Forecasting & Planning With Agile

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Problem: What is the best way to create a living, breathing Roadmap that follows the reality of an Agile development life cycle without much overhead required to maintain it?

One of our clients came to us with the problem above. For this post, we will call this client – Master Splinter. They have been using Atlassian’s Jira Software for a while now and have realized that with all this data they have accumulated within Jira, they should be able to do a much better job at predicting deliverables as well as be able to quickly see when timelines start shifting due to the realities of the software development processes. If only there was a tool that could easily aggregate all this data and display it for the tech and management teams to view.

I didn’t call them Master Splinter for nothing. This team was as wise as the old Sensei. They knew that Atlassian has a massive marketplace with different plugins available that do all sorts of useful stuff. However, with so many options to choose from, which is the best tool to do what they need? That’s where Sphere’s experts come in.

We talked to the stakeholders from team Master Splinter and helped identify the most important features they were looking for in this plugin:

  • General
    • Usability – This is often one of the major pain points with flexible and feature-rich application and plug-ins
    • Jira integration – Since team Master Splinter uses Jira, this is a crucial feature as all development tasks and burn rates are tracked in Jira
    • Collaboration support – Improving collaboration within your company is always important
  • Strategy
    • Portfolio Roadmap builder/viewer – The main problem being solved is the team’s ability to build roadmaps
    • Supports standard Jira initiative granularity: Tasks -> User Stories -> Epics -> Projects -> Programs – Important to avoid forcing a huge paradigm shift outside of standard implementation of Jira and related Agile concepts
  • Agile
    • Compatible with Agile Development paradigm – Obviously a critical point as any company tries to keep to an Agile process
    • Click-through to Jira Software’s agile assets – Seamless integration always makes for easier adoption
  • Program Management
    • Scheduling – Helps with modeling and what-if scenarios
    • Gantt Charts – Not super critical, but helpful to stakeholders for visualization
    • Progress Reporting – One of the most critical components that allows for real-time estimation and predictions
    • Historical Reporting – Helpful when analyzing trends

 

There were a number of other features that team Master Splinter did not find important enough to analyze. The only point from that list I will include below, is the cost of each plug-in.

Plugins we analyzed were: Portfolio for Jira, Tempo Folio, BigPicture, onepoint PROJECTS, and Wizeline. Probably not
surprising, but the winner was Atlassian’s own Portfolio for Jira. It got the highest marks for most of the items above.

Portfolio is very easy to use and integrates perfectly with Jira (it is developed by the same company after all). Once the plugin is installed, you can jump right in and start building your roadmap. Portfolio also gives you the ability to play with what-if scenarios without affecting the actual plan. If you find a better work breakdown, simply commit it to Jira and your roadmap will adjust in real-time.

Portfolio also has a very simple and easy to use Portfolio Roadmap builder (it’s in the name). It takes all your Jira history and turns it into a simple to digest plan and forecast with release dates that adjust real-time as your development team updates their daily tasks. As far as collaboration is concerned, none of these plugins add much to the existing communication tools that already exists within the Atlassian family of products.

Agile – what can I say about Agile? Portfolio and BigPicture are the clear winners here. Both support the Agile process and have the ability to click through to Jira’s Agile assets. BigPictire is somewhat better at the reporting piece due to their great support of Gantt charts thus providing better visuals.

Portfolio does a decent job at forecasting financial data, although we found that Tempo Folio is better at this particular item especially when it comes to cost and revenue calculations per initiative. Overall, Tempo Folio is better for pure financial
analysis, but somewhat lacks in the Agile process support as well as not supporting the standard Jira granularity of tasks,
user stories, etc.

When it comes to Program Management all of these plugins will do the job with the exception of Wizeline, which covers only Gantt charts from the full list of PM features listed above. Speaking of Gantt charts, BigPicture has the best Gantt chart
support, with no Gantts at Tempo Folio and some workable options with other plug-ins. So if Gantt charts are a critical
feature, you may want to look into BigPicture some more. Here’s our full analysis with scores in each category.

Click HERE to download this table in PDF format.

After looking at our analysis, team Master Splinter decided to go with Portfolio for Jira.
We worked with them to install and set everything up and they have begun using it.
Problem solved.

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