This page refers to Portfolio classic plans. If you're using Portfolio 2.0 and later, please check this section for frequently asked questions about Portfolio live plans.
We have collected some frequently asked questions about Backlog Management in JIRA Portfolio.
Can you assign an entity to more than one theme?
The general rule is that the lowest level entries in the hierarchy can only be assigned to one theme. Thus, stories can only be be assigned to a single theme. If an epic has several child stories assigned to different themes, the epic implictly is then assigned to multiple themes. If an epic does not have child stories, it can only be assigned to a single theme. The reason for this is that we want to report on resource allocation, thus it needs to be deterministic, to which theme an effort is assigned to in order to avoid start splitting up or double-counting efforts towards multiple themes.
JIRA doesn't have a "theme" issue type by default. How do you add themes?
Themes are defined directly within the portfolio plan. Navigate to Reports > Themes to add or edit existing themes and define a target allocation of effort, which you want to compare with actuals.
Can initiatives contain multiple themes?
Yes. This is possible if an initiative consists of multiple epics and stories which are assigned to different themes. In this case, you'll see at the initiative level that the initiative contains multiple themes. If an initiative is not broken down into child items, then only a single theme can be assigned.
Work Item Hierarchy (Plans, Initiatives, Epics, Stories)
Will there be additional levels of backlog categorization? How many levels are supported in the taxonomy?
With Portfolio, you first can have one or multiple portfolio plans, each plan can be either cross-team/cross-project, or focused on one particular project. Within a plan, work items are structured into three actual levels of hierarchy:
Initiative > Epic > Story.
Below stories, you can have sub-tasks directly in JIRA. Subtasks are not explicitly represented in Portfolio, but they are considered for aggregated progress tracking and reporting. The structure is orthogonal to JIRA Projects, so you can pull data from multiple JIRA Projects into one portfolio plan. Additionally, the issues can be assigned to themes (which typically will represent higher-level business objectives or resource investment buckets). While themes are the highest-level items, they don't actually represent an extra level in the hierarchy since the items within an initiative can contribute to different themes.
Can you have multiple plans? How are resource shared or not shared across these?
Yes, you can have an arbitrary number of plans. Different people can have access to different plans. Resources are not shared between plans, as they are completely independent.
Why did you decide to provide only one level for epics in the hierarchy? Would you consider allowing slotting epics under other epics?
This initial design has been chosen to keep it simple and to cover a large number of use cases that we encountered during out initial customer research. However, we are considering extending this in the future to flexible, configurable hierarchy levels.
Is it possible to have an epic or story that belongs to more than one initiative?
No, initiatives are a level of hiearchy above epics, so in order to maintain the hierarchy, a story can only be in one branch of the hierarchy, i.e., belong to exactly one initiative.
Do initiatives and epics inside a plan exist in a "bubble" where changes do not affect other plans?
Plans are logically separated and don't impact each other. Neither resources nor any other data items are shared between plans, in order to have a "safe" planning playground. There is one exception to this, when backlog items are linked to actual JIRA issues, there is an option to turn on syncing of the issue summary, description etc... If two plans reference the same issue key, then changes will populate back indirectly from one plan to another.
What happens when an issue doesn't exist in an epic? For example, a bug.
For the moment, a placeholder epic is required. For instance, create a "Bug fixing / Maintenance" epic inside JIRA Portfolio (does not have to link to an epic in a JIRA project) and then import bugs as stories under that epic. Generally, to keep the data set manageable, we recommend to only get as detailed as needed when importing individual bugs, in many cases the overall placeholder might be sufficient for a higher-level portfolio plan.
It would be nice to be able to plan an issue without an epic. Are there plans to allow us to schedule a story by itself?
There are no concrete plans yet for this issue, please raise a suggestion at https://jira.atlassian.com/browse/JPOSERVER so others can vote on it as well and we can gauge the demand for it.
Can you edit issues in the backlog (add descriptions and custom fields to)?
Work items in JIRA Portfolio link to "regular" JIRA issues. Adding a description in Portfolio will reflect in the issue details of these linked issues. It is of course possible to add custom fields, however, there is currently no capability to display these custom fields directly within Portfolio, so to see and edit these data fields, you'll have to navigate directly to the issue details. This is highly desirable extension that will likely be added into a future release of JIRA Portfolio.
Do you have to use epics and user stories or can you import other issue types?
JIRA Portfolio allows you to import any issue type. The only explicit benefit of epics and stories is that their hierarchy is known and can be imported right away. When importing other issue types you will need to decide at which hierarchy level to import the issue (initiative, epic or story-level of the hierarchy) and select the parent item.
Do work logs on issues automatically synchronize with JIRA Portfolio?
Yes, work logs (logged time spent) are loaded dynamically in real-time and will be up-to-date in JIRA Portfolio.
Can allan function without identifying epics and initiatives and just utilize JIRA stories / issues?
Generally yes, the minimum you would need is to just create one placeholder epic under which you import the JIRA stories / issues. This does not have to be an actual Epic, but just an entry directly in JIRA Portfolio. Initiatives are fully optional. In this case, you would simply not make use of the initiatives and epics view in the graphical schedule, and just use the stories view.
Can priorities be based on custom fields?
No, priority is currently defined by the rank ordering within JIRA Portfolio, which can only be modified via the UI by dragging/dropping items in the desired order.
Can you drag and drop epics or stories into an initiative?
Not yet. In the interim, there is a "Move to Initiative / Epic" operation available via the drop down menu on each backlog item.
Is it possible to have a plan of plan? Or is this simply 1 layer above epic?
