Time is one of the critical factors in project management. Thus, one cannot overstate the importance of time management. Whether it’s a general outline of the entire project or control of specific elements of the scope, the managers need to stay on top of it. Failure to do so translates into delays, which impacts the organization’s effectiveness in producing deliverables and financial performance.
We can discern four processes of time management in projects:
Each project management methodology deals with these four areas in its own way. Usually, that means using different project management tools to accommodate methodological differences. However, comprehensive PPM software like BigPicture eliminates the need to switch between tools regardless of the project methodology of choice.
Time management in Classic, Agile, and Hybrid – a quick rundown
Given that the project management philosophies vary significantly, their approach to time management also differs substantially. Let’s take a look at the most critical aspects of managing time in Classic, Agile, and Hybrid initiatives.
There are two main things to remember about Classic initiatives. The first one is that each stage of the project is separate from the other. Crucially, before one phase begins, the previous one must finish first.
Secondly, planning, estimating, and scheduling take place holistically. Thus, the project manager considers all the phases at the very beginning. As a result, the manager agrees upon the deadline, task duration estimations, and the availability of resources in advance.
As for control, it occurs throughout the project. For instance, after the completion of each phase, the manager presents the results to the stakeholders. Naturally, if the manager expects any delays in the project’s execution, they should inform the stakeholders beforehand and adjust accordingly.
While the Classic approach is sequential, its Agile counterpart is iterative and flexible. Simply put, Agile teams continuously develop the product incrementally. Usually, they divide the project into Sprints – fixed timeboxes with specific goals the teams attempt to deliver.
In Scrum, each Sprint consists of four events:
Unlike Classic, the iterative approach combines design, development, and testing in one Sprint. Instead of estimating time values for each task, Agile teams tend to measure effort in story points.
But Sprints are just a part of the puzzle. Since the product goes through iterative development, teams must follow a general direction in subsequent iterations. That’s the idea behind the product roadmap. It’s a high-level outline of the vision for the product. The roadmap has a significant influence on planning.
In fact, one could say planning in Agile happens on two levels. The product roadmap dictates the higher level. The smaller-level planning of tasks takes place during Sprint Planning. That is also where the team estimates the items that end up in the scope of the Sprint. Crucially, the time aspect is constant since Sprints usually last the same amount of days. After all, teams usually estimate work in story points instead of hours or days.
Even though the term “scheduling” is not a part of the Agile vocabulary, one could say it still applies to this approach, just in a different way. After all, the Sprints are constant, but the Product Owner still wants to know how much the team will be able to accomplish in a Sprint. It may not be a schedule in the traditional sense – the order of deliverables – but keeping control of the list of items is of great importance.
Agile practitioners use a variety of tools to control the progress of Sprints. The first one is called a Sprint burndown chart. It’s a visual representation of the story points teams manage to “burn” after each day of the increment. The progress is compared with the estimated burndown line, which serves as a point of reference and allows Product Owners to react to the slower performance of the team before the Sprint ends.
Then, there is the velocity report. It’s the sum of the completed story points in each timebox juxtaposed with the overall amount of story points allocated for the Sprint. The analysis of several completed increments determines the team’s velocity.
One of the benefits of the Hybrid project management approach is its flexibility in terms of methodology selection. For instance, some managers might apply the Classic approach in long-term planning but employ the Agile philosophy for the short-term development of the product.
As far as time management is concerned, planning usually follows the traditional management approach. That includes a sequence of phases and a preparation of a detailed work breakdown structure. Furthermore, any documentation the team might need throughout the project is completed before the initiative launches.
The same philosophy applies to estimation. During the planning phase, Hybrid managers establish the overall timeframe and attempt to predict the duration of each component. Scheduling occurs at the same time.
Last but not least, control happens at the phase level instead of the Sprint level, especially in terms of reporting. Granted, the Sprint cycle in a framework like Scrum also takes control into consideration. After all, the Sprint Review is when the stakeholders get a closer look at the completed increments.
However, stakeholders of large Hybrid initiatives focus on the project as a whole. Thus, project managers report the progress after the completion of each phase.
