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Apr 18

Compare Jira Roadmaps: non-Agile vs. Agile vs. SAFe-compliant

Project managers that plan ahead need a roadmap. Sooner or later they usually google for one of the three key phrases: jira roadmap, jira agile roadmap or jira scaled agile roadmap. Let’s look at the pictures below to understand how the three types differ.

Agile vs. traditional project management

Traditional/Waterfall vs. Agile project management. Teams jump between Analyze – Design – Code – Test areas.

You might ask: do I need a roadmap in Jira at all, since I have custom, configurable boards that I can use for long term planning? Not quite right. While you might indeed use a board for long-term planning, how you are going to set long-term, general goals “for the fourth quarter” or “for the next 6 months”?

Agile vs. non-agile roadmap

Let’s get down to the non-Agile vs. Agile roadmaps question first. “Agile” basically means that you have several teams that work on a product concurrently. Whereas in traditional, or non-agile approaches teams would concentrate on a single stage of product development at a time, such as “design” or “testing”.


What does an Agile Jira roadmap plugin have to have then?

First it has to have swimlanes, visible as rows on the below picture. Each team occupies a single swimlane and the teams’ names speak for themselves – various project “chunks” are being done simultaneously.

Secondly an Agile roadmap plugin for Jira needs fixed-length iterations. On the picture below they are visible as columns with “Cadence” headers.

Example: a training enterprise consists of three training teams: “We develop new courses”, “We design materials”, “We train”. In Agile they develop new courses, design materials and deliver actual training sessions at a time, communicating during the weekly meetings. In Waterfall, however, they would have developed new courses only to move to designing materials, not having done a single training session to test whether the business is viable whatever.


A good example of Agile Jira roadmap – BigPicture plugin:

Roadmap in BigPicture

BigPicture Server agile roadmap. The cadences constitute the timeline; the teams make swim lanes; and the curved green, or red lines represent dependencies.


Is there a need for a special non-agile, or Waterfall roadmap?

Consider these:

  1. You could use an Agile roadmap for a Waterfall organization, by setting a relatively long cadence, e.g. 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, but
  2. There is a more-efficient tool for planning in Waterfall environments, namely the Gantt chart.
  3. Organizations tend to migrate from Waterfall to Agile project management, so why not prospectively buy the Agile roadmap plugin for Jira including both the Gantt and roadmap modules?


SAFe compliant vs. Agile roadmaps for Jira

Scaled Agile Framework compliant roadmaps are a subset of Agile roadmaps. Scaled Agile Inc., a company based in Boulder, Colorado, devised strict rules on how a roadmap should look like, including graphical layout. The most distinguishing feature of SAFe-compliant roadmaps is that they are very flexible in terms of goals setting, namely you should be able to:

  • set both high-level and task-based (fine) goals
  • set the goals both on program increment (typically 1 to 3 months) and sprint levels (1-4 weeks)
  • and set the goals both on program and team levels
  • other than that, SAFe roadmaps have to have:
    • distinctly marked commited (finished), started and forecast columns
    • milestones
    • flexible forecasting horizon, so that a user can choose 1 to 5 program increments visible on a screen at a time

Few roadmapping apps available on Atlassian Marketplace have adopted the SAFe rules. BigPicture Cloud has. The majority haven’t. So while they remain Agile to a certain degree, they are not SAFe-compliant.


SAFe® compliant roadmap in BigPicture Cloud. Any Program Increment, or PI, can be expanded with a downward arrow to bring the individual tasks level; one of the arrows marked with the red marker.


Program Increment, SAFe compliant roadmap

The Program Increment expanded for granularity on the SAFe® compliant roadmap. Individual tasks are now visible.



Roadmap is a relatively new, Agile-related term in project management. Regardless of your organization being non-agile or agile already, get an Agile roadmap for Jira from Atlassian Marketplace; better yet obtain a complete Project Portfolio Management app, such as BigPicture. You’re likely to appreciate the extra tools included, such as the Gantt chart, teams, resources and risk modules as well as the prominent Scaled Agile Framework compliance.


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.