Currently no, but are are considering this as a future extension for larger scale instances. If you are interested in this feature, please raise a feature request at https://jira.atlassian.com/browse/JPOSERVER with some context on your specific usecase so that we can consider it.
Are there any analytics or weighting of projects to help determine what you should prioritize in your plan?
No, this is currently not in the scope of JIRA Portfolio - we have focused initially on planning, forecasting and tracking initiatives across teams, but there are no specific capabilities that assist with determining the priority order directly in the product.
At what level are time estimates being made (theme, epic, user story or sub-task)?
Estimates can be made either on epic level (as long as the epic is still more of a placeholder and not yet broken down into individual user stories), or at the story level. Themes and initiatives cannot be estimated by themselves, you'll need to add at least one child epic with an estimate.
Are detailed stories required all the way out into the future, or is using some "t-shirt" estimation ok?
In many cases detailed stories might only be available for the next handful of sprints. Beyond that, there might only be ballbark estimates or time budgets. There is no need to have detailed stories for everything. An epic without child stories can serve as a proxy for that, and can have a rough estimate on it. It will get scheduled as if it consisted of multiple stories, and will get split up across multiple sprints depending on the overall size. There is no explicit way to input T-shirt size estimates, but if you define some categories (ex: M equals 20 days, L equals 50 days etc...) you can just enter these estimates on epic level as a placeholder until there are more detailed stories.
Can you estimate at the initiative level? If so, when we start executing issues would the story changes be reflected in epics and initiatives so that we can see estimates and actuals?
Estimates can be made either on epic level (as long as the epic is still more of a placeholder and not yet broken down into individual user stories), or at the story level. Themes and initiatives cannot be estimated by themselves. If you start executing and create/import actual user stories under an epic, the estimate on the epic level gets replaced with the rolled up estimate from the story level, and progress is tracked relative to that, not relative to the original estimate made at the epic level.
Can the estimate be done in either days or hours, and can each team decide if they want to estimate in hours or days?
Currently a whole plan is either in days or hours. If multiple teams are represented within one portfolio plan, one method needs to be chosen. However, since hours and days are convertible/interchangeable, this is only a question which units get displayed in the backlog table and reports. Estimates on the issues itself can of course be imported in all cases, as long as it is all time-based.
Can the estimates be in man hours for each skill set requirement?
Yes, the whole plan can be switched to hour-based estimates. In this case, the skill-level estimates are also in hours and you can estimate for each issue by how many hours of each skill-set are required.
Is the "requires dependency" setting dependent on the user story, epic or initiative?
Dependencies can be set at both the epic and story level. Epics can depend on other epics, or on stories within another epic. Stories can depend on other stories or complete epics.
Can you see a graphical representation of the dependencies between epics?
This functionality does not currently exist. We do plan to add this capability in the future, please vote for this feature request so that it moves up the priority stack: https://jira.atlassian.com/browse/JPO-17
How can you identify if an initiative has a release constraint or if it's calculated?
There is a visual distinction between constraint/manually defined fields, and fields that are calculated. Calculated fields are highlighted with a light-blue background, whereas constraint fields have a regular white background to indicate that it’s a static value that will not change upon re-calculation.
People, Teams & Skills
We have teams that work on several initiatives at the same time; is there a team by team list view, rather than by initiative?
No, currently only the graphical schedule can be broken down by teams (showing which initiatives teams are scheduled to work on). If you desire this functionality, please raise a feature request at https://jira.atlassian.com/browse/JPOSERVER with some context on your specific usecase for it so we can consider it for future releases.
Can required skills be propagated up from subtasks to tasks?
Required skills are determined by the estimates being set for each of the skill columns, and are thus implicitly rolled up from story to epic to initiative level. Currently, subtasks are not explictly represented in JIRA Portfolio so there isn't a place to set detailed, skill-level estimates for subtasks.
I have multiple teams, each one leading one "category" in JIRA, with multiple projects. Can each team can have their own plan, and then, have another one at the management level?
Currently this is not possible, there is no consolidated view on top of multiple plans, so all data would have to be within a single plan. As a workaround, the concept of release streams could be used to differentiate the different categories/products which have an independent release cycle. That said, we are considering this feature for future releases of JIRA Portfolio.
When do you expect to have the ability to see the ticket status from the plan update screen?
We have this on our roadmap as part of our regular intake of customer requests, but cannot provide a concrete date for it at this point.
If we don't use JIRA to manage projects, can we create plans with rough estimates and assign team members to them for planning, without making epics?
Yes, the integration with actual epics is optional and gives additional benefits such as progress tracking and actuals. If you just need to plan out resources, you can also plan without actual epics.
Can you have templates for epics and initiatives in order to create an epic with a predefined set of user stories?
There is no out-of-the-box support for this. A possible workaround would be to create these template issues in a separate JIRA project, and then import them into the plan as needed. The only thing to bear in mind is that you would then have to overwrite the issue links for these imported user stories. They will first point to the template project, but If you want to create actual issues within the target project, you can just say "Create and link new issues" again and select all the stories, so that their issue link gets replaced, pointing to the new project. While not a perfect workaround, depending on the number of stories, it could still save some time.
Does JIRA Portfolio require that all stories & sub-tasks already be in JIRA? Or is the "Estimate" a proxy for that?
Having all stories / subtasks in JIRA is not mandatory. In many cases, this level of detailed information will not be available when doing high-level planning. In this case, a total estimate can be entered at the epic level, and JIRA Portfolio schedules the epic as if it consisted of a set of smaller user stories.
Does JIRA Portfolio allow project meta-data such as costs and traffic lights?
No, this is currently not supported by JIRA Portfolio.