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Jira Administration

Cutting through the Complexity of Jira Custom Fields

by Jenny Choban on July 19, 2018

Managing Jira custom fields is a balancing act. We know that teams want to be able to collect specific, structured information on Jira issues. We also know that too many custom fields can become a nightmare to manage and will eventually have a negative impact on Jira’s performance. Balancing the need for project specific-data with the need to contain the number of custom fields can be one of the greatest challenges facing Jira administrators. 


Atlassian provides lots of ways for making fields flexible enough to serve more than one function. You can choose to show or hide custom fields on any given screen. You can use field configurations  to specify how a field should be used in a given project.  You can also use field contexts to create different option lists for the same field depending on the projects. 

Unfortunately,  more options often means more complexity. Responding to a question in the Atlassian Community, Nic Brough of Adaptavist recommends choosing one strategy and sticking to it. He states:

Where a Jira install has a mix of field configurations, field context and fields on screens (or not), it rapidly becomes a nightmare.  Where I get handed systems that the admin says "we've got 1,187 custom fields, all global and none hidden", I'm actually very happy, because I know it's all done with the screens and I know tinkering with those can fix it all. 

The lesson here, is that having one place to look (hidden or shown on screens) will make life a lot easier when it’s time to tidy up your custom fields

We’d like to offer one more solution – putting the fields for a specific team, a specific project, or a specific process on a form, and embedding that form in the Jira issue.  ProForma lets you do just that. ProForma forms are easily visible on the Jira issue. Fields that are included on a form don’t need to be included on the issue itself.

2018-07 Screenshots.001

The main limitation of putting your fields on a form, rather than on the issue itself is searchability. However, you can link a form field to a Jira field for those times when you need to be able to query or report on a field value.

There are several advantages of using forms to collect data on your Jira issue:

  • Forms rock for gathering data. Users are prompted to include everything required. The information is structured the way you want, and you can use validation to ensure completeness and build your business rules right in.

  • Forms won’t impact your Jira instance. Using forms won’t cause performance issues or complicate your Jira install.

  • Forms can be created by the teams that will use them. A person doesn’t need to be Jira administrator, or even particularly technically-minded, to create ProForma forms. And since forms won’t mess up your Jira instance, it’s perfectly okay to delegate form creation to the teams that will actually use the data.

ProForma is a key tool in helping you contain custom fields while still offering teams the flexibility they need.