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September 11, 2023

#BigTip: A quick & simple way to group WBS tasks

Project Management
WBS & Backlog Structuring

Many of the projects we see contain hundreds of tasks, with schedules spanning months or even years. While it’s beneficial to break project work down into manageable chunks, reading and following hundreds of items on a Gantt chart can be difficult. To streamline things, you can bring specific WBS tasks together. And with BigPicture or BigGantt, you can easily group tasks however you want.

How to create WBS task groups

The first thing to do is have the column with the right value available on your WBS side. Columns in BigPicture and BigGantt are based on Jira and BigPicture field values, and the app groups WBS tasks by those. 

Second, ensure the number of tasks in your initiative (box) is not greater than the grouping limit. By default, the limit is set to 5,000 tasks. But your App Administrator can increase the limit up to 20,000. (If that’s not possible at your organization, you’ll need to use filters to carry out your research or to narrow down the number of items you want to group.)

Single-level grouping

Say you want to group your tasks according to priority. To do that, you need to add the “Priority” column to your WBS view (unless, of course, you already have it). Click on the gear/cog icon in the upper right corner and look for the “Priority” field.

Before you can group your tasks, you need to add the right columns to your WBS view. You can easily add and remove the columns from your view anytime you want.


Then select it to add it to your WBS.

Now that you have the column (field) by which you’re going to group your WBS tasks, head to the Data > Group tasks in the upper left.

The grouping feature is located in the menu above the WBS.

Toggle on the grouping field and confirm with the “Apply” button. (In our example, we want to group tasks by their priority, so we toggled the “Priority” value on).

The six grouping values available for our project with their respective (customizable) color codes.

As a result, the app has
rolled up the WBS tasks based on the fields selected by the user in the previous step (here, it was priority) and put them in their respective groups. If your view shows too many items to fit in a single screen, you can collapse each group and focus on the one you’re most interested in at the moment.

The grouping feature applies to WBS tasks and the Gantt chart taskbars. Because most tasks are set to “Medium” priority, we collapsed that group to focus on tasks with the highest priority.

Multi-level grouping (nested groups)

Using the previous method, you can go one step further and create several groups at once. Each group can have a distinct color code and nesting (grouping) order. Keep in mind that when you group your tasks by one or several values, you are, in effect, building an entirely new WBS structure that’ll look different from your original one. But don’t worry. The grouping feature is like an overlay. It won’t break or permanently change your original project structure.

So this time, let’s apply three different values (grouping columns) and determine their grouping order. (We’ll leave the default color codes,but you can customize them.) We’re going to apply “Priority,” “Status,” and “Assignee.” But we’ll also swap the “Priority” value with “Status” by dragging it from the middle to the top because we want it to be the topmost “parent” value in our grouping hierarchy.

The “Priority” group is the top grouping value, followed by “Status” and “Assignee.”

As a result, the app will group all the WBS tasks based first on their priority, and
then their statuses (To Do, In Progress, Done), and the task owner (assignee). Tasks with any missing attribute (e.g., no assignee) will also be sorted into their respective groups.

WBS tasks grouped based on three different fields (grouping values).

WBS tasks grouping — next steps

Your next step is to analyze the current situation of the grouped tasks and adjust their values as needed. For example, you might want to re-assign some tasks to other team members or change their priority. (You can easily carry out those actions by in-line editing the relevant values right on your WBS.) But after you make a change to a task, you’ll need to refresh the view before it’ll show up in its new group.

You can further refine your groups and improve your research using filters and JQL commands. And under each column (with the exception of the “Icon”) on your WBS, you’ll find a sorting arrow. It’ll enable you set the task order from ascending to descending (and vice versa).

You can edit, sort, and filter tasks and other items inside your groups as you normally would on your original WBS.

When you’re done,
deactivate the groups using the “Group tasks” modal or click them off one by one directly on your WBS.

You can remove groups from your WBS in two easy ways: with an “x” on a WBS or the “Deactivate all” button.”

When to use WBS task grouping?

Tasks groups on your work breakdown structure form a sort of theme that can help you see patterns or spot issues. For example, if you group your WBS tasks by “Assignee,” you’ll see how many tasks each of your team members have. The grouping feature will also batch WBS tasks that don’t have an assignee.

Next, WBS task groups are useful for reporting. Even though you can generate different reports using BigPicture’s Reports module, you can communicate important data with the help of task groups, too. Especially helpful if you want to focus on high-level data (the big picture) without getting into too much detail. In such cases, WBS task groups will help you visualize, say, work progress or remaining tasks with closing-in end dates. And because your admin can create custom fields (columns) in Jira/BigPicture too, the grouping feature becomes even more flexible.

Finally, groups can also aggregate task values included in their respective groups. For example, if you group tasks by “Assignee,” each team member will be in a separate group along with their tasks. And if you add the “Story Points” column and set the aggregation to sum, you’ll see the total workload for each group (assignee) expressed in story points.

WBS task groups are also a great way to aggregate values within each group.


Likewise, you can add the “Estimated Cost” column, choose the aggregation method, and group tasks by “Version.” This way, you’ll know the cost of each version of a project. There are dozens of columns (fields) to choose from, so you can combine them in lots of different ways to access useful data.

Sign up for a free BigPicture trial

BigPicture app helps you build complex project structures using custom and default Jira issues alongside basic tasks. Then you can refine those structures using the grouping feature to bring together tasks based on a single or several predefined values. Items in each group can be modified and filtered for more thorough analysis and reporting.

Sign up for a 30-day free trial and discover how BigPicture can help you build and execute projects more easily — no matter how big, complex, or unique they are. We also encourage you to join our live demo webinar and see for yourself why more than 20,000 PPMs and their teams trust our software to build their amazing products.