Project Management Tools: Beyond Gantt Charts

In my career as a contract technical writer, a project management pain point I’ve seen time and time again is in the communications of project schedules and status. The venerable Gantt chart is a project management staple, but stakeholders without formal project management training may find them difficult to understand.

When I’ve run up against clients and project stakeholders who didn’t understand (or want to understand) a Gantt chart, I take a consultative approach and work with them to see how they want to receive project scheduling and related status information. I believe that as a remote worker, any project scheduling and status data I communicate back to my employer or client has to stand on its own, without the need for further explanation by me.

In this post I am going to round up some alternatives to Gantt charts that I’ve used to communicate project scheduling and related information.

Mind Maps for Project Management
I originally started using mind maps to brainstorm article ideas, but now also use them as a project management tool. When a former client voiced disdain for Gantt charts, I suggested using mind maps to communicate project scheduling and status data. The selling point I used was showing how mind maps can graphically represent project status information on one page. The client saw the mind map as easier to to read than a Gantt chart that they would have to scroll through to decipher the project scheduling information they were after.

MindJet shows how a mind mapping tool can be used for project management, and its online template gallery includes some mind map templates for project management including project planning, project scope and risk assessment.

Web-based Project Management Tools

The real innovation in project management tools is taking place on the web, not the desktop. While this new generation of project management tools doesn’t always rely on the Gantt chart, they have the advantage of making project schedule and status available in ways that your team members and stakeholders can easily understand without needing a project management certification. For example, Zoho Projects (reviewed for WWD by Doriano) includes a number of management views that don’t require an intimacy with the nuances and mysteries of the Gantt chart. Recently, Zoho launched a Task Details and Overdue Milestones View that make it easy for any project team member to see what project milestones are overdue.

Alternative Views in Project Management Applications

If mind maps and web-based project management tools are out of reach to your project team for whatever reason then it is important to know the alternative view options available in your project management tools. Microsoft Project and OmniGroup OmniPlan both have alternative views, including calendar- and task-based views. These views are available within a few clicks and can be effective if Gantt charts aren’t working for you.

What alternatives to Gantt charts are you using to capture and communicate project scheduling and status? Share your tips below.

Artwork by stock.xchng user: jnatiuk.

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