Mixed approach of waterfall and agile
Let’s explore if you need BigPicture hybrid view.
Do you maybe feel, that your company is strange, because it’s neither waterfall, nor agile? That you have a little bit of both? Well, let me tell you straight away: you are not alone. Out of all the companies I’ve been working with, implementing BigPicture, or just doing the BigPicture training, I’d dare to say that less than 10% are working according to one chosen methodology. Most of the time I’m presented with a wild mix of anything that seemed to suit the situation and proved to be working in the particular case and / or environment.
Should methodologies be mixed like that?
I’m not going to answer that directly, but I will tell you this: each methodology was created to help companies manage their work in an efficient way. The difference is that they were developed in different times, different circumstances and different groups of people, therefore they bring different approaches to the same thing. If you ask me, I will tell you that it’s fantasic. As an experienced project manager I personally hate being capsuled in just one idea. I’m all in for flexibility and adjusting the processes and methodologies individually to each case, of course with moderation and cool-headed thinking, considering all pros and cons. There are companies that work pure Agile or pure SAFe, but these are exceptions. My guess is that there will be more, as the shift towards these methodologies is visible, but it is going to progress slowly and imperfectly, as always. Now bare in mind, I’m not saying that implementing just one methodology is bad. All I’m saying is that there are tens of requirements, hundreds of stakeholders to consider, and in many cases it’s just hard. Not impossible, but hard. That is why many settle for a compromise. BigPicture hybrid view is just that.
The most common situation
The most common mix I see is waterfall at high level and agile at bottom level. Why? Well that’s because the C-level people most of the time just despise the idea of uncertainty, volatility, rapidly changing environment. The plans need to be solid, dates need to be kept, scope needs to be constant with subject to change, but only to a certain, acceptable degree, which fits into the contingency reserve. I feel like the managers listen to agile preachers, they nod their heads, but in the end of the day they are not able to take the idea and bring it higher, which is a requirement for full agile company – everyone needs to be on board, CEO, Board of Directors, or any other top-decision-level body you have included. On the other hand, when it comes to distributing the tasks to teams, there is nothing bad with allowing them to work in an “agile way”. It’s still a compromise, because many times there are no story points, the change process is still limited, new versions are not deployed and presented every sprint, but some other ideas are implemented and they still help (sprint-based planning, retrospectives, multi-skilled teams or close cooperation with business stakeholders).
How can BigPicture help?
How to utilize the tool in this non-perfect world of mixed methodologies? BigPicture can actually help quite a lot with BigPicture hybrid view features.
Birds-eye view First of all, you can do a very high level strategic planning of your main activities on the Gantt, or as a set of BigPicture Programs. One way or another – you are able to get a global, long term view of your plans and portfolios.
But then you want to get to more details, and actually define which projects are going to be part of which programs, portfolios, initiatives (whatever your PMO structure is). This is where I’d suggest going into you team-based planning. To do it, you’ll need:
- Your project pipeline with parameters allowing you to decide the priority
- Estimates for your projects with effort for every team planned to be involved
- Your teams with their current workload and capacities.
Having that, you can actually distribute the work between teams, starting from your most important projects, and see how they fit in. You are not breaking down the WBS into individual pieces, you’re staying at the team level, filling in the team buckets, until the capacity is reached. You might notice, that some high priority projects do not fit into the puzzle, but can be successfully replaced by projects with lower value, yet a better fit to your teams layout. This is a game you’ll play. At the end of the day you will get a list of projects that best fit your teams’ capacities and you will be able to move forward with detailed planning.
When projects get accepted, there is a green light, budgets are distributed, the typical project work can run its course. Work Breakdown Structure get broken down into smaller chunks, that can be assigned to individual users. Team leaders or product owners make sure, that everyone gets their share of tasks, and the project plan starts to shine with new data, tasks, detailed estimates, and soon also log works and progress bars.
If there is any kind of agile environment at the team level, then it’s highly possible that at this point the focus has shifted from Gantt charts to sprints or Kanban boards. That is completely fine, because everyone is still working on the same environment – Jira. All the epics, user stories, tasks, sub-tasks, bugs, or any other work items are still in one place, which means that even if teams use them in their own way, as long as they provide accurate statuses and report progress, and also as long as the traceability is secured, the bottom-level items will feed the data to their parents, and the whole structure will live as one. It is not uncommon to see teams working on their sprints, and project managers, who need to report the progress to their directors, aggregating the same data on gantt charts. It’s like: “fine, you play with your toys however you want. I’m fine as long as the job gets done and I’m getting enough data to be able to effectively report it”.
BigPicture Hybrid view on Gantt Module
This is where BigPicture comes in handy again. Thanks to the fact that it has modules for both the agile and waterfall way, it allows you to bring them together, to some extent, and the place to look at is the Gantt Module.
The first thing I’d point out is the most important one and it is the use of the automatic synchronization to actually show sprints as items on your Gantt, and aggregate data beneath them. Every task assigned to a sprint can be displayed as a child of that sprint. This means that you can choose how to display your data. There are several synchronizers that you can enable, some of them work great together, some don’t, but if you choose a good combination, you can be surprised by the effect. You can actually even get this automatically if you choose a proper synchronization type while creating the program!
On top of that you can also combine the synchronizers with other functionalities of Gantt Module. I personally love the grouping, which allows you to quickly restructure the data and completely change the angle you’re looking at it. But you can also employ all the filters that you have, especially quick filters, search bar and JQL search.
Details of automatic synchronization and also insights and examples of how to use them can be found in our BigPicture training videos. If you feel unsure about your setup, consider having a look at it.
Another cool thing that you can do (and I know that this is heresy) is that you can actually put your tasks, that are to be done within the same sprint, in order and connect them with dependencies. I know, I know, when a task gets assigned to the sprint, you don’t define when it’ll be done, it’s up to the team. But this is not a typical scenario, and I’ve seen it too many times to ignore this kind of approach 🙂
Yet another simple and awesome way of helping the BigPicture hybrid view is a setting that allows you to highlight your Gantt chart with colors connected to sprints or iterations. What this does is that it shows one sprint with a color and a following sprint with a different color. This way you immediately see where sprints start, where they end. You also see which tasks fall into which sprint or iteration period, bringing you information about current time frames and expected delivery dates. It sounds simple and it is, but every visual help is always welcomed.
There is hope for mixed methodologies
As you can see the solutions are there. I can’t promise they will work for you, since I don’t know your setup and reasons for it, but I’m sure it’s worth giving it a try. With Jira project management add-ons comes a new era in which as a project manager you don’t walk around asking people about their status, but you plan the work, distribute it, and collect the data, which travels from the very bottom of an organization to the very top. All you need is a great tool, and BigPicture is definitely the top-notch from the current array of choices. For more information about the hybrid view I recommend reading this article.
We know that BigPicture is not a simple tool anymore. The great team behind it is making sure that we are getting new functionalities all the time, and being able to utilize the full potential of BigPicture requires knowledge. If you also feel that you might need help in implementing it or training yourself and your colleagues, consider having a look at our BigPicture on-line training prepared to help people like you reach their full potential in Jira-based project management.