Why Task Management Apps Show You a Timeline That Doesn’t Work

My three year old tends to wear a blanket and run all over the house screaming “I’m Superman!” In a way, this is what some task management apps do – wear a “timeline,” and scream “I’m a project management solution”…So why are task management applications like Asana, Monday, and others showing timelines that don’t really work? And what is the project management solution you really need?

Task management and project/program management are two separate segments

We are all managing tasks, all the time. Even when you’re on vacation, right? You always have ten things to do, and ten other things that you want other people to do (and report their progress). This makes task management a way of life. It’s always there, and always required.

Project and program management are different. These are not just about getting work done – they’re when you have a goal, a timeline, scope, and resources. Once those elements are present, professionals will recognize it immediately as a “project.” People will tell each other, “I just got this project to manage, and it’s huge.”

Managing projects with task management applications is like trying to build a house without a blueprint. Sure, it’s possible to just tell people “put the kitchen here, and next to it build a den, with a arched entranceway to the study.” But without planning it out properly, the house will never be the house you envisioned…and it will probably collapse.

Task management is a bad starting point for a project

Even short projects tend to require a timeline of several months. This timeline is usually planned on a whiteboard, or Gantt chart software, or using a simple table of milestones and dates. At this point, some people turn to a task management application to “get the work done.” And that is a huge mistake.

timeline comparison

After using the task management application for some time, you will realize that your plan for current week and next week is fully loaded with data. If you look two weeks ahead you will see less information. And 3-4 weeks ahead – is a sandy barren desert!

“Huh,” you’d say. So you turn back to the timeline to check “how are we doing?” – but unfortunately the timeline is left on the meeting room whiteboard, or as someone’s unreadable Excel table. There is no way to get back to it, and the tasks that were “managed” using the task management application are out of context. The entire method is useless for projects.

A timeline is only as good as its maker

The gap of working without a timeline is well known, so it’s no surprise task management applications are trying to suggest a timeline. Is some cases, it is even being presented as a major feature. Unfortunately, the timeline can just shadow the information that a task management application holds. A shadow of a cat is unlikely to be a lion! If the task management application holds two to three weeks of tasks, the timeline will show the same projection – two to three weeks.

I am lion. Hear me roar!

A timeline is not a presentation of bits and pieces, it’s a major planning tool

The fundamental difference between task management and project management is in the planning process. Tasks are “out there,” waiting to be done, and someone is trying to make some order of them. This is a bottom up process – first tasks, then order. Projects are not out there. Sometimes the way to get to the project delivery is a mystery, a challenge which requires a planning process. It must start from the big picture, then go into the task breakdown. This is a top-down process – first order, then tasks.

Henry Gantt figured this out 100 years ago. The timeline is a starting point of any planning process, which then goes into the details – in this case, the tasks. Not the other way around! Henry Gantt, however, lived in the early 20th century, and he was thinking of production lines. His diagrams didn’t take into account modern projects, smartphones screens, continuous delivery and globally distributed project teams.

Gantt charts aren’t really relevant anymore. But that doesn’t mean that a timeline isn’t relevant. It is as relevant as always, and it just needs the right solution to be used – a modern solution that’s built for the 21st century. Proggio developed the “Projectmap” – a project timeline to replace Gantt charts.  

With the right timeline, people can do great things together

What makes a timeline “right”? And what makes Proggio’s “Projectmap” relevant to you?

  1. Clear and visual – no need for more than 5 minutes to create the plan, and more importantly, no need for more than 1 minute to understand the plan – or to answer the question “How are we doing?” whenever it arises. A timeline of tasks is useless – but tasks on the timeline are a revolution!
  2. Intuitively assimilates into the way successful project teams work – the projectmap is centered on the team, as people, as opposed to asking people to think like machines in a production line.
  3. Manage long term tasks in context – in order to do great things, you need a great timeline. This timeline is then breaks down into tasks gradually, and the progress never loses track of “How are we doing?”

With Proggio, we created a project management solution that uses a timeline as it should. Teams can go into a room, spend one hour with an online multi-user solution, and come up with a visual, collaborative, operational plan. Give it a try – you’ll never look back.