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Partner-Blog ALM Works #DWSC20: Gantt Charts that Work for an Agile World

Der Digital Workplace Summit by Communardo The #DWSC20 by Communardo will take place from November 3 - 5. For this conference ALM Works has written this article as a partner blog.

Das ist ein Beitrag von ALM Works als Teil unse­rer Partner-Blogs zum #DWSC20.

Many agi­lists would argue Gantt charts are a relic, the pro­ject manage­ment equi­va­lent of a his­to­ri­cal arti­fact. Yet they're still extre­mely popu­lar — even in orga­niz­a­ti­ons with Agile teams, where they may be an awk­ward fit. But what if Gantt tools were adap­ted to sup­port Agile prac­ti­ces in Jira? What if the time­line and depen­dency visua­liz­a­tion of Gantt charts could be cou­pled with Agile pro­ject manage­ment methods? Here’s how.


How Gantt got here

When Henry Gantt first publis­hed his bar charts in the early 1900s, they were con­si­de­red state-of-the-art. By lis­ting tasks on a ver­ti­cal axis and then showing the sche­dule for com­ple­ting those tasks on a hori­zon­tal axis, pro­ject mana­gers were able to help their teams more easily visua­lize the over­all pro­ject at a glance. For war­time and industrial-age pro­jects, the Gantt chart became a popu­lar tool for ensu­ring mas­sive pro­jects were com­ple­ted on time and on budget.
Project, pro­gram, and port­fo­lio mana­gers (collec­tively refer­red to as pro­ject mana­gers) have pushed the evo­lu­tion of the Gantt chart over the last 100 years. The ori­gi­nal Gantt charts had to be labo­riously redrawn every time the sche­dule chan­ged; the move to soft­ware obviously ope­ned the door to major impro­ve­ments. Managers could more easily add addi­tio­nal infor­ma­tion, like pro­ject com­ple­tion per­cen­ta­ges, task assign­ments, and ele­ments indi­ca­ting the rela­ti­ons­hip bet­ween tasks.
Gantt charts also became a com­mon tool to help pro­ject mana­gers easily exp­lain the sta­tus of important pro­jects during board mee­tings. Management became skil­led at rea­ding Gantt charts and noti­cing “tent-pole” tasks that were exten­ding pro­ject dead­lines and trou­ble­some “pre-reqs” that were causing delays. Unfortunately, Gantt charts some­ti­mes told only part of the story and pro­ject mana­gers were left try­ing to exp­lain important details without having the necessary data rea­dily available.


Kanbans and Waterfalls

In 2001, 17 soft­ware deve­lo­p­ment prac­ti­tio­ners deve­lo­ped and publis­hed their Agile Manifesto.
While the bene­fits of ite­ra­tive and rapid deve­lo­p­ment had been around for deca­des, the Agile Manifesto brought the con­cept of Agile soft­ware deve­lo­p­ment to the mainstream.

The Agile Manifesto is roo­ted in four sta­ted values:

  1. Individual inter­ac­tions over pro­cess and tools.
  2. Working soft­ware over com­pre­hen­sive documentation.
  3. Customer col­la­bo­ra­tion over con­tract negotiation.
  4. Responding to change over fol­lowing a plan.

As you can ima­gine, the only mes­sage many pro­ject mana­gers paid atten­tion to was, “no pro­cess, no plan, no docu­men­ta­tion.” And the thought of losing those three con­trol points cau­sed them to break out into a cold sweat. Their live­li­hood was roo­ted in con­trol­ling pro­jects. Even the Project Management Institute (PMI) high­ligh­ted “con­trol” as one of its five pha­ses of pro­fes­sio­nal pro­ject manage­ment.
Despite that early resis­tance from pro­ject mana­gers, Agile methods star­ted to take hold. At first, it was a grass­roots effort using Scrum mee­tings and Kanban boards cove­red by a rain­bow of sti­cky notes.

Gradually, pro­ject mana­gers star­ted see­ing ele­ments of Agile creep into their pro­ject manage­ment soft­ware. But a large per­cen­tage of pro­ject mana­gers couldn’t figure out an effec­tive way to incor­po­rate Agile methods into their five-phase, Waterfall approach to mana­ging pro­jects. How can the scope change when the CIO has already signed the requi­re­ments document?

What fol­lo­wed was a period where con­fu­sion and con­flict reig­ned in soft­ware deve­lo­p­ment shops all over the world. Project mana­gers were con­ti­nuing to deve­lop plans and sche­du­les and reports based on a Waterfall approach and soft­ware deve­lo­p­ment teams were hol­ding their own Scrum mee­tings, crea­ting Kanban boards, resis­ting docu­men­ta­tion requests and recom­men­ding scope chan­ges during deve­lo­p­ment and tes­ting phases.

