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Jul 18

Jira Waterfall: How to use Jira for classic projects?

Can you use Jira for Waterall?

—Yes. And we mean Waterfall, not Agifall hybrid projects. The trick is, however, that Jira will not be a perfect fit straight out of the box.

Jira is primarily an agile project management software. However, Atlassian is aware that many organizations and teams do not follow the agile way. To support such organizations and teams, Atlassian has been gradually adding classic-friendly features. Yet, the current functionalities available in plain Jira are too limited to allow for comfortable and efficient managerial work.

That is why the best way of managing Waterfall projects in Jira is by utilizing Jira’s core functionalities along with a dedicated Jira Waterfall plugin such as BigGantt.

Today, we will cover:

What is the Waterfall project management methodology?

The Waterfall (classic) is a linear, thorough, and structured methodology. Each phase of the classic project steadily cascades downwards into the next one like a waterfall. With this model, you collect stakeholder and customer requirements at the beginning of the project. Only then can you create a sequential project plan to accommodate those requirements.

What is the Waterfall methodology suitable for?

You will find classic projects in industries such as construction, manufacturing, IT, and software development. As an example, the Waterfall Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) is still a popular choice for managing software engineering projects that have clearly defined shapes. In short, the Waterfall is a fine choice when you know all the requirements of the product upfront. It also works well when your customers do not wish to commit to iterative cycles.

What are the phases of the Waterfall model?

Typically, there are four to seven phases and all of them follow the same linear strict order. A strict order means that in Waterfall, each phase depends on the product and deliverables of the subsequent phase. It also means that you cannot revisit the phase that has already been finished.

For example, you cannot start building walls before the foundations are in place. And once you lay down those foundations, it would be impossible to repeat this process. (Unless your client changes their mind halfway and is willing to pay for demolishing and starting over. But let’s agree this is not a particularly realistic scenario.)

The 6 phases of the Waterfall model typical to software development.

The names and the number of phases vary across the projects and industries. In software development lifecycle (SDLC) specifically, we can identify the following phases:

Phase 1: Requirements

During the first phase of any Waterfall project, you analyze business needs and collect customer requirements which you will also need to document. The project documentation typically describes each phase of the project, including the costs, risks, dependencies, success metrics, and timelines for completion. The Requirements phase is critical to project success because it serves as the basis for completion.

Phase 2: Planning and Design

The second phase of the Waterfall lifecycle is for creating an overall plan for the project’s main deliverable. First, you ideate the logic of the product, i.e., plan for possible design solutions. And then, you turn those solutions into physical specifications (e.g., architectural plans, user flows, website wireframes). Depending on the project’s goal, it could be a design of a software system; a design of a building or bridge; a design of a marketing campaign, etc.

Phase 3: Build and Development (implementation)

The implementation phase is when your project team members turn the requirements and specifications from the previous phases into an actual product. For example, a team of programmers codes the website based on the design produced by the UI designers. If some critical changes are necessary for this phase, it could mean going back to the Planning and Design phase.

Phase 4: Testing (verification)

Before you can release the final product to customers, your team should check whether there are any errors and whether the product has met all of the requirements. Documents from the previous phases (e.g., design documents, personas, user case scenarios) will constitute the basis for creating the test cases.

This is is the riskiest phase because you do not know what errors or defects your testers (or your customer) will find and how they will impact the project timeline.

Phase 5: Deployment

At this stage, you should have a bug-free product that meets the requirements. Now, you can release it to your customer.

Phase 6: Maintenance and Support

You deployed the product in the market or released it to the customer, and therefore, it is time to maintain and support it. As defects are found and change requests come in from users, you want to assign a team to take care of updates or support. This is the optional phase as not every product requires consecutive maintenance.

In a simplified version of Waterfall in IT, you can typically identify Initiation, Planning, Execution (and Monitoring), and Closing.

Classic project with Jira and BigGantt

BigGantt project management software will help you structure your classic project processes and manage them with ease. You will be able to organize and schedule your tasks and visualize them on Gantt charts. BigGantt also comes with a rich selection of built-in features that will let you track your project’s progress as it moves through the phases.

Let’s dive into the topic in detail and see how BigGantt makes Jira Waterfall project management a reality—and a true breeze.

Create or import your Jira project

You can easily import your Waterfall Jira project to BigGantt, or create a new one using the initiative templates. What are they? Templates can represent any large collection of portfolios, programs, or projects that you want to structurize and manage. Among many template types, you will find a template dedicated to classic projects. It will hold your Jira Waterfall project and let you manage its crucial aspects, such as scope and security.

Moreover, you will also be able to use your favorite Jira filters, as well as enhanced JQL to search for or display project items you need.

