Explore some of the best project management charts that you can use to effectively structure your project plans.
Project management charts encompass any visual display of the tasks and processes related to a project. These graphical data representations help explain, forecast, report on, or organize a joint initiative.
Depending on the purpose they are meant to serve, project management charts take a wide range of forms, shapes, and sizes. There are types of charts that deal with the planning phase of a project, while others focus on tracking progress, showing cause and effects, or visualizing specific data. Some charts display a project lifecycle in its entirety, whereas others concentrate on only a small portion of it.
The bottom line is that project management charts are helpful only within a given context. To help you better understand the variety and use of these visual project management tools, we have rounded up 7 of the most popular types of charts that will allow you to visualize and convey project data easily. If you want to learn more about the overall discipline of managing projects, start with our project management guide before diving into the list below.
Here is our list of the 7 common types of project management charts that you can use to develop and manage your projects smartly:
Let’s find out more about these common types of project management charts.
An essential part of any Agile project management initiative, a Kanban board is a visual representation of workflow processes with simple statuses across columns. It shows tasks as cards on a board that is typically organized into columns reflecting task status (e.g., To Do, In Progress, Review, and Complete). Usually cloud-based and interactive, this type of project management chart allows users to assign activities to certain individuals and run them through predefined workflows.
Kanban boards have generally proved to be a good system for agile workflows where task progression is uniform and each task is well understood. Here are a few examples of such cases:
Agile, flexible teams that deal with projects that can be broken down into short-range workflows and have fast-moving deliverables.
Pull-based workflows that come with a large supply of available tasks that any relevant team member can pick up and tackle.
Keeping projects on track, especially when accompanied by chronological charts like project timelines, Gantt charts, or roadmaps.
One of the most widely used project management charts, a Gantt chart is a data-driven bar chart that shows the development of a project over time, with the set time units (weeks/months/quarters) moving from left to right along the X axis. Along the Y axis, the viewer can see the project elements (tasks, milestones, project phases, etc.) running top to bottom.
Gantt charts provide an effective way of organizing all the essential project data in one place because they allow you to:
Schedule tasks and set up task dependencies.
Map out milestones and associate them with relevant tasks.
Identify the critical path of the project.
Track project progress.
Due to their multi-functional format, Gantt charts are best for projects relying on the critical path method or those with overlapping components and task dependencies. They also serve as powerful visual project management tools that help team members and stakeholders get aligned on a shared vision of the project timeline.
A project timeline is a visual list of events and activities (milestones and tasks) placed in chronological order along an axis that represents the overall time duration of the project. It allows project managers to view the entirety of a project plan at a glance.
Project timelines typically take the form of a horizontal bar chart, where each bar represents a task that is given a description and corresponding start and end dates. Providing an in-depth overview of an initiative from outset to completion, timelines help project managers to:
Show when tasks start within the project.
View task deadlines.
Link dependent tasks.
Break overall work into phases.
A roadmap is a high-level visual representation of a strategic plan. It displays a project’s main goals and actionable steps necessary for achieving them against a planned schedule. This helps project managers translate the vision of what they want to accomplish into a solid plan for how they will turn those aspirations into reality, given their available resources and capacity.
By linking a set of objectives to a specific series of tasks that need to happen over a certain time frame, roadmaps tie together your strategy (the why), the work required for reaching your deliverables (the what), and a timeline for completion (the when).
A project portfolio refers to a grouping of projects and programs, but it can also include project-related responsibilities and activities. The main purpose of using a project portfolio is to outline a centralized methodology of managing and overseeing multiple separate initiatives. It also helps establish standardized governance across an organization.
Creating and managing a project portfolio ensures that businesses and companies take on the right projects, meaning that they align with organizational values, strategies, and goals.
A dashboard is a type of project management chart that offers a 360-degree view of a project’s status, insights, and data points. Aggregating data from all significant project touchpoints into a unified format, a dashboard allows project participants get the information they need from one single source.
In project management, dashboards are typically used to:
track key performance indicators for various projects (e.g., task status, project progress, hours/tasks, risk and changes, budget, total revenue, etc.).
display progress reports.
highlight areas that require attention.
translate information into actionable insights.
Given the purposes they serve (as listed above), dashboards become a powerful means for:
teams to track what’s working and what’s not, and thus what to adjust to achieve project targets.
monitoring the success of certain campaigns, processes, and projects.
measuring results and managing multiple moving parts simultaneously.
A work breakdown structure diagram (WSB) in project management is a visual, hierarchical, and deliverable-oriented chart that deconstructs a project into smaller components. It looks similar to an organizational chart, but instead of a CEO at the top and executives at the next level down, it displays a project and its high-level phases (or specialties or deliverables), respectively. Below those, there are categories or initiatives, followed down the hierarchy by more detailed responsibilities and tasks.
The format of a work breakdown structure diagram provides a clear sense of the work or departments involved in a project. A powerful tool in overviewing a project at a high level, a WSB diagram is best used in especially large projects where understanding what work needs to be done seems daunting. However, it won’t perform as an effective visual if you want to convey who does what and when, unless you combine it with a timeline or a Gantt chart to make things clearer.
For more examples of charts that you can use to manage project work effectively, check out our collection of free, downloadable project management templates.
This section addresses frequently asked questions on project management charts. Find our answers below.
Given the multiple aspects of project management as a discipline, there is no single chart that can serve them all at once. This is why different types of project management charts are used depending on various scenarios. As a consequence, the best chart that you can opt for is the one that provides the most valuable insight for your specific case. To decide if your option does that, bear in mind that a project management chart should accomplish at least three key benefits for you and your team:
Provide insight into the project scope – your chosen chart should offer valuable, at-a-glance visibility into the nature of your project, going beyond showing timelines, completion percentages or other narrowly focused stats.
Improve efficiency, regardless of team size – it should turn complex data into a digestible, easy-to-understand output.
Encourage collaboration among team members and ensure transparency – it should clearly reveal in what order tasks are supposed to occur, who’s responsible for what and who’s accountable for each task.
To further help you pick the right chart type, see our list of project management charts that you can use to analyze and monitor different aspects of your project.
A project management chart is a graphical representation of project-related activities and processes. It is a visual tool that makes complex project data easy to understand, thus helping project managers streamline tasks, manage resources efficiently, and improve time management.
Browse our gallery of project management templates to discover a wide range of chart examples that you can download for free and use to organize your projects.
According to the Project Management Body of Knowledge Guide by the Project Management Institute (PMI), the 5 basic phases in a project management process are:
Project initiation – it involves defining project goals, creating a business case, outlining the project charter, and identifying the main stakeholders.
Project planning – this phase requires one to define the project scope, create a project plan, set a budget baseline, and define roles and responsibilities.
Project execution – it encompasses practical aspects such as project resource allocation and management, building the product or process, identifying and addressing issues as they rise.
Project monitoring – here is where the relevant project participants track efforts and cost, monitor project progress, ensure adherence to plan, and prevent or minimize risks for disruptions.
Project closing – this final stage entails the hand-over and review of project deliverables, approval of project results, as well as documentation of project learnings.
Project management charts go a long way in helping you manage these different phases of project development more effectively. Create your own easy-to-understand and data-driven charts to improve the quality of your project work using a dedicated project chart maker like Office Timeline.
Effectively visualize and communicate project data with Office Timeline. The tool helps you build clear high-level timelines, Gantt charts, roadmaps, and other project visuals with just a few clicks.