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.
What Are Project Management Charts?
Project management charts are visual representations of data that turn difficult project management concepts into something more easily digestible. They’re mostly used for project planning and can take many shapes such as flowcharts, network diagrams or bar charts. Gantt charts, PERT charts, CPM diagrams and WBS diagrams are great examples.
Project management charts are worth considering when thinking about how to best communicate, especially when you’re communicating complex project planning information. They make data visual, instantly impacting the viewer, and turn difficult concepts into something more easily digestible. That data is even more useful when it’s tied to a real-time project management software like ProjectManager. Software can take a static chart and turn it into a dynamic tool for planning, execution and reporting.
Project planning charts and diagrams 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 are about to start a project plan, take a moment to look over the three best project planning charts to make your plan clearly understandable.
1. Gantt Charts
Experienced project managers are familiar with the Gantt chart. It’s basically a bar chart that shows the project schedule on a timeline. Since then, Gantt charts have matured. They started to add task dependencies, such as when one task is related to another.
Gantt charts are essential for modern project planning and scheduling because they allow project managers to visualize all the activities that make up the project on a timeline. They’re also useful to monitor progress once the execution phase begins.
With new computing power, Gantt charts evolved from a basic bar chart to an essential project management tool that allows project managers to identify the critical path, assign tasks, establish task dependencies, generate a project timeline and much more. This is why 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 keeps the progress of Gantt charts on track for the new millennium. Our online Gantt charts include features the competition hasn’t yet considered.
To start, ProjectManager can import your task list and schedule from a spreadsheet. If your plan was developed in Microsoft Project, but you want to move that plan online to share with your team, then good news. ProjectManager facilitates import of Microsoft Project files.
Once you have your project plan in ProjectManager, our online Gantt chart is a project management chart on steroids. You can link task dependencies to prevent team members getting blocked. You can also assign tasks directly from the Gantt view which is an interactive project timeline that you can adjust in real time. Comment at the task level and all status updates are instantly reflected on the Gantt chart, which feeds into a real-time dashboard with project metrics that can be filtered and shared.
For more information on Gantt charts, watch the short video below. It outlines all the ways that Gantt charts can help you make a thorough and effective project plan.
2. Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) Diagram
One aspect of project planning is organizing project activities, deliverables and time. 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 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, which is useful for complex projects. A WBS can be represented as a list, a tree diagram, a spreadsheet or a column on 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 WBS diagram template, if you want to have a more dynamic tool in which to have more options, connect it to ProjectManager’s work breakdown structure software.
Upon moving the WBS diagram to ProjectManager, 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 diagram into a powerhouse for project planning.
3. Flow Chart
Flow charts are another tool project managers should have in their toolbox when project planning. These charts help visualize processes 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 the 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 over tasks, resources and time. This means all processes, including planning and monitoring, 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 tasks, 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, milestones 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 the work that the project team needs to do in order to develop deliverables. The flow chart is more for explaining the process clearly to the project team, as well as documenting that process.
Project management charts are 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 and variables like work and time, the more efficiently the project will unfold, and meet a successful end. Project planning charts also help project managers share information with shareholders and the project management team.
Even More Project Management Charts
Check out our guides page where you can get in-depth information on more project planning charts and diagrams, so you can use them in all of your projects for better results. Our guides cover these additional project management charts:
Planning can make or break a project, so you want to have the best tools at your disposal when going through the process. ProjectManager is a cloud-based project management software that helps planning, as well as executing, monitoring and reporting on all your projects. It works seamlessly with the project planning charts described above and has a robust set of project management tools to manage resources, time and cost. See how it can help you plan your project by taking this free 30-day trial today.