April 10, 2017

3 Ways Agile Teams Can Use Gantt Chart Software

Written by
Peter Landau

Agile is the rebel, rejecting the traditional methodologies of project management. Gantt charts are over one-hundred years old. Can these opposing forces actually work together?

While Agile offers innovative techniques to run a fast-paced project, it’s not the best way to manage every project, or even every aspect of a single project. Agile delivers results early and often, while traditional methodologies deliver results at the end of a project. Agile embraces and adapts to change. Traditional methodologies control change to avoid unexpected problems.

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That doesn’t mean the two can’t find some common ground. In most cases, a long and complex project is going to use a variety of techniques. Some may use Agile (for sprints within the larger project), while others apply a top-down, Waterfall approach.

In these larger projects, there are often multiple teams at play, each dedicated to a specific project goal. These teams are likely working on different aspects of the project, so while the IT team is fluent in Agile, product development may need a more structured environment to get work done. Basically, the project is being completed successfully through a hybrid methodology.

If you’re leading the project and managing both teams, you’ll want them working from a tool that is flexible for everyone who uses it. That’s where a collaborative and online project management software comes in handy.

gantt chart example

Once you are using a centralized tool that can plan, track, and report to suit the needs of various teams, you can sell the use of a traditional feature like Gantt to a more forward-thinking Agile team.

Besides, Gantt charts have changed a lot since they migrated online. Here are three ways your Agile team can benefit from using online Gantt charts:

1. Sprint Tracking

Gantt charts are a simple, visual way to track tasks across the lifecycle of a project. In Agile PM, teams are doing sprints, which are basically short clusters of related tasks. A Gantt chart is a helpful way to capture and plan this work.

projectmanager.com screenshot

Online Gantt charts let you create task dependencies, and a sprint in Agile is basically a group of tasks that are all dependent upon one another. Collect these items with their start-to-finish dependency, so that when you hold your daily stand-ups to review progress, you might find some tasks you’ll need to move out of that sprint or even the sprint delivery date. When you then move those items, the dates will automatically change on the Gantt chart.

You can also track the change requests you receive from project stakeholders. Add these to the Gantt chart to identify which ones you’re executing each sprint. Items in the backlog will drop in and out as the team moves through their sprint.

As you complete the tasks in these sprints, you should track them and note how many hours it took to finish each. With an online Gantt chart, that information is clearly visible and can even be color-coded. As your team updates their status, the Gantt chart is also updated in real-time, so you have an accurate view of where the tasks in each sprint are at that moment.

2. Gantt Chart as a Collaboration Tool

After you build this Gantt chart to track sprints, you can also use it to plan and organize work with your team. Some Gantt charts are in and of themselves a powerful collaboration tool.

An online Gantt chart can serve as a platform where the team plans together and tracks each other’s progress throughout the sprint, noting deliverables at the task level, attaching files with comments, notes, etc.

In some cases, you can also attach tickets or issues to an individual task, so documents and URLs are available for whomever needs them. Pull it all together in a spreadsheet for a burn chart, or get one-click reports on your progress.

Because online Gantt charts are interactive, it’s easy to drag and drop schedule changes. You can also filter Gantt charts with different views to reflect the priorities of individual team members or stakeholders. 

3. Integrated Timesheets

Gantt charts as part of a project management software tool can be integrated with timesheets to help monitor the time your team is putting into the work. You can then determine if they are over-tasked or if the project needs more resources.

This insight can help you see how many tasks have been completed in a particular time period and get the information you need for stakeholder status reports.

You can not only measure the efficiency of your team, but also decide which team members you should assign to the next task or project. Learn your team members’ areas of expertise, and place them on relevant project assignments. When you assign people on some Gantt charts, you can define skills and filter for people with those skills.

* * *

Gantt charts often get a bad name with Agile teams. They’re considered antiquated technology, overly complex, and hard to create. That may be true if you’re building them in Excel. But when they’re incorporated into a powerful online project management platform, those myths are easily debunked. The proof is in how agile a Gantt chart is, from its traditional function to versatile use in almost any project.

Peter Landau is the Content Editor at ProjectManager.com. He has worked as a writer and editor on print, digital and mobile platforms for both consumer and trade publications. You can follow him on Twitter @PeterLandau.

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