Wednesday 2 February 2022

Are you dependent on a Gantt schedule in project management?

Gantt charts are the main tool in the toolkit of the project manager. But an inexperienced project manager may find that they take over the project and lead to a weakening of control. How so? This article discusses possible mistakes and provides tips and strategies to ensure successful project management. Gantt charts are just one of many ways to present the project plan and the actual data entered.

We are not talking about repeat projects, where the template project plan is improved over a series of projects and becomes a standard checklist for project management (for example, off-the-shelf commercial software). This is an article about unique (or newly tested template) projects. These projects are carried out in large or small organizations.

Large organizations with developed and well-established IT departments may have formal project offices with established project planning standards, dedicated project office staff, and probably automated plan quality assurance systems. 


For example, looking for hanging tasks, missed dependencies and measuring other indicators to give an overall assessment of the quality of the plan. Small organizations like solution firms may not have this level of perfection, but almost certainly need detailed project plans.

What is the use of Gantt charts?

Gantt charts are a great format for presenting data on addictions and progress, but like most things, the return depends on the investment. The more attention is paid to the preparation of project plan data, the better the return will be. But there is a danger that the level of detail included in the model project plan may itself require a disproportionate amount of project management. Details are not covered here, but managing dependencies and critical paths is of great importance. Therefore, it is imperative to include details in the plan first.

The actual costs of project management can be derived from the order in the budget. What, then, suffers? An overloaded project management team, an under served plan and evidence, or both. The result is a dependence on the Gantt chart.

How to avoid this problem (except for an unlimited budget)?

The recommended approach is based on the initial comprehensive risk assessment of the project. Categories analyzed include:

  • Organizational readiness and policy.
  • Organizational and technical literacy.
  • The level of qualification of the organization's personnel.
  • Technical proposal.
  • Commercial risk (e.g. market problems, competitive pressures and the extent of process changes required).
  • Time frame, speed of commercial changes.
  • Resources, including availability of money.
  • The importance of funding.

This will allow us to attribute the proposed project to those with low, medium or high complexity. A project of medium complexity can have a phase of high complexity.

These levels of complexity will require varying amounts of project management work built into the resource budget. As experience shows, the numbers are as follows:

  • Low complexity: the amount of work on project management is 7-11% of the total resource budget.
  • Medium complexity: the volume of work on project management is 12-17% of the total resource budget.
  • High complexity: project management work is 18-22% or more of the total resource budget.

These numbers may seem excessive for some people, but over 30% of projects are considered failures, and failure is always the result of inadequate project management (including risk assessment and management). Money rests on the quality or quantity of project management.

What does all this have to do with Gantt charts? Most immediately:

  • The structure of the plan should reflect a risk analysis by priority with simple checkpoints and gates.
  • The degree of detail included in the project plan should be proportional to the complexity of the project.
  • The requirement for management reporting should be proportional to the complexity of the project, requiring only proportionate maintenance.

The maintenance requirement is aimed at the really important elements. This is reflected in Gantt graphs with a degree of detail proportional to the risk of the stage.

It follows that the project manager comes to the office every day thinking, "How am I going to move the project forward to this checkpoint today?" rather than 'Another 4 hours of data collection and 2 hours of data entry before I can do the real work'.

The main task of the project manager is to act in advance, not to manage.

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