Epic Visualisation for a Product

March 7, 2012

Today I received an interesting email from a GreenHopper customer. Thushara Wijewardena of Exilesoft and her team were wondering if we have a visualisation similar to the following:

At first I was unsure how to interpret the chart, suffice to say it had high information density. Thushara explained that the goal of the above chart is to provide visibility into a product, in this case a feature release roadmap. Thushara could easily do this on a physical wall, although the cost and effort involved in keeping it up to date for four teams in different geographies would be significant. Hence the desire to pull the information from GreenHopper and JIRA, as the information is readily available.

What does it all mean?

  • The circles represent time periods. In this case each circle represents a 3 month timeboxed feature release. The inner circle is the current release, and then there are four future releases in the planning stage.
  • Outside the largest circle is the unplanned wish list of features. The order of these items on the backlog is not shown on the chart.
  • Each section of the circle represents one component. This shows the distribution of work across various components of the product so that you can see at a glance if you are spending too much time in one area.
  • Red notes represent those stories that the team has not estimated yet. Red can also mean that the team has a problem with those stories and they need the product owners attention.
  • The order of the items on the backlog is not shown in this chart.

I think this is a really neat visualisation. The sections remind me of epics, spanning many releases, and the distribution of stories within each epic quickly shows me how much I am spending on each. Until the email today I always thought that a parking lot diagram was the best way to display this information. While the information density above is greater I can see value in both approaches. An example parking lot diagram from Agile blog Leading Answers is shown below for comparison.

How do you visualise progress on your epics? Let me know in the comments below.

Neither GreenHopper or JIRA contain a visualisation like this today. With the new REST API’s and Alex’s recent writeup on the new architecture of GreenHopper I can’t imagine it will be long before we see something on the Plugin Exchange.