Agile approaches are a true revolution in the IT world. They ditch the standard top-down project management in order to empower teams; introduce flexibility and the ability to pivot. The benefits of implementing Agile are so vast, that it starts to leak outside the IT world and is now used in marketing, HR and even language teaching of all places.
The good news is, JIRA is an Agile-friendly environment! Up to version 7, an official add-on called JIRA Agile was available, and recently it was rolled into JIRA Software. This extension allows you to have a backlog, plan your Sprints, assign Story Points to tasks, and can be further enhanced by an additional plugin, BigPicture for JIRA. It aims to cover all common project management needs, so naturally it offers functionality related to Agile.
First and foremost, it is possible to create a Program with an Agile preset. It features some of the settings described below by default, to save your time – you can achieve the same result manually, but clicking the single, simple preset is just convenient.
Surprisingly to some, the Gantt module can be used in an Agile manner. Gantt charts are often perceived as a strictly Waterfall tool, but that’s completely wrong. After all, the good ol’ Gantt is nothing more than a visual representation of the timeline of your tasks, which may come in handy no matter the methodology one uses.
In the screenshot above, you may have already noticed the Story Points and Sprint columns. The neat thing with the Gantt is that as long as any column is visible, one can group and sort by it freely. So what happens if we use the grouping feature?
A Gantt sorted by Sprints! The powerful thing is, here you can plan the details of a Sprint if needed (ex. hybrid approaches) – for instance, if you know a certain task in a Sprint ought to have a deadline day (rather than just the end of the Sprint), you can just move it there. It’s also very easy to define in-Sprint dependencies on this screen. Cross-Sprint ones are possible, too, but there is a module dedicated to that and we will discuss it below.
The Gantt is not as invasive and overhead-generating as MS Project or other Waterfall tools, and even if you do not use specific dates for tasks at all, it’s a nice way to quickly view your Sprints and group tasks inside each Sprint. After all, BigPicture has a multi-level grouping mechanism, and it has no limits to what exactly can you achieve.
In the global configuration, one can set the progress bars to represent Story Points
And in the configuration of a given Program, you can set an Epic WBS. This will automatically place all Stories under their respective Epics – not just once, but any time you add these.
Protip: You can achieve pretty much the same result with the Epic link WBS. However, having both at the same time is pointless and not recommended, as they do the very same thing.
Inside the Columns configuration one can add the Sprint, Story Points and Epic Link columns, just as mentioned above. We recommend creating a perspective named Agile and adding these columns to it, just to keep things organized and neatly labeled.
Crucially, the Gantt is by far not the only part of BigPicture that fits the Agile approach to managing projects. In fact, it’s just the beginning! The Roadmap is the dedicated module for Agile and Scrum implementations. It allows you to aggregate multiple Sprints on a single screen, divide the work by teams, implement SAFe®, visualize the project’s timeline and much more – you will learn how exactly in the next chapter of this guidebook!