In this example we can see that “Stock Search” in red, is behind, it was due to finish in November. “Create New Order” shown in green is complete, the boxes in yellow are ‘in progress’ and those in white have not been started yet. I have posted previously about their use and examples of how to produce them.
However, they miss an important element, the relative sizes (usually in terms of effort, but could be cost or risk) of the functional areas. So, in the example above, the fact that “Enter Order Details” might be 3 times the development effort of “Create New Order” is likely lost on the stakeholders reviewing the chart. Sure they can look at the number of features 15 vs 5 and likely surmise “Enter Order Details” is more work, but upon first impression, this is not immediately apparent.
So, bring on Scaled Progress charts, the box size represents estimated development effort. I have been using these with my current Steering Committee for a while. I meet some of these people infrequently and these charts provide a nice reminder of the overall project scope and where the project progress right now.
Development sequence is left to right, top down. We can see that progress is being made in “Contractual Estimating” which is a bigger chunk of development than, say “Monthly Billing”. I use PowerPoint for these diagrams, the box widths are all the same and I use the development point estimates to determine the height of the box. This way box size (area) is proportional to development effort. The percent complete shading effect is created by using another similar sized shape drawn on top shortened to the appropriate percent complete.
All this manual sizing and progress bar manufacturing is time consuming. What I really want is an Excel based Parking Lot diagram that automatically scales box size (area) to development effort. Like the one shown below:
Only I had to create this version in Powerpoint and that is not really practical, as estimates for functional areas change frequently, and while Excel can easily do the colour changes via conditional formatting, this has to be done manually in Powerpoint). So, if there are readers out there who can do this in Excel I would love to hear from you and share your solution with other readers here.
In the mean time, with my goal of keeping these graphs quick and easy to produce, I have been looking around for other ways of showing progress against work packages of different sizes. Microsoft Project is of course a prime candidate, and using the Tracking Gantt View shows progress against tasks, rolled up by group. I have recently been playing with the MS Project 2010 beta and the screen shot below shows the same project in MS Project 2010.
This is quite useful and I particularly like the new Timeline feature of MS Project 2010, giving a graphical summary of the entire project schedule above the Gantt. We can see the progress against each of the Feature Groups. For instance “Create New Order” is 100% done, “Capture Customer Details” is 75% done, and “Stock Search” is only 95% done yet lagging behind the vertical orange line marking today’s date, so therefore it must be behind schedule.
However, this is my problem with Gantt charts, unless you are a project manager, or someone who understands Gantt charts, they are not that intuitive. This mess of bars accurately shows progress and schedule, but is difficult for many stakeholders to interpret. Notably, it fails in a couple of areas:1) It is difficult to see how the work areas contribute to the whole project
2) Issues such as late tasks may not be immediately apparent
So what other ways of illustrating how components relate to the whole, and illustrating progress do we have? Well, pie charts are good at showing how components relate to the whole, and maybe we can do some fancy overlay of percent complete.
Here I have broken the work areas into pie segments to show their relative sizes and superimposed an additional pie segment which represents percent complete. This is OK, we could do some conditional formatting to make late segments change colour, but it breaks down when the number of segments increases. Plus it fails my “easy to create” requirement as this was a combination of Excel and Powerpoint.
So perhaps we are back to some kind of scaled bar chart
Of one sort or another...
Yet they are looking a little Gantt’ish again. I am hoping that this post will prompt someone to show us how we easily create a one page image that represents the whole project scope and then progress against each of the various components inside it.