Feeds

Project managers do it with diagrams

When a picture says a thousand words

High performance access to file storage

Workshop Project managers usually opt for Microsoft Project, OmniGroup’s OmniPlan or one of many other specialist software products, but some also make use of the ready-made templates included in diagramming software.

Many diagramming tools make it possible to create Gantt charts, Pert charts and flowcharts, and some also offer templates for visualising resource management, collaboration, issue tracking, scheduling and project portfolio management.

Pert Chart (C) Ralph Lengler & Martin J. Eppler

Microsoft Visio, for example, includes templates for Gantt charts, network diagrams, workflow charts, timelines and work breakdown structures (WBSs). Omniplan has options for scheduling, resource allocation and Gantt charting.

But many firms favour tools that adapt easily as a project progresses. The problem with spending hours creating charts is that sometimes it doesn’t take long before they become redundant.

Process Event Chain (C) Ralph Lengler & Martin J. Eppler

Bob Walker, Microsoft Project technical sales specialist, says Pert charts are becoming less popular. “Most of our customers don’t use them and are not trained to use them, even though they are a good visualisation tool. Many prefer to create a WBS using Visio, and then to generate a Gantt chart from that data. There are also misconceptions about critical path, which some believe is fixed. It’s not, of course.”

A WBS is a tree diagram used to define separate work elements and estimate costings, working back from the final goal, with “progressive elaboration” giving increasingly granular details on activities. The WBS facilitates decisions about assigning responsibility, allocating resources and control of the project.

Dale Vile, managing director of the UK analyst firm FreeForm Dynamics, says the focus must be on diagramming that aids teamwork. “You need effective communication to ensure everyone involved has a common understanding of what is being delivered and how. This can involve illustrating business requirements in a way that is meaningful to technical staff,” he says.

“Diagramming tools are great for building visuals to assist with communication. PowerPoint is clearly one option, but the templates, standard iconography and conventions provided by tools such as Visio assures greater consistency, which is invaluable. Not having to reinvent the wheel when figuring out how to present subject matter is a big time saver.”

Burn down

The use of diagrams to demonstrate real-time progress is key. In agile project delivery, progress must be demonstrated continuously to ensure the project delivers constant value, so real-time reporting is extremely useful. “Burn-down” reports show progress toward a target for each phase of the project.

Julian Holmes, co-founder of software developer UPMentors, says: “The status on a chart can be collated manually but real-time data is also an option when the team uses tools to track their actions and log their work. Tools such as Jira from Atlassian, or Team Concert from IBM Rational, are leaders in the field.”

Whatever the tools project managers choose, their detractors are never far away so the visuals had better be robust. Register reader 'Anonymous Coward' is perhaps typical. “Where I work, the project manager title pretty much refers to any monkey able to randomly mash a keyboard with Microsoft Project open. I'd just occasionally like to see someone whose job title is PM actually do it,” he says.

Perhaps the arrival of diagramming software in the cloud will start to encourage new, collaborative ways of using project management documents. It is also likely to continue to spawn a host of applications for niche market sectors.

Chris Roth, editor of the Visio Guy website, believes that the on-the-fly nature of such software will eventually bring huge benefits. “Web-based diagramming apps look interesting. They can update features any time, as opposed to the very slow update and upgrade cycles of desktop software. You can also have a lot of people work on the same diagram at the same time,” he says. ®

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

More from The Register

next story
This time it's 'Personal': new Office 365 sub covers just two devices
Redmond also brings Office into Google's back yard
Batten down the hatches, Ubuntu 14.04 LTS due in TWO DAYS
Admins dab straining server brows in advance of Trusty Tahr's long-term support landing
Inside the Hekaton: SQL Server 2014's database engine deconstructed
Nadella's database sqares the circle of cheap memory vs speed
Microsoft lobs pre-release Windows Phone 8.1 at devs who dare
App makers can load it before anyone else, but if they do they're stuck with it
Oh no, Joe: WinPhone users already griping over 8.1 mega-update
Hang on. Which bit of Developer Preview don't you understand?
Half of Twitter's 'active users' are SILENT STALKERS
Nearly 50% have NEVER tweeted a word
Internet-of-stuff startup dumps NoSQL for ... SQL?
NoSQL taste great at first but lacks proper nutrients, says startup cloud whiz
Windows 8.1, which you probably haven't upgraded to yet, ALREADY OBSOLETE
Pre-Update versions of new Windows version will no longer support patches
IRS boss on XP migration: 'Classic fix the airplane while you're flying it attempt'
Plus: Condoleezza Rice at Dropbox 'maybe she can find ... weapons of mass destruction'
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.