They are a fundamental tool in a project manager’s toolkit. However, an unseasoned project manager can find that they can take over the project and result in reduced control PMP certification . How so? In this article we will look at their potential pitfalls and provide some tips and strategies for ensuring successful project management. Gantt charts are, after all, just one of many ways of presenting the project planning and actual data that has been input.
To start we will be clear that we are not going to deal here with repetitive implementation / rollout projects where a template plan has been refined over a series of projects and becomes a standard checklist for project management (for example for COTS – commercial off-the-shelf software). This article is about those one off (or initial template try-out) projects. These projects may be within organisations small, medium and large.
Most larger organisations have well developed and run ‘IT’ departments. They usually have formal project offices with established plan templates and standards, with project office staff and automated plan analysis systems (for example seeking orphan tasks / missing dependencies and so on to measure overall ‘plan quality’). Smaller organisations – for example, ‘IT solutions houses’ – may lack this level of sophistication but will certainly use detailed project plans.
Gantt charts are an excellent format for presenting dependency and progress data, but as with most things in life, the returns will be dependent on the investment. So, the more care that goes into the project plan data set-up, then the better will be the feedback. However, there is a danger that the level of detail that can be built into the typical project plan can itself require a disproportionate amount of project management maintenance. We will not go into great detail here, but dependency and critical path management are of major importance. So, ‘sweating the detail’ in the plan is critical at the outset.