In our previous posts, we have listed some advantages of using Gantt charts and discussed when they should be used if we want successful project tracking and reporting. We stressed how important Gantt charts are in establishing the critical path, dependencies, slack, and assessing the overall progress of a project. Software project management differs from other project management disciplines in the sense that the deliverables and projects are planned, implemented, monitored, and controlled in a faster project management life cycle and that the resources are the software developers.
Gantt charts help software project managers mitigate risks and constraints within their software development projects. To understand how we have to mention that technology is improving exponentially at a faster rate than decades ago. Bear in mind that software products that were prominent ten years ago might be almost useless today. Therefore, new releases and new versions are crucial to keeping up with technological advancements. So IT developers have to constantly fix bugs, glitches and to improve the user experience, while at the same time concentrate on the latest security threats, viruses, data encryption, and so on.
Surely there are teams of experts each focusing on their specific tasks, yet it might be difficult at times to keep up with the steady workflow, meeting deadlines, and maintaining a sane work environment. One essential distinction between software project management and those from other industries is that the resources are comprised of software developers. They could be split into two categories: the AI/IQ group and the EQ group. The IQ group is in charge of the technical aspects of software development, focusing their time and energy on ‘issues’. Let’s discuss this in detail:
Mapping ‘issues’ with Gantt charts
Gantt charts are especially helpful at keeping track of ‘issues’, which refer to any improvement or accomplishment that could be done to push a project forward. For example, an issue could be fixing a bug, completing a task, implementing a requested feature, and so on. Although it may sound counter-intuitive, ‘issues’ have a broader meaning than mere ‘problems’ or ‘hurdles’ that inevitably lead to project failure, since these units of work are oftentimes positive and achievable. In other words, ‘issues’ could be seen as stepping stones towards project completion, rather than a setback.
Issues are categorized in terms of severity, urgency, and need. A high severity issue is critical to task completion than a cosmetic one. For example, it is more important to fix a bug or a glitch than to change the layout, font, or color of the app. Yes, some designers might argue differently, though. They might call the font police to arrest those IT developers with zero sense of aesthetics. Joking aside, those glitches have to be fixed for a smooth operating system. How can a Gantt chart push the project forward?
- One effective way would be establishing the high and medium issues as ‘dependencies’, while leaving some ‘slack’ for the low and aesthetic (trivial, cosmetic) ones.
- Another way would be tracking the critical path of the development process. This way the project manager can oversee the entire project and tackle possible delays and shortcomings.
Fostering creativity with Gantt charts
There would be no software to develop, no bug to fix, and no new feature to implement if it were not for the creative thinkers to come up with ideas. If you look at software development from a humanistic perspective, it is actually an inherently creative process in which art and trade combine. It brings something fresh and of value to the market. There is nothing new under the sun, so developers in software project management have to work even harder to revolutionize technology as we know it. For example, electric cars still share similarities with gasoline-fueled cars, which in turn were an upgrade from the steam-powered cars made in the late 18th century. Did you know that there were also windmill-powered vehicles which date back from the end of the Middle Ages? This proves the point that innovation and evolution are the key elements of technological advancement.
So this team of creative thinkers within the software project management tackles user experience design, web development, front-end work, digital product design, and so on. Our society is replete with products, thus leading to a hyper-competitive market. It’s the job of the creative thinkers to come up with better software than their competition. We know that inspiration does not come and go like some kind of fairy or supernatural being, but it is something heuristic, improved by trial and error. Creativity is practiced and refined. We have thus come up with ideas on how to implement Gantt charts to help with the creative process:
1. For example, using a collaborative project management tool, every creative thinker within the team has to work together to come up with a theoretical or ideal product that could work sometime in ten years. Thinking outside the box, and replacing Gantt bars with LEGO, they could question the methods and techniques that are already in practice, and think of faster and more effective ways to create the same product but with alternative means.
2. Another example would be using Gantt charts for a ‘worst-case-scenario’ project. The project manager comes up with a crisis within their software development project and allows the team members to come up with feasible solutions. They could think of it as a game, and set the scene in a fictional world or with a cinematic backdrop. In this way, the team can come up with practical ways of mitigating risk, solving issues, and preventing possible weaknesses.
3. Another good idea would be using ‘dependencies’. One team member has to come up with an idea that can be further improved by another team member, and so on. It is also a good exercise to get the creative juices flowing if the team feels stuck on an issue.
Summing up, Gantt charts help both the creative thinkers and analytical developers within software project management by mapping the issues that need to be solved and by setting up a creative outlet for innovative thinking. We have also talked in greater detail about emotional intelligence and listed a few hacks and skills every project manager should know in 2018.
Andrei is a Growth Hacker on Teamweek's marketing team. He is the person behind most of Teamweek's SEO-driven projects, including the budget calculator and the worst productivity tips generator. He enjoys writing about project management, graphic design, and anything tech.