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This post was updated on May 2021. It now relates to all Jira variants: Cloud, Server and Data Center.

What’s the difference between Jira and Confluence?

Many of my customers are devoted fans of both Jira and Confluence. They use Jira for tracking their development tasks, defects, and often their business processes. For documenting technical specifications they’ll commonly turn to Confluence.

I’m a fan of these applications too, but when it comes to managing requirement specifications within a formal framework of traceability, Jira is superior.

When I ask people why they chose Confluence for that purpose, the answers have more to do with perception than reality.

For example, they look at the layout of a Jira issue and assume it doesn’t have enough space to include all the necessary information. Or they don’t see how they can export from Jira a complete requirements document – one that has full paragraphs, rich text effects, images, and diagrams.

Because it appears as if they can’t develop detailed requirements in Jira, they turn to Confluence. This is where people make requirements management unnecessarily complicated.

Here are 7 reasons why you should use Jira to manage all of your requirements in one place:

  1. Jira’s text fields actually have plenty of space. Jira text fields come with a rich editor, so nothing is preventing you from being as detailed as you want within a text field. This includes headings, font effects, image embedding, and tables. Diagramming tools are also available from third party apps, which even further extend options for rich content.
  2. Traceable items are better managed in Jira than Confluence. Making a requirement or a design element a Jira issue provides you the following two important features right off the bat:
    • It provides a unique key identifier. (Each Jira issue has a unique key by definition.)
    • It’s possible to link to other issues in the traceability hierarchy. (For example, you may either use existing Jira link types, such as ‘relates to,’ or define your own dedicated link type, such as ‘traces down to.’)
  3. Need to officially approve each requirement? You can build the approval step into the Jira workflow. Also, if you need to actually create an official signature for each requirement. For example, making it CFR 21 part 11 compliant. You can use our free App: Speedy PDF Sign-Offs for Jira Cloud to achieve this. If you are on a server, you may want to look at adding this app: Electronic Signature for Jira.
  4. It allows much closer integration with other aspects of the development work. From your stories to your test cases, you have one place to reference when creating and reviewing documentation.
  5. There are more reporting options. If you put your specs in Jira, it’s easier to pull a variety of reports from a complete description of a particular item. To a statistical analysis of a requirements status.
  6. The structure of a Jira issue encourages you to be clear and concise. This helps keep each spec item narrow in scope and leads to a more robust traceability.
  7. Complete requirements documents are easy to create – granted that you will need the right app. When you’re ready to export a complete requirements document, there are several third party apps that generate attractive, flexible export layouts from Jira. I enjoy using Better PDF Exporter For Jira and Xporter. I can also integrate each of them with a Continuous Integration (CI) cycle to generate reports automatically.

Guidance on specifications

Customers often ask me what Jira issues type their specification item should be. Should it be a story or something else? My strong recommendation is to define a purpose-specific issue type. Put a User Requirement Specification in the Jira issue type called, ‘Requirement.’ Then a Functional Specification in the Jira issue type called, ‘Functional specification.’ It’s as simple as that!

Want to know more about how to configure Jira to support requirements and other traceability elements? In this webinar (45 minutes) I go into more details regarding configuration. Although the webinar focuses on Server, most of the ideas are also applicable to Cloud.

Configure your Jira so that you have all you need to manage your requirements in one place. If simplification is your goal, then using one program is a great way to get off on the right foot.

 

Blog posts in this series:

  1. How to manage requirements and risk analysis in Jira
  2. Advice for selecting traceability matrices
  3. Requirement specifications
  4. Digital health company? Here is your guide for risk management using Jira cloud