Jira has a multitude of ways to group and categorize similar issues, such as through projects, requests types, or components. Many of these are aimed at issues that exist within one project, though, making it a bit more difficult to track items across your entire Jira instance. This is where labels can shine.
Labels are basically 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 labels on an issue, allowing you to easily catch it in any number of buckets.
Like with many things in life, though, a watchful eye and steady hand are needed to really use labels effectively. With that in mind, we’ve identified a few best practices to help.
1. 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.
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 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 as a tool 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.
Contact us if you have any questions on labels, or in anything Jira: We are experts in all things Atlassian.