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Project Management - Visualization Resources

Project management charts and other visualization tools for project managers.

Data visualization in project management


Visual Project Management Explained

Visualizing tasks and schedules to better communicate project plans

A vital aspect of effective project management resides in communicating clearly with teams and stakeholders about the big picture and specifics of your project. This ensures that everyone involved understands how each task and its timely completion contributes to the success of the overall initiative. One of the best ways to communicate with key participants is through visual project management.

What is visual Project Management?

Visual project management represents the method of organizing and managing processes over traditional projects through the use of visual tools such as timelines, Gantt charts, roadmaps and swimlane diagrams. These types of project management graphics help you deliver information in such a way that it can be consumed at a time, place, and manner that is convenient to anyone.

Why is visual project management important?

In today’s fast-paced and lean business culture, representing complex data in an easy-to-understand format and simplifying processes is of essence. At any given time, project managers have to capture, process, and communicate numerous distinct project data points such as task lists, operational expenses, calendars, performance metrics, and many more.

As the speed of business keeps increasing so does the number of data points required to maintain project execution in control. Based on these circumstances, executives need innovative visual project management tools to turn all the complex information into a comprehensible output that will allow them to make efficient long-term decisions. This is why project management has rapidly moved away from heavy-documented, lengthy project status reports and other related artifacts towards data visualization and more agile project management practices.

It is against this background that visual project management has emerged as one of the best ways to manage and lead projects, making voluminous details available under the form of simple, effective communication tools. This, in turn, provides project managers, team members, and key stakeholders with the following key benefits:

  • Increased speed and time efficiency – by using clear, easy-to-follow visuals, critical project planning, executing, and tracking activities are conveyed in a single, at-a-glance, digestible view;

  • Enhanced clarity, transparency, and understanding of the project’s scope and overall operational plan;

  • Improved visibility and allocation of resources across the project;

  • Real-time, accurate insights into the project’s scope, plan, priorities, and resource management;

  • Optimized communication and collaboration through the clear illustration of processes and workflows.


What are different types of project management charts?

Within the busy discipline that project management is, data visualization through project management charts becomes vital for effectively structuring underlying activities such as task management, project planning, team collaboration, resource allocation, and progress tracking.

Displaying project-related information in a clear graphical layout, project management charts help business professionals to better explain, forecast, report on, and organize an initiative. Making information easier to interpret and apply, these visual tools ensure a solid support for:

  • Providing a high-level overview of a project’s status;

  • Tracking project progress in real time;

  • Accurately identifying issues, bottlenecks, and risks;

  • Better decision making based on data-driven insights.

Project management charts come in various shapes and sizes, each of them having its own set of advantages and characteristics that make it suitable for a particular situation.

Here are the most well-known types of charts used in project management:

Learn more about the format and purpose of each of these project visuals on our dedicated project management charts page.

Project management charts


Why should I use visual project management tools?

Created as an alternative to text-based project management solutions, visual project management tools are designed to help users visualize processes and workflows, thus contributing to improved planning, communication, and collaboration.

Providing clear visual representations of resources and tasks as the project advances, visual project management tools help resolve:

  • Breakdowns in communication;

  • Bottlenecks and disruptions in the project’s course of action;

  • Lack of collaboration.

Using visual project management tools will not only allow you to stay organized and make more informed decisions during every phase of the project, but also to:

  • Communicate and collaborate better – keeping project participants informed is essential to the successful completion of any initiative. With the right visual project management tool, both communication and collaboration become more effective because you can easily share information with the relevant parties and let everyone know who needs to do what and when.

  • Efficiently schedule and meet deadlines while staying within budget – resorting to dedicated systems to store and automatically process project data will save you time and also significantly reduce the risk of human error. Based on their high-level output, visual PM tools bring more visibility to your workflows and make it easier for you to identify your project’s critical path and task dependencies, measure progress, and determine the status of your activities (which of them are worked on and which aren’t). Equipped with such knowledge, you can prioritize work and adjust the plan as necessary.

  • Reduce work-related stress – whether you are in charge of leading a team on a specific initiative or responsible with organizational processes, project management can get overwhelming. Quality visual project management software streamlines the manner in which information is delivered, thus enabling you to monitor tasks and address bottlenecks more easily, with less mental hassle.

  • Optimize processes and workflows – the best visual project management tools will allow you to neatly organize, assign and monitor tasks based on priority, which helps create a stable environment in which your to-do list doesn’t feel overloaded. With an uncluttered workload, everyone is more productive and can accomplish their goals more efficiently.

Best visual project management tools

The best visual project management tools should be easy-to-master, but powerful enough to meet the requirements of a professional project manager. Here are some of the must-have features to look for in your visual PM solution:

  • Familiar interface – drag-and-drop functionality, ready-to-use templates, and intuitive controls will help first-time users get started faster.

  • Task management – quality visual PM software should let you create, assign, and track project activities, set due dates and dependencies, include critical path analysis options, and add milestones to highlight significant stages along the development of your project.

  • File sharing options, comments, and @mentions to support communication and collaboration.

  • Integration with other project management systems in use so that data be processed as flexibly and effectively as possible.

For more resources on how to choose the software option most suitable to your needs, check out our review of the 8 best visual project management tools on the market.

Project management tools


What is Agile project management and who uses it?

Given the diverse and dynamic nature of modern project management, Agile has emerged as the iterative, flexible, and customer-centric approach to planning and executing projects. Focusing on continuous improvement, Agile project management was designed to help teams be more responsive to feedback and external changes so that they could provide the highest value throughout the project duration.

Agile project management relies on a system that has the project broken down into several short-term work cycles known as sprints. At the end of each sprint, the completed work is assessed and feedback is given. Teams will then implement this feedback in the following sprint, thus continuously building on and improving their previous efforts.

