SoftwarePlant is now BigPicture! Learn more
Dec 30

Using Kanban boards in Jira and BigPicture. How to benefit from the package?

Kanban boardPlain Jira is enough to be able to use Kanban boards, right? Project managers, however, increasingly research the ‘jira bigpicture kanban’ keyphrase. Why? Fact 1: if you have many teams, a cross-team board, with colorful arrows standing for dependencies between tasks, might promote completing the tasks in the right order. Fact 2: if you have plenty of due dates on your tasks, then a timeline view, that Jira doesn’t have, might promote meeting these due dates. BigPicture delivers both functionalities that Jira doesn’t have. So let’s look closer at how Jira and Kanban organizations will benefit from BigPicture.

You’ll use BigPicture’s Board 2.0, and possibly Roadmap, on top of your ‘To do – In Progress – Done’ Kanban boards.

Approach 1: Several Kanban teams, low-level tasks

What most Jira-Kanban organizations probably need is a cross-team dependency board. Kanban teams will keep their Kanban boards, but a project manager and Kanban SRMs also keep an eye on the cross-team board.

Kanban teams should not plan tasks in time – you might say – as all they need to know are the ‘To do’, ‘In progress’, and ‘Done’ statuses in their Kanban boards. But even Kanban teams occasionally have due dates/deadlines set. The below screenshot shows Jira BigPicture’s Board 2.0 module, by far the most beneficial tool for a Kanban project management organization. Board 2.0 is capable of aligning multiple teams. And it keeps in sync with Jira.

Kanban and Scrum teams, dependencies between tasks

Teams have their horizontal swimlanes.

Can you notice the green, yellow, and red arrows that stand for end-to-start dependencies between tasks? First, a project manager sets dependencies between tasks by a simple drag&drop. The arrows change colors automatically, the more green arrows you see, the less jeopardized the plan is. Red arrows, on the opposite, mean conflicts. When a project manager sees a red link, as is the case with BPV-39 and BPV-19 task cards in the above screenshot, he/she should at least put off the BPV-19 until Iteration 2. Following that, a Kanban team’s SRM (Service Request Manager) should move the task up in the ‘To do’ column of Team 1’s Kanban board to increase the BPV-39 task’s priority.

Note how you can hide green and orange (so-called ‘correct’) dependency links in the Board by narrowing down the view to View > Links > Incorrect.

And yes, you can scale the “timeline” up and down for a bigger picture.

Now, why do we have iterations (Iteration 1, Iteration 2) visible just below the “timeline”? Many clients reported that what they have in their organizations is a mixed Kanban-Scrum environment. Back to the above screenshot, Kanban Team 1 and Kanban Team 2 clearly influence each other, but they also affect the workflow of Scrum Team 1. So, even though Kanban teams don’t plan timeboxes (as Scrum teams do), if there are many interdependent Kanban teams and there are also several Scrum teams, consider using BigPicture’s Board 2.0.

Once you’ve added BigPicture to your Jira, read on how to set up teams and timeboxes (program increments, iterations).

Approach 2: Screen out high-level epics, initiatives using Jira’s Kanban boards

When PMs research the ‘jira bigpicture kanban’ keyphrase, they likely have Approach 1 in mind. Approach 2, however,  sheds new light on Jira’s Kanban boards. Whereas in Approach 1 teams managed their tasks and workflows using the standard ‘To do – In progress – Done’ boards, here in Approach 2, only high-level epics and initiatives are ever to see a Kanban board. And instead of the To do – In Progress – Done columns, this senior Kanban board would bear headers such as ‘Funnel’ – ‘Reviewing’ – ‘Analyzing’.

Remember the guiding principle of Kanban? Limit work in progress. Why not limit the number of high-level ideas (features, initiatives, etc.) that make it to the execution stage?

Funnel Reviewing Analyzing
Epic 12

Epic 14

Epic 14

Initiative 9

Initiative 10

Initiative 11

Epic 3

Epic 4

Initiative 7

Epic 1

Initiative 2

Whether you are into Scaled Agile Framework or any other project management methodology, read the ‘Program Epic Kanban’ section here.

Once an epic or initiative finally gets approval, use BigPicture’s Scope module to break an epic into manageable stories, tasks, and subtasks. Following that, use Board 2.0 or Roadmap, or Gantt chart modules for a detailed scheduling/planning of work in the next two quarters or program increments, and iterations, or whatever your time horizon or methodology is.

Have you noticed how Approach 2 helps achieve the very same Limit work in progress goal as did Approach 1?

BigPicture is different from other project management apps for Jira in that it’s quite a complete set of modules – it has Resources, Risks, Teams, and Reports, too.


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.