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Feb 14

Agile schedule in BigPicture. How to set it up?

Jira Big Picture agile schedule

Why are agile schedules so effective and increasingly popular? Rather than plan far ahead, an agile schedule behaves like a very “forgiving” speed camera. It monitors effort (velocity) during a relatively short timebox. Next, rather than punish for speeding, it lets the manager quickly extrapolate the doable scope of a project. Some agile schedules, those using story points instead of time units, also encourage “acceleration” but unlike road traffic, “putting the pedal to the metal” is safer here ;) How to design agile schedules in BigPicture before you commence the actual scheduling?

Iterations, Sprints, Program Increments, Releases are some of the “classic” building blocks for agile schedules. Can you construct an agile schedule of DIY items, such as “marathons”, “races”, or “laps”?  Yes, the fixed cadence accompanied by the variable scope is what makes sprints, iterations, increments, and even “marathons” or “laps” suitable for agile schedules. How to set up agile schedules in BigPicture Enterprise, BigPicture, and even BigGantt?

 

The simplest workflow

We will set up the simplest possible agile schedule – a project cut into iterations/sprints. How to do that quickly? We will begin in BigPicture’s home screen, called Overview. The workflow works in both BigPicture and BigPicture Enterprise, and even BigGantt.

The workflow refers to BigPicture 8 (and late version 7). In BigPicture 7 and before you had set up agile schedules within business administration.

Step 1. Create a new program

Start building the simplest possible agile schedule, by just creating a new program. See figure 2.

BigPicture launching a new agile schedule

Figure 2. Creating a new program, naming it ‘Agile schedule’. It will last a full year.

Rather than the program, you could have created an Agile project, or LeSS Requirement Area, or SAFe ART, or… We will discuss it later.

 

Step 2. Create the first iteration/sprint

Before you add an iteration to the agile schedule, select your newly added program in the top-left combo box, see figure 3. Can you see how we have selected the ‘Agile schedule’? We did that for clarity. We are now inside the program and the rest of the portfolio does not distract us ;)

Now add the first Iteration. You could call it ‘Sprint 1’ instead of ‘Iteration 1’. Set its cadence. We have set the cadence of two full weeks.

Add Sprint, iteration

Figure 3. Setting up the first iteration/sprint.

On a related note, read on how long should a Sprint last?

 

Step 3. Multiplying the iterations

Now we are adding Iteration 2, Iteration 3, and so on. Note how nicely each consecutive iteration automatically increases its numbering and goes ahead with dates – similarly to a decent spreadsheet. The ‘3’ after the ‘Iteration’ word, as well as accurate dates, get calculated automatically.

Agile schedule

Figure 4. Multiplying the iterations.

 

Step 4. Adding meat and aligning with Jira

Now you could add some scope – a collection of Jira tasks – to our newly created agile schedule so that the tasks are readily available for planning. Go to Program configuration > Tasks > Scope definition > Automatic rules. You need to be the administrator of the program for that.

While there, pay attention to the ‘Sub-elements of…’ area. You can align BigPicture iterations with Jira Sprints for instance.

Scope of agile project, align Big Picture with Jira Sprints

Figure 5. Setting scope and aligning BigPicture iterations/sprints with Jira Sprints.

 

Step 5. Visually review the schedule

Switch to the Timeline view to have a look at the panorama of your new schedule on a timeline. No blank spaces between the iterations? Our schedule looks good.

Agile schedule on a timeline

Figure 6. Overseeing the schedule’s integrity in Overview > Timeline view.

 

***

 

That is basically it. We have created a simple BigPicture agile schedule in five quick steps. The workflow is valid in BigGantt, BigPicture, and BigPicture Enterprise. The schedule is now available in BigPicture’s Board, Roadmap, and even in the Gantt module if you tick … > Show on timeline > Timeboxes in the top-right corner of the Gantt chart.

Start watching the below video tutorial at 6:54 to see the simple agile schedule workflow in a mere minute (+ how to set up teams).

 

 

Now, how to boost that simplistic agile schedule a bit? How to build custom, fabulous agile schedules in BigPicture?

