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Complex Planning Using Jira Add-Ons

Jira, Atlassian Add-Ons, Project Management


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There are many ways to plan, and there are lots of tools to help you plan. Planning with project data in Jira is always an interesting area as Jira, without any add-ons, focuses on enabling a small team's ability to plan. Out of the box, Jira is not very good at dealing with cross-team and complex planning scenarios. I've often heard from teams that one of the reasons they choose Jira is they like the emphasis on the team's planning capabilities, as well as how Jira can be customized for the way their team plans projects.

Once Jira starts gaining popularity across multiple project teams (and it always does) we need to start asking, "how can we roll up all this activity into a road map and do a better job planning for our whole organization?"

I often hear people tell me they want to have a single view across all projects... and I've never met a tool that could automatically meet that requirement. This question always feels like someone asking for software that will make them successful (no!) instead of software that can help their people use their brains to be more successful (yes!).

Here’s an overview of the three planning add-ons for Jira. These three are the best options when you are addressing an enterprise planning need. There are many ways to do planning right in your Jira projects, and there are other planning oriented Jira add-ons that are great at extending core planning capabilities.

I'll talk about how each tool helps people use their brains to be more successful. I'll also talk about how each tool addresses the single view question.


Portfolio for Jira

Available for both cloud and server, Portfolio for Jira is primarily used by teams that are doing product development, though it is also useful for any team that wants to:

  • see a road map of when all teams will be done with work
  • listen in on how work is being done by each team while allowing the team to determine how they organize and plan their specific work
  • understand how individual team planning activities affect each other teams (when one team decides they will do something later, how will that affect when other teams can do related work)
  • know how all the teams are aligning their work around strategic alignment


Where can you learn more about Portfolio for Jira?

There are great docs on how to use it, and Atlassian maintains a You Tube playlist on their channel for additional context and to "see it action". This is most useful for teams that have long since mixed Waterfall and Agile methodologies (which is inevitable) and have a desire for a data driven roll up of the planning decisions all the teams are making. Put another way, it's a really good option for organizations that have teams that need plans but hate planning.


How does Portfolio for Jira do the Single View plan

Since the focus is on 'deriving' plans from teams, the "single view" is excellent for outcome based planning. It's single view is focused on questions like when will we be ready to deliver this feature / service / capability?



Tempo has a suite of add-ons

Tempo’s add-ons stack up. In our case, the question is if Tempo Planner is the right fit. Learning if you want to use Tempo Timesheets makes it easier to determine if Tempo Planner should even be considered. Tempo is especially suited for tracking very detailed costs, expenses and profits measures against tasks completed in Jira.


Where can you learn more about Tempo's add-ons?

The Tempo PPM landing page provides an excellent overview of how Tempo’s full suite of add-ons is used for planning.

This isn’t a really one add-on. Some add-ons are available for cloud and server, potentially having different features depending on if they are used for cloud or server.


How do Tempo's individual add-ons combine to deliver plans?

Let's go through the three Tempo add-ons used for planning.


Tempo Timesheets

Most organizations evaluate this add-on around the question, “do we do timesheets?” Tempo Timesheets does more than timesheets (though it does do timesheets especially well). For planning, it’s especially useful for tracking issues to accounts that are completely independent of the Jira project configurations. This means planners can organize how time logging activities in Jira projects roll up to different cost or profit centered reports.


Tempo Planner

This add-on grants the ability to plan when people will work on issues, and it surfaces these plans on the person's timesheet. They can use their timesheet to check if they are logging time on what we planned for them to do, as opposed to what they thought they should have done.


Tempo Budgets (server only)

This add-on uses a financial based model for tracking projects.

You can track your budget-based burn with a focus on financial tracking. This is especially useful when you:

  • are tracking Capex vs. Non-Capex activities that mix together within teams
  • want a roll up of individual budget plans for specific team based reports for customers, that then roll up to lines of business and then to the entire organization
  • approach planning as a combination of specific expenses and resources at a very detailed level
  • need to track and report on resource usage based on actual costs for team members
  • want to also show profitability based on different cost tables for different efforts


How does Tempo Budgets do the Single View plan

Because the focus is on financial accounting at a detailed level, your group will roll up reports into financial tracking for each area of focus. These can be nested to collect a single view across a business unit, and then nested again to achieve a single view for the whole organization.

It's a good approach when you have accounting based project management and planners working with your teams to make sure they are tracking their time, expenses, and profit in Jira projects.


Big Picture

Organizations that are used to a traditional top-down approach to project management typically don't want their teams to have to worry about modeling their financial tracking activities. The organization has a lot of established process. They just want to build a plan and then watch the team execute against that plan.

This typically is the case when the planners ask for a good Gantt tool that can be used with Jira.

Big Picture is useful when you:

  • want to leverage traditional project management analysis techniques like Work Breakdown Structure, Critical Path Analysis and Risk Matrices
  • have a project management Center of Excellence that directs the execution teams on how to organize and track their projects
  • don't mind having a person create and maintain plans and adjusting the plan manually as part of your change management (just as you do when using any GANTT based planning tools)

This is very different from how Tempo and Portfolio for Jira are both better for monitoring what the teams are deciding to do next and deriving the plan from everyone's updates.


Where can you learn more about Big Picture?

For evaluation purposes, I’d go with Big Picture’s Free Training landing page.


How does Big Picture do the Single View plan

Big Picture provides many different ways to organize plans and these plans are very focused on encapsulating execution. The Single View plan view for Big Picture feels more like a diagram that links to these individual plans. Put another way, the Single View reporting in Big Picture is much more focused on expressing the judgement based assessment of your execution rather than on a data driven roll up derived from more detailed plans.

This sounds like a shortcoming, but because the plans you create in Big Picture encapsulate resource planning, a multiple milestone based delivery lifecycle, complex dependencies, detailed resource capacities and work breakdown structures, the data driven roll up is in each plan.


Managing JIRA at Scale White Paper

TAGS: Jira, Atlassian Add-Ons, Project Management

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