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Feb 07

Strong and soft dependency arrows in Jira BigPicture, BigGantt

Dependencies in Jira BigPictureWhen you think ‘project dependencies’ you usually need something more than Jira’s standard task links. BigPicture is valued for its three options in terms of dependencies: the best known is the arrow that connects two tasks in BigPicture’s Gantt chart. We call this type ‘strong dependency‘ because once a task catches a delay, the following, linked tasks will get rescheduled automatically.

Another case is the lesser-known ‘soft dependency‘, available in Board 2.0; the soft dependency permits ‘constructing roof before walls’; it visually alerts (turning from green to orange to red) that the schedule is impossible. While soft dependencies are still arrows that connect two tasks, they were designed to merely attract attention to certain relationships. They are not capable of rescheduling anything automatically. You can use a soft dependency to monitor a relationship.

The third option is Jira’s standard task links and how BigPicture builds on them. Let’s discuss how to use the three types.

Strong dependencies

Strong dependencies are what many project managers utilize daily. Phase 2 can only begin when Phase 1 has been completed, this sort of thinking.

Dependencies in Jira Gantt chart

Strong dependencies affect the schedule, so if you put off a task, the tasks linked to it will be automatically rescheduled. Pictured is the new Gantt chart 2.0 in BigPicture/BigGantt, with the collapsible right-side pane where you can filter out dependencies for specific tasks.

Strong dependencies have been bread and butter in BigPicture/BigGantt’s Gantt chart, but we’ve recently added them to Board 2.0, too.

Dependency choices in Board 2.0 Jira BigPicture

Strong dependencies become available in the Board module, starting BigPicture version 7.10.

How do strong dependencies work?

  • to create a dependency hover on a task card and then drag and drop a handler from one task to the other
  • connect epics, stories, tasks, sub-tasks, as well as custom types, such as phases
  • click the resulting arrow to edit the link. For instance, you can enable the ASAP mode or set up a mandatory lag time between the connected tasks
  • four types of strong dependencies are available: finish-to-start, finish-to-finish, start-to-start and start-to-finish with the first being most popular
  • you can map Jira task links to BigPicture’s strong dependencies: Jira administration > Add-ons > BigPicture technical configuration > General > Link. And this will work bi-directionally, so if you set up a dependency arrow in BigPicture’s graphical interface, you’ll notice a newly created issue link in Jira issue detail view.

Read more in documentation

Soft dependencies

The lesser-known soft dependencies appeal to agile product management and are available in BigPicture’s Board 2.0. Few competing apps offer this type. While it’s still an arrow connecting two tasks, the soft dependency does not intervene to prevent an impossible schedule. All it does is it changes its color from green, to orange, to red to represent how feasible the relationship is.

The soft, cross-team dependencies were designed to encourage teams to talk to each other and for a project manager as a means to monitor certain dependencies.

Soft dependencies in Jira Program Board

Rather than keeping an eye on the viability of a schedule, soft dependency arrows send signals; they switch colors based on how possible a relationship between two tasks is. A green arrow means a correct link; orange – venturesome; red – incorrect.

How do soft dependencies work?

  • to create a dependency hover on a task and then drag and drop a handler from one task to the other; click the resulting arrow to edit the link
  • they are meant for agile and are available in the Board 2.0 module, both on the iteration and Program Increment level
  • the soft dependency will not try to rectify an impossible schedule. The arrow will become green if the following task sits within any of the following iterations (or program increments if you set up a relationship on the higher, PI level). The arrow will turn orange if the tasks are planned for the same iteration or PI, and red – for impossible relations
  • you can map Jira task links to BigPicture’s soft relationship: Jira administration > Add-ons > BigPicture technical configuration > General > Link. And this is a two-way synchronization, so if you create a dependency arrow in BigPicture’s graphical interface, you also get a new task link in Jira issue detail view.

Do you practice Scaled Agile Framework? If so, note how the BigPicture Board’s dependencies correspond to SAFe’s Red Strings.

Jira task links

Soft dependencies Jira agile board

You can map Jira task links to the visual dependency arrows of BigPicture.

Now let’s move to the third type, namely Jira’s native task links. How can you put them to work in BigPicture / BigGantt?

First, you could let them live independently of BigPicture. In this scenario, the visual BigPicture dependencies (strong and soft) are one thing, and the Jira links are another thing, and the two don’t interact with each other. Such a setup is rare with our clients.

Most users map Jira links to the visual strong or soft dependencies available in BigPicture and BigGantt. To set up such a mapping, go to Jira administration > Add-ons > BigPicture technical configuration > General > Link and choose from the options evident in the screenshot below. Be aware though: BigPicture does not visualize Jira links as such; you can map Jira links to the two visual dependency species (soft and strong) available in BigPicture.

More in docs

Jira BigPicture issue links configuration

Having installed BigPicture, you should have this config page available within Jira administration.

BigPicture vs. competitors

Dependencies are among the most sought-after features of any project/product management app. BigPicture and BigGantt have had them for years, and we consider this functionality mature. BigPicture’s significant competitors – Advanced Roadmaps, Structure, and Tempo Planner – while they may have strong dependencies, they could lack the soft dependencies. You should check on the current status with the respective apps.

On the other hand, Jira Align, another direct competitor of BigPicture, has developed dependencies – both strong and soft. But Jira Align is loosely integrated with Jira Software and is in a different price league compared to BigPicture.

If project dependencies are what you look for, then BigPicture, or BigGantt, might be the right choice.

See also: Managing cross-project dependencies.



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.