Scrum boards are one of the most popular features of JIRA – they used to be an add-on called Greenhopper, then got rebranded to JIRA Agile, and recently were rolled into JIRA Software.
The board has a very simple layout, consisting of a backlog, Sprints to which the tasks go, and different stages inside each Sprint. Progress is shown and can be logged by changing tasks’ position on the board using drag and drop, which makes it a perfect tool to keep any team aligned. Fire it up during a retro or demo, and you will instantly see the results of a given Sprint. During daily stand-ups, it can be used as a nice starting point of discussion and a visual help in answering the 3 basic questions (What was done, what I’m doing, what are the problems).
However, similar to projects, Scrum boards in JIRA have a problem: it’s quite hard to get an overview of them. Sure, each board covers the team level of work greatly, but seeing the whole organization or multiple teams is extremely tricky. Some play with JQL filters the boards are based on to roll things up, but this results in an endless wall of tasks. Scrolling and filtering is not our friend.
Luckily, as for most problems, there is a solution. The BigPicture plugin for JIRA features a module called Roadmap. What it does, in the briefest of detail, is aggregating multiple Sprints on a single board. The biggest benefits of using it are:
- Ability to see, create and edit dependencies
- Seeing how the work is distributed across different teams
- Visual timeline at the top
- Distributed planning mode
- Automatic scheduling options
- Compliance with the Scaled Agile Framework®
If you created a Sample Program, you will already see a pre-configured Roadmap:
Otherwise, a quick start wizard will pop up:
The sample scenario is rather self-explanatory, so let us focus on actually setting up the tool for a second. As you can see, this consists of 3 steps.
There are 2 available. Well, 3 if you are running the Enterprise edition, but we will get to that a bit later. The two basic modes are Manual and Small Team, and in the very briefest they can be described as:
- Manual = no sync with JIRA Sprints. Recommended for evaluations and JIRA Core users
- Small team = full sync with JIRA Sprints. Recommended for JIRA Software users and production environments.
Then you will be prompted to create a few Cadences. What the hell are these? Simply put – containers for your Sprints. In small team mode, each Cadence will be linked to one of your existing Sprints and pull the tasks from it. You can select one of the preset durations (weekly, 2-weekly, etc.) and also make the wizard create new, empty Sprints beneath if needed.
Then it’s Teams. If you have none, the wizard will let you add a few and some members. You can also re-use global teams if you have created them before.
Protip: The last thing to do is to check if your tasks are where they should be – if not, pressing R twice will do the trick.
At this point, you already achieved the title of this post – a view of multiple Sprints on a single screen. If you want to kick things up a notch, here’s a few curated ideas:
Sync with Gantt
Why have different dates on Gantt and Roadmap screens? Click the small star icons on each Cadence’s header to make them show up on the chart for easier scheduling. Some tasks will also have a red calendar icon signaling a discrepancy – clicking it will fix the problem automatically.
Protip: The red “!” icon below is a similar mechanism, but with Assignee: if the assigned person does not match a team, clicking will automatically re-assign the task.
You can also show, edit and create dependencies between task. Simply click the link icon at the top, select All and marvel at the sight (changing is just simple drag and drop on link):
You may have noticed that on top of Cadences at the top timeline, we also have one long, orange element. It’s called a Program Increment and simply groups your Cadences. Adding a few helps keep things tidy and introduced law and order to Detro…our Roadmap.
Another neat trick is aggregating data in the header of a Cadence – by default, you will only see a simple sum of remaining estimates. However, this can be changed in the configuration of a Program:
A full screen mode for presentations, demos and daily stand-ups is included, as well as a live sync mode for remote planning.
Protip: The latter ensues that all changes are instantly synchronized between different instances, without the need to refresh, resynchronize or wait. Nice to have it ticked.
The Roadmap module of BigPicture is the one and only Scaled Agile Framework®-compliant addon for JIRA. Some concepts (like Cadences, Program Increments) take their names precisely from SAFe®. Therefore, in the next installment, we will have a look on how to implement the Scaled Agile Framework in JIRA!