Ah the Gantt chart. Twenty years ago that was project management. I worked on a large government project - more like a program, actually - where the only thing I was really using the project management tool for was to manage the project schedule comprised of more than 7600 tasks and show my government project customer visually that we were on time for deliverables and milestones. It did the job well and I could create custom reports and pull task list sections out for functional department managers to track down and report status on every week during our internal project review meetings that I led. But the heart of the project management and tracking effort centered around that visual depiction of the overall project status.
Fast forward twenty years and where are we now? What's important now? What does management want to see? What does the client want to see/ need to see? What about the team? What's still relevant and what's important today? Let's consider the following:
The status report. The status report is necessary. It will always be a critical, driving force of project status and likely the main communication tool for any weekly project customer meeting and weekly or daily project team meetings. Prepare it in advance, use it to drive the meetings, and come up with one good version that satisfies all stakeholders needs as well as possible. C-levels like quick view dashboards so start off with that – preferably coming up with a green-yellow-red health status view of task progress, resource usage and forecasting, and financial analysis and forecasting. Include change orders and issues lists on the report and you should be able to make everyone happy. Having a great project management tool that can do much of this for you is a good idea as you – as the project manager – likely already have enough on your plate. But the status report – and a very good one – is critical.
The team meetings. Team meetings – the internal team is what I'm talking about – are critical. This is where you discuss strategy and get all of the latest updates from your team that drive the status report info and the revisions to the project schedule. I like to schedule this the day before the weekly customer status meeting so that I'm always giving the project customer the latest greatest information about the health and progress of the project.
The customer status meeting. The weekly project status meeting that includes the customer is where you lay out all the information. The status report, the change order statuses, the issues, the risks, the resource forecast, the financial health if that is relevant to the customer... everything. But the project status report usually drives this meeting. And yes, one other thing often still drives it and I will get to that shortly.
Project communications. Project communications are Job One for the project manager. This includes the status report, emails, conference calls, the weekly customer status meeting and review and any deliverable and milestone reviews you may need to schedule. All materials build into the project communications – making the project status report and other items that are involved with detailing project status critical pieces of the overall project communications.
The Gantt chart. And now we are to the Gantt chart. Is it still relevant? Yes, it most definitely is. Whether the customer wants to see it or needs to see it may be up to them. But what it depicts and what it tracks is absolutely necessary. From task dependencies, to levels of effort, tracking holidays and progress complete percentages... the good old standards from project management days gone by are still very relevant today. Can you do with out it? Not likely. Should your project management tool be able to produce a good, usable project Gantt chart that is visually meaningful? Yes, most definitely.
Summary / call for input
So my conclusion is this - the Gantt chart is still necessary in 2018. And beyond. What is your take? Do you need a Gantt chart or use a Gantt chart every week on your project? If not, what do you do? If so, tell us about your favorite tricks and even about your favorite project anagement tool that creates the Gantt chart for you.