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May 10, 2024

#BigTip: Key concepts and terms in BigPicture explained

Project Management

When you switch to a new profession or learn a foreign language, part of the success is to master new terminology. The same goes for using new apps — they often come with unique terms that new users need to understand.

BigPicture is no exception. It shares many words and terms with Atlassian’s Jira and the world of project management. But its “glossary” also contains unique terms devised to accommodate the rich functionalities the app offers.

So, here are some terms you’ll want to know when working with BigPicture for Jira.

#1. Box and box types

When you think of a box, you might picture a physical box where you can put things for storage or moving. Boxes in BigPicture work in a similar way (but they’re not nearly as heavy).

Box

The box is a general term for a self-contained space where you can store anything, like an ongoing project, a portfolio, or a series of stand-alone tasks that don’t belong to any project or initiative.

You can combine scopes of several projects inside one box to track them all on one Gantt chart.

What about the box types, then?

Box types

Boxes come in all shapes and sizes. Small boxes are suitable for storing nuts and bolts, while big ones are perfect for bulky pillows and blankets. They’re designed to hold different objects.

Likewise, boxes in BigPicture are built to store specific types of initiatives. For example, you’ll find a box to hold an Agile project, another for Classic, and a third for Hybrid projects. You’ll also find a dedicated box for a program and portfolio. So, a box type is a template for what you want to store (and how).

All 11 box types available to BigPicture and BigPicture Enterprise users. (screenshot from BigPicture for Jira, data center)

 

The configuration work is already done when you create an initiative using one of the box types, but you can customize it any way you like.

With box types, you don’t have to configure a box every time you want to start a project, program, or portfolio. This template-like approach reduces manual work and lets you create projects in BigPicture more efficiently.

For instance, if you’re a PMO who wants to create a standardized process for running projects in your organization, you can use box types for this.

In another scenario, as project manager (PM), you could use an “Agile Project” box type. If you do, all of the projects you create using this box type will have the same modules turned on by default.

You’ll also see the same structure of tasks in the Gantt module. And what’s more — you’ll be able to use the same predefined columns.

#2. Tasks and subtasks

When you plan a project, you typically break the entire workload into smaller pieces to make completion possible and manageable. Those pieces of work are most commonly tasks and sub-tasks.

Tasks

In Jira, names distinguish between different work items: tasks, stories, and bugs, for example.

But in the end, no matter what needs doing or how complex the work is, a task is still a task. And, in general terms, that’s how BigPicture approaches it.

At some point, while working with an app, you might notice an in-app message referring to a “task,” even though it’s really about a specific story, epic, bug, or sub-task.

A list of tasks for the classic project featured in the Scope module. (screenshot from BigPicture for Jira, data center)

Sub-tasks

If a task requires more effort and special skills, it can be difficult for one person to complete it in one go. For situations like this, you can break the task down into smaller sub-tasks.

Despite their “smaller” nature, sub-tasks are stand-alone pieces of work, just like tasks. You can assign, schedule, and estimate them, just as you can do with the parent task.

The indented work items under the “Location search” task are sub-tasks. They all have their respective skilled assignees, dates, and statuses. (screenshot from BigPicture for Jira)

#3. Task hierarchy and box hierarchy

Hierarchies organize and categorize complex structures to make the individual parts and the whole easier to follow and manage.

Task hierarchy

Task hierarchy is a visual representation of the parent-child relationships between project elements like tasks, subtasks, phases, stages, and so on. The indentations (nestings) easily tell you which work item is a parent and which one is a child.

Tasks can have children called sub-tasks. Parent tasks can themselves be children that sit under another task, depending on how you structure your project.

BigPicture gives you the flexibility to build task structures and hierarchies as you see fit.

You can create unlimited nestings in your task structures to reflect relationships between individual project elements. So, you can add sub-tasks under sub-tasks under sub-tasks… You get the idea, right? 😉

You can also use BigPicture’s basic tasks to create even more robust and meaningful structures. You can use them as a parent element to group (overarch) other parent elements and sub-tasks (similarly to Jira epic).

Best part? Basic tasks can aggregate data about their children, making them a fantastic task type for tracking progress or summing totals like cost or time.

Basic tasks can significantly enhance your task structures to organize and aggregate data. Here, task A1 is parent to three children and aggregates their status data. (screenshot from BigPicture for Jira, data center)

Box hierarchy

Boxes, like tasks, can also be parents and children.

The top box is a Root (Home) serving as a parent to every box you (or anyone in your organization) will ever create.

For example, if you want to create and manage a project according to the Agile methodology, you would pick an Agile project box type. When you create it, your box with a project will automatically be nested under the Root box.

You would then place Iteration boxes for each Sprint/iteration under your Agile project box. As a result, those Iteration boxes will become children of your Agile project.

In turn, being a parent to Iterations, your Agile project can be a child of the Program box or the Portfolio box. You can even nest a portfolio box (or boxes) inside another portfolio box.

An example hierarchy of various boxes on different hierarchical levels. (screenshot from BigPicture for Jira, data center)

Boxes give you unprecedented flexibility — they enable you to structure all the initiatives in your organization any way you want. They also allow you to organize and group them to suit your processes.

For example, an “Agile” box would hold all the “Iteration” boxes for every respective iteration until your project is complete. Each “Iteration” box would hold the scope (tasks) planned for the respective iteration. This way, you can tell what will be and what was (or wasn’t) delivered in every iteration.

A box structure for an “Agile” box. Each iteration is a separate box storing a scope of work planned for the given iteration. You can track the progress of every individual iteration and the entire parent box. (screenshot from BigPicture for Jira, data center)

 

Parent boxes can aggregate data from their children (just like parent tasks in the context of task structures), so you can track progress on the project and iteration levels.

