December 11, 2018

JIRA is in desperate need of refinement

JIRA is in desperate need of refinement
Nils Janse
Nils Janse
Founder & CEO
2 min read

An article by Jon Evans titled "JIRA is an antipattern" recently became the number 1 on Hacker News with 350+ comments. The main point of the article is that JIRA is being used in the wrong way, and that product teams should complement its use by also writing documents. As indicated by the title of this article, although we agree with the main point, we would prefer to defuse the explosive original title somewhat.

For us at Delibr, this is of course very exciting, as the interest in the article shows how relevant the topic we are working on is. As we perceive the article to be so relevant, we decided to write a reply to it. It is written so that you can read the original article and our reply in any order.

Our reply:

We've just spent a year interviewing 200+ product owners about the problem that you are describing. For most teams, JIRA works great for monitoring progress on closely defined tasks, but context "above story level" is a real problem. The better teams do already use another tool than JIRA to write such documents, typically at "epic level", and typically using Google Docs and/or Confluence.

But almost all struggle with writing this document, where common problems include:

  • duplication of work and manual updating between the document and JIRA
  • unclear handover of the source of truth, since things that are written in the document are "true until stated otherwise in JIRA or a JIRA comment.. or somewhere on Slack"
  • lots of input/questions/decisions from refinement meetings not captured in either the document or in JIRA

I think the solution is to think of this document less as a "requirements document" (many label this doc "PRD"), and more as a "refinement document".

This "refinement document" should

  • try to capture the conversation that happens in refinement meetings
  • involve also the developers to cover not only "why" and "what", but also a bit of "how"
  • evolve and be updated all the way through development as new insights are gained
  • be the source of truth and available to the developer working on the JIRA issue

We have made a tool specifically to support working this way with "refinement documents". One dedicated place to refine features. Structure, collaborate, keep track of questions and capture not only decisions, but also conversations. Seamlessly transform your work into crystal clear Jira epics and stories. When you turn notes into Jira issues, you can see all the details via our Jira plugin. Happy to hear your thoughts, please do check it out at

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