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Does Jira Align support waterfall-type of development/portfolios, along with Agile?

Agile has become a widely recognized term, yet it's important to acknowledge that it doesn't suit every organization perfectly. Many companies globally have successfully implemented Agile methodologies in certain areas of their operations, while other segments continue with traditional practices. This is not always by choice but often due to the specific demands of their industry, such as construction, manufacturing, or healthcare. These sectors may not easily adapt to Agile practices like those in software-centric organizations.

In organizations that blend agile and non-agile teams, managing work becomes cumbersome due to the disparate methodologies employed across these diverse groups. Leaders who have navigated this complex scenario often recognize the necessity of establishing a unified approach to streamline processes and enhance collaboration.

Organizations can employ Jira and Jira Align to support Agile at Scale methodologies, while simultaneously managing projects that follow traditional approaches with different tools. Can there be a possibility of merging these methodologies into a single solution?

  • Can there be a solution that meets both the requirements of Agile at Scale and those of traditional project management?

THE NEED: As a senior leader, I have part of my organization working in Agile, while we still have teams following the Traditional project management approach.

The wish list:-

As a senior leader, I want to

  1. plan for the entire organization at a strategic level

  2. have one lens to track progress horizontally have a budgeting review across the organization

  3. have a budgeting review across the organization
  4. track OKR at an enterprise level

  5. see how the organization’s vision is connected to deliverables at a Portfolio/Project level

  6. have dependency management on a similar dashboard irrespective of ways of working

  7. do annual/multi-year planning on a single dashboard

  8. track the status of my initiatives

  9. connect my initiatives to OKR and track progress for initiatives and Key results in one snapshot

Let’s deep dive into the potential solutions for this wishlist and how Jira Align can enable this.

1. Plan for the entire organization at a strategic level

While endeavoring to create a unified strategy that accommodates both agile programs/Agile Release Trains (ARTs) and traditional non-agile projects, our goal is to consolidate this information into a single dashboard. This dashboard would offer flexibility in planning timelines, allowing for weekly, monthly, or quarterly views. For non-agile projects, adopting a Gantt chart approach proves more effective due to its sequential nature—covering stages such as requirements analysis, design, development testing, and deployment—in an orderly progression. Additionally, incorporating agile work items within 2-week sprints enables the continued adoption of agile planning methodologies. This comprehensive overview not only delineates the status of whether a task belongs to either an agile program or a non-agile project but also presents other pertinent details necessary for informed planning and execution.


Roadmap - one view

Roadmap can help provide a visual representation of how the work(tasks) line up against each other in their current quarter and how they are linked together. They offer a holistic view of your quarters and the ability to manage the work within the quarter, for example, changing the start and end dates or setup the health.

From the organization’s perspective, there are three main verticals of the roadmap:

  • Planning upfront

  • Tracking while the work is being done

  • Reporting throughout

Mainly, the roadmaps are aimed at the executive level management, and project managers who can work with roadmaps through the top-down and bottom-up views.

2. One lens to track progress horizontally

A strategic leader would want to have a comprehensive snapshot of progress for every work item across quarter(s), an expandable view that breaks down the progress at each level of the work item hierarchy from projects--> stages--> tasks. These insights are invaluable for project and portfolio managers aiming to monitor the advancement of all tasks in a snapshot. Furthermore, it empowers portfolio and company executives to oversee how efforts align with strategic objectives, ensuring that the company moves forward in fulfilling its strategic commitments as promised to the board of directors.

In the overview below for the non-Agile initiative, project managers are able to monitor the progress of every sequential stage within the project, delving into the details of tasks associated with each stage.


WorkTree - Hierarchial work progress

Strategy View orchestrates your work according to strategy alignment and tracks collective advancement toward those strategies across various programs. By default, this view presents all strategies within the organization, structuring the hierarchy from strategy to theme, cascading through epics, features, and stories. The progress indicators for initiatives and projects, along with their stages, reflect their acceptance rate within a theme.

