JIRA Checklist vs Subtask Which is Best for Project Management

JIRA Checklist vs Subtask- stand out as essential tools for task management. This blog post will dive deep into these two features, compare their functionalities, and explore their use cases with a comprehensive comparison table.

Understanding JIRA Checklists

A JIRA Checklist is essentially a list of items that need to be completed within a specific task or issue. It functions similarly to a to-do list, allowing team members to break down tasks into smaller, manageable items without the need for creating separate issues.

Key Features of JIRA Checklists

  1. Task Breakdown: Allows breaking down a task into smaller items.
  2. Inline Editing: Items can be added, edited, or removed quickly.
  3. Progress Tracking: Provides a visual indication of progress within the main task.
  4. Lightweight Management: Easier to manage as it doesn’t require the same level of detail as subtasks.
  5. Flexibility: Great for tasks that do not require detailed tracking and logging.

Pros and Cons of Checklists


  • Simple and quick to create and manage.
  • Ideal for straightforward tasks that need no extensive tracking.
  • Provides a visual progress indicator.


  • Limited in detail and scope.
  • Cannot assign individual items to different team members.
  • Lacks detailed reporting and logging features.

Understanding JIRA Subtasks

Subtasks in JIRA are smaller units of work that derive from a parent issue. They are full-fledged issues with their own assignees, status, and workflow, providing a detailed level of task management.

Key Features of JIRA Subtasks

  1. Detailed Tracking: Each subtask can have its own workflow, assignee, and status.
  2. Individual Assignment: Subtasks can be assigned to different team members.
  3. Workflow Integration: Can follow customized workflows specific to the subtask.
  4. Reporting: Subtasks contribute to detailed reporting and logging.
  5. Hierarchical Structure: Maintains a clear hierarchical structure within projects.

Pros and Cons of Subtasks


  • Comprehensive tracking and management of tasks.
  • Allows for detailed reporting and logging.
  • Suitable for complex tasks requiring multiple steps and team members.


  • More time-consuming to create and manage.
  • Can become overwhelming if overused.
  • Requires more detailed input and management.

Comparison Table: JIRA Checklists vs Subtasks

Feature JIRA Checklists JIRA Subtasks
Complexity Simple, lightweight Detailed, comprehensive
Creation Time Quick to create and manage More time-consuming
Task Management Basic management Advanced management
Assignment Cannot assign individual items Each subtask can have a different assignee
Workflow Integration No individual workflow Follows JIRA workflows
Progress Tracking Visual progress bar Detailed status tracking
Reporting Limited reporting Detailed reporting
Best Use Cases Simple tasks, quick to-dos, and internal checklists Complex tasks, project phases, detailed work steps
Customization Limited customization Highly customizable
Hierarchical Structure Flat structure within a task Hierarchical structure with parent-child relationships

Use Cases for JIRA Checklists

  1. Daily Stand-ups and To-Do Lists:
    • Checklists are perfect for capturing the daily tasks discussed in stand-up meetings. Team members can tick off items as they complete them, ensuring nothing gets overlooked.
  2. Acceptance Criteria:
    • Product owners or managers can use checklists to define acceptance criteria for user stories. This ensures that all conditions are met before the story is marked as complete.
  3. Bug Fixing:
    • When fixing bugs, developers can use checklists to ensure they cover all steps required to verify the fix, including testing across different environments and browsers.
  4. Preparation for Meetings:
    • Checklists can help in preparing for meetings by listing down all the points to be covered, documents to be reviewed, and other preparatory tasks.

Use Cases for JIRA Subtasks

  1. Complex Development Tasks:
    • For larger development tasks that require collaboration among multiple team members, subtasks can break down the work into manageable pieces with clear ownership and accountability.
  2. Sprint Planning:
    • During sprint planning, larger user stories can be divided into subtasks to better estimate effort and track progress.
  3. Project Milestones:
    • Project managers can use subtasks to represent key milestones within a project, ensuring that each step is completed before moving on to the next phase.
  4. Detailed Bug Reports:
    • When a bug report involves multiple steps to reproduce and fix, each step can be a subtask, allowing for thorough tracking and resolution.

Integrating Checklists and Subtasks in JIRA Workflows

While checklists and subtasks serve different purposes, they can complement each other in a cohesive workflow. For instance, a development task (represented as a parent issue) might include a checklist for code review steps and several subtasks for different parts of the implementation. This hybrid approach ensures that every detail is covered without overwhelming team members with excessive subtasks.

Example Workflow Integration

  1. Create a User Story:
    • Start with a user story that outlines the main goal.
    • Add a checklist for acceptance criteria and quick to-dos.
  2. Add Subtasks:
    • Break down the user story into smaller subtasks, each assigned to the appropriate team members.
    • Each subtask can have its own detailed checklist if necessary (e.g., development steps, testing scenarios).
  3. Track Progress:
    • Use the checklist to monitor the completion of acceptance criteria and quick tasks.
    • Track the progress of each subtask through its workflow, ensuring all parts of the user story are addressed.
  4. Review and Close:
    • Once all subtasks are complete and all checklist items are checked off, the parent issue can be reviewed and closed.


Q1: When should I use a checklist instead of a subtask?

  • A1: Use a checklist for simple tasks that don’t require detailed tracking or assignment. Subtasks are better for complex tasks that need individual ownership and detailed progress tracking.

Q2: Can I convert checklist items to subtasks in JIRA?

  • A2: JIRA doesn’t provide a direct way to convert checklist items to subtasks. However, some plugins and extensions might offer this functionality.

Q3: How do checklists impact JIRA reports?

  • A3: Checklists have a minimal impact on reports since they are not tracked as individual issues. Subtasks, however, are included in detailed reporting and can affect metrics like time tracking and workload distribution.

Q4: Are there any plugins for enhancing checklist functionality in JIRA?

  • A4: Yes, several plugins can enhance checklist functionality, such as “Checklist for Jira” by HeroCoders and “Issue Checklist Free” by Okapya Software Solutions.

Q5: Can I automate the creation of checklists or subtasks in JIRA?

  • A5: Yes, using JIRA automation rules or scripting tools like ScriptRunner, you can automate the creation of checklists and subtasks based on predefined triggers and conditions.

External Resources

  1. Atlassian Documentation on Subtasks
  2. Checklist for Jira by HeroCoders


Both JIRA Checklists and Subtasks are powerful tools in their own right, each suited for different scenarios. Checklists provide a quick and efficient way to track smaller tasks within an issue, while Subtasks offer detailed management capabilities for complex tasks. By understanding their strengths and integrating them effectively into your workflows, you can enhance your team’s productivity and ensure comprehensive task management.

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