When you search Atlassian Marketplace for ‘Scaled Agile’ or ‘SAFe’, what do you get? Close to zero openly ‘SAFe plugins’. It’s because established vendors cannot explicitly say ‘We’re a Scaled Agile Framework plugin’. One reason is that they would scare away the non-SAFe public. Another one: nobody wants to bet the farm on SAFe. Still, there are choices. Here is an opinion on SAFe plugins for Jira.
Firstly, Scaled Agile Inc. is tool-agnostic. They won’t tell you ‘buy this particular plugin’. Study their famous posters, however, and you can quickly notice what tools you should be after. These tools are Roadmap, Backlog, Program board, and Risk matrix. You need a Jira plugin that has all four, sort of an all-in-one addon. So what choices do you have?
Jira Align is not on Atlassian Marketplace, but it is, in fact, a massive plugin for Jira Software. Until recently, Atlassian claimed Portfolio was their first SAFe® plugin, but in October 2019, they made a shift. While Jira Align is an excellent piece of software, these are some drawbacks:
- Scaled Agile Framework calls for ‘packing light’, right? Well, Jira Align is the biggest and most expensive of the three. A solution partner of ours reported that it takes time to get everything working
- check Jira Align vs. competition
- Jira Align is for large enterprises. Are you a 500+ associates organization?
- while Scaled Agile Framework is undoubtedly trending, would you put all your money into an extremely specialized solution? Say, by 2030, other frameworks, perhaps not so agile, could surpass SAFe®. We touch these long-term risks here.
You can still google the well-known ‘Scaling agile with Atlassian and SAFe®’ whitepaper. It dates back to October 2016, and cPrime has contributed to it a lot. The whitepaper indicates Advanced Roadmaps / Portfolio as a Scaled Agile Framework plugin for Jira. While Advanced Roadmaps are famous for its polished user interface:
- their focus is on automated planning
- they are less visually oriented than other tools – think SAFe’s sticky notes
- check this Advanced Roadmaps vs. BigPicture datasheet
- they lacks the Risk matrix
‘Big Picture’ is a term coined by SAFe, right? The founding father of BigPicture plugin for Jira has always been impressed and inspired by the Scaled Agile Framework. He is certified by SAFe®. This is why BigPicture bears its name, and this is why it features all the tools recommended by SAFe®, i.e., Roadmap, Backlog, Program board, and Risk matrix.
We can openly state it here: BigPicture is a Scaled Agile Framework plugin for Jira.
Still, BigPicture has a couple of ‘fuses’. We truly appreciate the ‘uncertain times’. Therefore we keep developing the Gantt chart and Resources modules together with all the agile stuff. Few organizations have scaled agile 100% of their operations. Do you maintain HR, marketing, or legal departments? They will appreciate the classic, timeline-based tools available in BigPicture.
Update: BigPicture version 8 delivers the last missing piece – the portfolio-level management and reporting. Plenty of SAFe organizations asked us: how do I display several ARTs at a time, on a single screen? Now, you can, with the new Overview module.
How to set up BigPicture for SAFe®?
Now, how to set up BigPicture for the SAFe® workflow?
Two whitepapers are a detailed manual. Note that one of them touches PI Planning with BigPicture, and the other one — BigPicture & Jira Pre-Configuration for SAFe®:
In a nutshell:
- Create ‘Initiatives’ project
- Have Epic – Capability – Feature – Story hierarchy in it
- Create ‘PI Objectives’ project
- Keep PI objectives and Iteration goals in it
- Make BigPicture align with Jira:
- BigPicture PIs synchronize with Jira Program Increments
- BigPicture iterations with Jira Sprints
- BP teams with ‘Team’ custom field
- Plan Program Increments using BigPicture Roadmap
- Plan Iterations using BigPicture Program Board
- Identify risks with BigPicture Risk matrix (ROAM layout)