It’s crucial to note that Hybrid initiatives may apply methodologies freely. Having said that, practice shows that the “Classic planning, Agile execution” variant is the most popular approach.
BigPicture supports effective time management in any methodology
Organizations managing their work in Jira may look to expand their tool stack with software that extends the capabilities of Atlassian’s product. For businesses that manage Classic, Agile, and Hybrid projects, BigPicture can be an all-in-one tool that streamlines time management-related actions and improves control over this ever-important resource.
Classic time management with BigPicture
Appfire’s PPM tool will serve as the command center of all your Classic initiatives. A host of visualization tools, the ability to gather and aggregate Jira data, and automation options allow you to understand the project’s timeline and execution better.
The app displays relevant project information in an intuitive manner. As a result, gathering insights and making data-based decisions will take less time.
With BigPicture, you can plan the team’s workload on a Gantt chart with a timeline and taskbars. It allows you to visualize the entire scope much more effortlessly than by looking at start and end dates. Making necessary changes takes no time thanks to in-line editing and drag-and-drop functionalities. As a result, you have the option to modify the scope in a manner you’re most comfortable with.
Then, there is the intuitive mapping of dependencies. Drawing connections between tasks on a timeline provides better visualization of the relationships between tasks and defines their order and start/end dates. Additionally, the tool allows you to define dependencies that impact the schedule and those that don’t. It’s called soft and hard dependencies.
Establishing the timeline is just the tip of the iceberg. Without the context of the available resources, it’s difficult to estimate the duration of the initiative. Fortunately, BigPicture contains the Resources module where you can comprehensively plan and monitor the capacity of the entire team.
The module is fully configurable to present all the information you want to see. From the allocated work values to the breakdown of specific tasks per assignee or team, as well as maximum capacity. The data is displayed on a timeline, and you can aggregate the values by day, week, or month. This allows you to see the allocation of tasks in a small or large time frame, depending on your needs.
The color-coded bars provide quick insight into each team member’s allocation level. Because of that, you can make data-based decisions for further allocation of work. And if you notice that some team members are overallocated, use drag and drop to change the arrangement of assignees on the timeline.
Every project contains a multitude of moving parts. Most tasks affect other chunks of work, which usually makes scheduling complicated. After all, setting the end date of one item has consequences for others.
Our PPM tool allows you to automate the scheduling of your project. It accelerates the process compared to its manual counterpart. On top of that, it ensures the durations and dependencies of your initiative are positioned correctly.
In practical terms, it means if you modify the dates for one task, the others will be adjusted automatically based on the set of rules you have selected.
Control of timely execution of tasks
According to PMI, one area that defines control is “the measurement of what actually happened against what was expected to happen.” In other words, the progress of the execution should be juxtaposed against a point of reference.
Baselines in BigPicture do just that. They visualize any deviation from the original timeline throughout the project’s duration. On the Gantt chart, a baseline is a gray line under a taskbar. But if you want to see the difference between the task and its baseline in numbers, just add the baseline discrepancy column to your Work Breakdown Structure.
Bidirectional synchronization with Jira
BigPicture is fully synchronized with Atlassian’s work management tool. This allows managers to improve the way they conduct projects while the team operates without the need to adjust to new software.
Any changes the team makes in their tasks flow straight into BigPicture. Thus, the manager is able to see them in the context of the whole initiative.
But it also goes the other way around. When the project manager updates the project scope or modifies any data related to the initiative, it will be reflected in the corresponding task in Jira immediately. That way, the project team members are up to date with any modifications during the project.
Agile time management in BigPicture
Just like in the Classic approach, we can break down Agile time management into four categories. Whether it’s planning, estimation, scheduling, or control, BigPicture opens the window to new possibilities for organizations using the adaptive approach to project management.
Built-in product roadmap capabilities
In Appfire’s PPM tool, managers of Agile initiatives can create a high-level roadmap of the product and divide large items into iterations. That way, they can control the execution of the main goals of the product over time from an all-encompassing Gantt chart.
