July 14, 2021

Decision making with BigPicture

Project Management
BigPicture Team

What a “good decision” is? First, know Albert Einstein’s famous quote ‘If I had one hour to solve a problem, I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking of the solutions’? Second, base your decisions on comprehensive data, not just on sentiments and feelings. BigPicture provides up-to-date, visualized, and aggregated portfolio and project data. What views to look at when making your decisions?

Following are the common questions project managers face and the decisions they have to make (moving from the planning stage to the execution stage).

Is my plan feasible?

The most efficient method to assess whether a BigPicture plan is feasible or not is to:

  1. scope the project using a work breakdown structure view,
  2. estimate the resulting tasks (man-days or story points),
  3. set up dependencies between interdependent tasks or phases,
  4. check the scope against available resources and skills,
  5. finally, schedule the tasks on the timeline.

The resulting visual plan is more likely to succeed than trying to guess, out of the blue, whether a product or project is viable or not.

What if the resulting visual plan proves not viable? Use What-if scenarios – note the ‘Create new scenario’ submenu evident in figure 2. Reschedule phases and tasks and evaluate variants of the plan. Once you have the optimal variant of the plan, commit it to the production timeline.

Figure 2. A tree-like work breakdown structure plus a schedule on the timeline will help you assess whether a plan is viable. Agile environments would rather use a timebox Board module, as seen in figure 3.


Figure 3. BigPicture Board module can signal an unrealistic plan, too. Note the red exclamation marks in the overallocated Craftsman and Tools4you teams.

Do I need to descope a project/feature to meet a deadline?

Telling whether the scope is too wide is another decision point, especially when you are expected to deliver by some future date. Let’s suppose you have a team of 10 available, with the capacity of 140 story points, and the product is to hit the market in 6 months. Which BigPicture view to use to decide whether you need to descope a project/feature or not?

The Scope module is your best bet. Here, we added the ‘Story points’ (with Sum function applied) and ‘Affects versions’ columns to the view. The product was scoped beforehand. The 200 story points (58 + 19 + 57 + 66) are way above the available capacity of 140 sp, so version 1 of the product needs to be descoped.

Figure 4. The spreadsheet-like Scope module of BigPicture should help decide whether to descope your project or product.

Aren’t resources and skills overallocated on certain days, weeks, or months?

On the flip side of the Gantt chart (figure 2) is the Resources module. As a rule of thumb, the red bars mean overallocation, the orange ones – proper allocation, and the green ones – the underallocation of resources. Note, how the module can operate in three different modes – Original estimate, Remaining estimate (popular), and Story Points.

Also, note the hideable Skills panel at the bottom. It uses red, orange, and green bars, too. In the example below, the House Owner role and Team Construction are overloaded in some weeks (red bars).

Figure 5. The Resources module in BigPicture will supply precise data on whether your project is high/low on resources and skills. The Gantt module has a simplified resources panel, too.

Are we keeping up with the schedule?

Let’s move on to the execution phase. The Reports module, as well as countless progress bars and To do/In progress/Done task counters, help track progress in BigPicture – at portfolio, project, ART, Program increment, iteration levels, etc.

The data available here will provide a basis for short-, medium-, and long-term business decisions. Both project and product management are doable in BigPicture.

Figure 6. Progress tracking features are ubiquitous in BigPicture. Pictured is a combination of Reports, Overview, and Gantt modules.


What else affects the quality of decisions?

The following BigPicture features will further improve the quality of your decisions. Not a BigPicture user yet? Check if your current project management software has the following:

  • modern PM software suits should have bridges to third-party tools that teams are used to and feel comfortable with, such as Trello, Jira Cloud/Data Center, Azure DevOps.
  • hybrid project management is a trend in the 2020s. Agile and waterfall projects will likely coexist in most portfolios in the coming years.
  • Few project management tools of today do not support teamwork. Many tools, however, force users to refresh their web browsers to have see the changes done by other users reflected. BigPicture recognized the problem and introduced Live-sync mode to its Gantt and Board modules.
  • “Every decision is a risk-taking judgment”, said Peter Drucker in his ’67 article. BigPicture has a Risks module on board.