I'm trying to figure out how JIRA can help track an Agile Scrum project we are running, in particular I want to be able to create burn down charts.

I created a few stories and tasks, and noticed that I can only enter in story points for epics and stories, though it seems like this may be configurable. Specifically, the documentation says this:

Many Scrum teams separate estimation (which is used for measuring the size of a backlog and calculating velocity) from tracking (which is often the burndown of hours used during the Sprint to be sure we're not way off the pace necessary to complete the stories in the Sprint timebox), and use different units for each.


(info) Note that, by default, the Story Points field is only available to issues of type 'Story' or 'Epic' — you can change this as described in JIRA Agile - JIRA Configuration.)

I've went through some basic Agile training and I haven't come across this concept yet where the tracking and estimation is different, though I am sure some people do it that way.

I considered trying to configure JIRA to use Story point estimations for tasks and sub-tasks, but before I try that I want to understand what the flow used by "many scrum teams" in JIRA.

Furthermore, it seems that the "log work" option once a sprint has begun doesn't effect the story points estimation at all. With the current flow, it seems like I would have to enter in the estimation in story points for epics and stories, and then re-enter in something similar for the time estimations for every item.

If someone can help me with a recommended workflow where I don't have to enter in everything twice, and I can do a day-to-day tracking of how much each story/task/sub-task is completed (with burndown chart), I'd appreciate it.

UPDATE: I tried showing a burndown chart and I see it only shows story points, which I guess is as expected. My problem is that this means none of the tasks or sub-task completion will reflect on the burndown chart, which seems strange.

UPDATE 2: By changing the board time estimation mode to "Remaining Estimate and Time Spent" I was able to select "Remaining time". However, when I close sub-tasks, for some reason that chart doesn't adjust. It seems that I have to manually update the "remaining time" to "0" which is a pretty awkward interface (why doesn't it do this automatically?). Furthermore, my fundamental problem of needing to manage estimates and tracking in different places is not solved.

(NOTE: I tried to ask this on answers.atlassian.com, but no response so reposting here)

  • What problems are you trying to solve with the burndown chart - as in why do you want to show progress daily on stories/tasks? Who is your audience?
    – WBW
    Sep 16, 2016 at 19:14

1 Answer 1


In Scrum, estimation and time tracking are completely separate concepts.

I've went through some basic Agile training and I haven't come across this concept yet where the tracking and estimation is different

Estimation in Scrum is done in story points, while tracking is done in time. Story points are a measure of relative effort required to complete a story. Time tracking is a measure of how much time it took to complete that story. While related, these concepts do not directly map to each other. For example, you might have a relatively small story (ie. 1 story point) and a relatively large story (ie. 5 story points), but the small story might take ten times as long if, say, the server becomes extremely overloaded for a day or two.

The reason JIRA does not by default allow story points for tasks is because they are not stories - they provide no direct business value. It is assumed that an abundance of work in tasks will be reflected in a reduced focus factor, meaning the team will complete fewer story points overall during that sprint. As for sub-tasks, the story point estimation is already done for their parent stories, so duplicating that estimation into the subtasks would be redundant.

Regarding the burndown, you need to decide which you're going to track - story points (relative measures of effort of stories which provide direct business value) or time (amount of hours worked). If the former, then you don't want tasks nor sub-tasks to show up on the burndown. If the latter, you can change the burndown from showing 'Story Points' to 'Original Time Estimate'. Obviously, this will only do anything if you put in an original time estimate on each story.

and I can do a day-to-day tracking of how much each story/task/sub-task is completed (with burndown chart)

What is your purpose for doing this? As per Scrum's concepts of 'Definition of Done' and having a potentially-releasable product each iteration, having a partially-completed story is considered to have zero (or even negative) value. A story that is 50% done is useless and provides no value - this is why by default burndowns track only stories which are 100% done.

As an aside, why do you want to track time in the first place? In my experience, teams gain no benefit from tracking time - tracking relative effort has been shown to be far more accurate and productive. The only reason I can see for tracking time is if upper management is demanding time keeping.

  • Tracking time could be relevant for a few reasons. (1) If a firm is billing hourly, (2) While story points are not a direct estimate of time, you can take a median measurement of how long a certain story point value takes. (E.g., for a 3-point story, our team's median time is X hours.)
    – JDRoger
    Sep 16, 2016 at 18:53
  • 1
    Do either of those provide direct value to the Team, though? Or are they only doing it because management told them to? Not that I'm saying that's a bad thing - management may well have good reasons for this. But if a Development Team isn't told to do time-tracking, then unless I'm missing something, I don't see the point in doing it - story point estimation should be enough.
    – Sarov
    Sep 16, 2016 at 19:00
  • You can bill time hourly against a client project or some higher level aggregate. Its usually not in the best interest for the client to bill against individual jira tickets because the cost of accurately tracking time at that level is high and eventually gets passed on to the customer. What's the value of a median measurement? I've never gone to a client and said "I should be paid for the average amount of time I spent on your project." Story points are not the right tool for figuring out billables; they are used for forecasting and gaining deeper understanding of the work at hand.
    – WBW
    Sep 16, 2016 at 19:12

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.