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Always busier and faster changing business environment requires ever stronger analytical capacities in order to take right and timely decisions. Executives, Project management officers, stakeholders are fed with plans, budgets, alternatives. They cannot afford to read multi-page reports or dig into thousand-row excel sheets. Project teams pressed with deadlines cannot spend time in weekly status meeting scrolling and checking long task lists. Responding to changing reality project managers take new approaches how to structure and share information in order to engage teams and stakeholders and take data based decisions fast. Those new approaches are methods and practices of Visual project management.
Curious to know more? Let’s see what visual project management is all about.
To put it simply, visual project management refers to managing projects with various tools that help visualize and understand complex project data. It can be opposed to a black and white list or spreadsheet based project management, that are static, require more time for understanding data, make it difficult to prioritize and categorize data.
Attempts to visualize project management are not new. Ways of visualizing project data have been used ever since the invention of the Gantt chart. However, up until recently, such tools were only supplementing the document-heavy business processes. What changed in the last decade is that our lives have become increasingly faster and with that so have our businesses. This affected many decisions and practices, and being a data-rich field, project management has become increasingly difficult.
There is more data, less time, and higher requirements of quality. All of that and the growing popularity of Agile project management frameworks led to a new term – visual project management. An assortment of tools used to visualize project information and make it easier to understand.
One certain benefit of visual project management is speed. In fact, some studies suggest that visuals are processed 60,000X faster in the brain than text. Moreover, we are more likely to retain the information observed through visuals, than through text. So, visualizing complex project information makes it easier to understand and memorize. However, this is not the only benefit of such an approach.
By using visual project management tools you will be able to:
1 – Review status at a glance. Whatever you have in mind – planning, execution or monitoring the project progress, you can check the current status quickly and without have to read any status reports. This eliminates the need to prepare them and saves the time otherwise used for meetings.
2 – Better understand effort and scope. You can quickly check what the team currently doing, what will be taken on next, and check the overall amount of work left. Visualizing such information makes ir easy to evaluate progress and how the team is doing.
3 – Manage workload easily. By using unified project management solutions for the whole company, you will be able to track resource allocation between several teams and projects and ensure the required resources are available for critical tasks to be executed on time.
4 – See all changes live. If any of the project parts (scope, available resources, priorities, etc.) change this is immediately reflected in the visual project management tools. You do not have to go read adjusted documentation, but can see the changes, how they affect the project and continue working towards the goal.
5 – Keep all information in one place. Visual project management is built on relaying information in the best possible way. Thus, visual project management tools like Teamhood, aim to be one stop shop for all your project data. Forget having to dig for a file in your computer, e-mail, sharepoint or anything else. All the information is stored and always accessible in one place.
Project managers use a variety of tools or views to visualize project data. In most cases, companies choose one project management solution (for example Teamhood) to serve all of those needs. Then it is up to the project manager to see which of the views are beneficial to their project and use them in the project management efforts.
Here are the most popular visual project management views and tools.
Without a doubt, Kanban boards are one of the most popular ways to visualize project data. They are easy to use, can be adapted to any process and allow to really understand how the project is going.
Most of the Kanban boards are composed out of three sections – Backlog (for planned tasks), In Progress (for tasks that are being worked on), and Done (for completed tasks). This gives a general idea of what is going on, but to get a more precise view, most users divide these sections into precise process steps allowing them to track the process accurately. Here are some Kanban board examples to show the flexibility of this view.
Project timeline is another popular visual project management tool. This is similar to a Gantt chart but is focused to visualize task dependencies instead of the project phases. Using such a tool the manager can map out how tasks from one or several projects are dependent on each other and manage the team in a way that respects those dependencies.
A Gantt chart is one of the original project visualization tools. Revolutionary when first introduced and still widely used today to map out the project processes and plan ahead. Most managers today, use Gantt charts in combination with other visual project management tools.
Project portfolio view is a combination between a Gantt chart and a project timeline. It is extremely useful in companies that run several projects at a time and need to coordinate resources, budgets and more. This view allows the managers to overview all of the company projects, list out their dependencies, and plan their actions accordingly.
The next visual project management view on this is list is, well, a List. Some project information is just better absorbed as a list, thus it is not uncommon for project managers to use a list view amongst all other visual solutions. This view is especially useful with large amounts of information as it allows you to sort and filter to see just what you need.
One big benefit of using project management tools is the ability to visualize and analyze data in automated reports. Everything that the team does is gathered in the tool and as such can be analyzed with various reports. One of the simplest examples of this is the Dashboard that allows you to see the overall project status and each team member’s performance.
While tools that have a time tracking feature will also let you analyze how the time estimations measure up to the actual time spent on tasks.
Lastly, by using visual project management tools you can also get insights into what could be done to improve your project status. The Agile metrics report in Teamhood lets you analyze how well the team is performing and gives you actionable insights on which tasks should be completed next to improve the project status and get better results immediately. The best part – anyone can use this report even if you are not using Agile as your primary project management technique.
Want to experience visual project management for yourself? Check out this interactive example to get a feel.