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Feb 01

Gantt Charts in Agile Management

agile Gantt charts

Is Gantt chart agile Google search

Figure 2. People query Google about the agility of the bar chart.

Quick research on Google reveals there is an ongoing debate as to whether the Gantt charts belong to the agile world. It is easy to understand why – Gantt chart was born around 1910, while the agile era began around the year 2001. Could such an eminent tool be relevant to the modern organization? Product and project managers tell us this: Gantt charts are “serviceable” in the 21st century, but the name itself is out of fashion, according to some agile team leaders. The bar chart tool is useful in the agile world, for purposes other than scheduling a project. What’s more, some apps let you re-label the Gantt chart, to ‘Roadmap’, for instance. All in all, the Gantt module ended up at the heart of BigPicture, our flagship product. Let’s review some use cases of the Gantt chart for an agile manager.

Portfolio scheduling

The first and most obvious application of the Gantt chart to an agile environment is portfolio scheduling. Have a look at Figure 3. In this scenario, the timeline of the Gantt chart is used as a portfolio overview, with monthly or weekly precision. Agile, hybrid, and classic ventures coexist in the portfolio, and the collapsible mini-map reveals there are even more Boxes beyond the current view. By the way, a Box in BigPicture can be a Scrum Sprint, an iteration, Program Increment, or SAFe Agile Release Train; also a hybrid or classic project. If you want to add many custom-designed agilish Box types, beyond the three slots available in regular BigPicture, you need BigPicture Enterprise.

All in all, the Gantt chart facilitates orientation at the strategic level. Sample queries to ask the high-level Gantt chart are ‘What products or services are we developing now?’ or ‘What product increments await in six months?’.

Gantt chart portfolio level, including agile projects

Figure 3. Portfolio-level Gantt chart in BigPicture 8, available through the Timeline tab of the Overview module. Note the collapsible inset map for easier orientation in massive portfolios.


Replace ‘Gantt chart’ label with ‘Roadmap’

Gantt chart or Roadmap name

Figure 4. Re-labeling the Gantt module.

—O.K., the high-level Gantt chart is fine – many agile team leaders say – but at the work team level, the ‘Gantt chart’ label sounds cheesy, so we can’t use it.

The fact is many agile teams use tools called Roadmaps that closely resemble Gantt charts. Except that the daily precision, and some advanced features, such as baseline or critical path, are absent from these simple timeline-based tools. All they can zoom into is the weekly view.

In BigPicture we’ve done it differently: users can re-label our sophisticated Gantt chart. Moreover, they can rename the module for each Box individually. Classic projects might continue using the ‘Gantt’ label, whereas within agile products/projects the module could be called ‘Roadmap’. Or whatever you enter into the ‘Gantt’ field, see Figure 4. The ‘Custom names’ feature requires BigPicture Enterprise.

Reveal Sprints in the Gantt chart

Once an agile team has re-labeled the Gantt chart and embraced it as a Sprints planning tool, one feature of the Gantt software becomes particularly desired. We marked that feature in Figure 5.

Once the Show on Timeline > Time boxes checkbox has been checked, the ‘Iteration’ and (optionally) ‘Program Increment’ labels appear just below the names of months. Time boxes are configurable – we see ‘Phases’, ‘Sprints’, etc. on our clients’ instances.

Also evaluate the left, work breakdown structure pane of Figure 5. Column headers, such as Program Increment, Sprint, WSJF (Weighted Shortest Job First), and Story points have roots in agile management methodologies, in Scaled Agile Framework methodology in particular.

Sprints and agile time boxes. Gantt chart of BigPicture 8

Figure 5. Gantt chart with time boxes revealed in the timeline.

On a related note, how come the features’ bars are aligned so neatly with iterations’ cadences? For instance, why the ‘PP-87 Security …’ feature aligns with Iteration 1.3? This is another pro-agile feature of our Gantt charts. To set the alignment, go to Iteration Box configuration > Tasks > Scheduling to choose between ‘No alignment’, ‘Precise alignment’, and ‘Smart adjustment’.

See also: how to reveal Jira Sprints in the Gantt module by using Jira Sprints as a structure builder.

Agile or hybrid?

We should have begun with this – PMI claims that hybrid projects are the next big thing after agile. Read more in How to blend Agile and Classic management methods within a single Portfolio. If you don’t find the Gantt chart relevant to your agile project management, perhaps a fellow PM will. By the way, the Gantt chart in Figure 5 comes from the BigPicture demo instance. As you can see, the chart acts as a planning tool for an Agile Release Train. Except the ‘Gantt’ label has been replaced with ‘Roadmap’. This is how our product managers have configured the model instance for an ‘average’ potential user of BigPicture. Gantt charts are mainstream!


Atlassian promotes Gantt charts through Agile Coach

All above is just our opinion. But consider these facts:

  • Back in 2019, Atlassian published ‘What is a Gantt chart?’ article within their Agile Coach guide. Sure, a heated discussion took place on LinkedIn: are Gantt charts agile indeed?
  • BigPicture has been acting for a while as one of four-five big players in the Jira project management pool. Gantt charts have always been our specialty. Our Gantt charts are so mature, that BigGantt, a subset of BigPicture modules, gained popularity. Take a moment and look at the ‘Customers have installed this app in at least … active instances’ counters, available on Atlassian Marketplace. Compare BigPicture and other major PPM players ;)


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.