It's crucial to compare progress bars against each task related to a strategy. There should be a minimal discrepancy between task progression compared with stage completion rates. Projects naturally may lag due to their broader scope across quarters. A significant gap between task completion and stage progression often signals prioritization issues—usually an overextension across too many features simultaneously. Concentrating on completing individual features before advancing additional stories can mitigate this issue substantially. These backlog management practices will aid in identifying bottlenecks affecting the core development.

This enables pinpointing areas needing attention or adjustments, such as re-prioritizing certain items or modifying project scopes as necessary, thus facilitating targeted intervention where needed most effectively.

3. Budgeting review across the organization

Progress of project work is tracked on a quarter-by-quarter basis, with a focus on inspecting the funding at the project, stage, and task level. This includes comparing the amount consumed across each quarter to the funding allocated for the project stages.

The portfolio room acts as a control panel for the Portfolio Leadership team and supports its primary functions:

  1. Refining business strategy and allocating budgets to strategic projects

  2. Identifying, prioritizing, authorizing, and funding projects

  3. Adjusting staffing levels of project stages to align with expected demand for prioritized projects

  4. Providing fiduciary governance of execution across projects

Additionally, it serves as an information radiator that helps track decision-making from various perspectives:

  • Financials - Ensuring that emerging spending aligns with target funding levels (budgets) set.

The provided snapshot offers an overview of:

  1. Quarter/PI Roadmap: Illustrates months by quarter and the percentage completed based on tasks finished per project stage.

  2. Team Cost by Quarter/PI: Displays each Quarter/PI alongside funding and cost values.

  3. Work Spend: Lists each Project and underneath stages associated with selected Quarter/PI(s).


Portfolio Room - Financial Tracking

4. Track OKR at an enterprise level

Objectives are set not only at the team level but also at a strategic level. As a senior executive, it's important to connect strategy to execution. This involves linking the strategic objective to projects, regardless of whether they follow agile or non-agile methods.

As a strategy leader, you can align strategic objectives with project-level goals for both agile and non-agile projects and monitor the key outcomes resulting from these alignments, by considering the following structure:

Strategic objective

Project(non-agile) level objective

Stage-level objective

→ Task level objective

Objective at the Initiative level

Objective at ART level

Objective at the team level

The Objective Tree in Jira Align presents the hierarchy of objectives and goals through cards. If a selected objective or goal lacks any parents or children, it will be displayed as the sole item in the tree. Each card provides details such as the objective or goal score, name, owner’s profile image, number of aligned (child) objectives/goals, and number of key results. Click on any card's name to open the Details slide-out.

Progress towards key results is indicated by a blue bar at the top of each card, representing cumulative progress across all key results.

Hovering over a card allows you to use green arrows on each edge to hide or show peer, child, and parent objectives/goals. This functionality enables you to expand or collapse the tree:

OKR List View

5. The organization’s vision is connected to deliverables at the “Portfolio” & “Project/ART” level

The OKR hub provides a representation of the parent and child hierarchy between related objectives and strategic goals. It also helps to understand the relationship between strategic goals and objectives you’ve set at different levels of your organization and ensure that child objectives and goals are written in such a way that they inform the next level above.

OKR hub gives users an updated experience for creating and viewing OKRs by bringing goals and OKRs together and showing the relationships between them and their children’s objectives.

Project level objective connected to deliverables at the Project level

Stage level objective to Stages (Analysis, Development, Testing, Deployment)

Team level objective connected to Tasks associated with project stages


6. Dependency management irrespective of ways of working

The initial step in managing dependencies within the traditional project management model is to identify them. This can be achieved using various techniques, including creating a work breakdown structure (WBS) to hierarchically represent the project's scope, deliverables, and tasks; utilizing a network diagram to graphically display the project's tasks and their dependencies through arrows indicating direction and type of dependency; employing a Gantt chart for a visual representation of the project's schedule, tasks, and dependencies with bars denoting task duration and overlap. It is essential to have a tool that enables you to identify and visualize these dependencies.

Managing dependencies is one of the key challenges of product development, especially in the Waterfall model. Dependencies are the relationships between tasks, stages, or projects that affect their order, duration, or quality

When a team does not have everything it needs to deliver an increment of value, a dependency is created. Dependencies function as agreements between teams that are responsible for ensuring that commitments are agreed upon and that work is completed punctually.

