Process Pattern: Sub-task lexicon

One of the challenges I often encounter with JIRA boards is the limited screen real estate available for the ticket summary – often, the visible first few words are not enough to know what the ticket is without clicking on it for detail.

When using sub-tasks, this is often compounded by a sub-task summary which is redundant with the parent ticket, further reducing the effectiveness of the board.

To help improve usability of the board for sub-tasks,  I’ve had good success using the “sub-task lexicon” process pattern on a number of projects, described below.

Example Sub-task lexicon prefixes

The following table of example prefixes presumes the following simple workflow states: Backlog -> Selected -> In-Progress -> QA -> Done

A smallish number of prefixes works best to keep it simple and consistent over time – when in DOubt use “DO”:

Prefix Description Typ. Workflow States Examples Comment
DO  a taskish sub-task  Selected -> In-Progress -> Done
  • DO Test Env. config.
Do a non-code/qa/spec activity

Often requires no AC or QA verify

FIX  a bug  Selected -> In-Progress -> QA
  • FIX Error when saving
  • Code the fix
  • Unit-test the fix
IMPL  a story Selected -> In-Progress -> QA
  • IMPL User REST resource
  • Code the story
  • Unit-test the story
  • E Test
  • Verify
QA-> Done
  • QA Error when saving
  • QA User REST resource
  • “E Test” = Exploratory Test
  • Verify ensures AC are met
SPEC Description detail, AC Backlog -> Selected
  • SPEC  User REST resource

AC = Accept Criteria


  • Improved readability on the board
  • Standardized prefixes encourage consistency
  • Encourages team thinking in a routinized way about typical sub-task workflow “profiles like:
    • Feature: SPEC -> IMPL -> QA
    • Bug:         FIX -> QA

Other notes

  • Some teams use sub-tasks for Code Review (CR), others rely on external tools’ code review workflow such as GitHub / GitLab
  • Some teams create the typical sub-tasks up-front (typical of scrum’s sprint-planning), others create them JIT (works well with kanban or scrum-ban)


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