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August 21, 2023

Jira portfolio management: is that even possible?

Hybrid Management Jira Portfolio-level Management
Jerzy Żurawiecki Content Specialist @BigPicture

Utilizing Jira in Portfolio management presents a challenge. But that’s not surprising. After all, Jira Software is a work management tool. Using Jira Software to oversee portfolios is like using a screwdriver to tear down a wall: It’s the wrong tool for the job.

Luckily, you can transform your screwdriver into a sophisticated multitool (complete with sledgehammer). But first, let’s examine what Jira needs to become a portfolio management tool.

Limitations of portfolio management in Jira

Portfolio overview? What’s that?

The first problem is that users can’t see the entire portfolio of initiatives in one place. Same goes for programs. But how can you manage a portfolio of projects when you can’t see them all? And how are you going to plan and track the execution of multiple initiatives at once, especially when you can’t see cross-project dependencies.

But (in)visibility is not the only limitation. Using Jira for portfolio management makes it hard to access and aggregate data.

Say you have 10 projects in a portfolio and you want to see how they’re progressing. In Jira Software, you’ll have to go into each one and check the stats you’re looking for.

But what about the bigger picture? If some projects are part of a single program, you might want to analyze them as a whole. 

It’s impossible to do that in Jira.

There’s more to life than Agile

Jira Software and Agile are a match made in heaven. After all, Agile project management is Jira’s main use case (though there are others). But company-wide portfolios often contain Agile, Classic, and Hybrid projects.

If you want to manage all the projects and programs in the organization, you need a tool that accommodates all three approaches.

That requires Classic, Agile, and Hybrid-friendly tools, like the Gantt chart with a Work Breakdown Structure and a timeline. But your tool must also handle Waterfall phases and Agile sprints to support Hybrid management, and display Classic and Agile values.

Resource management? You’d better be resourceful.

You can handle the workload of multiple teams and projects in Jira. But there’s no central space where managers can oversee the allocation of entire teams or multiple individuals. That makes some things more difficult.

A screenshot of Jira user report showing allocation data for a single team member.
An example of a user report in Jira Software.

Smart allocation of tasks should consider scope, timeline, and the availability and skills of team members. In Jira Software, it’s impossible to see that for an entire portfolio without an additional plugin. As a result, you’re limited in executing some key management activities like data-based allocation, capacity planning, and cross-team resource management.

You need comprehensive reporting

Single-project reporting is useful in some cases, and Jira has a lot of reporting types to choose from. Here’s an example.

An example of a report in Jira

But for portfolio management, you need a wider data range. The ability to measure and report metrics across the portfolio makes oversight much easier. Executives and stakeholders get to see a large pool of data from multiple initiatives instead of separate reports for each project.

Unfortunately, Jira doesn’t offer the latter.

That means you’ll need to combine reporting data with other tools. Some managers do it in spreadsheets, but that can be inefficient.

How to turn Jira into a portfolio management tool

Jira might not be a portfolio management powerhouse, but with an assist from third-party apps, Atlassian can help you tackle all the problems above.

Apps can help you supercharge Jira’s portfolio management capabilities. And there are plenty of apps to choose from in the Atlassian Marketplace.

But don’t just download any app. You need to look for a few key features before taking the plunge. Let’s dive into key areas using Appfire’s BigPicture as an example.

How BigPicture enables comprehensive Jira project portfolio management

Everything, everywhere, all at once

First, BigPicture enables you to create and display the entire landscape of projects, programs, and portfolios. That includes all relevant data. But instead of a sea of numbers, it’s aggregated. That way, managers can make the right decisions faster.

And the tool makes it easy to get from a high-level overview to the tiniest details of each task. And it’s flexible, so you can structure your data any way you want.

A screenshot showing an overview of all the elements of a portfolio.
An example of the Portfolio overview in BigPicture. You can also add programs, Agile and SAFe® projects, and more.

With the right PPM tool, you’ll be able to display the entire portfolio of initiatives, along with all the related data. On top of that, you should be able to aggregate the data to support easier decision-making. Whether the portfolio contains Waterfall, Agile, or Hybrid projects, the best tool for you will help you gather and display the right information.

Then, you’ll need to consider the tool’s resource management capabilities. With our Resources module, you have easy access to the availability data of all teams, projects, and individual team members. Comprehensive visibility of resources helps you do more precise capacity planning.

The module also streamlines the allocation process. It’s clear who’s overworked, and who can take on more tasks in a given time frame. And if you want to make allocation changes, just use drag and drop or in-line editing. Or you can use the “Find perfect match” option, which will suggest available resources for unassigned tasks.

A screenshot of the Resources module in BigPicture.
The team view in BigPicture’s Resources module. Changing the date range, aggregation, and showing individual members takes just a few clicks.

The Jira connection

Both Jira and the PPM tool have to exchange data to ensure its validity. BigPicture synchronizes with Jira both ways. That means any changes teams make in their Jira issues get updated in BigPicture straight away. And when managers modify anything that affects Jira, the changes immediately show up in Atlassian’s software.

This means teams can continue using Jira without any changes or interruptions. And that managers have the latest information at their fingertips at all times.

But the cherry on top is the option to send data from multiple Jira Cloud instances into BigPicture, which is available in BigPicture Enterprise.

One source of truth to rule them all

When the PPM tool works in full harmony with Jira, you can use it as a Single Source of Truth for all your management activities.

All the project, program, and portfolio data flows into a single tool seamlessly. The data is standardized, more accessible at every granularity level, and you can display all kinds of information in the available modules. And it’s easier to control, too.

If you want to manage portfolios using Jira, the choice is simple. Add a Project Portfolio Management app to your tool stack. With BigPicture, you’ll be able to plan, track, manage, and report portfolios, projects, and programs much more easily. The tool’s compatible with Waterfall, Agile, and Hybrid methodologies. That means no matter what stage of the Agile transformation you’re in, BigPicture can handle it. Start a 30-day free trial to discover a new way of managing portfolios in Jira.