Fortunately, as col­la­bo­ra­tive soft­ware deve­lo­pers like Atlassian came up with bet­ter ways to pre­sent data in a hybrid (Waterfall/Agile) way, pro­ject mana­gers star­ted to adapt.

They began to rea­lize they could still create and assign tasks, they could still have a high-level sche­dule in place and they could still fol­low a gene­ral soft­ware deve­lo­p­ment lifecy­cle (SDLC).
Additionally, they star­ted to see the bene­fits in fol­lowing an Agile approach. Best prac­ti­ces star­ted to evolve very quickly at this point and pro­ject mana­gers star­ted deman­ding even more inte­gra­tion from their tools. But it was pro­ving dif­fi­cult to find the right mix­ture of Gantt-like visua­liz­a­tion and Agile flexibility.


Agile Gantt is the next evolutionary phase

Gantt charts have always been an out­stan­ding way to visua­lize ent­ire pro­jects. From the work break­down struc­ture (WBS) to assign­ments to sche­du­led com­ple­tion dates, the Gantt view is supe­rior. But as Agile user sto­ries, sprints, Scrum mee­tings, and Kanban boards grew in popu­la­rity, the once-favored Gantt chart got lost in the mix. Because it had limi­ted con­tex­tual data, it lost some of its magic.

Then ALM Works and a hand­ful of other ven­dors crea­ted the next evo­lu­tion in Gantt tech­no­logy, Gantt apps built for Jira.

ALM Works' ver­sion of these Agile-oriented Gantt charts is cal­led Structure.Gantt — a Gantt-style pro­ject time­line with depen­den­cies and resource allo­ca­tion high­lights, built on top of the Structure for Jira app.

The key idea is to take the foun­da­tio­nal bene­fits of a Gantt chart but allow Agile teams the abi­lity to view, manage, inter­act, and revise their pro­ject plans wit­hin that pro­ject time­line visualization.

For example, an Agile-oriented Gantt tool can cou­ple the chart with sprint plan­ning. In an Agile envi­ron­ment, tasks are often assi­gned to a spe­ci­fic sprint, vs. a spe­ci­fic date. In Structure.Gantt, pro­ject mana­gers can use sprint dates for manual sche­du­ling of tasks — so tasks can be sche­du­led to begin and end based on sprint dates.

An Agile Gantt time­line, adap­ted to reflect sprints ins­tead of calen­dar dates

What’s more, since teams are often assi­gned several tasks that all need to be com­ple­ted during a sprint but in no spe­ci­fic order, mana­ging the workload for those teams has long been out­side the reach of tra­di­tio­nal Gantt charts. Structure.Gantt sol­ves this pro­blem with a fixed-duration task manage­ment fea­ture. As tasks are assi­gned, the workload for each task is divi­ded evenly across its dura­tion, allowing pro­ject mana­gers to quickly iden­tify and address over­loads or oppor­tu­nities wit­hin each sprint.

Of course, no Gantt solu­tion could truly be cal­led Agile if it requi­red a ton of work to build a use­ful chart (we’ll leave that kind of chart-building to those old-school PMs!). Using the Agile Gantt Chart tem­plate tool in Structure.Gantt, pro­ject mana­gers can create charts with Agile Planning enab­led in just a few seconds. These charts can be cus­to­mi­zed to dis­play the hier­ar­chy that best fits their busi­ness needs:

  • Stories only
  • Stories bene­ath epics
  • Portfolio (requi­res Atlassian Portfolio to be instal­led), with initia­ti­ves above epics

Agile-oriented Gantt tools, such as Structure. Gantt, pro­vide pro­ject mana­gers with the necessary tools to get the most out of an Agile metho­do­logy, while allowing for the sche­du­ling rea­li­ties that are impo­sed on their pro­jects by business-related dead­lines, mar­ket com­pe­ti­tion, and bud­ge­t­ary constraints.

In fact, the man­ner in which Structure. Gantt inte­gra­tes data from stan­dard Jira data sources will become the new nor­mal. Project mana­gers will incre­ase effi­ci­ency, reduce errors and improve over­all pro­duct qua­lity while expe­ri­en­cing the maxi­mum power of the old and the new.

To learn more about Agile Gantt, con­tact Communardo and ask them about Structure for Jira and Structure.Gantt.

21. Oktober 2020

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