Visual Project Management has been selected as required reading for the University of Alabama’s Fall 2016 MGT452 – Project Communications Management course!
Visual Project Management
By: Paul R. Williams
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Recent Articles on Visual Project Management:
Visual Project Management Document Artifacts:
Interview with Chuck Frey of the Mind Mapping Software Blog
Visual Project Management: Synopsis
FACT: Project management is an extremely “data rich” business activity. At any given time, project management professionals are capturing, manipulating, transforming and communicating hundreds of individual data points. These data points include labor estimates, capital and operational expenses, task lists, performance metrics, calendars, cost-benefit analysis worksheets, risk profiles, trending data and a seemingly countless number of project documentation artifacts.
As the speed of business continues to increase, and as focus on an ever growing number of data points is needed to keep business and project execution in control, new and innovative tools and techniques are required to help busy executives make efficient and effective decisions on where to invest money and resources. Visualization of data and complex processes has proven valuable in serving those needs.
A project manager’s world is already full of data visualizations, designed to transform complex and voluminous data into simple, effective communication tools. Traditional visualizations such as Gantt charts, work breakdown structures, Kanban boards, process diagrams, project team calendars, project stakeholder organization charts, and the like are beneficial in their own way, but they don’t tell the collective story of overall project status and/or performance.
Complicating the matter, busy executive sponsors and key project stakeholders no longer have the luxury of time for lengthy project status reports or weekly status briefing meetings. Decisions must be made in the moment, with whatever facts are available. Because of this, traditional project management discipline that leverage process and document heavy approaches are rapidly being left behind in favor of more agile-based methods.
Lengthy, paper-based project artifacts take significant time and effort to both generate and consume. Research has also shown that information presented in text-based formats is ineffective and inefficient. In fact, several supporting statistics exploring this concept indicate that, in order for information to be conveyed most efficiently, it needs to be visual. According to insightinformation.net, for example, the human eye can see visual patterns 65,000 times faster on a picture than in tabular form. And quintagroup.com claims 95% of all information is perceived through the eyes.
These facts have led to the creation of a new niche within the project management community known as “Visual Project Management.” When it comes to improving project communication and collaboration, as well as visualizing processes, work flows and risks, visual project management has emerged as one of the best new methods for leading and managing projects.
The key benefit of this new approach is speed, as critical project information can be produced, replicated and digested in more effective and efficient ways. Taking this new approach also provides additional distinct benefits to project managers, team members and, most importantly, key stakeholders:
- The status of project planning, execution, monitoring and control activities are available in a single, at-a-glance and easy to understand view
- Improves clarity, visibility and understanding of the scope and overall operational plan of the project effort
- Resource allocations, or over-allocations, across the project, or multiple projects, are clearly visible
- Impacts of changes to the scope, plan, priority or resource allocations are available in real-time
- Information is delivered in such a way that anyone can consume it at a time, place and manner that is convenient to them
Today’s project manager has more to manage than just project scope, deliverables, communications and teams. They are also expected to manage large volumes of project-related data. And the expectation goes beyond just managing the data. It extends into creating great visualizations that allow stakeholders to fully digest that large volume of data in a manner that is quick, effective and clear. They are also expected to serve as facilitators in the use of visual thinking tools as a method for working through project issues, risks and problems. These new expectations require new skills. The era of multi-page, text-based project status reporting is over. The era of visual project management is here. Time to “skill up!”