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Jira story vs. task: What's the difference?

Product owners and software developers play two vitally different roles on an Agile team. The product owners provide the vision, while the programmers develop the software.

In Jira, these separate responsibilities manifest themselves in the form of two separate types of issues: stories and tasks.

Difference between a Jira story and task

In Jira, a story represents a stakeholder's high-level vision of what a product should do, while a task is a low-level implementation detail performed by a software developer.

When developers plan their work, they break Jira stories down into a set of tasks to perform. When all tasks are complete, the user story is marked as done.

What is a user story?

The purpose of a user story is to capture, in simple terms, how a user might use a product and why. Product owners and business analysts typically phrase a user story in the following way: As a [person or persona], I want to [perform an action] to [achieve a specific benefit].

Examples of Jira stories

User stories vary widely across products and domains, but here are a few examples from the online course software I'm currently building:

  • As a learner, I want to bookmark courses I'm interested in so that I can easily access them later.
  • As a manager, I want to assign courses to specific employees or teams so that I can facilitate targeted skill development within the organization.
  • As an instructor, I want to be notified when students complete a course or achieve significant milestones so that I can provide timely feedback and encouragement.
  • As an administrator, I want to generate detailed reports on learner progress, course completion rates and overall platform usage, for analysis and decision-making purposes.
  • As a learner, I want to interact with instructors and peers through discussion forums or live chat sessions to enhance my learning experience and seek clarification on course content.
Screenshot of Jira task vs. story
Blue issues are Jira tasks, while green tickets are Jira stories.

What is a Jira task?

Unlike a Jira story, tasks tend to be technical in nature. They describe work items and other activities that must be completed for a user story to meet the definition of done.

Examples of Jira tasks

The following five examples of Jira tasks map to the user story above of a learner bookmarking courses:

  • Add a column to the database to support bookmarks.
  • Add a bookmark icon next to course titles.
  • Create a webpage that lists all bookmarks.
  • Add a function that toggles bookmarks on and off.
  • Create unit tests to validate bookmark functionality.

It's always a challenge to translate the product owner's vision into a valuable, workable product. When teams use Jira to break their work down into stories and tasks, the product development effort becomes more manageable.

Darcy DeClute is a technical trainer and Agile coach who helps organizations apply Scrum-based principles to adopt a modern DevOps stack. She is a certified Professional Scrum Master (PSM), Professional Scrum Developer (PSD) and Professional Scrum Product Owner (PSPO), and author of the Scrum Master Certification Guide.

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