Best Practices for Using Labels in Jira

May 21, 2021

Atlassian’s Jira Software provides organizations with project management and enables teams to easily organize and manage tasks. This saves time and frees up team members to focus on more high-priority tasks.

Jira Software has a multitude of ways to group and categorize similar issues, such as through projects, requests types, or components. Many of these categorization types are aimed at issues that exist within one project, which makes it a bit more difficult to track items across your entire Jira instance. This is where Jira labels can shine.

How Do Jira Labels Work?

Jira labels are essentially tags on issues. If you have 4 different projects that may all see tickets related to the same customer, then a label for that customer would give you a great way to quickly gather an overarching view of everything that exists for them. You can also have multiple Jira labels on an issue, allowing you to easily catch it in any number of buckets.

You can create Jira labels and assign them to a task or a story. This makes it easier to filter through the tasks and find the one you are searching for. For example, you can create a label called “Human Resources'' and assign this label to all issues that are related to the HR department. You can then use this label to filter all the HR-related tasks and get an overview of work being done by the human resources team. Side note: Many people have the common misconception that Jira is only for software teams, but it is indeed flexible and easy enough to use for teams outside of IT.

Like with many things in life, though, a watchful eye and steady hand are needed to really use Jira labels effectively. With that in mind, we’ve identified a few best practices to help.

1. Jira Labels should be used for informal grouping

In other words, don’t count on just labels to be the driving factor of important reports or anything else you need to be accurate 100% of the time. Because new labels can be created by users from the issue screen directly, they are not and should not be viewed as a source of truth. They’re great at what they do, but be careful to limit the importance placed on them.

2. Try to limit the number of labels you have

Jira labels are shared globally, which means the list can get very long, very quickly. To make them more effective, try to come to a consensus internally on the whens and whys of new labels.

3. Set up clear naming guidelines

Limit the number of labels by making sure you have clear naming guidelines. This will be different from organization to organization, but we encourage you to discuss and decide on these guidelines early and to then check in periodically to make sure they're being adhered to. If you’re looking to label issues from ABC Law Firm, for example, you could quickly end up with labels for abc, abclaw, abc-law, etc. Without naming standards, you will dramatically decrease the efficacy of the labels as an informal(*) grouping tool.

4. Routinely clean them up

Even with clear naming guidelines and a company decision to limit the number of total labels, you may still end up with some that are no longer relevant down the line. Set a regular time for somebody to go in, check them out, and determine if there’s any room for clean-up. Even better, cleaning up labels is as simple as entirely removing them from all issues, giving you the opportunity to swap them out for another if needed.

5. Don’t overuse them

This one really echoes all of the points above, but it bears repeating: Don’t overuse your Jira labels. If you’re looking for something to track issues for a very-important, super-vital, must-be-accurate report? Labels are likely not the answer. Have a certain issue type that can have 30 different permutations? Again, labels are likely not the answer.

Jira has many options for tracking related issues. And labels, in the right hands, can be a great means of doing just that — if they’re handled intentionally and in moderation. Don’t be scared to give them a try, but do keep these best practices handy to keep your labels as helpful as possible.

6. Establish Governance with Admins

We’ve touched on the flexibility of the Atlassian platform. It’s a beautiful thing, but it can also create a mess of an instance if you don’t establish governance. Since anyone can create a label, it’s important to establish Jira administration guidelines regarding who creates labels and ensure those team members follow the structure you have put in place. 


Jira labels are an effective way to keep your teams and projects organized. They provide a powerful way to search and filter through tasks and offer insight into what teams are working on and the status of that work. 

Want to know more about Jira best practices? Check out this article on how to handle delete permissions in Jira and learn how to avoid having your Jira notifications clog up your users’ inboxes. 

Contact us if you have any questions on Jira labels, or anything Jira-related.  We are experts in all things Atlassian.

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