Building a better gantt chart

I’ve been managing projects for well over 10 years, and the biggest obstacle that I encounter is communicating project status quickly and efficiently with a project team. We have lots of tools at our disposal consisting of a variety of software packages and technologies, but these tools are insufficient for information dense project timelines.

Organizations are still relying on massive printouts of computer generated Gantt charts that allow teams to view their project status. However, the classic computer generated Gantt chart consists of a table of data on the left and a graphical representation of the timeline on the right. The two column design has team members searching for their tasks on the left and scanning to the right to view the timeline. Many of my team members have expressed frustration reading large schedules which lead me to think of alternative ways to leverage the capabilities of the applications that generate the schedules that we view on a daily basis.

I developed the layout presented above to address this pressing usability issue. The new layout drops the left column of the typical Gantt chart and overlays the contents of the table on the actual timeline. Though the change is relatively simple, it eliminates the back and forth eye movement that typically slows down the team member’s review of the schedule. By making a simplification to the presentation tool, we allow the user to focus on the content rather than the mechanics of finding the content.

Yes, better designs can be developed using custom tools; the goal here was to use a standard, off the shelf application that any company can purchase to create the schedule. This requirement imposes restrictions on how many modifications can be made to the scheduling layout, but most tools (in this case, Microsoft Project 2003) provide some capabilities to manipulate the graphical interface.