If GitHub is where developers reside, Jira is what most software development teams use to keep tabs on their progress.
Both these tools have become a household name when it comes to tracking issues and managing projects. So, how are they different? What are their pros and cons? And ultimately, which project management software is better for your software development team?
Before we get to answering these questions, let's have a quick overview of the two issue tracking project management apps.
Quick Overview of Jira
Atlassian created Jira in the year 2002 and it was initially built to be an issue and bug tracking application.
Now, Jira software has grown into an agile project management tool catering to software development teams - small and big. Jira offers a plethora of functionalities and integrations to more than 2000 third-party applications. Yet, its USP remains the same till date - issue tracking.
Most teams that are new to project management get started with Atlassian's Trello. And once they require more functionality, they later move to Jira after comparing Trello vs Jira.
Since most software companies are opting for Jira, should you too? Let’s find out.
The pros and the cons of Jira
Although Jira software is a pioneer in project management tools, with most apps being modelled on it, it has its pros and cons.
- Atlassian’s Jira is an expert at capturing bugs in your product that can then be assigned to members, prioritized and tracked to completion.
- Jira software lets you add story points to each issue to quantify the work required to be done and also group related issues using its Epic issue type
- Jira software has agile capabilities that supports frameworks such as scrum and kanban with features like scrum and kanban boards.
- Jira is flexible and has a workflow builder that enables you to customize your workflow by setting up rules to define how a work item should move from one status to another.
- Advanced configurations help you control who can view what work items in which kanban columns.
- Roadmap functionality aids in a quick overview of the entire project and to track overall progress.
- A huge collection of more than 2000 third-party apps for use cases ranging from CRM to code review, and more.
- Jira software’s design is not a developer’s favourite as it appears to be streamlined on the outside but leads to micromanagement when you dive inside.
- Most developers also hate this app for its slow speed.
- Jira software’s primary unit of work is an issue and not a task which is terrible as you’ll only think of tickets and not features.
- Jira’s agile capabilities lack finesse when it comes to implementing frameworks like scrum. You don’t get the elegant Sprints view that has built-in agile reports such as burnup and burndown charts. So, check out alternative scrum tools if it is your priority.
- Jira software’s learning curve is steep, making onboarding new members a living hell.
- If you fail to set advanced configurations right, miscommunication and lost productivity within your squad can occur.
- Even though you can create customized workflows, creating it becomes a nightmare due to its complex design.
- The pricing plan limits onboarding to only 10 members in the free plan and it comes with certain functionality restrictions.
Quick Overview of GitHub Issues
Joining as a recent addition to the list of Jira alternatives is GitHub. This tool is every developer's best friend; the platform where most of the product development and code collaboration happens.
Popularly known for source code management, now, GitHub has expanded its horizons from version control systems to project management. And it is rising to fame as a popular replacement to Jira as it can do most of what Jira can do. And moreover, it's where the code is.
Akin to Jira software, this app uses bug tracking as a means of measuring progress. So, instead of thinking in terms of tasks and features, you will be working on tickets. Although this approach might seem simpler, it can become very difficult to build quality software.
Therefore, is GitHub cut out for handling projects? Read on to find out.
Pros and Cons of GitHub Issues for Project Management
Just like any other app, GitHub also has its pros and cons that will help you decide if this is the app for your org.
- GitHub is where the code is and so you wouldn’t need to leave your current workflow to update your work item’s status.
- GitHub’s project boards have useful templates such as basic kanban, automated kanban, automated kanban with triggers for PR review status to help prioritize work and customize workflows.
- GitHub Actions enables you to automate all your workflows effortlessly.
- GitHub can be integrated with almost every software application available in the market today.
- GitHub’s pricing plan is quite affordable.
- Unlike Jira software, GitHub lacks powerful agile capabilities other than simple kanban software and Milestones for scrum.
- Traditional project management functionalities such as file sharing and messaging, customizable dashboards, and multiple views like Gantt/Timeline, List view, etc
- GitHub Issues helps collect customer requests for features, enhancements, or fixing bugs. You can even bring them in as imports from external sources like Canny and Intercom.
- Unlike Atlassian’s Jira, GitHub doesn’t have story points to capture and quantify the work required to be completed
- GitHub’s way of grouping issues together using labels or milestones is poor in comparison to Jira software’s Epic
- Lack of permissions that help you control who has access to what data.
- GitHub isn’t friendly to non-technical people as it isn't intuitive and so it isn't meant for cross-functional teams.
- Although the pricing is affordable, only public repositories are free.
