Project Management Visualization: Hybrid Needed?

Posted by Martin Karlowitsch on Nov 4, 2011 10:12:00 AM
In a recent discussion in a LinkedIn group, we discussed if there are better data visualization tools than Gantt charts for project management purposes.

Consensus was gained that Gantt charts still help achieving the three project management goals of

    • representing progress for reporting
    • planning a project
    • problem diagnosis
Well, although this alone seems to be strikingly powerful for just one tool, we started to brainstorm if there could be even better ways to visualize project management data.

If we nail down a Gantt chart to its essence, then it has three components: a table, a timeline and a graphical part. With this, you can visualize processes, their duration, their sequence, their dependencies and their relation to a certain context (e.g. by grouping them into resource categories). The common understanding of a project is a collaborative enterprise with a defined beginning and end that is usually time-constrained and often also resource-constrained and happens in various sub steps. Following this definition, a Gantt chart with the aforementioned “ingredients” seems to be generally quite suited as technique to visualize a project.

So what can create the perception of the Gantt chart being limited with respect to project visualization? Generally, projects have a comparably high degree of linked activities. With a by far increasing number of links, Gantt charts potentially run danger of not being super crisp anymore. This is – btw – the reason why network plans also play a role in project management: they are very strong in making dependencies very transparent. However, other than a Gantt plan, you cannot grasp them at one glance as they miss the time component. Typically, all processes in a network plan are shown in the same size.

What people might need is a hybrid technique – that combines the concise time/resource orientation of a Gantt chart with the clear dependency orientation of a network chart.

What do you think? Would this work?

Topics: Planning & Scheduling Insight, Gantt Chart Fundamentals