Jun 09

Frequent ineffective practices in Jira usage (without BigPicture)

Jira ineffective pm practices

Why are we on ineffective Jira practices, especially related to project management? To pinpoint what Jira is best at! Besides, most Jira limitations can be fixed with apps from Atlassian Marketplace. It’s better to be safe than sorry, so review this quick list of ineffective practices in Jira and make sure you are not struggling with any of them.

The quick answer goes as follows:

Jira is good at what it is made for: task management.

Jira is not effective at what it has not been designed for: project management.

Let’s delve into specific suboptimal processes that we have seen in many pre-BigPicture Jira instances.

Ineffective practices in Jira

Advanced scheduling

Jira is limited as far as advanced scheduling is concerned. It’s important to distinguish between simple and advanced planning. As for the simple planning, Jira’s basic or advanced roadmaps are just fine. When you are further into a project’s life cycle, however, you will likely begin to miss the following features:

  • task dependencies,
  • ASAP mode (automatic as soon as possible scheduling of interdependent tasks),
  • and lag time.

When your planning necessitated task dependencies, asap mode, and lag time, it is a clear sign you fell into advanced scheduling. And this is where Jira + BigPicture shines. Many call the applicable tool a Gantt chart but starting BigPicture Enterprise 8 we allow modules to be renamed. This is why Figure 2 shows ‘Roadmap’ and not ‘Gantt’.

Gantt chart, task dependency, asap mode, lag time

Figure 2. Note how we can enable the ASAP mode or add lag time for the PP-44 to PP-47 task dependency. Also, note how we relabeled BigPicture’s Gantt module to ‘Roadmap’.

Setting objectives and keeping an eye on risks

Objective management and risk management are other weak points of Jira. Many project managers utilize issue lists and Jira custom fields to substitute for what Jira doesn’t have: risk matrices and non-timeline roadmaps. Even if you somehow model your objectives and risks into Jira issue lists rather than matrices, you reach the wall of issue cards. Jira issue cards have to act as risks and objectives, while they were not built for that. That’s because  Jira issue cards only have Icon, Summary, Assignee, Story points, and Priority fields plus three optional free slots. This fieldset tends to be insufficient for objective management and risk management.

There is a better way of setting objectives and visualizing risks – a non-timeline Roadmap and Risk matrix. Both tools are available in BigPicture. Sprint/team progress bars in the Roadmap and heatmap mode in Risks are two of many specialized features the two tools have. What’s more, the cards representing objectives and risks have unlimited configurability.

Have a look at figures 3 and 4.

Setting objectives BigPicture agile roadmap

Figure 3. Semi-visual way of setting objectives in BigPicture Roadmap

 

Customize taska card layout Jira BigPicture

Figure 4. Design task cards for Board and Risks modules.

Indenting/outdenting

Plain, vanilla Jiras miss tree-like task structures a lot. While you can establish links between epics, stories, tasks, and sub-tasks, three things are missing from many vanilla Jira instances:

  • big picture views, or overviews, that would visualize the entire work breakdown structure of an organization
  • you cannot on-the-fly indent or outdent tasks in the Jira’s work breakdown structure (wbs)
  • you don’t have a wbs widget within the issue detail page in plain Jira

In BigPicture the work breakdown structure is in wide use throughout the app, including the task detail view. Have a look at figure 5.

Indent outdent tasks wbs tree

Figure 5. Indent and outdent tasks in Gantt and Scope modules. Observe the resulting work breakdown structure across BigPicture.

 

Agility at scale

Agility-at-scale is Atlassian’s focus in the 2020s. They created Jira Agile, they launched the ‘Agile at scale’ category on the Marketplace. While Gartner, G2, and similar rankings recognize Jira as an agile-at-scale solution, you might need the following tweaks and tricks to actually be agile at scale with plain Jira:

  • some SAFe practitioners use Jira projects as ARTs, custom fields as Program Increments, and Jira Sprints (or labels) as iterations
  • setting PI objectives and assigning Business Value to Jira issues call for aesthetically unpleasing workarounds

Note, how neatly the ARTs, PIs, and Iterations were implemented in BigPicture Enterprise Overview module – figure 6.

Agile at scale app for Jira

Figure 6. SAFe ARTs, LeSS Requirement Areas are all available in BigPicture Enterprise. If you are scaling agile choose the Enterprise edition rather than the regular BigPicture.

Estimating end dates

Another ineffective practice in Jira is trying to estimate some future end date in a project. It might be a challenge to answer questions, such as ‘When will this feature/milestone be ready?’ and ‘When will John Smith finish his work on a project and will be available for another project?’