The main advantage of Agile PM is that it helps organizations plan and undertake projects in an adaptable manner so that deliverables still be relevant to the progressively emerging technologies and changing customer preferences.

Originally developed for software development, Agile project management has expanded its influence on other areas as well, proving to be a popular alternative to milestone-driven work in general. Over the years, industries like financial services, IT, human resources, and marketing have embraced this framework to accomplish their goals.

Agile Project Management


How to do project management in Excel

Although not marketed as a project planner, Microsoft Excel is often used in project tracking. The spreadsheet platform may not satisfy all project management needs but it does offer a few powerful tools in this respect. To help you decide whether it can work for you, we will summarize below the main things you need to know about project management in Excel.

When to use Excel for project management?

Given that modern project management favors data visualization, Microsoft Excel may seem like an unsuitable option for related activities. While the spreadsheet platform might lack the advanced functions that enable one to properly execute daily tasks, it can however be helpful for managing simple project plans. Sometimes, less is more.

Here are a few cases when Excel can be a better alternative to expensive, dedicated visual project management tools:

  • You work by yourself or in a small team – if you are, let’s say, an entrepreneur or part of a small contractor firm, you won’t be needing platforms loaded with features or geared towards corporate use.

  • You aim for a simple output – even with the easiest-to-use software you will still face a learning curve, while Excel is straightforward in terms of the format in which to organize data. Simply enter and highlight data points such as task lists, due dates, man hours, or what other project-based details you want to record in the spreadsheet.

  • You want to save money – quality visual PM tools may prove quite expensive on the long run, especially if you need to be watchful of your project budget and expenses. So, if Excel meets your project tracking needs, then choosing the spreadsheet platform over paid specialized software saves you a good amount of money.

Best use cases for Excel project management

As said earlier, Excel might not be equipped with state-of-the-art visualization tools, but it provides efficient functions and templates that will help you handle tasks related to mapping out the project scope, budgeting, and tracking daily activities.

Here are a few cases in which Excel templates can help:

  1. Timelines – Excel lets you create a visual timeline chart to outline a simple project schedule and its phases.

  2. Project budget plans – thriving when it comes to crunching numbers, Excel is suited for creating project budgets that track a simple list of expenses against one of income for small to mid-sized companies.

  3. Task lists – the spreadsheet format will lend itself well to the creation of to-do lists that show the description of each task to be accomplished, necessary resources, assigned employee/team member, and so on.

Learn more about how Excel can serve your project planning needs and discover a varied range of Excel templates that you can easily customize by going to our page on project management in Excel.

Project management in Excel


Best visual project management templates

Governed by the imperative of time efficiency, planning and managing any business initiative will always benefit from using visual project management templates. Providing a reusable, pre-formatted project outline that you can populate with your own data, PM templates serve as a great starting point for new work, saving you time and efforts when setting up:

  • tasks,

  • dependencies,

  • timelines,

  • assignees,

  • workflows.

There are a variety of visual project management templates available, some of which come right inside well-known productivity tools such as Microsoft Project or Excel. However, the best project management templates that you can use are the customizable ones. Unlike most standard pre-built samples, where you need to modify the generic structure to include your company information and other specific details whenever creating a new project plan, a customizable template enables you to simply adjust the layout and placeholder data to suit your particular project’s needs and save it for future use.

Now it is essential to choose a customizable visual project management template that is flexible enough to support different requirements and work styles. This will not only allow users to produce individual views that highlight the information each of them finds relevant, but also ensure that everyone starts with a common basis for structuring critical data.

To help you kick off your project, effectively align goals and priorities with team members and stakeholders, and successfully set up a formal model to keep recurring work consistent, we have put together a collection of professionally designed visual project management templates that you can easily customize.

Excel and PowerPoint templates for project management

Visit our project management templates page to get access to more free, customizable templates that help you effectively visualize and organize your project plans. You can explore and download the most common Project Management templates as Excel and PowerPoint files, such as:

Project management templates for Excel and PowerPoint


Frequently asked questions about project management

In this section, we provide the answers to the most common questions about visual project management.

What is visual project management?

Visual project management is the practice of using illustrations and diagrams to represent complex data or to simplify processes, so it is easier for businesses and their employees to plan, execute and control projects.

Why are visuals important in project management?

Using visuals in project management is important because it helps convey complex data in an easy-to-understand format and streamlines project information flow among concerned parties. This in turn ensures:

  • visibility, clarity, and transparency around the project’s scope and underlying processes;

  • time efficiency in making essential project details accessible to everyone;

  • better understanding of what needs to be done, project progress, potential roadblocks, and risks;

  • increased team productivity and enhanced collaboration.

How do you visually organize a project?

Here are three of the most popular ways in which you can visually organize your project:

  1. Timelines or Gantt charts.

  2. Kanban boards.

  3. Project dashboards.

Each of these project management chart types has its own pros and cons, and deciding which one works best for you depends on the nature of your project. Regardless of your choice, you can maximize their value by using visual project management software so you can make them completely customizable and automated.

What is a visual representation of a project?

A visual representation of a project is any illustration of the tasks and objectives involved in the respective initiative. These graphical representations are called project management charts and their format can range from timelines and Gantt charts to Kanban boards, roadmaps, swimlane charts, and many others.

What is data visualization in project management?

In project management, data visualization is the technique of converting complex project information into a visual or graphical representation that makes it easier to understand, process, analyze, and communicate.
To try out various visualization formats for your project data, see our collection of visual project management templates that you can easily download and customize.

Quick, effective, and clear visualization of project work in PowerPoint

Easily visualize tasks and milestones, track progress, and communicate schedules across teams and to stakeholders with Office Timeline.

Project chart maker for PowerPoint