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Sep 03

How do I track progress in BigPicture and BigGantt?

Measure progress of a taskWhen it comes to progress tracking, BigPicture and BigGantt add two things to plain Jira: (1) a visual layer, namely progress bars, and (2) an aggregation layer, i.e. the SUM and AVERAGE functions that calculate the progress of whole epics or projects. In this tutorial, we’ll review five methods of measuring progress available in BigPicture and BigGantt. All the discussed methods are present in both the Gantt chart and Scope modules.

Also check Part 2: Time tracking in BigPicture and BigGantt [4 areas]

Methods (1) and (2) use time tracking, while (3), (4) and (5) are more approximate and do not require estimating and logging time.

(1) Time Tracking (Spent)   New, recommended formula

We dare to call this method most accurate and close to real life. The ‘Time spent / (time spent + remaining estimate)’ formula – see the picture below – makes up for too optimistic planning. So if a project manager had estimated that a task would take 50 hours to complete, but once in the middle, it’s turning out that 100 hours may not be enough, then this method returns accurate completion rate at any given moment. The new Time Tracking (Spent) field is available in BigPicture 7.4 / BigGantt 4.2 and up. When adding this field to your Gantt chart / Scope view you obviously need to use the SUM function, so that high-level entities, such as epics, initiatives, or parents resulting from the WBS, stand for their children.

New method of progress tracking Jira BigPicture. Time tracking (Spent)


The key point in this method is to update the ‘Remaining estimate’ value whenever a task’s assignee feels the remaining estimate no longer reflects the true amount of up-front work. You’ve got the opportunity when logging time – see the picture below.

Log work Jira BigPicture task, adjust remaining estimate

An assignee can adjust the Remaining estimate whenever logging time.


Note that the progress bar has a numerical equivalent – the Time Tracking Progress (Spent) field:

BigPicture Time tracking (spent) vs. Time tracking progress (spent)


Finally, for maximum automation, go to Jira administration > Add-ons > BigPicture > Task configuration and map Time Spent + Remaining Estimate to task’s End date, as evident in the below screenshot. This way, bars in the timeline of the Gantt chart will automatically reflect any delays reported by team members.

Map End date of a task to Time Tracking Spent

The recommended setting: map task’s End Date with Time Spent + Remaining Estimate


(2) Time Tracking (Original) – the classic progress bar

The ‘100% – Remaining estimate/original estimate’ formula is a great metric and many clients do use it. However, it does not account for extreme cases, such as this one: let’s suppose a task had been originally estimated to 50 hours, but a team working on it is finding themselves at a point where they’ve logged 50 hours of work on that task, but they’re feeling the task still requires some 50 hours of work. Not far from real life, right? Well, according to the ‘Time Tracking (Original)’ field the progress of that task could be:

  • 0%, if the team has kept the ‘Remaining estimate’ field updated with the real-life value, so that the remaining estimate still amounts to 50 hours
  • or the progress could as well be 100% if the team didn’t care and has not updated the remaining estimate, instead allowing BigPicture to reduce it to 0 hours automatically, because of the 50 hours that have been logged on the task.

So, the method is obviously prone to issues resulting from the work culture of your country or individuals’ work ethics. Nevertheless, it continues to be a workhorse for definite tasks and projects. The Time Tracking (Original) formula is appropriate when your estimates (the ‘Original estimate’ field) are precise, and this is the case when you reiterate a standard procedure you’ve completed many times before.


Jira BigPicture original progress tracking

Contrary to the (1) the (2) had been available prior to BigPicture 7.4 / BigGantt 4.2. However keep in mind that:

  • The field had carried the ‘Time tracking’ name back then.
  • Even if you’ve upgraded to BigPicture 7.4 / BigGantt 4.2 or higher, it will remain in the pre-BP 7.4/BG 4.2 column views, under the former name, unless you update a particular view (administration rights may be required).


(3) ‘% of tasks completed’ method

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. Why not calculate the progress by dividing the number of tasks completed by the overall number of tasks? All your teams need to do is to keep updating tasks’ statuses: from ‘To do’, to ‘In progress’, and then to ‘Done’. Now, here is how a project manager would set his/her view for this simplest method of progress tracking:

(If you are a BigGantt user, you can configure a similar view in the Gantt chart.)

Percent of tasks completed method of tracking progress, Jira BigPicture Scope module

The sample portfolio of projects is 25,7% completed according to this simple and popular method. 54,9% of tasks remain in ‘To do’ status and 19,5% of tasks are under development (‘In progress’).


(4) % of story points completed

Now, let’s suppose your team or the whole organization use story points instead of the classic time tracking. How would you measure progress based on the story points? Pictured below is the Scope module of BigPicture with the ‘Story points’ field added to the view, and the ‘Children status categories in %’ aggregation added on top of the field. Note that the story points-based progress is weighted metrics. The ‘SCRUM-12 Project management’ epic is 63,6% completed according to the story points adjusted method and only 33,3% completed according to the (3), by status, method.

If you are a BigGantt user, you can configure a similar view in the Gantt chart.

Story points progress Jira BigPicture


(5) The manual ‘Progress’ field

What if none of the above four methods work for you? Here is the most manual, arbitrary and at the same time precise method of measuring progress; one using the BigPicture/BigGantt’s numeric ‘Progress’ field. It’s a task’s assignee who can say at any given moment how advanced the work is on the task, right? All they need to do is to keep updating the ‘Progress’ field, using 0-100 values. For instance, 40 would mark 40% through the task. Then a project manager or the PMO could use the following setup for their Gantt chart or Scope modules; note the ‘Average (No parent)’ aggregation added to the ‘Progress’ field.

BigGantt BigPicture progress field and slider


Note: it’s possible to enter negative, floating-point or even over-1000 values into the ‘Progress’ field, but it’s impractical and here is why:

Gantt chart’s progress slider

Methods (1), (2), (3), (4) and (5) can be applied to both the Scope and Gantt chart modules of BigPicture (BigGantt). There is one interesting advantage of the Gantt chart module, though – it’s the ‘Progress’ slider marked with the green marker in the above illustration. You can quickly update that 28 on the ‘Lead and manage the project team’ task by dragging the slider visible on the grey bar that represents the task on the Gantt chart. (The slider operates on integers within the 0-100 range, and this is why we said it’s impractical to put non-standard values into the field.)

Even better, you can link the ‘quick slider’ to fields other than the ‘Progress’ field. To map the slider with another field go to:

Jira administration > Add-ons > Task configuration > Progress field

We suggest that you link the slider to either the ‘Progress’ or ‘Time tracking progress’ metrics, see the illustration below. With the latter selected, manipulating the slider’s pointer back on the Gantt chart, you effectively influence the ‘Remaining estimate’ value, and therefore the (1) and (2) progress bars. Read more on the slider in BP/BG docs.


BigPicture BigGantt task configuration progress

However, it’s the Scope module which is more flexible and quicker when setting-up custom views. So if you’re on BigPicture (BigGantt does not have the Scope) we recommend giving The Scope a try when the progress tracking is your goal.

Reports – a visual layer

Not a tracking tool per se, the new Reports module (available in BigPicture) has drillable pie and column charts, such as ‘Status per Assignee’. Check these screenshots.


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.