Identifying and mitigating blockers is one of the most important practices in keeping projects on-schedule and maximizing throughput.
I’ve observed three different practices used for JIRA projects in the past to track blocked work:
- Flag – this provides a strong visual indication on the board, but requires the flag be manually added / removed
- Blocked workflow state – clear board visibility (mapped to column), but requires the state be manually entered / exited
- Priority field set to Blocker – clear board visibility (same as for any priority field value, may optionally be swimlane’d), but requires field be manually set to Blocker / back to other priority
The approach I like to use is to rely on the JIRA Blocks / Is-blocked-by link type, to show both blocked and blocking tickets, each in their own swimlane at the top of the board. “Blocking” tickets are important to track when your project is blocking another.
These filters require the popular Adaptavist ScriptRunner plugin be installed on the JIRA server.
Example JQL Filters for Blocked and Blocks
The intent of the generic JQL filters described here is to support adding “Blocks” and “Blocking” swimlanes to any JIRA project’s board.
AllProj-BlockedDirect: Returns all open tickets having a direct “is blocked by” link to at least one open ticket
issueFunction in linkedIssuesOf(“status not in (Done, Rejected)”, blocks) AND status not in (Done, Rejected)
AllProj-BlockedAny: Returns all open tickets having a direct or indirect (parent of blocked sub-task or sub-task of blocked-parent) “is blocked by” link to at least one open ticket
(filter = AllProj-BlockedDirect OR issueFunction in parentsOf(“filter=AllProj-BlockedDirect”) OR issueFunction in subTasksOf(“filter=AllProj-BlockedDirect”)) AND status not in (Done, Rejected)
AllProj-BlocksDirect: Returns all open tickets having a direct “blocks” link to at least one open ticket
issueFunction in linkedIssuesOf(“status not in (Done, Rejected)”, “is blocked by”) AND status not in (Done, Rejected)
Add Blocked and Blocks Swimlanes to board
The following JIRA board swimlanes are defined as:
- Blocks: Show all open project tickets directly blocking open ticket(s) on any other project
- Blocked: Show all open project tickets directly or indirectly (parent-of or sub-task-of) blocked by open ticket(s) on any other open project
- To run any of the above JIRA filters standalone for a project (outside the board), simply add a “project=” clause and save them to a project-specific filter name
- Using Resolution instead of Status can potentially simplify the filters, depending on how JIRA is configured in your organization. In either case, include all status / resolution states which are considered “non-open”
- Be sure to set the saved JQL Filters permissions to “Everyone” or another permission level giving everyone access who needs it