The Ultimate Manual to Jira and Scrum

Jira and Scrum are two terms you need to be familiar with for software development projects and agile teams. This guide will explain how Jira and Scrum work together. We’ll also provide a tutorial for getting started with both.
What Are Jira and Scrum Anyway?
Jira is a family of products from Atlassian. Those products include:

  • Jira Software — Built for agile project management and software development.
  • Jira Service Management — A way to set up a customer or employee ticketing system.
  • Jira Work Management — Used for business projects like HR onboarding, marketing, and legal document reviews.
  • Jira Align — Enterprise agile planning for portfolio management at scale.

For the purposes of this guide, we’re going to focus on Jira Software—as this tool pairs best with Scrum. Jira Software is a robust tool designed for bug tracking, issue tracking, and project management.

Theoretically, you could use Jira to manage any project. But it’s designed for technical users and software development.

Scrum is a project management framework within the agile methodology. The framework has specific rules that guide project teams to accomplish a common goal. Users can track the progress of the project on a scrum board.

Since Jira is built for software development teams, and so many development projects use Scrum, it makes sense that the two go hand-in-hand.

How Jira and Scrum Works

You can’t understand Jira and Scrum without first having a solid understanding of agile project management.

Agile project management is designed to promote collaborative work, and it breaks down projects into smaller pieces. The project teams will prioritize tasks based on the level of importance.

Agile projects are flexible and don’t follow a linear path. That’s why they’re commonly used by software teams, as the requirements can change throughout the product life cycle.

For project management, the term “scrum” is borrowed from rugby. Scrums encourage agile teams to learn through experiences while reflecting on wins and losses for continuous improvement.

The Scrum framework defines tools, roles, meetings, and processes that provide structure and guidance for completing projects.

Scrum events are defined to minimize meetings and create a regular pattern of work. Each event is time-boxed and cannot be shortened or lengthened once it starts. The purpose of this approach is to ensure that teams produce maximum output with minimum waste.

Here’s a brief overview of the Scrum events you need to know:

  • Sprints — A defined period of one month or less where the team works on smaller tasks toward the overall product goal. Once one sprint ends, another one immediately starts.
  • Sprint Planning — Sprint planning answers three questions. Why is the sprint valuable? What can be accomplished during this sprint? How will the work be completed?
  • Daily Scrum — Daily 15-minute meetings where everyone on the team describes their progress and points out any pain points they’re facing. These meetings help produce quick decision-making and plan for the upcoming day’s work.
  • Sprint Review — Teams and key stakeholders define what was completed during the sprint and what was not. They also discuss what went well, what problems they had, and how those problems got solved. The product backlog gets reviewed, which helps plan for tasks in the next sprint.
  • Sprint Retrospective — This is the final stage of a sprint. The team uses the information in the sprint review to define how they will make improvements during the upcoming sprint.

In addition to these events, you also need to understand sprint artifacts. These items represent the work for the projects.

Artifacts are designed to create maximum transparency for all information. This gives the entire team a complete understanding of every task. Scrum artifacts include:

  • Product Backlog — Backlogs are a list of tasks and activities that must be completed to accomplish the final product goal. Prioritized items are defined during the sprint planning process.
  • Sprint Backlog — Sprint backlogs contain the items that need to be completed during each sprint. Common categories in a sprint backlog include to-do, in-progress, and done. The backlog represents a real-time view of what is being accomplished.
  • Increments — Increments are defined as stepping stones toward the final goal. An increment is created each time an item from the product backlog gets marked as “done.”

Jira Software supports all agile project management methodologies, including Scrum, Kanban, and mixed methods.

The software comes out of the box with tools for sprint planning like backlog management, version management, story points, and scrum boards. Teams can use Jira to track sprints by developing sprint permissions, custom issue types, custom workflows, and releases.

Project teams and project managers alike can use Jira to stay organized. They’ll use it to plan individual tasks as they work on items in the backlog, and they can also use it to see the big-picture overview of everyone’s progress.

Jira also has agile reports that are designed explicitly for Scrum teams. These reports give teams crucial insight into their performance, making it easier to prepare for upcoming sprints during sprint retrospectives. Those reports include:

  • Sprint reports
  • Burndown charts
  • Cumulative flow diagrams
  • Velocity charts
  • Release burndowns
  • Control charts
  • Epic burndowns

Essentially, Jira has everything that a software team needs to successfully complete a project using Scrum. It’s free for up to ten users, and paid plans start at $7 per user per month. You can try any paid plan for free for seven days.

Example #1: Mobile App Development

One common example and use case for Jira and Scrum is mobile app development. These software projects typically involve multiple developers, QAs, testers, designers, and other key stakeholders.

