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How to Configure Jira Swimlanes for Enhanced Project Management

March 22, 2024
Megan Moulton

If you've used a Kanban or Scrum board in Jira Software before, you know the drill: as work progresses through the system, moves across the board until the task is done, and eventually falls off the board. 

Many users have asked if they can customize the board columns to display the information they need to have visible. The answer is yes but to some extent! While everything in Jira is customizable, columns on boards can only show the status of work. 

So, what if you need another way to visualize your board? Enter Jira swimlanes, one of Jira’s many features that makes the platform so powerful. In this article, we’ll explore what Jira swimlanes are, how they work, and why they are important in project management. 

What Is A Jira Swimlane?

A Jira swimlane is a row within your Jira board that makes it easy for teams to organize and prioritize their work. Think of swimlanes as horizontal or vertical lanes on the board, each representing a unique perspective for managing tasks. These visual aids empower teams to customize their workflows, providing a clearer understanding of work distribution and progress.

 

 

What Are The Benefits of Using A Jira Swimlane?

  • Organize Tasks Efficiently: Jira swimlanes allow teams to segment tasks based on different parameters, facilitating a more organized and structured approach to project management. For instance, you can use Jira swimlanes to separate tasks assigned to different team members, ensuring clarity in responsibilities and preventing bottlenecks.
  • Prioritize Your Work: Organize your tasks based on their importance, deadlines, or other criteria, allowing for a streamlined focus on high-priority items. This helps teams focus on the work that contributes most significantly to the project's overall goals.
  • Facilitate Collaboration: Jira swimlanes contribute to enhanced collaboration by providing a shared visual representation of the project's status. Whether it's identifying blockers or redistributing workload, they help facilitate communication and provide improved visibility into the progress of work

The Ultimate Customization Experience

Unlike the columns, Jira swimlanes are truly customizable! This enables your teams to tailor their boards according to their specific project requirements. You can sort your swimlanes by epic, story, assignee, project, or even queries. We’ll dive into each way to organize your work and share why your team might benefit from the different levels of customization. 

Epics

The ever-watchful parent, an epic can be used to group individual projects your team is working on. Epics are the biggest piece of work and often are used as the overarching project. Epics don’t usually have a place on your board. Because they represent a large chunk of work, it doesn’t make sense to view them every day. This is a great option for teams who want to organize work by epic and avoid overcrowding their board.

Stories

For teams that love sub-tasks, sorting by stories is the way to go. This predominantly features sub-tasks on the board with each row correlating to the parent task, bug, or story. You can move the sub-task cards through your workflow easily and avoid accumulating clutter (this always seems to happen when sub-tasks cover your board!). This is great for teams working in sprints who need an extra layer of visibility in their tasks.

Assignee

Let’s say you have a board with a limited amount of assignees. To keep a centralized view without extra clicking, you can structure your board to sort swimlanes by the assignee. This allows every team member to look at a row that is relevant to their work. It also makes standups a breeze. Just scroll down the page as people present, and you can reference the tickets by the assignee in real time. This option is best for teams with a small number of assignees and that want to visualize work by team member.

Project

Jira boards are wonderful, and one of their best features is they allow you to include issues from multiple projects. The problem is once all your projects are pulled into one board, how do you sort them? Creating a swimlane by project is one way to sort things smoothly. The best part is that you don’t have to manually query each new project. A swimlane is created automatically, allowing you to focus on the bigger picture. This option is great for teams that work across projects and need to visualize work at a high level.

Queries

My favorite way to create a swimlane is by queries. Queries allow you to choose your lane–literally. By using JQL, you can set each row on your board to anything you like. Most commonly, teams use this to promote high-priority tickets. These rocket to the top of the board and are visually separated from everything else, allowing you to focus on what’s important. This feature is best for teams who want to only sort some work into rows or want to combine various swimlane options into one.

Getting Started with Jira Swimlanes

Swimlanes are an intuitive and helpful feature designed to make your life easier. Before you get started, keep in mind how your team works and the amount of data in your system. For instance, if you choose to sort by epic, and there are over 20 epics in your project, you’re team will have 20 rows to look through to do their work. We find that it’s best to keep within five swimlanes at a time to maximize efficiency. 

Make Your Atlassian Tools Work For You

By leveraging the customization options with Jira swimlanes, teams can tailor their workflow to meet the unique demands of their projects, ultimately contributing to increased efficiency, better communication, and successful project outcomes. 

Whether you're new to Jira or a seasoned user, Praecipio can help you get the most out of your Atlassian tools. As an Atlassian Platinum Solution Partner, we’ve supported organizations across various industries in driving their businesses forward with the Atlassian platform. 

Now it’s off to the races! Ready, set… swimlane! Contact our team about your Atlassian tools so you can get back to the work that matters most. 

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