to configure your board and issues in a way that makes sense to everyone, then follow a consistent process.

Atlassian provides a wealth of detailed Jira Software user guides if you don’t know how to use a feature or function of Jira. Atlassian community forums are also a great place to connect with other Jira users to discuss specific use cases and get practical advice.

How does the Whiteboards app support Jira project management?

Two-way Jira integration makes Whiteboards perfect for Agile team collaboration.

With Jira Software, it’s easy to create, update, and reorder issues in your board columns or backlog. But what if you could manage Jira projects more creatively? What if you could play with your Jira issues outside of their restrictive columns, as you plan your next sprint or map out user stories?

With the Whiteboards app, you can do just that. Run all your team meetings on a virtual whiteboard. Visualize any process using dozens of project management templates designed for sprint planning, estimation, agile story mapping, troubleshooting, and other team collaborations.

Whatever type of meeting you hold, native two-way Jira integration syncs Whiteboards with your Jira project board. Organize Jira issues visually on a template or on the whiteboard canvas and keep them all up-to-date as you make your plans:

  • Import issues: View the issues from all your Jira boards in the “Issues” sidebar pop-up on the right side of the whiteboard. Easily find the issues you need by scrolling or searching, then drag chosen issues onto the whiteboard canvas. Or, quickly create a custom Jira import zone on your whiteboard to pull in issues according to specific input criteria.
  • Create issues: Add virtual sticky notes to your whiteboard and convert them to Jira issues in a couple of clicks. The text on your sticky note becomes the issue summary, and you can configure the rest of the card easily from there. Your new issues appear instantly in your Jira Scrum backlog or Kanban “To Do” column.
  • Update issues: Edit any new or imported issue to assign a user, add a child issue, change the issue status, etc. Batch edit by selecting multiple issues or creating a handy update zone. All changes sync instantly in Jira.

Prioritize your Jira backlog, brainstorm solutions to a persistent problem, or create a product roadmap – all using Jira issues on your team whiteboard. Whiteboards is the best collaboration app for managing Jira projects because it syncs with Jira easily and gives teams flexible ways to work together. 

Curious what Whiteboards-Jira integration looks like in a Whiteboards planning session? Watch our short demo, then sign up for a free Whiteboards Pro trial to try it out for yourself!