Jira for Test Management: Options, Challenges, and Solutions

If your team uses Jira to manage software development, you will probably want to figure out how to manage your testing & QA processes in a way that integrates with Jira.

In general, you have two options:

  1. Use Jira itself to track your testing tasks (usually as sub-tasks to development issues or with custom issue types)
  2. Use a Jira-based test management add-on (either free or paid)

Using Jira for test management

Although Jira was not designed for software testing and does not have built-in test management functionalities, the tool’s flexibility and customizable fields attract users looking to use it for tasks such as test case management. 

Using Jira as a test management tool is possible but comes with challenges — which may outweigh the advantages, depending on the size and structure of your unique testing team.

A Jira board displays your team’s work as cards you can move between columns. Jira comes with many elaborate features like backlogs, roadmaps, and customizations that make it a popular tool for more complex software development tasks.

Image: A Jira board displays your team’s work as cards you can move between columns.

Advantages of using Jira for test management

For teams that don’t have sophisticated test requirements, Jira may be sufficient for tracking their testing for three primary reasons: 

  • Access: If you have already purchased Jira for your team to track your development efforts, you may not need to purchase additional licenses
  • Tool consolidation: By keeping all of your tracking in one tool, you will have fewer platforms to maintain and may be able to have visibility across your software development efforts
  • Flexibility: Jira’s customizable issue templates can accommodate a wide variety of custom fields, allowing you to create dedicated issue types like “Exploratory Test” or “Regression Test” that would be separate from the default Jira issues types (like Epic, Story, Task, Sub-Task, Bug, etc.)

Challenges of using Jira for test management

Although Jira can be used for test management if you put in enough time and effort, it comes with some major challenges: 

  • Organizing test cases and test planning are complex
  • There is no easy way to track test results over multiple test cycles
  • Jira comes with little to no support for test automation
  • There is no easy to report on traceability or coverage

1. Complex to setup for test planning & organization

Using Jira to organize your test cases and using Jira issues to build out your test suites is complex. There are two ways to approach Jira test management without any other plugins, add-ons, or tools. 

Work tests into your existing Jira workflow with additional issue description fields or sub-tasks

This approach isn’t scalable, makes it hard to manage test data and preconditions, and doesn’t provide visibility into the status of testing.

Create custom Jira issue types

Creating custom Jira issue types can cause confusion, will clutter your Jira board, or force you to maintain a separate project just for testing. You can try grouping Jira issues into “test suites” using custom labels or fields, but there is no built-in way to organize your Jira issues hierarchically to see all of your related tests at a glance. Your team can also choose to use epics to create test suites, but finding reusable tests or tests to maintain becomes an intensive search.

Jira board view

Image: Using custom Jira issues will clutter your Jira board or force you to maintain a separate project just for testing.

2. Difficult to track test results over time

Re-using Jira issues is very inefficient. For example, you can clone Jira issues from one release to the next, but it is time-consuming to clone an entire set of issues used for end-to-end regression testing. Additionally, cloned issues don’t give you any way to analyze a test’s success or failure rate over time.

Even with Jira Query Language (“JQL”), finding the exact Jira issue you are looking for is difficult, especially if it was cloned from a previous test or a sub-task for another issue. 

Once Jira tasks are marked as “done,” they are no longer displayed. The only way to find them is to comb through historical issues with Jira’s search functionality or export your historical Jira issues to Excel and filter them manually. 

3. Little to no support for test automation

Although Jira’s REST API is extensive, Jira itself doesn’t come with any built-in support for test automation tools. 

Whether you are doing BDD testing with a tool like Cucumber or running automated tests with a framework like JUnit or Selenium, there is no easy way to integrate your test automation with the rest of your manual testing tracked in Jira. This causes silos between different functions within your QA team and makes it difficult to maintain real-time visibility into testing.

4. No way to report on test coverage or traceability

Another challenge is creating effective and practical traceability. Traceability is critical for companies in regulated industries or applications that must pass regulatory audits for compliance. It can also be helpful when your team wants to find documentation or test cases for a requirement quickly.

While Jira makes it easy to link between user stories, defects, epics, and other Jira issue types, it doesn’t come with any coverage or traceability reports. It’s time-consuming to search through linked issues, and without any built-in workflows to link issues or ready-made reports to check if links have been established, it’s easy to fall out of compliance. 

