High stakes are placed on a project manager’s shoulders. Their organization, guidance, and governance is often the make-or-break factor in a project’s success.
Think we’re exaggerating? Statistics tell a shocking story.
In a recent article highlighting the value of project managers, studies showed that an average organization wastes 11.4% of its resources simply due to an outdated, poor quality, or disorganized project management process.
What’s more, these studies have found that if a company cannot implement a successful project management strategy, then their project failure rate may rise by as much as two-thirds.
As you can see, project management is an integral part of every business.
Project management charts ensure that common mistakes don’t occur by improving the organization and transparency of any project – no matter its size and scope.
Read on to learn more about these charts’ benefits and find out how to create and make use of them.
What is a project management chart?
A project management chart is an assistive tool that makes key data about a project easier to read, interpret and use. Project management charts help project managers plan the project process since the charts show correlations of tasks and resources. Through this visualization of information, the charts enable project managers to quickly gain insight into a project’s progress.
Charts contain a wealth of key project information, such as specific task details, milestones, dependencies of tasks, deadlines, and key resources. The data can then be analyzed and its findings used to make key, informed decisions for the project’s next steps. As such, project managers use these charts to make their own contributions more timely, useful, organized, and relevant.
Project management charts are a highly versatile type of project management tool, which can be used within a wide scope of different use cases, including cases of task management, team collaboration, resource management, project planning, and progress tracking.
Charts feature a range of different layouts, such as a bar chart, control chart, flow chart, Gantt chart, and Pert chart (more on these types later).
It is the project manager’s job to create the project management chart, tailoring it to suit the requirements of the specific project. Then, if required, they can share this with their team, managers, or any other key stakeholders.
What charts are used in project management?
A project management chart is a name given to an extensive range of types of charts that are useful in all manner of business processes.
A project manager needs to choose the right type of chart to maximize both its usefulness and the readability of its data. .
Don’t worry if you’re starting to get a bit lost – below we’ve detailed seven different types of charts, and explained their use cases.
PERT stands for Program Evaluation and Review Technique. A PERT chart is displayed as a series of circles interconnected by arrows.
In the center of each circle, the name of the project activity is added. Then, arrows illustrate how the team will complete the activities, from one milestone to the next.
Through this network of interconnected tasks, project managers can create a more effective schedule and closely follow its progress.
A PERT chart is especially useful if, at this stage, you aren’t sure of the project’s timeline. Additionally, the system of arrows and circles allows you to detail a number of tasks that are taking place simultaneously as well as illustrate how the progress of one will impact the other.
A Pareto chart incorporates the features of both a line and bar graph. It is designed to combine multiple data sources into a single chart. With it, managers can use both data sets to inform their interpretation.
Pareto charts offer a broader scope of information. The most common use of a Pareto chart is to help managers spot bottlenecks or issues that may be impacting the project. The data gives a sense of the type and scope of the problem and helps managers to quickly see the best way to resolve it.
A Gantt chart is one of the most widely used and readily recognized forms of project management charts.
It reads as a horizontal bar chart that displays the progress of each task within the project against the time that they have taken to complete.
Often, color coding is used to help users distinguish each task. This way, you can see the progression of each task individually, while also comparing them to each other, as you monitor how successfully the project is advancing as a whole.
With this sophisticated timeline, project managers can more effectively oversee a complex project involving numerous collaborators. Most Gantt chart online software tools also allow managers to add in schedules, deadlines, and user roles as well as the capability to assign steps to specific users.
With a flow chart, project managers can illustrate the activities that the project will go through, before completion.
The workflow is illustrated as a series of isolated steps (written in rectangular boxes), which are linked by arrows, in order to represent the sequence of the workflow.
Flow charts present the steps of the workflow in a neat, logical way, breaking down each one into an orderly format. Managers often share flow charts with invested parties to help simplify the proposed workflow structure.
In some cases, the arrows may represent a loop, such as when steps may need to be completed multiple times (for example, in a cycle of reviews and amendments).
A number of agile project management tools (such as Trello) have adopted flow chart methodology.
A bar chart is something familiar to us all. For those of you who may need a math refresh, a bar chart plots two values against each other (one on the x-axis, one on the y-axis) and shows their correlation through colored rectangular bars.
Bar charts can be used to display a wide range of simple data. For example, by plotting “task type” over “hours spent”, you can see how your project time is being spent, split by type category.
In addition to bar charts, pie charts are also commonly used to illustrate simple data.
These charts are a great way to quickly see a clear representation of your project data.
They can be used to segment a range of data sets, such as “proportion of tasks delivered on time”, with the data then split into color-coded categories.
