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Jira Administration

Good to Go: Three Ways of Handling Approvals in Jira

by Simon Herd on May 30, 2019

Even when employees are empowered, they’re probably not empowered to do everything. Sooner or later you run into a process that needs a stamp of approval from someone higher up the chain of command. In reality, this happens quite often, and it’s not a bad thing. Passing information up and down the chain keeps people informed and makes sure that folks at every level are working towards the same goals. It's also an important step for ensuring good governance and compliance.


The trouble with approvals is that they can really slow things down. Requests for sign-off can linger in a paper tray or an email in-box eternally. Getting your approvals within Jira makes the process fast and efficient. The approval is recorded as part of the Jira issue and can therefore be easily referenced if necessary.

You have several options for setting up approvals within Jira:

1)   Use Jira Service Desk


ProForma for Jira


Jira Service Desk has built in functionality to make it easy to include an approval(s) as a required step in fulfilling a customer request. In fact, you configure JSD so that requests don’t reach your service desk unless they’ve already been approved.

It is a fairly straight forward process to include the approval step, and Atlassian has some great documentation on how to do it for cloud and server. Using approvals in Jira Service Desk the typical flow of events is:

  1. When the team (let's say HR) created their process (a leave request), they determined that it would need supervisor approval. Therefore, they listed the persons (supervisors) who may give approval; built an approval step into their workflow and added an "Approver" custom field.
  2. Now a customer can complete the ProForma form on the portal, asking to take a day of personal leave. The form contains all of the information needed for carrying out the requested process, but policy (and now JSD since it has been set to do so) dictates that the customer's supervisor must approve the request before anything can happen.
  3. The supervisor is notified via Jira that there's a request pending their approval.
  4. In the customer portal, the supervisor can review the submitted form, deny or approve the request, and leave a comment.
  5. The request transitions to the next status in the workflow, and the customer is notified about any comments that the approver added.

Jira license requirements:

  • Person making the request - no license required
  • Team members handling the request - JSD license required
  • Person approving request - no license required

2)   Add an Approval to a Jira Workflow Transition

If you’re using Jira Software or Core rather than Jira Service Desk, you can still set up an approval process via your workflow. For instance, if your workflow has a status called “Under Review” and a status called “Approved” then the transition between those states represents someone giving approval.  You can set conditions on the transition in the workflow to only allow individuals with the proper level of authority to transition an issue to the “Approved” status (see the documentation).

The downside of this approach is that you could end up with a lot of different, customized workflows to manage.

Jira license requirements:

  • Person making the request - Jira license required
  • Team members handling the request - Jira license required
  • Person approving request - Jira license required

3)   Attach an Approval Form

Sometimes you need more than just a thumbs-up from the powers that be. Maybe, along with giving approval, your manager needs to indicate the appropriate cost center to charge a service to. Or maybe they’d like to share some additional context that affects the issue at hand. This is important information that you want to have easily recognizable on the issue - not buried in a comment. You could set up custom fields to capture this extra data, but when you’re creating multiple fields to capture information from the same person, well, that’s basically a form.

The ProForma app/plugin allows teams to create approval forms* to capture all of the required information. This can be especially helpful if your compliance requirements necessitate recording more than a name and a date approved.

You can also use ProForma form automation or Jira Service Desk automation to add the approval form when an issue/request transitions, or to block the issue from being transitioned if the approval form hasn’t been submitted. This is an easy way to beef-up your compliance without digging into complex configurations.

Jira license requirements

If using Jira Service Desk:

  • Person making the request - no license required
  • Team members handling the request - JSD license required 
  • Person approving request - Jira license required


If using Jira Software or Jira Core:

  • Person making the request -Jira license required
  • Team members handling the request -Jira license required 
  • Person approving request -Jira license required


*Note that at this time, ProForma does not offer a user picker question type. However, if you wish, you can load the names of authorized approvers into a combo-box.