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Dec 28

Jira + BigPicture: Best practices

Jira Big Picture best practicesWhat are the hidden, yet valuable features of BigPicture for Jira? This is a quick list of best practices for Jira + BigPicture from Jira certified trainers. The questions were asked by real-life project managers who yet test Jira + BigPicture…

The article is a compilation of BigPicture 6, 7, and 8 best practices.

 

Shift + ?

Reveal lesser-known tricks available in Jira BigPicture. When you got stuck, a common technique would be to browse through all available menus – the main menu, the context menus, and right-click menus. Many users, however, are unaware of the ‘Shortcuts’ pop-up window, available by hitting Shift + ?. Many of these shortcuts are not to be found anywhere but under Shift + ?.

Jira Big Picture shortcuts

 

Model project environment might help

Peeking into peer managers’ workshops is another good practice. We maintain a “model” BigPicture Enterprise instance with full admin rights for each visitor. You can fiddle with a portfolio of classic, agile, hybrid, SAFe, and LeSS initiatives, as seen in figure 3. The instance refreshes twice a day, so you won’t do any harm, by freely editing, deleting, dragging&dropping tasks, adding new projects, etc.

BigPicture demo

Big Picture demo instance

Figure 3. BigPicture Enterprise demo instance is available for everybody to experiment.

 

Gantt chart

Should I create a new task from the BigPicture Gantt chart or in Jira?

One best practice for a project manager doing plans/roadmaps is to create new issues directly on the Gantt chart rather than in Jira. What novice users overlook, however, is that you need to have Program Synchronizers configured beforehand so that Jira and BigPicture keep synchronized.

More in docs: Synchronization, Per-project sync, Creating tasks

I need to keep an eye on critical bugs and ensure they are represented on the Gantt chart.

Recommended way:

(a) use Quick filters for that. Once defined, the quick filter will be available throughout BigPicture. Define the quick filter based on the Issue type. For critical bugs I’d guess the JQL quick filter would go as follows:

type = Bug and Priority in (Blocker, Critical)

Quick filters use JQL syntax, you might google ‘jira jql reference’.

Alternative way:

(b) bars on the Gantt chart can be colored arbitrary, so you could mark critical tasks in red. To achieve this, you have to deselect the Color by status option on the Gantt chart. Check Docs on coloring by status.

You are going to miss automation, however, with (b), as you will need to color each new bug manually.

I’d like to watch how my team is doing, given milestone goals and the projected finish date.

A best practice is to use Baselines functionality available on the Gantt chart (View > Show > Baselines). With Baselines enabled delayed tasks will leave shady traces making their original Start & End dates evident, this way motivating people ;)

More on baselines

 

Can I get more details on the red outlines that sometimes appear on the Gantt charts?  I can click and hide some of the outlines, while others persist.  Do they represent errors?

A best practice is to have Data > Task mode > Auto enabled. The red outlines don’t represent errors, you probably have ‘Manual’ task mode turned on – it tracks all the shifts of the bars on the Gantt chart. Change to ‘Auto’ to fix this. The ‘Manual’ option is useful, however, for big projects to make it obvious whether some bars were shifted accidentally.

How does the Resources pane below the Gantt chart work?  What do the numbers and colors stand for? Can I get more insight?

Resources pane. Jira Big Picture Gantt chartA best practice is to have orange and green boxes in the Resource pane rather than red. Red means overallocation of a resource, while orange stands for proper allocation and green means underallocation. The colors are ‘calculated’ based on allocation vs. capacity.

For instance, when you assign a task worth 6 hours to Jim for Tuesday and his capacity on that day is 8 hours then you’re going to see a green box. Where do the 8 hours come from? You should have had them defined in the workload plan.

How to have a separate Gantt chart for each team? We have 5 teams so we need five team-centric Gantt charts, and then another one for the whole organization. Is creating 5 programs based on team board filters a good practice? And then should I create the 6th program for all the teams? I intend to utilize the same filters that we use for our team boards…

Yes, this is a way to go, since we don’t support filtering by teams on the Gantt chart module. You can, however, filter by teams in the new Scope module in BigPicture 7 and BigPicture 8.

On a related note when using ScriptRunner for Jira by Adaptavist and its enhanced JQL you can easily filter out an Epic and all of its issues with all the sub-tasks of those issues. Below is JQL syntax for that:

issuekey = XXX OR ("Epic Link" = XXX) OR issueFunction in subtasksOf("'Epic Link' = XXX")

BigPicture Roadmap

What’s the best way to have sprints displayed on the Roadmap? Cadences do show up and they last two weeks each, the thing I set up in the program config.  However, we also have the sprints (Jira field) pre-populated and sometimes we assign tasks to future sprints as well as to the current sprint.  Is there a ‘Sprints’ view in the Roadmap module, similar to the default ‘Cadence’ view?  Also, with Cadences, I’d like them to correspond to the sprints we have – is that possible?
I’ve added tasks to cadences, but they don’t show up in the calendar view?

You can surely link cadences (BigPicture term) and sprints (Jira field), but, please, do this once you’ve updated to BigPicture 7. You can do this in ‘Agile Schedule’ settings pane of BigPicture. You need to select at least ‘Small team synchronization’.

