A client of ours asked us during a BigPicture training session: how to do top-down planning in Jira, as opposed to bottom-up planning. In top-down planning PMs start with epics, or high-level objectives, only then they assign user stories or tasks to those epics. Let’s investigate this interesting use case: how to practically do the top-down planning in Jira + BigPicture.
The PM asks: I need to define a top-down roadmap. I wish to build that roadmap of existing epics/tasks. I’d like to set high-level goals first and then backfill tasks and milestones from the backlog. I’m going to work ‘backwards’.
The optimal way to achieve the top-down planning is to create new epics on the Gantt chart of BigPicture / BigGantt.
Had Program Synchronisers been configured beforehand, the structure of a project would be kept regardless of whether a Jira issue has been created in Jira or directly on the Gantt chart. Check Documentation: Synchronization
Below is a project closer to real life of a more advanced BigPicture user. The WBS has four levels of nesting, and again, according to the top-down planning rules, a project manager was expected to establish the ‘Evaluate Program XVI-I’ task first and only then gradually break it up into lower-level tasks.
Once the roadmap has been defined, I wish to see how my team is doing. I wish to see any delays in milestone goals and projected finish date.
The best way to achieve this is to use Baseline functionality available on BigPicture Gantt chart.
The baselines will appear right on the Gantt chart and will show tasks’ original positions on the timeline. This way, you can compare the actual start and end dates of each task to the original plan. Baselines work with both epics and lower-level tasks.
Once the roadmap has been defined, I wish my team members to be able to easily backfill more tasks required to complete milestone goals, as sometimes new work is discovered in the course of a project.
The Gantt chart module in BigPicture gives you a real-time insight into current state of the Roadmap/Plan with possibility of backfilling any required tasks on the go.
If you’ve elected to use the Board view instead of the Gantt view, then you should follow a slightly different path to backfill new tasks once the project has commenced:
- Create a new Jira issue in Jira and not on BigPicture Gantt chart.
- Assign a ‘Sprint’ to the ticket, see the figure below.
- This will affect Team and Cadence capacity visible in the Board module.
- BigPicture Board has to be in Small/Large team mode.
How about if you don’t need dates, just work breakdown structure?
You might need a project’s ‘sketch’, or work breakdown structure, without any particular schedule or dates. This happens at any stage of a project, but very typically at the initiation phase. For instance, you are to make a quick top-down decomposition of some smart idea for a prospective sponsor so that they can evaluate the proposal and approve or disapprove it. The new Scope component of BigPicture 7 lends a helping hand.
It’s easier to decompose a project in the Scope module, than it is in the Gantt chart module.
Apart from the classic ‘Epic’ and ‘User story’ levels, the custom, more fancy ‘Capability’ and ‘Feature’ ones have been added to the pictured program/project.
Top-down vs. bottom-up planning in Jira
|Planning in Jira|
|Principle||High-level goals, epics are to be positioned first on the Gantt chart. You create user stories, tasks and sub-tasks later.||User stories and tasks are to be set first. Only then they are bind into epics, or higher-level goals.|
|Who sets goals||Senior-level managers, PMs||Talented, experienced team members. Senior managers approve goals.|
|or how the goals are set||Divide a project into high-level objectives, or epics. Only then break them down into user stories, tasks and sub-tasks.||The goals are framed based on low-level tasks.|
|Motivation||Employees need to be motivated with money or perks.||Employees tend to be self-motivated.|
|Bottom line||A mix of the top-down and bottom-up planning is recommended.|