Is GANTT chart the real issue here?

August 15, 2007

Scott, thank you for your comment to my earlier post GANTT in agile environment. I wanted to respond to it but could not find a short way of doing that so here goes another full-blown post. A comment like this would probably get lost in the comments section.

Is it GANTT or is it MS Project?

Here is an excerpt from Tate’s article which sort of says that even with agile (I even think more so with agile) you still do prioritization, estimation, resource assignment, … So it is not just my words.

When you have a granular, ever-changing list of software requirements (or features or enhancements or whatever) and the team prioritizes and commits to just a few of those each iteration AND the team then organizes their own way of delivering those requirements in the space of a few weeks or less, it is really, really hard to make a Gantt Chart.

You keep the list of tasks (features and enhancements) using some tool today, Excel, MS Word, MS Project, Bugzilla, right? The cost of maintaining the list is always there, regardless of whether you want GANTT or not. If your tool of choice can generate GANTT chart automatically for you then the incremental cost of doing that is ZERO. And if you use MS Project to manage the list then you would not have a problem with GANTT, I believe. But are you using MS Project to manage the list?

The reason people say creating GANTT is expensive, I think, is because they actually maintain the list of tasks in one tool and generate GANTT in another tool (e.g. MS Project). Now, that is a real head ache, I could not agree more! Entering manually all tasks, information about resources, durations, dependencies, every time any of those change in your master list, just to have a GANTT chart? I would not do that, and naturally I would say that GANTT is not worth it. In my opinion the real issue we’re complaining about GANTT is that a typical project management tool (like MS Project, dot Project, Omni Project, you name it) is not designed to be a good tool for a software product manager and it is very painful to maintain a list of changing project tasks in it. I have a feeling that often when people say “GANTT chart is not useful”, they really express their dissatisfaction with MS Project because it is not the right tool for doing their software product management.

Traditional PM tool is not the right choice

Why is not a traditional PM tool convenient for software product management and people prefer to just use Excel or Wiki and make GANTT chart an “escape goat” (I mean discard it and blame it)?

  • Because it is not connected to your request/bug tracker (your backlog) where most of the product requirements, enhancements, bugs are already filed, estimates entered, and task statuses available, plus available resources defined (even with their specific specializations; think Bugzilla, Product/Component -> Owner relationship)
  • Because it is not a collaborative environment and you have to do all the input and tracking work yourself whereas you could be benefiting from other people’s input.

  The PM tool for a product manager should be a collaborative environment

If you start using a PM tool that is designed for collaborative product management on top of a request tracker which is used by your support, development and QA teams, you will see how much easier it becomes for you. Even the cost of maintaining your blackog and feature lists (the effort and time you as a PM personally invest daily) minimizes because most of the input and status tracking happens without you even knowing about it. Duplicate efforts to input and track data on your side are minimized (sometimes absolutely removed) and the cost of maintaining the project status up to date is spread out among all the team members hence your personal effort significantly decreases.

Back to GANTT charts

In such a collaborative environment where your whole team contributes to the project planning and status tracking, an accurate GANTT chart with the real-time detailed information incorporated in it is suddenly becoming a quite attractive alternative to your burndown chart, in my opinion.

And even with agile teams I would not discard the importance of providing accurate status information to your managers. They do like GANTT charts, don’t they? Any additional level of clarity within your company can only help to succeed with your projects.

3 Responses to “Is GANTT chart the real issue here?”

  1. Rob Says:

    Alexey / Scott

    I read your articles with great interest. I am after such a product that you are discussing, something to auto generate a Gantt chart from a bug logging piece of software. Do you recommend and products that can do this ideal freeware / shareware

    Thanks

  2. Alexey Says:

    Rob,

    Actually this product that I refer to is something my open source project develops.

    It has just recently got reviewed in an on-line magazine o3: http://o3magazine.com/pastissues/issue7/

    And if you want to see the dynamic GANTT generation please login to one of the demo accounts at http://yoxel.com an go to ‘sw releases’ part of the portal (find a release planning session). You’ll see a software download link there too.

    Most of the teams that have downloaded Yoxel simply replaced their Bugzilla’s/GNATS/Mantis with Yoxel’s request tacker but there are also a few that use it on top of those (we have an integration module).

    Feel free to email me with any questions: alexey yoxel com.


  3. Очень полезно


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