BigPicture 6 vs. 7

Should I upgrade from BigPicture 6 to BigPicture 7? My trial version is 6.14.2.  Is there a way to upgrade my trial to the most up-to-date BigPicture version before we potentially purchase the paid version?

If not for hundreds of fixes, upgrade BigPicture from version 6 to 7 for the new Scope module as well as the new Roadmap and the new Board 2.0. Check new features of BigPicture 7. A best practice for 2019 is to have BigPicture 7 rather than 6. If you’re on the trial version, you can still update the license in the ‘Addons’ menu, but you probably need to ask your Jira admin for help.

When deciding whether to upgrade from BP 6 to 7, consider these:

  • Jira + BigPicture 7 are enough for the high-level project management, such as SAFe’s program and portfolio levels. Jira + BigPicture 6 is less so.
  • Be on the safe side and take small steps when upgrading any software. It’s going to be safer to upgrade from ver. 6 to 7 than it is from ver. 6 to 8.
  • BigPicture will gradually make Jira, Trello, G Calendar, GitHub talk to each other. Go for the future-proof app!

BigPicture Risks

Can I get a clear definition of ‘Consequence’ and ‘Probability’, the default titles of the axes in the BigPicture Risks module?

There is no universal definition, you need to define it for your organization because each client has their own standard of ‘Low’ or ‘Severe’. Both the axes’ titles (‘Consequence’, ‘Probability’) and the dictionary (‘Trivial’, ‘Low’, ‘Medium’, ‘High’, ‘Severe’, ‘Almost none’, ‘Low’, ‘Medium’, ‘High’, ‘Very high’), are fully configurable in BigPicture. Check this video.

A best practice for the below matrix would be to keep an eye on the bottom-right part of the risks board, i.e. the ‘PIV-16 Analysis’ task.

Program risks

 

Resources

How to effectively work with Resources module of BigPicture?

Resources in the Team view:

  • work best coupled with the Roadmap module,
  • work based on Team custom field configured for the Roadmap module.

BigPicture Programs / configuration

First, be aware of as many as three configuration/administration spaces in BigPicture, at least in version 8. We are seeing a lot of issues resulting from clients not being aware of the three configuration spaces BigPicture has. Figure 4 indicates doorways to all three. Sometimes a user is creatively seeking a solution but a Jira admin might have hidden one or two of the configuration spaces from the user. Sometimes a solution is readily available within one of the three spaces. What can you do if you don’t have enough access rights? Launch the BigPicture demo, and browse all three configuration areas with Jira admin rights.

BigPicture configuration doorway

Figure 6. As many as three configuration spaces exist in BigPicture – App configuration, Administration, and ‘Configure’ a project.

See BigPicture configuration / administration explained for more.

 

I try to create a program with sample data, but when I click ‘Let’s get it started’ it gives me back the ‘Selected Field Configuration has required fields: Platform/Component/s’ error. How to deal with this?

Platform/Component are probably required fields in the field configuration set that you’ve selected for the new program, and you may have no values for the two. Best practice is to have as many fields as possible set to optional. In your case go to the Platform/Component fields configuration and make the two optional.

Should I use Start/End date fields rather than Original/Remaining Estimate custom fields in BigPicture?

Yes, in BigPicture always choose Start date and End date as the basis for calculating task duration. Avoid using Original estimate or Remaining estimate custom fields for this purpose.

I made changes to Jira Add-ons configuration but they haven’t taken effect…

Best practice is to always disable and re-enable BigPicture if you make any changes to the app’s settings in the Jira Add-ons configuration.  This will guarantee all changes made in global configuration kick in.

Onboarding tours
BigPicture onboarding tours switch

Figure 7. A Jira admin can turn on and off the onboarding tours to promote awareness of lesser-known BigPicture features

A Jira admin can turn on/off the onboarding tours for other users (Jira administration > Manage apps > BigPicture > Advanced). Onboarding tours are not good practice per se, but they promote awareness of various features among users.

 

 

Understanding BigPicture versions

One more best practice is keeping BigPicture up to date. If you are on Jira Server or Data Center, you can not only upgrade but also revert to a previous version. If you are on Jira Cloud, we update BigPicture for you and you can’t go back. But even when on Cloud, it is good to know when a new version has been released and what new features and fixes it has brought to the table. You can learn that from the Release notes.

But above all, interpret BigPicture versions numbering properly. It is good to realize that version, say, 8 is much more “revolutionary” than 8.1, and that one, in turn, brings more change, than 8.1.1. Read more in BigPicture versions. How to read them?

 

Video tutorials and Docs

Completing a BigPicture video tutorial takes anything from a few minutes to an hour. The webinars are particularly helpful if you are spinning the wheels with newly installed, empty BigPicture. Written documentation, on the other hand, works better for those who have been exploring BigPicture for quite a while.

YouTube tutorials

Manual for BigPicture 8

 

Help desk

Our help desk could be your best bet. Humans review each ticket. This can’t be the quickest solution. Yet feel free to email us at support@softwareplant.com :)

 

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.