How to balance your resources using BigPicture – resource management in Jira

How to balance your resources using BigPicture – resource management in Jira 1330 560 Tom Pabich

Resources management is the 2nd most demanded feature of BigPicture, at least in my experience. I’m showing this tool to many customers and usually, after 15-20 minutes of presentation, when I’m still talking about all the cool functionalities of the Gantt Module, an impatient listener asks: “And what about resources? How do I make sure that the right person is working on the right task? That people are not overloaded? How do I plan for the future and how do I control the execution of my projects?“. Then I usually open up a Resources snippet on the Gantt and we dive right into it 🙂

How do you do your resource management?

BigPicture is very versatile and allows you to manage your people or teams on several different levels. Here is what I usually get when listening to my customers’ needs:

  • Managing teams with simple definition of team’s capacity, usually in agile environment – you don’t worry about individual capacity or allocation, you just want to manage it on the team level and you are ok with setting it up manually.
  • Managing teams with detailed user definition (workload and holiday plans, absences) – you don’t want to set the team’s capacity by hand, you’d prefer to have it calculated based on the team’s members and their availability (team assignment, workload and holiday plans, absences)
  • Managing individuals with global task assignments – you want to manage individuals and you just need to do it on a general level, globally for the whole organization, or maybe department. What you need is an ability to assign tasks to them and to be able to see how loaded with work the people are.
  • Managing individuals (possibly grouped in teams) per project with optional global view and optional detailed user definition (workload and holiday plans, absences) – you want to manage individuals per project, or initiative. You want to be able to assign the people to project teams and make sure that the team gets just enough work in their plan. You might also want to have a look at the broader picture and see how your people are working across several projects. You might, or might not be interested in managing the capacity details with plans and absences.
  • Managing teams for long-term planning and individuals for short-term planning and execution – you’re doing a long-term planning based on teams and then you’re getting down to more task-focused and individual approach. You need both advanced team and user management.

If you do not fall into any of those categories, then either I’m bad at defining the options, or unfortunately BigPicture will not meet your expectations. Well there might be one more thing I could add to the list above – skills-based planning – I didn’t list it as a separate option but it can be incorporated into many of the choices above, as long as you’re thinking about individuals, not teams.

Simple Team planning on Board

In my opinion this is the easiest place to plan work for your teams. You can basically define even empty teams, manually assign capacity to them and start dragging tasks to fill their bucket. Yeah, it’s that easy. You are restricted to working with time periods though (Program Increments and Iterations, which you can renamed to something else if needed, like quarters and months for example), but thanks to this you get some additional tools:

  • Totals supporting your planning process:
    • based on capacity,
    • aggregated by Story Points, Original Estimates or Remaining Estimates,
  • Totals supporting your execution phase:
    • based on work progress,
    • aggregated by Story Points, completed tasks or Time Spent.

You get those totals on the level of every team and every time box, which brings you a lot of information to keep you on track with what’s going on. I really like this simple resource management approach!

It’s worth remembering that Board is also a primary place for managing your agile teams. Come here without any hesitation if this is your thing. Everything here is built to help you reach your agile goals at scale (with more than just one team).

Resource management on Gantt

Another great place to start is the Gantt chart and the resources snippet, as I like to call it, that can be enabled there. It appears at the bottom of the screen and brings you a list of all the individuals assigned to tasks in the current view with their allocation. This way you can quickly look at the dates you’re interested in and check how your people are loaded with work. Thanks to coloring you quickly see who is overloaded and who should still be assigned to tasks. You can quickly switch between original estimates and remaining estimates too.

On top of that you always have the gantt chart visible, so it’s easy to see the tasks that cause an overload and figure out what to do with them. You see all the dependencies and you’re able to identify the proper action to take, which usually comes down to:

  • reassigning the work to a different person who is free at the given time,
  • moving the task to a different date,
  • changing the tasks’s duration,
  • breaking down a task into several smaller ones.

Something that I always point out here – remember about the grouping functionality. If you have a project plan with hundreds or thousands of tasks, then it might not be easy to locate the one or two causing the problem. Don’t worry though, just group your view by an assignee field and it’s going to become so much easier! Try it now, thank me later 🙂

Balancing allocation in the Resources Module

You might wonder why we’re getting here only as a 3rd option. Well that’s because even though Resources Module is built primarily for resource management, BigPicture got several other places that help with it too. That’s why sometimes you don’t even have to come here. But this module has it’s important use cases as well and it’s not going anywhere. There are things that you can do only here, so most likely you will work with this module if you’re working with waterfall or hybrid environments.

First thing to notice here is that you get more options to manage your resources view. A lot of them, to be honest:

  • you can manage who you’re looking at,
  • you can also decide what you want to see:
    • capacity and allocation?
    • or maybe just remaining allocation?
    • tasks?
  • data based on:
    • Story Points,
    • Original Estimates,
    • or maybe Remaining Estimates (this one is great for execution phase)?
  • you can change the scale and data aggregation period too.

So yes, you already have a lot of flexibility with these options.

That’s not all though. You can easily check what contributes to the displayed numbers of allocation just by clicking on the bar with the number. You can see task estimation details too. You can use automatic algorithms helping you find the best match for completing your tasks on the level of individuals and teams. How cool is that?

Since I’ve mentioned teams, this is a place where you can do the team planning too, just toggle between Individuals and Teams in the top-left corner.

And last but not least – skills are here too, so if you’re thinking about a skill-based planning then I’m sure you’ll be visiting this module quite frequently.

Managing detailed capacity

Since allocation visual information (coloring) is based on capacity, then capacity definition is something you might want to look into. BigPicture is really helpful here, since it allows you to influence capacity in 5 different ways:

  • assignment to project teams – you can assign someone to be available for a particular project at a percentage of his full availability,

  • workload plans – define standard work week for a person. Great for managing people working half-time, 3/4 or people working non-standard working days,

  • holiday plans – define fixed and floating holidays, extra working days (like working weekends),

  • absences – sick leaves, holidays, maternity leaves and what not,

  • efficiency multiplier – extra parameter that multiplies your capacity for various needs.

With that many options there is a good chance that you’ll be able to manage your resources properly, even in demanding environment. I think it’s also worth mentioning here that all of these features are here to help, whether you use them or not is up to you. It’s absolutely fine to pick just a subset of them if that’s enough.

BigPicture takes care of your resources

We take care of you 🙂

As you can see the options are there. As always figuring out which one to use and how to configure the tool is a challenge, but if you don’t want to have a go at it by yourself and you’d like our help, then feel free to reach out to us:

I’ll tell you what approach to take and what to look out for, free of charge 😉

P.S. Here is another resources management article on SoftwarePlant’s blog. It dives into a little more details if you’re ready for them! 🙂

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