Use a Work Breakdown Structure

Every project needs a plan and a structure. A work breakdown structure (WBS), specifically, shows how each task contributes to the whole and leads to the final deliverable. If you have already created a structure in Jira, then you do not need to do it again as BigGantt seamlessly integrates with Jira.

If, however, your project hierarchy lives in another file, for example in a spreadsheet, it will not be a problem either. Simply import your file with tasks to BigGantt and you will be able to use it with Jira, too.

Once you have your task structure in place, you can fine-tune or change it in many ways. For example, by customizing the column views and the aggregations you want to see. In the same structure view, you can also inline edit task names, re-arrange them with a drag-and-drop feature, add new tasks, and group them. Such flexibility will allow you to manage your classic projects how you see fit.

Work breakdown structure panel in BigGantt.

Create What-If scenarios

The Waterfall model heavily relies on sequentiality and therefore, one hiccup in a phase could affect the one that follows. With BigGantt’s scenario mode, you can test your project for different scenarios. It will help you compare the outcomes and choose the best version for your Jira Waterfall project.

You can consider using what-if scenarios at any point. However, most likely the best time is at the beginning of any major decision-making process or upon hitting certain milestones.

Visualize your project with a Gantt chart

A Gantt chart (or a bar chart) is the tool that most people associate with Waterfall. (But the truth is that you can use Gantt charts in Agile, too). It visualizes your WBS against a timeline so that you can clearly see what comes when and in what order.

A cascading structure visualized by colored bars on a Gantt chart.

BigGantt is arguably the best Gantt chart software for Jira you will find on the market. Once you have your tasks ready in Jira, BigGantt will automatically project them on a timeline based on their start and end dates. Moreover, you will be able to zoom in and out of the chart view or fit the scale to see the particular task you want on the timeline.

Additionally, you can add markers to mark important dates on your project timeline.

Create baselines, critical path, and milestones

Baselines, critical path, and milestones are all indicators of your project progress. You can add all of them to your Gantt chart using BigGantt. 

Milestones separate major phases in the Jira Waterfall project. And since the classic model is all about structure and progressing from one phase to another, breaking your project into milestones is crucial. Baselines, on the other hand, will tell you if your Jira Waterfall project is ahead or behind the schedule, so you can act accordingly. And finally, a critical path will visualize the minimum time necessary to complete your entire project.

A Gantt chart featuring a critical path, baselines, and milestones.

You can look up baselines, critical path, and milestones in the Infobar to always be up-to-date with how your project is moving along.

Determine dependencies

Task dependencies represent the order in which your teams must complete the tasks. They enable you to work out the optimal task order and the fastest route through your Jira Waterfall project. Tasks can have multiple predecessors and successors.

In Jira, you can indicate dependencies with Issue Links, however, they will not impact your schedule. In BigGantt, on the other hand, you can map Jira links to Strong dependencies. They will not only impact dependent tasks but will also auto-schedule them in case you make any changes. If you do not want your links to have any influence on the tasks schedule, you can map your Jira Issue Links to Soft dependencies.

Manage resources and their workload

Resource management is one of the key duties of project leaders. They often manage team members across projects and need to ensure that none of them is overloaded. Since your resources are likely to be assigned to project-based teams that change regularly, gaining an understanding of when and where people are already committed becomes especially important.

BigGantt comes with the Resources panel that visualizes the capacity of individual assignees. You can display workload as aggregated values in daily, weekly, or monthly intervals. The green color indicator will tell you when a given resource is under-allocated, orange—when the workload is moderate, and red—when the capacity is exceeded.

The Resources panel in BigGantt (bottom section).

After estimating your resources, you add them to your project schedule against their respective tasks. This way, you create a resource calendar that will show you when particular resources are available and needed. You can edit and update the availability calendar whenever you need to re-allocate resources or update your project schedule.

Track your Jira Waterfall project progress

Baselines, critical path, dependencies, and milestones are only a few of the methods you can leverage for tracking task progress. There are also various time-tracking columns and aggregation methods that will give you insights into your project’s health. For example, task percent complete which is represented as a fill on the taskbar.

A WBS (task list) view in BigGantt featuring various columns that, among others, show project progress. You can add and remove columns, customize their aggregations, and create different views.

In BigGantt, you can calculate the task progress using different fields and formulas. You will also see the task progress displayed as a column, on the taskbar, and on the task details dialog.

About The Author

Content writer at BigPicture. Previously, Aggie worked for SaaS companies writing specifically about eCommerce and marketing. As a continuous learner and advocate for knowledge-sharing, she creates content for beginners as well as more advanced readers. She loves clean plant-based food and morning workouts.