Two-level schedules

If you are into SAFe® or LeSS, you are probably seeking two- or even three-level agile schedules. Scaled Agile Framework for instance recommends ART > Program Increment > Iteration hierarchy. Large Scale Scrum has its Requirement Area > Sprint “tree”. Your organization might have elaborated an in-house, “you name it” methodology over years. How to have custom agile schedules all in BigPicture?

First, upgrade to BigPicture Enterprise. The enterprise edition has two things that the regular BigPicture doesn’t have:

  • preset SAFe and LeSS “templates”. No wheels spinning on your side. You have them preconfigured in BigPicture Enterprise out of the box.
  • an unlimited number of slots for your DIY templates, such as the aforementioned marathons, races, or laps.

The regular BigPicture has just Programs, Program Increments, and Iterations. That’s it – three slots for templates. “Mixes” of agile, classic, and hybrid initiatives are way easier in BigPicture Enterprise. For portfolio management and scaling agile, the enterprise edition should be your first bet.

Example

Let us suppose your in-house methodology has the following agile schedule structure:

Agile project > Release > Sprint.

 

How to set it up in BigPicture Enterprise? We followed this workflow:

  1. BigPicture > Administration > Box types
  2. BigPicture Enterprise has the ‘Agile Project’ and ‘Sprint’ templates readily available, out of the box.
  3. We created the Release Box type, which BigPicture Enterprise does not have, by hitting the ‘Add new Box type’ button, see figure 7. Now, we added the Agile Project as Release’s parent.
  4. We edited the Sprint – added Release as its parent.

 

Releases in an agile schedule

Figure 7. Designing the custom Agile project > Release > Sprint agile schedule.

Now that we have designed the Agile Project > Release > Sprint schedule, we are ready to have many of them, throughout BigPicture. Just reiterate with ‘The simplest workflow’ that commences the article to build something like this:

 

Release amd Sprint agile schedule, two-level

Figure 8. The custom agile schedule is seen within the portfolio Overview in BigPicture Enterprise.

 

Agile schedule in Gantt chart

Precise alignment, smart adjustment

Figure 9. For your tasks not to overflow sprints’ boundaries in the Gantt chart’s timeline, you need to pick either the ‘Precise alignment’ or ‘Smart adjustment’ and not the ‘No alignment’ within the configuration of your agile schedule.

There is an extra step to take if you wish to base your agile schedule on BigPicture’s Gantt module rather than on the Board or Roadmap module. The timeline of the Gantt chart typically has daily precision while agile teams do not plan so precisely. All they know is that they would complete a task before the end of a sprint.

For the tasks to fit the sprints nicely on Gantt’s timeline you will want to select ‘Precise alignment’ or ‘Smart alignment’ in your agile schedule’s configuration > Tasks > Scheduling, as seen in figure 9. Otherwise – with ‘No alignment’ selected – the task representing bars might overflow the boundaries of your sprints.

Automated archiving of completed Sprints

To keep your real-life agile schedule clear for everybody, set automated archiving of completed sprints, iterations, or releases.

Auto archive closed Sprints

Figure 10. For prevalently agile environments set fewer than 180 days here, perhaps 60 days. Go to BigPicture configuration > Modules > Overview > Box auto-archiving. This way completed sprints, iterations won’t obfuscate the big picture.

 

Conclusion

You can build agile schedules in BigPicture Enterprise, BigPicture, and even BigGantt. The first of the three permits true portfolio management, as it has preset templates for SAFe, LeSS, and unlimited template slots for DIY methodologies.

BigPicture, on the other hand, has just three slots, but it makes up having Board and Roadmap modules – tools for managing agile schedules. BigPicture Enterprise has the two tools, too, of course.

BigGantt as an agile tool is the last resort. It has just three slots for templates, occupied by Program, Program Increment, and Sprint, as is the case with regular BigPicture. But it lacks the Board and Roadmap modules. You are left with the Gantt chart equipped with the Timeboxes overlay – something good enough if all you need is a simple agile roadmap.

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.