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Jan 24

Board in BigPicture [Capacity, Reports, Scrum-Kanban]

Jira Big Picture Board

BigPicture Board module has become significantly more user-friendly over the last two years. On top of what every agile board must have, BigPicture Board has colored dependency arrows, automatic setup of teams’ swimlanes, easy capacity planning, and beautiful progress charts. How to go about Board in BigPicture?

Both agile and hybrid projects are plannable on Board. The module is this flexible! On a related note, BigPicture Enterprise lets you rename Board ‘Planner’, ‘Sprints’, ‘Program Board’, or whatever your methodology prescribes. At the core of the BigPicture Board are teams and their swimlanes – seemingly must-haves, but in reality, missing from some pretenders. Let’s have a look at both the core and novel features of the BigPicture Board.

Board’s core features

What do Product and Project Managers value most in BigPicture’s Board? We hear a lot that Board stands out thanks to the following four features:

  1. Dependencies – colored arrows linking tasks.  There are strong ones, such as start-to-end, and soft ones (“indicative-only”). You can map Jira issue links to BigPicture dependencies. More in Strong and soft dependency arrows in BigPicture
  2. Teams’ swimlanes. These get created automatically when you form new BigPicture teams (set up a new team in Board directly by pressing the ‘Allocate Team’ button in the bottom-left corner; or go to Teams module).
  3. Flexible backlog – configure both the X and Y axis. Both columns and the tree-like structure of tasks are configurable.
  4. Progress bars. Keep an eye on team/sprint-specific progress bars and totals.

We marked all four in figure 2.

Jira BigPicture program board

Figure 2. BigPicture Board. You can remove the collapsible ‘Program Increment’ planning level, seen above iteration-representing bars, by rearranging the tree structure in Overview module. Yet the Program/Product Increments might be useful at agile at scale organizations.

There is one more lesser-known feature, that will appeal to those keen on SAFe® and other scaling agile methodologies. Not only iterations/sprints but also Product/Program Increments (one level up) can be planned in Board. To open the PI planning level, press the Open/close, curved-arrow button that we marked with 5.

The core features of Board have been in circulation for quite a while, and they are on Board’s home screen, thus pretty self-explanatory. Let’s move on to lesser-known stuff – ‘Capacity planning’, ‘Reports’, editable task card layout, and Kanban-in-Scrum layout. These four make Board a class of its own.

Capacity planning

While BigPicture has a separate Resources module, that module caters to classic, predictively managed projects. Therefore, some agile teams would surely reject it. How can these agile teams prevent falling into overly optimistic planning? They can do simplistic, sprint-to-sprint capacity planning in Board module. Figure 3 depicts how to set capacities of individuals, teams, or even whole sprints within the ‘Capacity planning’ tab.

Capacity planning in Board of big picture

Figure 3. Board permits Story Point or Man-day values. Access the ‘Capacity planning’ tab from Board’s home screen – press the ‘Capacity planning’ button in the main toolbar. Set capacities for individuals, teams, or sprints/iterations.

Now, how to control the allocation of teams, how to balance your “agile resources”? Go back to Board’s home screen and select View > Totals > Capacity allocation from the main toolbar. All progress bars will immediately switch to ‘allocation vs. capacity’ mode, as seen in the inset in figure 3. The 75% to 100% range is considered a benchmark – reasonable allocation.

Reports

The Reports tab of BigPicture Board is another late advancement. By default, it gives a quick overview of how an iteration is progressing. Note the Iteration 1.2 timebox in figure 4, and how the Done tasks make 16,67% of Team Alfa’s objectives.

Some people believe that Board is inherent in agile methodologies. The ‘Count’ section in the drop-down menu evident in figure 4 sheds new light on such incorrect assumptions. While Tasks and Story Points items of the menu belong in agile methodologies, the Remaining Estimate and Original Estimate clearly indicate time units, relevant to predictive and hybrid project management. And again, with BigPicture Enterprise you can relabel Board to ‘Planner’, for instance, to be consistent with your methodology.

Reports in BigPicture Board

Figure 4. Reports tab and its “multi-methodology” drop-down menu.

Editable task cards

Yet another evidence of how flexible and universal a planning tool the BigPicture Board is. Take a look at figure 5. While the screenshot is obviously a compilation of several boards, note how we have redesigned (and saved for later) various task cards – from team-oriented layout to ‘Essentials’, to ‘Hybrid’.

The ‘Essentials’ layout, for instance, is great for agile teams facing plenty of tiny tasks during a single sprint. When would you use the ‘Teams’ and ‘Hybrid’ layouts?

Board change card layout

Figure 5. Redesign and save new task card layouts by going to Board > Configuration > Board > Card views, or by hitting ‘Manage views’ directly in the views combo box.

Scrum-and-Kanban view

Select ‘Status’ option item in the top-left combo box of BigPicture Board and what you get is a Scrum-and-Kanban agile view, read-only as of BigPicture 8.1. Note how iterations in figure 6 were sliced into Done, In progress, and To do areas, instead of teams’ swimlanes.

Scrum-Kanban Board in BigPicture Jira

Figure 6. BigPicture Board can act as a hybrid, Scrum-Kanban agile board.

Other BigPicture boards

To put the Board module in context, we must mention two more boards BigPicture has or had:

  • Board module available until BigPicture 7.1 and retired past that. We still encounter Jira Server/Data Center users who have not upgraded to BigPicture 8. They may be using that old Board, far inferior to today’s article hero – Board 2.0. The two have very few in common. (Jira Cloud users have had the upgrades done automatically.)
  • Kanban Board. A purely Kanban board is to be found in BigPicture, too. However, its ‘To do’, ‘In progress’, ‘Done’ columns contain sprints, iterations, program increments, or projects rather than simple tasks. So it is a high-level Kanban board. More in Using Kanban Boards in BigPicture.

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To recap: BigPicture Board module – the one we discussed today – is a Scrum and scaling agile, and even Kanban board. It is flexible enough to serve a classic, predictive project management environment. The current, full-blown Board module is superior to the pre-BigPicture 7.2 simplistic board, now retired.

 

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.