How can this be managed in Jira Align?

Scenario 1: Dependency between the phase of Non-Agile Project - example - Between Development Stage and Testing Stages

Scenario 2: Dependency between phases of 2 different Non Agile Projects - example - Between the Development stage of Project A and with Development Stage of Project B

Scenario 3: Dependency between Agile Team and Project Stage of Non-Agile team - example - Between Agile Team Alpha and Non-Agile Project Development Stage

Scenario 4: Dependency between Agile Release Train and Non Agile project, see the image below

Dependency between Agile ART & Non Agile Project

Scenario 5: Dependency between the Non Agile project/ or one of its stages with an external entity (Vendor/Supplier)

Scenario 6: Dependency between Agile Release Train and Non Agile project stage(s), see the image below

Dependency between Agile ART & Non Agile Project Stages

Hence dependencies can be created between Agile Release Train/ Agile Team & Non Agile project/ Project Stages/ External entities. The unified view of dependencies, irrespective of ways of working, is one of the most important elements that Jira Align offers.

7. Annual/multi-year planning on a single dashboard

The portfolio room provides a unified dashboard that goes beyond the boundaries of quarters and has the option to visualize the progress on a yearly basis from Quarter to Quarter.

The Annual view displays months across the year, along with quarterly progress.

Quarter/PI Roadmap shows % completion based on completed work items for specific Project Stages. 

The Right panel displays Each quarter, with its current status and percent complete in terms of effort from completed work items versus total efforts. The view can clearly showcase the percentage completition for Agile ART as well as Non Agile projects.

The calculation is based on

((Sum of effort/estimates from completed work associated with the Project stages(s) and planned for the quarter) / (Sum of effort/estimates from all work associated with the Project stages(s) and planned for the quarter)) * 100

Portfolio Room- Yearly work Progress

8. Track the status of initiatives

Going further into details, one can visualize both Agile and Non-Agile Initiatives in a nested view, going down into details of progress from Non-Agile Project → Project Stages and tasks beyond, similarly for Agile initiative → Epics and stories.

The portfolio room serves as a control panel for the Portfolio Leadership team as it performs its primary functions:

  1. Refining the business strategy and allocating the budget to the strategic/investment themes

  2. Defining and funding the decentralized Value Streams

  3. Identifying, prioritizing, authorizing, and funding project stages (with support from Value Streams)

  4. Adjusting the funding (staffing levels) of Projects/ Agile Release Trains to match the expected demand represented in the prioritized work backlogs (e.g. a three-quarter lookahead)

  5. Providing fiduciary governance of execution across the portfolio's Value Streams

Portfolio Room - Quarterly work progress

9. Connect my initiatives to OKR and track progress for initiatives and Key results in one snapshot

The Objectives Tree report provides a visual representation of the hierarchy between related objectives and their overarching strategic goals. You can see parent and child relationships between objectives and goals, linked together in either a list or a family tree view.

To view the strategic goal and objective hierarchy, use the tabs at the top of the page to select an objective or goal level. 

In the main section of the page, objectives and goals at the selected level are displayed as items in a list. If an objective or goal has a child’s objectives or goals, you can click the arrow next to its name to display them.

The following objective and goal information are displayed as columns in the list.

  • Name and description

  • Key Results

    • Scores

    • Percent of target achieved

  • Owner

  • Number of aligned objectives or goals

  • Key Result Progress: Color-coded bar, displays the percentage of completed key results.  

  • Work Progress: Color-coded bar. On goals, displays the percentage of completed stories related to the goal. On objectives, displays the percentage of completed work items directly tied to the objective.

  • Score: Displays the score for the objective or goal. Objectives that haven’t had a baseline value set or progress recorded on key results will display a score of N/S (not scored). 

Parent objectives and goals in the tree can also be filtered by status, health, target completion date, and/or owner.


OKR Hierarchial View

1 comment

Renato Cardoso Botto May 12, 2024

great post. I thought Jira Align was for pure AGILE enterprise. We are hybrid!
Good to know!


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