Democratizing project management data: Beyond the Gantt chart


One of the reasons why I find project management applications so interesting and have written about them in the past is because the good project management applications are communications tools at heart. Throughout my time as a contract technical writer, I’ve seen inside project management organizations of every stripe and the quality of project communications separates the good from the bad PMOs almost every time.

This experience lead me to become a big believer in the democratization of project management data.

All project management data needs to be accessible to everyone involved in the project lifecycle including executives, stakeholders, project management, and the people doing the actual work. When project managers and PMOs cage their project schedules and other management data in tools like Gantt charts, they risk losing some of the audience for the information.

I wrote about this very subject back when I was writing for WebWorkerDaily and later for Projects@Work and CNET TechRepublic, and I still find it fascinating.

The growth of cloud-based project management tools like LiquidPlanner and Viewpath are prime examples of how moving away from a strict Gantt chart view into the project lifecycle can be liberating for all those involved. Just because Gantt charts are ubiquitous doesn’t make them right.

Today’s crop of project management applications support multiple views that project teams can use to communicate project management information to their stakeholders. Not everybody can even understand a Gantt chart.

The key element of democratizing project management data is choosing an application that enables you to capture and publish project management data in a variety of formats including web, print, and even mobile device. Some qualities to look for in a project management app include:

  • Flexible views into project management schedules, reporting, and related data.
  • Central, secure, and accessible location for all project documents and artifacts.
  • Flexible data formats available for pulling the project management data into presentations and reports because there is more to life than just emailing a PDF version of a Gantt chart around the team.
  • Accessibility inside and outside the corporate firewall whether through VPN, Single Sign On (SSO) or another security measure.
  • Mobile client for access to project management data for project managers, stakeholders, and team members.

The integration of enterprise social tools with project management solutions as a whole still intrigues me at this point because of the potential for improving team communications within a project management structure.Though I am going to have to get out of the home security/federal government sector before I see anything like that in practice if at all.

Today’s harsh economic reality demands that all levels of the project team have an understanding of what is going on with the project. Such project management information also needs to stand on its own without the need for translation of any sort especially if your project teams span multiple time zones.

Image by stock.xchng user: ximes

Will Kelly is a technical writer and analyst based in the Washington, DC area. His writing experience also includes writing technology articles for CNET TechRepublic and other sites. Will’s technology interests include collaboration platforms, enterprise mobility, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), project management applications, and big data. Follow him on Twitter: @willkelly.


Originally published at willkelly.org on November 5, 2011. This post has been updated and revised.

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