A guide on how to choose the best software for your project data visualization needs.
The term of visual project management tools refers to any type of software or application designed to help project management professionals organize data in a visual format and manage their tasks more effectively. Turning complex information into simple, easy-to-digest graphics, visual PM tools allow project managers to communicate workflow timelines, schedules, and roadmaps more clearly.
Despite their name, visual project management tools are not targeted only at project managers but can also be set up to meet the requirements of teams of various sizes and with different goals.
Using visual project management software comes with numerous benefits. Here are seven of the most important ones:
Visual project management systems let you gather data in one place, which ensures clarity about who does what and facilitates access to resources, task delegation, keeping team members in the loop about changes and updates, and progress tracking. All these aspects encourage collaboration between project participants and a better communication with clients about status reports, which is especially advantageous for teams using agile project management methodologies.
Project management software can help you track and allocate resources such as skilled and unskilled labor, billable and nonbillable work hours, project and facility budgets, and so on. Providing features like work calendars, Gantt charts, or tracking task duration and % complete, PM tools allow you to better manage your team’s time, capacity, and schedule, as well as know where your resources are going.
Most project management tools come with customizable dashboards and reporting functionalities (upcoming deadlines, task completion rates) that will provide you with valuable insight into the many aspects of your project processes. Thus, your PM system will not only house your data, but also give you in-depth actionable ideas on how to strategize your next move, improve current processes to reduce delays and budget waste, and convey information to stakeholders across the various stages of your project’s lifecycle.
With project management software, you can safely store project details in an organized system of information, thus promoting transparency. Relying on a single source of data, project participants can work on and update the right documents knowing that everyone else involved is on the same page.
Given that most PM tools are available as software-as-a-service, this means that users can easily log into the chosen platform from anywhere (as long as they have internet connection) and work remotely, track progress, refer to due dates, share documentation, or get onboarded to a new initiative.
While aggregating your data, project management solutions also unify different bits of information into a bigger picture of what is going on. Using your chosen tool’s reporting features and variety of ways to view your data, you can spot issues and opportunities more easily and act upon them as needed.
As the project progresses or the team expands, the underlying processes tend to become more complex. Due to features like pre-built project management templates, charts or various customizable document/information processing options, a dedicated PM tool helps standardize certain workflow procedures.
With just a few clicks, you can import data from your favorite office tools, customize dozens of pre-made templates, and create professionally looking, easy-to-grasp project visuals that can be updated and shared on the fly with teams, stakeholders, and clients.
Here is a list of core features that you should look for in any quality project management software:
Task management - this refers to the ability to create, assign, and monitor project activities (tasks) as they progress. Such a functionality allows you to set due dates, group tasks and subtasks, create checklists, and add milestones to mark important stages along the way.
Visual project scheduling - the solution you opt for should enable you to set deadlines and map out timelines on multiple views such as calendars, Gantt charts and other types of project management visuals.
File sharing - the system you choose should have the ability to import, organize, and export files in various formats so you can upload, save, and distribute them among team members.
Communication and collaboration - users should be able to assign tasks, leave comments or @ mentions, store notes, and to edit and update the same document/chart version in real time.
Evaluation and reporting - the right PM tool should allow you to track and assess productivity and progress through various resource and management reporting options.
Automated workflows and customizable templates for more efficient processes.
Integration with other project management systems used across your organization.
With these essential features in mind, you can then narrow down the many available options on the market by answering the following questions:
How many people will be using the project management software?
Can you try the tool first, using a free trial for smaller teams?
Does the platform provide solutions for your pain points?
Is the software scalable and able to evolve alongside your project management needs?
Is the visual PM system intuitive and easy to implement? Does it come with onboarding and how-to training resources?
These represent the main selection criteria to use in finding the right fit for your needs. To further simplify the evaluation process, check out our review of the top visual project management software solutions to try out.
Find below the answers to the most common questions on visual project management software.
A visual project management tool refers to any software, app, or customizable project management template that you can use to turn project data into a clear graphic representation such as a timeline, Gantt chart, roadmap, swimlane diagram, or dashboard.
As one of the most important stages of project management, project planning is all about clearly organizing data and scheduling processes that need to happen in order to achieve your goals. The most effective way to do this is through the use of visual project management charts such as timelines, Gant charts, roadmaps, Kanban boards, and portfolios.
Structuring project information in accessible visual layouts, these tools provide at-a-glance insights into what every team member is working on, when project deliverables are due, what your major milestones are, and more. They lend an interactive form to work management and encourage collaboration.
One of the most common ways to visually organize a project is under the form of graphical layouts such as:
However, there are more specialized means that can help with the visualization of project plans. They are delivered through dedicated software that not only allows the creation of such project management charts, but also includes functions related to project-specific processes like tracking, reporting, budgeting, and forecasting.
Depending on the type of project you are dealing with, there is a variety of tools that you can use to organize and manage the associated work. For instance, ready-made project management templates can lend themselves to the planning needs of more simple initiatives, along with different standard office platforms such as Microsoft Excel.
However, project management in Excel might yield an unsatisfactory output in today’s business environment, where data visualization is an ever-increasing requirement. Thus, if you need to visualize and track numerous activities that are interdependent, you may want to opt for specialized visual PM software that can accommodate a critical path analysis approach or more Agile project management methodologies.
In short, it is your particular project management needs that weigh the most when it comes to finding the best project management tool.
Using visuals in project management is important and recommended in today’s business environment because it translates complex data points into a high-level output that can be easily communicated to the target audience. This in turn helps professionals:
Save time and improve work efficiency.
Provide a clear overview of the project, which allows key parties to make more informed, data-driven decisions.
Visualize the progress and status of the project’s activities and identify risks, delays, or potential disruptions.
Encourage collaboration across teams and stakeholders.
Understand, assess, and prevent the impact of project roadblocks in real time.
Project visualization is a method of illustrating project data in a simplified, easy-to-follow format, thus bringing clarity and transparency into the project management process. According to the Project Management Institute, project visualization delivers information visually, “in a way that anyone can consume it at a time, place, and manner that is convenient to them.”
Effectively visualize and manage project data with Office Timeline. The tool helps you easily organize tasks, set dependencies, identify your project’s critical path, and build presentation-ready project visuals right inside PowerPoint.