However, if too many categories are required, a pie chart may not be the best chart form to use. It may be easy enough for 2-8 categories, but if you’re including more than that, it can become confusing to need to constantly refer back to the key.
A Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) chart acts as a leveled diagram that allows you to see a simple project workflow structure broken down into levels and sections.
It is a diagram consisting of rectangles and connecting lines, starting from the top-level, and then branching out into an expanding number of boxes. Each box represents a task, and each level represents a project phase.
The higher up the WBS you go, the more general the section information will be. The lower down you go, the more nuanced and specific the component tasks become.
What are the benefits of using project management charts?
The quality of your project management process makes the difference between a project’s timely success and disruptive delays.
As such, the more organized the project manager is, the more smoothly the task will flow. Project management best practices are founded on these principles.
Project management charts are designed to help project managers to do their job more effectively and efficiently.
They provide managers with a range of crucial benefits, including:
These charts create clear, centralized workflow plans and timelines from the very outset. This careful planning provides the entire team with complete clarity of the project’s planned progression, from start to finish. Managers can maintain this organization through regular tracking and by pinpointing any potential issues way in advance.
These charts make it easier to collaborate, both internally and externally. They keep the entire project team informed about what each individual will need to contribute and by when they will need to achieve it.
By making the workflow steps completely clear, your entire team will have access to greater project transparency.
Many of these charts are designed to help managers identify progress impediments. By doing this promptly, managers can detect and eliminate bottlenecks before they have a major impact.
Charts like Gantt charts allow managers to set clear deadlines for each milestone in the workflow.
Keep track of projects’ progress
These charts make it easier for managers to identify the stage of each project and give them the ability to detect if tasks are behind schedule.
See dependencies between tasks
Charts like a WBS or a PERT chart visualize the interconnectivity of key tasks.
Improve time and resource management
The culmination of the above benefits will result in better time management and a more efficient workflow. This improved organization will translate into the more effective and strategic use of key resources, particularly human, financial and technological resources.
Tip: Filestage helps you to increase transparency and keep track of progress during the review and approval of files. The clear digital overview allows project managers to assign deadlines, remind contributors, and monitor files’ progress. As such, Filestage provides great additional support for managers.
How to create a project management chart in five steps
These steps provide a base for you to start creating your own project management chart. They may need a bit of tweaking to best suit each specific chart type, but they offer a solid starting project management template.
By following these five steps, you can create an organized, dependable, and clear project management chart.
1. Define the essential tasks of the project
Define, list, and describe all of the major tasks and key project deliverables needed to reach the project goal.
In order to achieve more transparency, you may also need to break this down further into smaller sub-tasks. The tasks don’t need to be categorized or sorted right now – that happens later.
2. Identify task dependencies
Once you have outlined the essential tasks of your project, then you will need to consider how they influence each other.
Think about the ability of each task to impact the other tasks – for example, which tasks cannot be completed without a prior task being finished first?
For instance, there is no point in having your branding experts review a new advertising campaign before your graphic designer has finished creating the visual elements.
These impacts could also be partial dependencies. For instance (building on the case example above), it may be that your graphic designer can only start their design drafts once they have the first paragraph of written copy ready for them to use.
Once you have identified all task dependencies, you can then illustrate this information through a chart by using arrows, lines, or other structures.
3. Assign resources for each task
Each task will require a certain amount of your company’s resources. These will most likely be time-dependent, but there may also be physical, technological, or financial resources that are required, too.
Human resources are the most important resource in a project. Managing them requires a project manager to outline the role requirements and expectations for each individual.
Consider how best to split your resources, and outline which resources will be required for each milestone. Detail this information within the chart for your team to access.
4. Estimate durations, set deadlines and milestones for tasks
Predict the amount of time that each task will take. Make sure that you allow plenty of breathing room with these estimations.
In order to ensure that you complete a project on time, you need to set concrete deadlines and milestones for each task. By adding this information to your chart, the project will be transparent, and your entire team will know the deadlines for their contributions way in advance.
5. Put all information in your software/ template to create the chart
The final step is to create your chart.
Input all of this information into your template. Or, if you are using a project management chart software, insert the data into the tool.
You can make your project management chart as complex or as simple as needed. This all depends on the amount of information you have and want to consider.
Tip: Share the first draft of your PM chart on Filestage with your colleagues. That way, you can collect their feedback, double-check that nothing has been missed, and get their input on any areas for improvement.
Understanding chart type preferences, depending on the project size
As you have already seen, project management charts are used for a wide range of different use cases. In order to best utilize the capabilities of each chart type, you will need to understand the most effective way that they can be used.
The best charts for small projects
You might ask: “Which type of chart is best for the management of small projects?”