A business might approach a mobile app development agency with an idea for an app. That business would be the product owner and work directly with the project manager at the agency to define the vision for the app.

Then the project manager assembles a Scrum team based on those requirements. For example, if the app will be launched on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, the team needs at least one iOS developer and one Android developer.

The team will define priorities that must be completed to achieve the final goal—a mobile app.

The product backlog, sprints, and everything else can be managed directly within Jira. For something like “design the home screen,” a designer on the team would handle that task during a sprint and turn it into an increment once it’s marked as done.

Using Jira and Scrum for mobile app development helps keep teams on the same page and allows the Scrum framework to be applied appropriately.

Example #2: Bug Tracking

Bugs are part of any software project. If someone developed a piece of software without writing any bugs, I’d like to meet them.

Since Jira is primarily used for software projects, it makes sense that you can also use it to track bugs.

Whenever a bug is discovered, either by a QA tester or another developer, a new item must be added to the backlog to fix that bug. In many cases, software teams using Scrum and Jira decide to create a separate backlog that’s specifically for bugs.

How to Get Started With Jira and Scrum

Now that you understand the basic concepts of Jira and Scrum, it’s time to get started on your own. These are the tactical steps you need to follow to have success with Jira and Scrum:

Step 1: Define the Project Scope

Jira and Scrum are useless without a project to complete. So before you get started, there needs to be something specific that you want to accomplish.

As previously mentioned, Jira and Scrum both work best for software projects. So if you’re doing something else, like running a marketing campaign or building a house, these tools won’t really accommodate your needs.

The first thing you need to do is understand the final product vision. This information is commonly relayed by the product owner or any key stakeholders associated with the project.

Product visions start with the big-picture, and you can work out the minor details later. For example, let’s say you wanted to create a mobile app like Venmo. The main vision of the project would be a peer-to-peer payment app.

Next, you need to create a product roadmap and release plan. Determine a timeline and budget for how this product will be completed.

In some instances, the product owner will provide you with a budget from the beginning, and you’ll have to figure out how to work within that budget. Other times, you’ll need to do the budgeting on your own and then bring those numbers to the product owner for approval.

The project scope will essentially become the blueprint for everything that follows.

Step 2: Assemble Your Scrum Team

Based on the scope, you’ll need to assemble a team that can complete the tasks at hand.

Some of you might already have a team that’s been working together on similar projects. In other situations, you might have to assemble a completely new team.

If you’re not the project manager, then you need to define someone for this role. You’ll also need a scrum master, developers, testers, and likely designers if you’re completing a software project.

Refer back to your budget and timeline as you’re going through this process.

For example, you might find one person that’s well-versed as an iOS developer, Android developer, and web developer. But it’s usually better to have three different roles for each of these needs, as the timeline will be much longer if just one person handles everything.

As you assemble your team, you want to avoid single points of failure as well. So it’s usually best to have an extra developer or two on hand, just in case something goes wrong.

Everyone on the team will have clearly defined roles, and they should all understand their duties.

Step 3: Create a New Project in Jira

It’s time to officially create a project. If you haven’t signed up for Jira yet, you can do this now.

Once you’re in Jira Software, you’ll see a Projects menu at the top of your dashboard. Click on Create project from the drop-down list to continue. This button is located in a few other places on your dashboard as well, depending on the screen you’re on.

Choose between a company-managed project or a team-managed project based on the scope defined in step one.

Then it’s just a matter of following the prompts on the screen. Jira will ask you to name your project and choose a template.

Choose the Scrum template from the Software category.

Step 4: Create Your First Sprint

Next, navigate to the Backlog. From here, you can start to enter tasks that need to be done and plan your first sprint.

You can assign a priority level for each item, add comments, attachments, links, and more information to describe what needs to be done. From here, you can even assign tasks directly to team members.

Once you’ve created a list of issues or tasks that need to be done for the upcoming sprint, click Create Sprint.

Add a start date and end date to the sprint, with any additional notes here as well.

Step 5: Hold Daily Scrums and Continue Toward the Product Goal

Once the first sprint begins, there is no time to waste. Per the framework’s guidelines, you need to hold a daily scrum for 15 minutes every day.

These meetings, often called “standup meetings,” are supposed to be so short that nobody needs to sit down. Whether you’re working in person or remotely, you must hold these meetings at the same time every day.

This gives you a chance to set expectations for sprints and daily work. It also allows your team to provide feedback and let you know if they have any questions.

If a developer is having a problem with something, you might instruct someone else on your team to help that person get through the issue. These are the kinds of discussions that can take place during the daily scrum.

Now it’s just a matter of repeating the process of sprints, sprint reviews, sprint retrospects, and sprint planning as you continue working towards the final goal.