Using Jira add-ons for test management

Another option is using an app or add-on available through the Atlassian Marketplace

There are two different types of test management apps in Jira:

  1. Apps that are built on top of and managed through Jira (like Xray)
  2. Apps that integrate Jira with dedicated test management platforms (like TestRail)
Jira test management add-ons•Improved test case organization and planning
•Enhanced visibility and reporting
•Better defect tracking and traceability
•All team members can still access test cases, deliverables, and reports as if they’re using Jira
•If the app you choose is paid (Jira Server, Jira Cloud, or Jira Data Center), they are billed as part of your existing Atlassian subscription.
•Some can be expensive (especially if you have to buy a license for every Jira user)
•Lack of customization means your team will oftentimes need to “fit the mold” of the tool rather than having the tool work for you and meet your needs
•Add-ons can be complex and difficult for team members to adopt and use effectively
•Can cause performance issues for all of the users in your Jira instance as you try to scale
Jira apps that sync with a dedicated test management solution•Easily manage your QA workflows
•Seamlessly integrate with test automation and other DevOps processes
•Greater customizability
•Increased visibility between QA and Development
•Greater control of Your test management
•More scalable
•Typically, you must purchase separate licensing for these types of platforms (even if their Jira app itself is free)

How to choose the right Jira test management solution

Like choosing the right tool for any job, you first want to understand and identify your team’s needs and goals. Ensure that you clearly understand your goals, whether they are to identify coverage gaps, optimize QA’s productivity, or see exactly what happened during the testing process. 

Organizations may weigh the importance of QA goals differently. This should help you narrow your focus to research options that are appropriate for your team. You will, of course, want to consider the available features, pricing, and support, as well as user reviews or case studies to compare and contrast tools.

To take your research a step further, here are seven things to look for when choosing the “right” test management tool if your team uses Jira:

1. Workflow customizations

A good test management tool should provide robust features for organizing and planning your testing efforts. These should include features for creating, managing, and reusing test cases, tracking testing progress, and reporting to help ensure what should be tested gets tested while maintaining visibility with requirements and defects tracked in Jira. 

For example, in TestRail, you can manage, organize, and track all of your test cases in one collaborative platform, generate comprehensive project reports across multiple test runs, configurations, and milestones, and receive traceability and coverage reports to track coverage for requirements, tests, and defects.

2. A low learning curve

If the tool is too cumbersome or hard to learn, you’ll find the transition to using it is an uphill battle. Evaluate the user experience through a trial. Look for a tool with an intuitive interface, helpful documentation, and reviews from existing users.

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Image: (G2 review) TestRail’s usability and intuitive user interface allow for quick onboarding.

3. Integrates with your tech stack

It’s important to integrate your tech stack. Doing so not only gives your users a better more seamless experience, it also makes your life easier by sharing up-to-date information more consistently between all of your systems. 

With a standalone test management tool like TestRail, you can integrate with almost any test automation, CI/CD, or other DevOps tool. This means you can still use the tools that work best for your team while maintaining a single source of truth for the quality of your application.

4. Scalability

As a company grows, you must ensure your test management tool can keep up with increasingly complex requirements, volume of test data, and number of users.

This is a particular challenge for many Jira-based add-ons because as your volume of testing grows, so does the number of Jira issues stored in the database for your Jira instance. Too many Jira issues can start to slow down your Jira instance drastically, making it painful for everyone in your team to work.

Oftentimes a test management tool built outside of Jira can provide a more robust infrastructure for your testing data because it doesn’t rely on Jira’s data architecture to manage performance at scale. Look for tools that allow you to freeze and archive historical test data — giving you the ability to reference historical test runs and results without having to maintain active access to that data and affecting the performance of the application.  

5. Increased test coverage

Test coverage is a key metric for many QA teams. You must be able to evaluate whether you have tested enough or if any major features aren’t covered in your testing suite. 

A test management tool allows you to visualize your requirement coverage much more quickly. For instance, with TestRail, you can receive coverage reports for requirements, tests, and defects in less than 5 minutes. Test management tools like TestRail make it easy to monitor coverage throughout the lifecycle of your project, identify areas where you need greater coverage, and take action to release high-quality products with greater confidence.

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Image: With TestRail’s Jira integration, you can link test cases to user stories, epics, or any other kind of Jira issue to make it clear exactly which requirement is being tested.

6. Greater visibility into the testing lifecycle

Traceability improves the quality and reliability of your organization’s service or product by ensuring that all relevant requirements have been tested. A test management tool should allow you to see and maintain the history of test cases and bugs so that you have a clear record of what has been tested and what needs to be tested in the future. Give your QA team improved insight into the logic behind each test and requirement pairing so that the development and engineering team can more easily identify issues discovered during testing.

7. Improved transparency

Many teams have multiple stakeholders that want to easily understand testing progress—not to mention your team should also want to track their progress. Communicating QA metrics like test coverage, test completion status, or test reliability should be easy or even automatic—such as through scheduled reporting. An add-on should improve transparency with your stakeholders and the rest of the organization, whether the add-on is built on top of Jira or syncs to a dedicated test management platform outside of Jira.

Choosing the right tool for your team’s needs is essential — by investing some time in comparing your team’s needs with the tools available on the market, you’ll be on your way to managing your testing smoothly and efficiently in no time!

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