Since some chart types offer a far more simplistic way of displaying data, they can only cope with a smaller volume of data. If you try to include a sea of information from a complex project, these charts will become chaotic or even impossible to interpret.
For example, pie charts and bar charts are best used for small project management, because they can only show the relation between two values. Therefore, they are great choices when looking for a way to visualize small volumes of data.
Similarly, a flow chart is a great aid to small project management, and it is also quick to produce. For example, a flow chart could be an ideal marketing project management tool for a social media post. However, if your project requires a complex series of steps, this type of chart will soon get disordered. As a result, flow charts are best used for smaller-scale projects.
Here’s an example of a simple, small project management chart.
The best charts for large projects
Other types of charts are highly suited to help with enterprise-level project management.
A Gantt chart is a popular form of project management chart. In fact, it is probably the most well-known type of chart. This is due to the way Gantt charts can clearly display an entire team’s workflow.
With this totally transparent content governance, a project manager can easily oversee their team’s progress on the project. In fact, managers can use Gantt charts to monitor the contribution of every individual in the team.
A Pareto chart is essentially an evolved version of a bar chart. It has the ability to display far more data than a standard bar chart, so it is a great option for large project management.
A WBS chart can also help organize a multi-level, multi-stage project. It is especially useful for large projects which require contributions from a number of different teams.
Here’s an example of a complex project chart.
Five great tools that help you create project management charts
Now, you’ll be ready and raring to get started.
To help you create highly effective project management charts that allow you to do your job to the best of your ability, allow us to recommend five of the top project management chart software tools on the market.
TeamGantt – specialist Gantt chart software
TeamGantt is designed to help managers create charts to assist with collaborative projects. With this tool, project managers can create digital Gantt charts and share them with their team. The software is designed for the use of project managers working with multiple team members at once.
- Designed for collaborative projects
- Create attractive, digital Gantt charts
- A sophisticated project planning tool
- See individual team members and the tasks that they have been assigned.
- Timeline view
- Customizable templates
- Limited color coding options
- Some users have had issues with this tool’s user interface.
- Some issues have been reported with the tool’s user experience design.
GanttPRO – create detailed Gantt charts
GanttPRO is a highly specialized Gantt chart creation tool. With it, project managers can create a transparent, centralized chart to monitor the project progress at a glance. This project management software is designed to offer a specialized yet easy-to-use tool – even for managers with little prior experience working with Gantt charts.
- Easy to use
- Highly rated customer service
- An extensive range of project management tools
- Quick to learn
- Monitor project progress
- Some users have reported a slow load speed.
- The tool does not offer email management.
Smartsheet – project planning aid
Smartsheet is a project management tool that provides teams and their managers with a wide range of functions, including the ability to create simple bar and pie charts, as well as more complex charts, such as Gantt charts. These can be applied to a range of project aspects, including the planning, tracking, automating, reporting, and analyzing of processes.
- Assists with a wide range of different project management chart types
- Ideal for collaborative work
- Create real-time charts
- Features an intuitive project manager dashboard
- Some users have found it challenging to create an interlinked dashboard.
- Some users have said that Smartsheet’s spreadsheet software provides limited tools.
SmartDraw – create project progress diagrams
SmartDraw is a digital tool that allows users to quickly create neat, clear, and organized diagrams. This project management software is specifically designed to help with the project planning step, where workflow plans can be laid out via a WBS chart.
- Diagrams can be shared with team members
- The tool provides automatic format options
- Can be used for flow charts, network diagrams, schedules, and WBS charts
- Compatible with Microsoft Office, Google Suite and Box
- Ideal for collaborative work
- It is a simple tool that does not provide features for more complex or larger projects.
- The main features of this tool are designed for architects and creators of floor plans.
- Its WBS tools are more simplistic.
ProjectManager – a user-friendly planning tool
ProjectManager is an online project schedule tool that allows project managers to quickly create Gantt charts, project dashboards, and Kanban boards, to name a few. This project management tool offers a real-time, centralized hub to conduct all project planning.
- Drag-and-drop functionality helps users make quick updates
- Real-time tracking dashboard
- Task lists
- Kanban boards
- Gantt charts
- Project reporting
- Online timesheets
- No customizable branding
- Project Manager has received criticism for its customer service.
Project management charts help managers to organize and plan out projects in detail. Plus, they can increase transparency, help organizations make data-driven decisions, and help you keep track of your projects’ progress throughout implementation.
We hope this article has provided you with all the knowledge and tools you need to create your own PM charts to help your project succeed.
Muriel loves to create any kind of content and is a big fan of graphics that are visually catching and provide value to the reader.