Many PMs use non-Jira spreadsheets to calculate end dates. Others use Jira’s roadmap, to draft a plan and estimate a project’s end date. Both methods lack automation to some degree. When it comes to resource allocation it gets even worse – Jira knows neither capacity nor under- and overallocation of a resource.

Again a Project Portfolio management app, such as BigPicture, lends a helping hand. The Gantt chart is a precise tool for estimating far-off dates. Moreover, the tool updates the whole schedule when a task catches a delay and a project manager reschedules that task. Not to mention a full-blown Resources module readily available in BigPicture.

Gantt chart construction project

Figure 7. This Gantt chart easily tells that the ‘Building a house’ project should reach the finish line on the 5th of August. The finish date will get updated automatically, once a task catches a delay.

Swimlanes for teams

When you create a team in Jira, do not expect to have a swimlane created automatically. Contrary to what people assume, It is a separate job to set up a swimlane for a board or roadmap.

Swimlanes are at the heart of BigPicture. First, once you create a team, the team’s swimlane becomes available instantly. Second, you will find the swimlanes, not in one module but all across BigPicture, namely in Roadmap, Board, and Resources modules.

Team swimlanes agile program board

Figure 8. Team swimlanes are inherent in Board module, around others.

Running portfolios of projects

In Jira: Project Managers typically establish separate Jira projects called ‘Portfolio #1’, ‘Portfolio #2’, etc. with placeholder tasks representing each of the “real” projects. Then the real projects either bear the portfolio labels or the portfolio name is appended in square brackets to a project’s name. Quite a manual and not visually appealing method, isn’t it?

In BigPicture: Overview module with its tree-like project structure is a dream place for portfolio management. We even deliver a pre-configured ‘Portfolio’ Box type in BigPicture Enterprise, to bring ease to those who need to add portfolios in bulks. Have a look at figure 9.

Portfolio management Jira BigPicture

Figure 9. You’ve got Portfolio Box type available in BigPicture Enterprise.

Linking to Trello and other third-party tools

In Jira: When a team elects to use Trello rather than Jira, a common practice with plain Jira is to paste a link to Trello card in a Jira issue description. Vice versa, the Trello card should contain the url of the respective Jira issue. Again, an inefficient and tedious process.

In BigPicture: you can connect Trello instances to BigPicture Boxes. Whole Trello boards get imported to BigPicture projects (Boxes) at the touch of a button. Have a look at figure 10.

Umbrella project management Jira

Figure 10. Connect Trello and other third-party tools to suck foreign tasks into BigPicture.

Lists and tables

Compiling and manipulating lists of tasks in Jira inevitably leads you to third-party spreadsheet apps. Wouldn’t it be great to have spreadsheet-like capabilities within the Atlassian environment? We mean adding columns with Jira native and custom fields to a view, filtering, sorting, etc.

BigPicture‘s Scope module is a de-facto spreadsheet/pivot table within the context of the Atlassian environment. No need to export data from Jira to a third-party spreadsheet. BigPicture’s Scope module sees all your Jira tasks and fields. The Gantt module’s left pane works like a spreadsheet, too. Board’s backlog pane is another place where you can add Jira and BigPicture fields as columns.

Reviewing backlog, sorting tasks by story points, sorting issues by create date or client rank are all sample activities that the Scope module is great for.

Scope backlog Work Breakdown Structure

Figure 11. Use Scope module, here renamed to Backlog, like a spreadsheet.

Jira + BigPicture + what other plugin?

We believe BigPicture is one of the most versatile apps on Atlassian Marketplace. Many Project Portfolio Management practitioners name BigPicture the Number 1 app for Jira. What other plugins have the potential to amplify the Jira + BigPicture couple? We often see that the following apps accompany BigPicture at our clients’ Jira instances:

  • Tempo. Synchronize BigPicture Enterprise’s Workload Plans, Holiday Plans, Teams, and Skills with their counterparts in Tempo Timesheets, Planner, Budgets.
  • ScriptRunner for Jira – improve automation across your Jira + BigPicture compound. You can also create bespoke reporting with ScriptRunner.
  • eazyBI Reports & Charts – add pretty charts to the excellent PPM capabilities of BigPicture.

These are the top 3 plugins that do a great job supplementing the Jira + BigPicture package. Before you purchase them, have a look at BigPicture Mid-term Roadmap.

 

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About The Author

With his automotive background Marcin goes beyond the 'Jira + software development' standard. He likes simple, up-to-five-sentence answers to complex questions.