Sprint planning monitoring
In the Agile approach, the team plans the Sprint together. Unless there are any incomplete stories from the previous Sprint, the team uses a Sprint Backlog to create the scope for an upcoming increment. While the Agile team selects the items in Jira, the Product Owner can monitor the plan using BigPicture.
This allows for a more comprehensive overview of the items selected in the Sprint. Aside from the list of user stories, the Board module lists crucial information such as capacity allocation, assignees, status, and dependencies.
Instead of time units, teams working in Agile estimate their work in Story points. Regardless of the preferred method of measurement, BigPicture shows you aggregated data that’s always up-to-date.
Effective and data-based estimation would be pointless without capacity planning. Fortunately, BigPicture allows you to assign maximum capacity values to every member, team, and Sprint.
That way, you can plan the amount of work each member can handle while considering external factors. It results in more accurate work estimation.
Capacity planning is closely related to the estimation of user stories. Most Scrum teams use planning poker apps to assign story point values to items during Sprint Planning. One of the most versatile Agile tools that also contains this functionality is Whiteboards for Jira.
For instance, with issue tables, you can create a custom table and quickly drag and drop Jira backlog tasks into appropriate columns to estimate them. To perform the estimation with the whole team, use voting—it gives all members a chance to vote simultaneously and anonymously without influencing the decisions of others.
Once the team estimates the value of all the items, the story point values flow straight into Jira with a single click. Of course, that means the data will find its way into BigPicture simultaneously.
As mentioned in the earlier part of the article, scheduling in Agile refers to the allocation of tasks in a Sprint instead of a timeline-based order of work. Our PPM tool allows Product Owners to visualize the work of each Sprint in detail. The Board module contains iterations with Jira issues that belong to a particular Sprint. Combined with capacity aggregations, it enables easier control of team-level scheduling.
But that’s just the first level of scheduling, one that helps managers maintain the structure of the initiative. What about the task level? BigPicture contains automated scheduling mechanisms that define start and end dates based on the increments. The task period alignment works in two ways:
- Precise alignment: both the start and end dates of the task are set within the increment of your choice.
- Smart adjustment: either the start or end date of a task is adjusted to the increment, and the original time estimate of the task remains the same.
As a result, the scheduling of items on the product roadmap is faster, and the start/end fields get adjusted automatically, which is also reflected in Jira.
The Board module in BigPicture contains reports that let you see the progress of the execution of the user stories in a given iteration. The reports are dynamic, which means that anytime a change that affects the report is made, the chart is updated accordingly.
Want to see more in-depth capacity stats of your team? The Resources module contains all the allocation data for every team member. Aside from seeing the list of assigned work, managers get immediate insight into the amount of allocated work compared to the capacity. Therefore, it’s easy to determine whether a person has too much on their plate or if they can take on more tasks.
Additionally, BigPicture Enterprise expands the Resources module by gathering allocation data from multiple projects. Thus, if your members are part of more than one initiative, the module will gather the cross-project data holistically and present it in a single place.
On top of that, BigPicture Enterprise lets you generate velocity reports to measure the team’s overall progress in each increment.
Now that you’ve seen how BigPicture supports time management in Classic and Agile, it’s time to put the spotlight on the most recent project management approach – Hybrid.
Hybrid management in BigPicture
Our tool allows you to apply Classic and Agile methodologies in any configuration. As a result, no matter how you blend approaches to create your own Hybrid project, you’re able to plan, schedule, estimate, and control effectively.
In fact, it’s possible to combine multiple approaches on a single timeline. Take a look at the image below:
As you can see, the chart contains elements of Classic and Agile visualization in one place. There are Waterfall phases and iteration timeboxes. The software gathers information from multiple teams, which is invaluable if you manage a cross-team initiative.
Additionally, the Board module is where planning and control of each iteration in more detail takes place, just like in Agile projects.
Now that you’ve seen how BigPicture takes time management to the next level in every project management approach, it’s time for you to utilize its power. Start a free trial and discover how it will make your project easier to manage.