Feature Comparison of Jira vs GitHub
|Agile planning||Jira provides agile capabilities such as scrum,
boards, agile reports, etc., to implement both scrum and kanban painlessly.
|GitHub lacks powerful agile capabilities like Jira
and offers only simple kanban boards and
Milestones for scrum sprints.
|Ease of use||Easy to set up and use but the user
experience and onboarding is hellish due to
the complexity in its design.
|Easy to use for developers and engineering teams
but difficult for new technical users and non
technical members as it isn't intuitive.
|Atlassian Jira enables pretty deep integrations
with GitHub, GitLab, and Bitbucket. However,
it is extremely slow. Also, its workflows are
over-engineered, causing micromanagement.
This makes jira a tool developers hate.
|GitHub is a tool loved by developers as it's where
they spend most of their time doing what they love
- coding. And managing work items here is a
bonus as they don’t need to leave their current
|The core functionality of Jira is bug tracking
and its unit of work is a ticket. You can add
story points to issues and group them using its
epic issue type, unlike GitHub. But its core
concept forces your team to think in terms of
tickets instead of outcomes.
When it comes to features, Jira has plenty of
them - from multiple views to roadmap and
|Akin to Jira, GitHub is also based on tickets,
leading to a similar problem. But even when it comes to
issue tracking, GitHub lacks crucial functionalities
such as story points and proper grouping
In terms of features, this app doesn’t offer
traditional project management functionalities such
as multiple views, file sharing, and messaging. It
also lacks custom dashboards.
|Atlassian Jira has an external service desk to
collect customer feedback but does not
support bringing in tickets from other external
tools such as Canny, Intercom, etc.
|GitHub Issues can collect customer feedback and
also enables bringing them in from other platforms
but only via imports.
|Jira’s workflow builder allows you to create
customized workflows making it flexible.
|GitHub may not have a powerful workflow builder
but it has Actions and project boards to help
automate and customize your workflows efficiently.
|Integrations||Whopping 2000+ third-party apps and add-ons
|Integrations available with almost every software
application in the market today.
|Pricing||Atlassian Jira's free plan limits the no. of users
to 10 and also limits functionalities. The paid
plans start at $7/user.
|GitHub has a free version but only for public
repositories and with feature limits. So, for private
repos and access to more functionalities, you must
choose either the Teams plan that starts at
$4/user/month or the enterprise plan at
|Best for||Small to large SaaS enterprises.||Small software development teams.|
3 Reasons why issue tracking isn't the ideal solution to project management
1. Customer needs can’t be boiled down to a two-line ticket
Perhaps the most important requirement for building customer-focussed software products is context. And that’s why teams put in so many hours of efforts to understand the customer’s needs. So, when you try to compress all the information you’ve gathered about your customer’s requirements into a two-line ticket, what's the end product going to look like? There’s certainly going to be an information gap between the product and the engineering teams.
2. Developers aren’t ticket movers
Having worked with developers, you’d know one thing for sure; they love building features and hate the managing part i.e dragging and dropping tickets across the progress-tracking board. So, expecting them to be ticket movers rather than creators, who love to build software, is going to suck up their drive to improve the product. And bid adieu to quality.
3. Issue tracking hurts development
If bug tracking is the core of your project management, the quality of the software product is bound to take a big hit. Because your team will only look at building features as clearing tickets leaving no room for innovation. Moreover, there will be a lot of misunderstandings during product-engineering handoffs due to lack of context and clarity regarding the end goal. Also, there’s a lack of clarity on how efficiently the feature must function when your sole focus is on solving tickets. And that's how issue tracking hurts development.
The bottom line is that when it comes to capturing bugs, both GitHub Issues and Atlassian Jira are top-notch. But they fail to meet the criteria of a good project management software as there’s only so much you can do with tickets as your unit of work; you can only mend and not build.
2 best alternatives to Jira and GitHub that are a better fit for your org
Wrike is a popular Jira competitor that was also created for serving agile teams. Akin to Jira and GitHub, Wrike also lacks an intuitive user interface and has a very steep learning curve. But unlike the two apps, Wrike isn't a bug tracking software.
- Workspaces that are customizable
- Dynamic reports that are easy to share, insightful, and visual
- Boards, Gantt, and Calendar view to track progress and plan deadlines
- Workload and resource administration
- Shareable task lists and custom dashboards
Wrike's free plan limits you to add up to 5 members only. The paid plans start at $9.80/member/month.
Agile product development and non-technical orgs that are small in size.
ClickUp is a well-known PM app that aims to be an all-in-one suite and has a wide target audience belonging to different sectors. Similar to Jira, ClickUp offers plenty of functionalities and integrations.
- Offers functionalities suitable for any company pertaining to any industry
- Supports a long list of views, namely, board, list, gantt, workload, box, table, calendar, activity, several reporting features, and mind maps.
- Easily customizable to serve your software development agency’s
- A massive number of third-party apps to integrate with
- Good customer support
ClickUp's pricing plan includes a free plan that allows you to add unlimited users but with functionality restrictions. The paid plan starts at $5/user/month.
Small software companies and non-technical orgs of any size.