September 19, 2017

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Project management advice, tips, tools and recommended resources for existing and aspiring project managers.

Time Management: Gantt Chart as a Planning Tool

By Linky van der Merwe

Most existing project managers would know that Gantt Charts are popular tools to use for a visual presentation of a project schedule. Although numerous software tools make provision for Gantt Charts, the most widely used tool remains Microsoft Project.

For new or aspiring project managers, it’s important to understand that Gantt Charts come about as a result of the Time Management activities in the Planning process on a project.

Schedule Creation

When creating a project schedule, the order of the planning activities is important as explained below:

  1. Define activities by identifying all the specific actions to be performed to produce the project deliverables
  2. Sequence activities by identifying the relationships among project activities.
  3. Estimate activity resources by identifying the type and quantities of material, human resources, equipment etc to perform each activity.
  4. Estimate activity durations by analysing the work effort needed to complete each activity with the estimated resources.
  5. Develop the schedule – this is where activities are documented in a schedule (gantt chart) in the right sequence, with durations, resource assignments and constraints

History of the Gantt Chart

Wrike has created an interesting Infographic to display the origins or timeline of the Gantt Chart, the anatomy and how it’s used, as well as the benefits of using Gantt Charts on projects.

What is a Gantt Chart
Wrike Project Management Software

Unconventional Uses for Gantt Charts

By Matthew Jagiello

Gantt charts are already very well-known among project managers around the world. They are de facto an industry standard, used by thousands of companies and institutions – if not far more! SoftwarePlant has looked at some of their clients to see whether Gantt charts can be used in a creative way, in industries very foreign to classic management and businesses themselves. The results are stunning!

Education

Everyone used to be a child at some point in time. This leads us to schools. Remember all these lesson plans, charts of teachers’ free days, duty hours, announcements, etc? Most likely your school was doing all of this using only a printer (or even pen and paper). Nowadays, some schools use project management software* in order to optimize workload and make everything run smoothly. In fact, universities and colleges also do.

Physical work

Project management” is still too often perceived as something strictly related to cleanly shaven people in business suits. But our customers beg to differ – some of them construct buildings, roads, railways and many other things. Gantt charts and risk matrixes help them manage deadlines*** and serve the public in a timely manner.

Politics

When we follow political campaigns, we usually remember only a few key people from each party. This is precisely what the so-called spin doctors are for. But the truth is, political parties are as big as some corporations! In the US, the Democratic Party has 43.1 Million members, while the Republicans hover around 30 Million**. This is a massive number of people, all working on the same projects around the whole country – and good project management software does help them achieve the results they yield.

BigPicture

Events

We all love to go to a concert once in a while. But even professional project managers from other fields rarely stop to think about the sheer scale of some of the cultural events they attend. The scene/stadium, sound systems, lights, tickets, everything involves a lot of hard work, and the deadline is permanently set in stone – it is pretty much impossible to postpone a concert. In order to ensure proper start and finish dates, some of SoftwarePlant’s customers install JIRA with the plugins and look at the risk matrix like a hawk guarding its chicks.

Military

Logistics, engineer corps and administration amount to far more people than actual combat troops. Each soldier needs to be fed, dressed, transported and equipped on time, often abroad and in harsh conditions. The US started using Gantt charts around WW1****, and continues to do so until this very day. Even there the SoftwarePlant’s software has certain uses among military organizations, though details are (as expected) strictly classified.

Entrepreneurs

SoftwarePlant is a start-up company. The interesting thing is, their product is used by many other start-ups, sometimes even from the same industry. They are pleased that other young entrepreneurs like their solutions and wish them luck with their ventures. After all, Skype, a small Estonian company before acquisition by Microsoft, could not have been developed if not for Gantt charts.

These are the cases that were found the most interesting – but what about you? Do you have an unconventional use for Gantt charts, be it practical or hypothetical? If yes, we encourage you to contact us and share this wisdom. Who knows, there may be great rewards…

Sources:

* http://www.smartsheet.com/blog/Gantt-charts-for-sixth-graders

** http://2012election.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=004483

*** http://archive.excellencegateway.org.uk/media/KSSP/scheduling.pdf

**** http://www.chroniclegraphics.com/community/blog/a-brief-history-of-the-gantt-chart/

BIO

BigPicture_logoSoftwarePlant is a Polish-American start-up company that produces software for Project Portfolio Management. Its main products are developed for the JIRA platform, but custom development, training and implementations are also available.

 

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Project Planning Software – Gantt Charts or Kanban?

By Bryan Barrow

project planningWhen I started out in project management one of my first roles was to produce project plans on behalf of the team. I liked playing around with software packages and since I had never worked with project planning software before, I was more than happy spending time figuring out how to use it.

That was the first time that I’d really started to work with Gantt charting tools. The market has changed in many ways since then. The market is changing again.

Project Planning Software

Kanban tools have emerged from the growth in use of Lean and Six-Sigma. The market for Kanban based project planning software is heating up, with several products now becoming trend-setters. The question for you is: should you follow that trend?

There are three reasons why you should think very carefully before making a move away from using Gantt charts if you run a significant number of projects in your organisation.

#1 Scenario Planing, Forecasting, Trend Analysis

The first reason is scenario planning, forecasting and the ability to analyse trends. The real power of project planning software comes from its modelling ability. It is a power that for the past 20 years has been under-exploited.

Three key features of traditional tools are:

  • “What-if” scenario planning
  • Baselining
  • Earned Value

These are standard features for most traditional planning tools; we still need them.

#2 Dependency Management

The second reason is dependency management. Your projects are now more likely to be delivered in partnership with third parties than ever before. As a result your project is more likely now to need good dependency management than ever before, especially if there is a commercial or contractual impact. Few projects use software to map and manage dependencies. This is likely to get worse with a move to Kanban, not better.

#3 Resource Management

The third reason is the ability to plan and manage resources. Resource planning and management is the number one problem for many organisations. The delays caused by resource bottlenecks can be better managed only when you are able to see all the resource demands across your entire resource pool.

Part of the solution is for organisations to be more aggressive in chopping out projects that are not viable, but the other part is in better resource management. Tools which allow you to visualise and manage resources across your entire portfolio is the answer, not visual tools.

Why you need project software training, not new tools

The one thing that underpins effective use of project management software is training. Yet it is not unusual for someone to be given access to some software but no training to go along with it. As the use of Agile methods grows in the IT community the role of the project management specialist is going to decline and with it we will see a reduction in the number of people who have more advanced planning skills.

People are even less likely to receive training in project management software if it’s seen as something that a team of people can do by updating a wall chart or an online Kanban tool, but there’s a world of difference between a group of people independently updating a centralised tool and a specialist independently interpreting the results, assessing whether the project is on track and directing actions based on the results.

So if you’re thinking about swapping from using a planning tool that uses Gantt charts towards a Kanban-based project planning tool, think again. You may be surprised at what you’re already missing.

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About the author: Project leadership expert Bryan Barrow works with Project Management Office (PMO) Managers, Project Directors and organisations that need to deliver more of their projects on time and within budget, so that they achieve their strategic objectives. Barrow is the author of The Project Planning Workshop Handbook: How to Plan Your Next Project so it Gets Delivered.

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