#4. Strong dependency and soft dependency

A task dependency tells you there’s an interrelation between two project activities. It can also determine which of those tasks will be executed and on what condition. Dependencies are typically denoted with a line.

Strong dependency

Strong dependencies determine the order a dependent task will start or end. Strong dependencies have a scheduling impact, so depending on the dependency type, one task must start or finish for the other to start or finish.

Four strong dependency types in BigPicture.

 

Say you have a task A that finishes on April 2. The dependent task B will not start earlier than April 2 (based on the End to Start dependency). What if task A is delayed? Then task B will also be delayed.

And what if you change the dates in task A? BigPicture will automatically re-schedule task B for you (with the auto-scheduling feature enabled).

In this screenshot, you can see a strong dependency link between the two tasks. There’s also a link between a task and a milestone. (screenshot from BigPicture for Jira, data center)

Soft dependency

Soft dependencies are a visual cue. They alert you that there’s a connection between two project items (e.g., a task and a milestone) but that’s all they do. Soft dependencies will not impact the other task’s schedule or auto-reschedule it.

#5. Task estimate and task dates

Task estimates and dates are an integral part of project planning and execution. Both mean something different, but one impacts the other.

Task estimate

A task estimate is the numeric prediction of the amount of time or effort it will take to complete a specific piece of work or project.

When estimating a task in terms of time, you can add the entire time to a task upfront. For example, 31 hours or 5 staff-days. It’s your best initial guess on the total work to be done, but it hasn’t started yet.

For that reason, this static task estimate is called an Original Estimate. The Original estimate remains original (as is) regardless of how much work a task assignee has already done.

In this example, the time estimate for the task (original estimate) is 1 week (40 hrs). (screenshot from BigPicture for Jira, Data Center)

 

You can also look at time from the “progressive” point of view and estimate the amount of work that has remained at any given point during its scheduled period. This dynamic approach is called the Remaining Estimate.

A task with such an estimate is updated as the assignee works through it (Time Spent). As a result, the numeric value for the remaining time (estimate) will change until it reaches 0 (meaning that the work was completed).

Users working in Agile teams can use story points to estimate the effort required for task completion.

Task dates (schedule)

Every piece of work has a beginning and end — a specific start date and an end date. Exact task dates help you schedule your entire project so you can deliver it on time. But you might not always know the exact dates for every single task the moment you create it.

In BigPicture (for Jira and monday.com), you can add your tasks to the scope of a project even if you leave a start date or end date blank — or both dates blank altogether!

All unscheduled tasks will be waiting for you in a dedicated Unscheduled tasks panel in the Resources module. (You can also see them on your list of tasks/WBS in the Gantt module.) You can pick a task from the list and drag it to the right person to assign and schedule it in one go.

Unscheduled tasks (tasks with no start and/or end dates). (screenshot from BigPicture for Jira, Data Center)

 

You can also define dates the start and end dates directly on your work breakdown structure (e.g., in the Gantt module).

#6. Resource workload and resource capacity

A person’s or team’s workload and capacity are two key terms in resource management.

Resource workload

In simple terms, workload is the sum of effort (amount of work) you assign or expect from your resource in a specified time period.

Depending on the effort mode you enable in the Resources module, you will see the workload as the Remaining estimate — a sum of the Time Spent (in the past days) and the Remaining Estimate (for the future days).

While in the Original estimate mode, the workload will be a sum of the Original estimates of the tasks you assigned to a person or a team.

If you enable the Story points mode, you’ll convert the total effort (workload) into story points.

In the Resources module, you can select how you want to express your resources workload. (screenshot from BigPicture for Jira, Data Center)

 

For example, if you assign task A and task B to a person, both estimated for 7 hours, the total workload for such person will be 14 hours.

Resource capacity

Capacity is the amount of work someone can complete in a given period, like in a day, week, etc. It’s based on the workload plan, which you can create and customize to cover full- and part-time team members in your projects (or other non-standard workload cases).

A default workload plan in BigPicture. You can customize it or create a new one. (screenshot from BigPicture for Jira, Data Center)

 

A workload plan tells you how many hours somebody can work in a given period of time. If it’s a full-time employee, that would typically be 8 hours a day, given a 40-hour workweek. And if it’s part-time, then that could be 4 hours a day. That’s somebody’s capacity.

But it doesn’t mean that someone will always be available for those 8 hours/day or 40 hours/week in your project. Resource capacity is further affected by their holidays / vacations (which you define in the holiday plan) and their absences. If a person is away, their capacity is zero.

The bottom (white) bars show the total capacity of the resources in a given period. The capacity on Saturday and Sunday is zero as those are non-working days. (screenshot from BigPicture for Jira, Data Center)

 

The final factor affecting resource capacity is team or project availability. You can assign someone to work on your team or project for 30% of their time, in which case you can only use 30% of their total capacity. So that won’t be 40 hours/week — only 12.

Resource bars show you how much workload they already have (top bar), how much of their capacity remains (middle bar), and what their total capacity is in a given period (bottom bar). Colors warn you when you exceed their threshold. (screenshot from BigPicture for Jira, Data Center)

Sign up to try BigPicture for free

BigPicture helps you plan, build, and manage complex projects and portfolios. You can leverage the flexibility of boxes, build complex work breakdown structures, create impactful dependencies, and manage your resource capacity and workload effectively.

Sign up for a 30-day free trial to see how BigPicture streamlines projects — no matter how big, complex, or unique they are. (If you are not ready to start the trial yet, visit our demo page to try all the BigPicture features inside your browser.)