How to visualize your business processes in JIRA 7

Business teams adopting JIRA 7 can learn a lot from the developers who have gotten so much out of it.

Jira blog

Simply put, JIRA is the best project-tracking tool available. And with the release of JIRA Core and JIRA Service Desk, it’s no longer just for programmers.

Still, business teams who adopt JIRA can learn a lot from the developers who have gotten so much out of it. One particular area in which these IT professionals have excelled is visual communication, specifically diagramming.

Business teams can and should follow this lead. A good diagram can replace a wall of text, saving time and eliminating costly misunderstandings. It can also help you spot unexpected opportunities to improve.

For instance, when the marketing team here at Lucid Software recently realized we needed to keep better track of the  automated emails we send to our users, we quickly put together a simple diagram to help us get the big picture.

Email workflow

With that information, we were able to pick out a few emails to start A/B testing. We were also able to spot a few gaps in the system—gaps that we are now working to fill.

In this instance, we created a diagram outside of our chosen emailing tool, Hubspot. Fortunately, for JIRA users, there’s a much easier way to incorporate visual documentation into workflows with plugins like Lucidchart for JIRA. Here’s a quick guide on how you can do just that. I’ll first go over some common flowchart notation, and then I’ll show you how to create diagrams within JIRA.

Flowchart symbols’ meaning

If you’re new to diagramming, start with a flowchart. Flowcharts are widely used used because of their simplicity and versatility.

Each flowchart shape has unique meaning. These are some of the most common ones:

The process symbol, the most common shape, represents a process, function, or action.

The terminator symbol marks the beginning or ending of a path, including possible outcomes.

The decision symbol indicates a question to be answered. The path may split depending on the answer.

Even with just these three shapes, you can already begin diagramming simple processes, such as the following common method for producing peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.


It’s a nice looking diagram, but is it useful? Probably not. It might be instructive to someone who’s never made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but even then, it doesn’t really have enough specific, technical information to guarantee a satisfactory meal.

Peanut butter and jelly connoisseurs are likely to crave a more detailed diagramming approach. A little more research into sandwiches and flowcharts might yield the following updated diagram:


You may have noticed a few new shapes, including:

The predefined process symbol, which refers to a complicated process that is explained elsewhere.

The document symbol, which represents the input or output of a document, such as a report, email, or order.

The manual operation symbol, which indicates an action that must be completed manually rather than automatically.

The note or comment symbol, which offers any needed extra explanation.

Once you master the basics, you may wish to create a more specialized diagram. For software engineers, that probably entails creating mockups or ER diagrams, but for business teams, there’s a little more flexibility.

Here’s a quick reference guide to some common business diagrams and their uses:

  • Business Process Model and Notation 2.0 (flowcharts) – represent business tasks and activities with specialized notation.
  • Data flow diagrams – track the flow of information through a step-by-step process.
  • Org charts – showcase the roles and contact information of individuals across an entire organization.
  • Value stream maps – clearly identify waste in any process, particularly manufacturing.
  • Enterprise integration diagrams – plan and execute a large-scale integration.
  • Floor plans – map out use of office or storage space.
  • Process engineering maps – create a flow diagram for a plant or factory.
  • Mind maps – brainstorm ideas in a way that will still make sense tomorrow.

Of course, visualizing a workflow is only the first step to a more efficient workplace. After planning to make changes, you’ll need to implement them, then evaluate and revise as needed.

A diagramming plugin for JIRA 7

There are several stand-alone diagramming plugins for JIRA. Of these, Lucidchart stands out with real-time collaboration, @mention notifications, and a presentation mode that is great for sharing complex documents. Perhaps more importantly, it includes additional free integrations with Confluence, Google Apps, MS Office, and even a slick iOS app.

You can learn about or install the plugin here. Once it’s installed, adding or creating custom diagrams for specific JIRA issues is remarkably simple. While editing a JIRA issue:

  1. Click “More.”
  2. Choose “Attach Lucidchart diagram.”
  3. Your docs list will appear. Choose whether to attach an existing diagram, import directly from Visio, Gliffy, or OmniGraffle, or create a brand new diagram on the spot.

Here’s what I see when I click “Attach Lucidchart diagram.” Now I can make my sandwich-making tips available for my whole team to reference.


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