Gantt Chart Alternative: The Blueprint Approach

The problems with Gantt charts are well known. Project management tools come with a catch-22 built into them. Every project manager eventually asks themself – to use the Gantt chart, or to opt for a Gantt chart alternative? This is the “to be or not to be” question of the project management world. Answering it makes all the difference for your project team, and for the chances of success for the project.

And the House Fell Down

Imagine you are building a house. (If you’re a construction project manager, this isn’t so hard, right?)

“OK,” you tell yourself. “What do we need to do to build a house?” You list the tasks (“dig foundation,” “build frame,” order bath fixtures,” “install hardwood floors”), set deadlines for each task, assign the people responsible, establish some contingencies, and set the team to work.

Five months later, you finish construction, and watch the house fall down.

Who builds a house without blueprints?

blueprint

A blueprint may not be easy to understand, but they’re crucial for professionals building things. It provides a detailed visual map of a project, that acts as both a guide and a set of instructions.

The Project Management Blueprint

Here’s the thing. Every project needs a blueprint. If there’s a team working on a project, they need to understand the project, have their instructions, and carry them out with the overall project goal in mind. If the interior designer for a kitchen doesn’t know where the gas and water hookups will be, that kitchen simply isn’t going to work. If a software developer doesn’t know the user interface, that code isn’t going to work either.

For most projects, project managers use Gantt charts. Gantt charts, at first glance, seem to be a blueprint for a project. After all, there’s a visual component, and it carries the instructions for the project in its task list. But they’re not blueprints, for a simple reason. They’re a terrible guide. No wonder people are looking for a Gantt chart alternative!

A project manager can read a Gantt chart. They can visualize the project in their mind, so they can then use the Gantt chart as a simple reference for assigning tasks to team members and managing the project accordingly. But team members can’t read Gantt charts, and looking at one won’t give them a snapshot of what the project is. A Gantt chart simply does not guide someone on the project team.

And you know this. It’s probably why you’re looking for a Gantt chart alternative in the first place.

gantt chart projectmap

There is an alternative. A better one. In fact, this alternative is much like a blueprint for your project. It’s called a projectmap, and that’s exactly what it is. In the image above, the difference is stark as night and day. On the left is a typical Gantt chart. On the right is a projectmap. The projectmap takes the Gantt and makes it a visual representation of the project – tasks are contained in activity boxes on the timeline, instead of the vertical axis. And in its place are workstreams, representing the teams or core work areas of the project. Now there’s a map, that’s both a guide and instructions for every team member.

In a construction project, there are different things that need to get done. There’s a guy on a backhoe, bricklayers, interior designers, electricians, lawyers, and more. Each has a different core work area of the project, and often each are different teams. The lawyer deals with the zoning board, and the bricklayer isn’t choosing the banister moldings. Each works on their area of the project, and together, the house gets built. Your project is no different. Marketing, software development, operations, whatever your particulars are – these core work areas are the workstreams of the project. By placing these workstreams as the vertical axis of the projectmap, the project now centers around the people doing it – instead of the tasks they’d be doing. 

This is one little change, but it shifts the entire focus of the project! Most project managers are focused on the tasks within the timeline. They are asking themselves if the test batch has been manufactured, for example. But the better question is, where is the team working on the test batch holding? Instead of compartmentalizing the team’s issues in one box, and the tasks in another, a good project manager knows they’re one and the same thing. It’s about people.

The Gantt chart was designed for factory machines. It misses the key focus point for today’s project teams. This is why there’s a need for a Gantt chart alternative – the Gantt chart, by its design, moves the focus of the project away from where it should be to where it misses the main challenges for successful delivery.

Project Planning Is Only Step #1

OK, so there’s a better way to design a project. But it doesn’t stop there, either. The projectmap has the tools to actively manage the project, too. The projectmap isn’t only built around people, it’s a tool for those people to do great things together. Progress is tracked. Work is updated. Files are shared. Activity logs are generated, and kept. Budgets are tracked. Workloads are balanced. And more.

Click on an activity box on that timeline, and the tasks inside it come up. Every team member can see their tasks as a list, or as a Kanban board.

proggio task management views

When your team marks their progress on their tasks, the projectmap updates with their input automatically. Everyone is using the same datasource, from different views. And that means that anyone looking at the projectmap knows exactly where the project is holding, and what is being worked on, in real time. The answer to the eternal question “so where are we holding with the project?” has an immediate answer, any time. THAT’S a project blueprint.

Blueprints are important. Your project needs one. Stop searching for a Gantt chart alternative, and start using Proggio today.