SoftwarePlant is now BigPicture! Learn more
Feb 03

Visual Project Management Board. A cork board vs. software

Two types of Visual Project Management boards exist in real-life project management: traditional Post-it-based boards and software boards. Let’s look closer at the pros and cons of both.

Visual project management board

Digital or manual? It turns out, there are beauties in both types of visual project management boards.

Short story

As they are flexible, pinboards with sticky notes are great for the planning stage of a project. But when the project makes it to the execution phase, computerized versions of visual project management boards prove more efficient.

SAFe®, with its complexity, calls for a whiteboard in the initial stage of the project, but some kind of PPM software later on. We recommend Jira with BigPicture app.


Manual visual project management boards

Whiteboards, post-it, markers

Traditional project management tools, such as whiteboards, prove efficient during brainstorming.

Be it a corkboard, a pinboard, a magnetic board with Post-its attached, or a whiteboard with marker pens. These simple project management tools date back to the early 20th century and continue their career into the 21st century. Project managers attend drawing courses to this day. Why have traditional boards proved so popular?

Sticky note boards are super flexible

Within 10 minutes a project manager can completely rearrange sticky notes pinned to a corkboard. This is useful during the brainstorming stage when the project is still vague and uncertain. In this phase, nobody really cares if the glue doesn’t hold and a sticky note comes off of the board at night.

With whiteboards, on the other hand, it’s super easy to underline, cross out, and add a new column. Few project management apps deliver this kind of flexibility.


Digital visual project management boards

Visual project management board, roadmap

Roadmap – one of many visual project management boards in BigPicture. This particular board reflects SAFe® PI Planning guidelines.

Now that we’ve praised the pinboards, let’s look closer at how software boards perform better.

  • Say, you made a plan a year ago, and your team is now gathering to compare the once set goals to the real-life results. Digital roadmaps and baselines in the project management software will show you what went well and on schedule and what went wrong. A feature of comparison cannot usually be achieved with a sticky note system.
  • When your team is dispersed around the world it’s just impractical to manage processes with a physical board. Even a team dispersed across floors in the same building is usually too big for a sticky notes system.
  • When a team exceeds 5 people it’s usually time to change the corkboard to some kind of visual project management software.


Example 1: when a project is too big to be managed with a physical board

Think of: (a) writing an article as opposed to (b) authoring a book. For (a) a sheet of paper would be enough for the sheet’s sketching capabilities and flexibility. But (b) is large enough for some kind of software. Long shot.

Example 2: a huge team uses sticky notes

Yes, some corporations still use the visual project management boards based on Post-it notes. They are just rich enough to pay an office assistant to enter the project data into some kind of PPM software at the end of a day. With big teams, it would just cost too much to give up the benefits of sharing knowledge across the teams.


Visual project management boards in Jira and SAFe®

People laugh at project managers with their childish yellow and pink sticky notes. But colors just do their job. No wonder project management software boards tend to be color-based with a notable example of traffic lights plugins in Jira. All they do is display a traffic signal with a green, yellow, or red light, based on the severity of an issue.

However, a true abundance of visual project management tools is only present in third-party apps for Jira, especially those SAFe® compliant, such as BigPicture:

  • roadmaps, especially those with red and green arrows standing for task dependencies
  • research “Scaled Agile Framework metrics” key phrase, most of them are picture-based. Some best known are:
    • Program Predictability Measure
    • Lean Portfolio Management Self-Assessment radar

It’s just not viable to draw a credible graph on paper. This is where project management software, such as BigPicture, has the edge over cork boards.

Visual boards in Trello

Targeted at small businesses rather than corporations, Trello project management software is even simpler than Jira. Although boards are basically what Trello is all about, when a project manager needs data aggregation, Trello cries for apps such as BigPicture. With BigPicture for Trello, the project manager is able to follow Scaled Agile Framework “visual” guidelines.


Could both manual and digital project management boards be used together?

Yes! Back in the 2000s, it was a common practice to manage projects with MS Excel. A project manager would glue together A4/Letter printouts. The resulting papyrus would later be amended with a pen during weekly team meetings. The ink’s concentration would suggest where the real problems were. Remarks made with a pen would later be entered into the Excel sheet.

Why is MS Project losing?

Research “Microsoft Project” on Google Trends. One of the pioneers in the visual project management boards market is losing. This behemoth app is in a way similar to a magnetic board. In the era of integration, when an analyst, a financial department, etc. all use their own software, MS Project does not integrate with other tools. Just like a corkboard.

Who does integrate then? BigPicture has visual project management boards and integrates with Jira and will soon integrate with Trello and Google Calendar. Now, search Google for “visual project management boards with integration”. What software houses does Google show?

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.