Communication is fundamental for most everything we do, and that goes doubly so for projects. Without a clear way to disseminate information and have it understood, missteps follow. To avoid a catastrophic misunderstanding that can delay or derail a project, project managers need a communication plan that informs every phase of the project—especially the planning phase.
The project plan is the framework on which a successful project hangs, so communication in project planning must be taken very seriously. Project management charts are worth considering when thinking about how to best communicate, especially when you’re communicating complex information. They make data visual, instantly impacting the viewer, and turn difficult concepts into something more easily digestible.
Charts are, therefore, critical for long-term plans. When stakeholders are investing in multi-million-dollar plans, they don’t want to see a task list on a Word doc or a hard-to-read spreadsheet. Online project management charts take abstractions and make them concrete. If you’re a project manager and about to start a project plan, take a moment to look over the three best project management charts to make your plan clearly understandable:
1. Gantt Charts
Experienced project managers are familiar with the Gantt chart, invented by Henry Gantt in the early 1900s. It’s basically a bar chart that shows the project schedule. Since then, Gantt charts have matured. They started to add dependencies, such as when one task is related to another.
Software applications started to include Gantt charts in the 1980s with advent of the personal computer. With new computing power, there was greater flexibility in Gantt chart creation and maintenance. Scheduling changes were less difficult. Most modern project management software now include Gantt charts.
Online Gantt Charts for More Flexibility
Gantt charts aren’t equal. Other project management software programs have Gantt charts, but they’re bare bones. ProjectManager.com keeps the advancement of Gantt charts on track for the new millennium. Our online Gantt charts include features the competition hasn’t yet considered.
To start, ProjectManager.com can import your task list and schedule from any spreadsheet, whether from Excel or a CSV file. All imported data automatically populates into the Gantt chart. If your plan was developed in MS Project, but you want to move that plan online to share with your team, then good news. ProjectManager.com facilitates import of MS Project files.
Once you have your project plan in ProjectManager.com, our online Gantt chart is a project management chart on steroids. You can link dependencies to prevent team members getting blocked. You can also assign tasks directly from the Gantt. Comment at the task level and all status updates are instantly reflected on the Gantt, which feeds into a real-time dashboard with project metrics that can be filtered and shared.
2. Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)
One aspect of project planning is organizing project deliverables. That’s where a work breakdown structure (WBS) comes in handy. It’s a way to take the tasks a team must accomplish in order to complete deliverables, and split them into manageable sections.
The WBS is defined in the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) as a “deliverable oriented hierarchical decomposition of the work to be executed by the project team.” In other words, it’s a great way to visualize all the tasks that need to be done in order to complete the project. It’s like a slightly higher-level view than a Gantt chart.
To get a better idea of what a WBS looks like, you can download our free work breakdown structure template. Organizing and grouping tasks within your project plan is much easier to do. Once you have that information collected in our template, if you want to have a more dynamic tool in which to have more options and connect it to the larger features in a project management software program, then upload the file to ProjectManager.com.
Upon moving the WBS to ProjectManager.com, content is reflected over the three views in the software. From the Gantt, as well as to the task list and kanban board, which is a visual workflow tool. The online Gantt chart turns the WBS into a powerhouse for project planning.
While a WBS is a project management chart that can help with planning, there are notable absences, such as start and finish dates. It just lists tasks, which are important, but they’re only an element of the whole plan.
But once the WBS is in ProjectManager.com:
- Project timelines include task duration
- Dependent tasks are established
- Teams are assigned and collaboration fostered at the task level
- Comments and attachments, such as documents and images, can be added
3. Flow Chart
Flow charts are another tool project managers should have in their toolbox when project planning. These charts help visualize process as a way to improve project efficiency. The flow chart is a graphic display of the project’s objective and helps create a logical order of work required to reach that goal. Planning a project is all about control, and a flow chart gives a project manager a tool to exercise control. This means all processes, including planning, refer to the flow chart to increase efficiency.
The planning process begins with evaluation and development of project scope. This might then lead to a project level indicator, or to a project scorecard. Either of those options will flow to a project plan. Following the plan, there are resources, budgets, schedules and more. Each of which flows down to communications, or risk management, and then to change control, quality management, etc.
Finally, there is the approval stage. If approved, the project plan is a go. If not, the flow chart circles back to the beginning to start again.
Differences Between Work Breakdown Structures and Flow Charts
While a flow chart might seem like a WBS, there are differences. The WBS deals with deliverables and tasks necessary to complete them. It doesn’t show process. That’s what a flow chart does. A WBS is hierarchical and deals with project scope, mapping out what the project team needs to do in order to develop deliverables. The flow chart is more for explaining process clearly to the project team, as well as documenting that process.
The project management chart is a visual aid that can help make the complexities of project planning clear and simple. The better understanding a project manager has of the project plan, the more efficiently the project will unfold, and meet a successful end.
Planning can make or break a project, so you want to have the best tools at your disposal when going through the process. ProjectManager.com is a cloud-based project management software that helps planning, as well as executing, monitoring and reporting on a project. It works seamlessly with the project charts described above and has a robust set of features to manage resources, time and cost. See how it can help you plan your project by taking this free 30-day trial today.