SoftwarePlant has unveiled the latest release of its Jira integrated, PPM solutions. It has updated BigPicture, BigPicture Enterprise and BigGantt. Version 8.1 provides updates across three main themes: More control over time, clarity in strategic planning and enhanced experience. SoftwarePlant will roll out the new version in a Canary release for its cloud customers, rolling out to a small subset first. It will publish the update on the Atlassian marketplace and then ship to on-prem customers within a few weeks.
The biggest new feature in this release is a new Calendar module, though not the most interesting perhaps. There are also some significant improvements to the user interface, including new navigation features and better colour support.
Tom Kucharski, Co-founder & CEO, SoftwarePlant, commented, ”Since our mission is to rehumanize management through technology, our products are meant to spare managers time and effort needed for effective work management so that they can pay more attention to soft aspects of their job. The new release is yet another important step towards making our products more powerful and intuitive. Enterprise-grade software has been for years associated with hard-to-use, cluttered interfaces, and steep learning curves. We aim to augment advanced management software with ease of use typical for slick consumer applications”.
What isn’t clear from the release notes is which feature improvements are available in BigPicture and which for the larger clients in BigPicture Enterprise.
More control over time
The new Calendar module enables users to create, manage and visualise tasks in a fully customisable calendar grid. Users can create, edit and delete tasks either from within a cell using a right mouse click or accessing the menu at the top of the window. Users can drag and drop tasks between different days.
The default monthly view also contains a column with the upcoming tasks with a Jira gadget showing more details than in the limited grid view. It is also possible to export the calendar information to a PDF file.
The integration to Jira is also strengthened. Additional field mapping, including the one-way sync of both start and end date to an additional Jira field. This feature is one of the most requested by users. It enables Jira users to see the predicted end date of projects without having to enter BigPicture. In addition, the team field can have a separate mapping for each Jira project, and there is now support for multiple Jira instances for field mapping.
Another improvement included eliminating discrepancies between project schedules and portfolio timelines view with durations automatically calculated.
Clarity in strategic planning
It is now possible to align strategic goals with individual tasks and projects. It enables employees and managers to understand how their work is aligned to corporate goals. This helps maintain motivation and ensure that the workforce is aligned. In this release, there is no quantitative link. However, BigPicture plans to roll out the OKR (Objective Key Results) framework in a future release.
Resource Management is critical in all organisations. Resource Management receives some focus in this release. The Gantt module now enables managers to create different scenarios for the sequences, timeframes, and resource allocation for their initiatives. In scenario mode, users can experiment and then compare different variations of a resource plan before merging them into the live version.
With this release, SoftwarePlant has continued to enhance and modernise the user interface. There is a new navigation drop down that enables users to switch between modules quickly easily, with fewer clicks. Navigation between Boxes is also improved with the ability to follow breadcrumbs and retrace one’s steps. SoftwarePlant has also added access to the app configuration panel directly from BigPicture as well as via the Jira menu bar.
There is better flexibility for colour. All three editions with BigPicture, BigPicture Enterprise, and BigGantt now support a dark mode which changes the background to black, which some users prefer. Dark mode reduces the amount of blue light reaching the eyes. Dark mode can reduce screen glare. Research into whether a dark mode is better for the eyes is mixed. However, some users will prefer it, and importantly it delivers choice.
Version 8.1 also sees the introduction of colour themes. Colour themes enable an organisation to use its corporate palette across the application. While this is useful, it may not address issues such as colour blindness for some employees.
Enterprise Times: What does this mean
BigPicture is already used by over thirty thousand teams in more than 130 countries. These latest features see several iterative improvements in the software without anything major. The calendar update, though a new ”module”, has room for improvement
In a single release, it has introduced improvements against each of its strategic product objective. Other PPM vendors have also made similar updates recently. For example, Mavenlink with Dynamic Resource Optimisation, the Kimble PSA improvements for colour disability, scenario planning within Changepoint or Asana Goals. However, the updates for BigPIcture are mainly iterative. While this addresses some of the key concerns of customers, it will be interesting to hear what is next on the roadmap.
What is innovative is the breadcrumb navigation feature. Similar to the Hansel and Gretel breadcrumb trail it is easy to follow. This is a feature that other vendors should note. BigPicture is not the first to deliver this in an application, but its methodology is simple and easy to use.
Update: Software Plant have confirmed that all the above updates are included in both BigPicture and BigPicture Enterprise