Skip to main content

Why JIRA, why?

JIRA fills a multitude of roles and it is unfair to simply call it our bug-tracker. An outline of what its actual use might shed some light on why the quality of the content is important to our process.

Roles of JIRA

  • Planning development
  • Tracking dependencies
  • Visualising progress
  • Capturing decisions and information
  • Displaying relevant information
  • Release management
  • Exposing our process
  • Managing expectations
  • Roadmap
  • Quality assurance
  • Bug tracking
  • Communication hub

Hard and fast rules

  1. Information related to the issue belongs in the issue

Slack is great for discussions but it is a walled garden that holds the history of those discussions hostage unless you pay up for a commercial license. The search is beyond useless so everything written there can be considered gone from our collective history.

The same goes for when discussing an issue with a colleague AFK or over e-mail. Copy-paste the relevant part of the discussion, at least the decision taken and the arguments for doing so, into a comment in the JIRA issue. Put it in {quote} tags, mention the people who were involved (they should have a JIRA account) so there is some way to trace decisions taken on issues in the future.

DHIS2 will live a long time and JIRA is our source of truth of what happens throughout the lifetime of the project on all levels of the software. It is our commit history and should be treated as such.

A summary of a discussion related to an issue in JIRA needs to be added as a comment to the JIRA issue.

Not to mention that if a developer becomes out of commission for a while work on her features do not grind to a halt if the information is in the JIRA ticket, and since we work on a prioritised backlog, whatever she was working on is important to complete.

  1. Transparency is a good thing for everyone

JIRA is our tool for showing all interested parties from implementors, donors, product managers, internal and external developers, what we are doing, when we are doing it, and why we are doing it.

We are an open-source project, so hiding our inner workings behind closed doors is detrimental to the values of open-source software.

  1. The status in JIRA should reflect the truth

This should be obvious, but we do not assign issue to ourselves we aren't actively working on. It's more important that JIRA reflects the truth than to look busy. If an issue is blocked, link it to the blocking issue and flag it to your team leader or product manager. There is no reason to assign issues to yourself or set them to in progress unless they are actively worked on, it just stops someone else from starting on those issues.

It's better to set an issue to unassigned than to look busy.

Statuses and what they mean

  • Open: a fresh issue which isn't evaluated if and when it is going to be implemented. As a developer ignore these unless asked to help out with them.

  • Todo: these issues have been considered by the product manager and are deemed to be important enough to be implemented. These issues are considered as part of the backlog.

  • In progress: a developer has assigned himself to the issue and has started work on it.

  • In review: the implementing developer thinks this issue is complete and needs someone to review it.

  • Testing: hand-over to the QA-team for verification.

  • Done: issue has passed QA tests and is closed and ready for release.

  • Needs update: issue fails some QA tests, which might be lack of test case, documentation, or something else.

  • Re-opened: issues that were at one point considered closed and done, but no longer are.


In general the happy case flow is:

  1. Open
  2. Todo
  3. In progress
  4. In review
  5. Testing
  6. Done

The parts of the flow in bold are the states we are responsible for doing work in. We take "todo" issues and transition them to "in progress". Here we do work. We then transition them to "in review" where we also do work to verify that they are good enough (according to our Definition of Done). When we are confident we move it to "testing" and it is out of our hands (in theory).

There are some criteria for actions before transitioning an issue along the pipeline.


  • Product manager prioritises


In progress

  • Assign to self
  • Work has started

In review

  • As assignee:
    • Unassign issue when transitioning so anyone on the team can review
  • As reviewer:


  • Unassign issue when transitioning to "testing"
  • Picked up by testers automatically, they assign it to themselves when testing starts

Needs update

  • Happens when QA fails


  • Happens when there is a regression in relation to the issue

Detailed workflow for developers

This section covers only the steps that are relevant to the developers.

Test failure tickets

It's generally a good idea to have a look at the issues that returned to the todo list because the tests failed during QA. Although normally the dev who initially worked on that ticket should fix the open issues, this is not always possible.

If you see one of your tickets pop up again and you know that you'll be able to work on that one soon anyways, you can assign it to yourself. If you're working on an issue with a tight deadline and you can't stop working on that issue, but the ticket that came back from QA is very important, you can just ask the other devs if they can have a look, ideally with a possible hint what they might have to do.

Sometimes devs are on leave and won't be able to fix the open issues, so you could just take over and do it yourself.


Before starting to work on a ticket, you might want to read through the "Git workflow for core devs" guide!

Once you're done working on an issue, push your changes to the repository and submit a pull request. Next you need to ask the core developers to review your changes, i. e. by asking in slack. Once your changes are approved, do the merge yourself. Then you need to update the documentation if necessary. Regardless of whether there was documentation to update or not, create a comment in the JIRA ticket to state what you updated or why you didn't update anything.

If you fixed a bug, you'll need to create a new test case. Create an issue of type "Test" and specify the required data. Keep in mind not to be too specific to make the test case capture all possible scenarios, i. e: You changed a password input field from showing plain text to show asterisks instead. Don't write "the password field with the name XZY needs to be of type password". It's better to say sth like "password fields in the form ABCD should hide the characters behind asterisks".

Also link the actual JIRA issue to the newly created test case issue.

Now you can ask again for a final review. If everything looks fine, you can then unassign yourself and set the ticket to "In Review"

Review checklist


  • Is the Pull Request good to merge?
  • Did you test the branch locally?
  • Is there a test case linked to the JIRA issue?


  • Is the Pull Request good to merge?
  • Did you test the branch locally?
  • Is the user documentation updated?
  • Is the implementer documentation updated?
  • Is there a test case linked to the JIRA issue?

Is an issue ready to be worked on?

After reading the description of an issue, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I understand why this needs to be done?
  • Do I understand what needs to be done?
  • Do I have an idea of how this can be done?

Our job is to determine if the description is well enough defined that we understand the functional requirements of how this is going to be used.

If we do not understand the why, what, and how, then we need to ask for more information so that we know that we are building the right thing.

For features that might mean asking for use cases, diagrams, flow charts, better description of the problem we are attempting to solve, etc.

For bugs it might mean asking for a test case to reproduce the issue (which saves you the trouble of writing one later), or a step-by-step list of how to reproduce the problem, what the expected behaviour is and what the actual behaviour was.

All this needs to be captured in the JIRA ticket as well, so if it's not there and you cannot help out writing it, do not hesitate to re-assign the issue to the reporter and asking for clarification.