The Solution Every Project Manager Should Be Using

4-Sep 2015
Eliana

It should come as no surprise that the rigid restraints that Gantt plans place on projects can be extremely frustrating for the project managers. But the idea of moving from a traditional Gantt plan to an agile method is an unknown and highly unstable environment for most clients, making it extremely difficult for project managers to decide which method they should select when planning their projects. The solution is a hybrid approach - a collaborative and agile way to manage a project that is, of course, based on a plan.

Traditionally, project plans included detailed Gantt charts with specific milestones, tasks, timelines, budgets and resource assignment. This approach gave a client “the perfect scenario;” if no obstacles occur and everything goes exactly as planned, the project should be completed according to the plan on the appropriate day. Unfortunately, the “perfect scenario” rarely exists, and the reality is that the strict, rigid timelines are not ideal or realistic. Typically speaking, as the project develops, changes will naturally occur, because setbacks are part of the project game. The restraints placed on projects by traditional plans usually lead to more stress when things don’t go according to plan, or even worse, they cause project teams to ignore the plans altogether because they’re irrelevant. In reality, only the most disciplined project managers manually keep the plan up to date every day. So, you end up with an unstructured, well-planned fantasy that immediately becomes obsolete when that first roadblock occurs.

Most project managers today are looking at the agile methodology as a good solution to the problems presented with the traditional Gantt plan. With the agile method, project managers are able to produce deliverables faster, shorten the feedback loop and increase the collaboration between teams. Despite the benefits presented by the agile methodology, it doesn’t mean that it is the best solution for working with clients. The agile method attempts to alleviate the pains of project planning and management by eschewing much of the planning and forecasting. This takes away all the plans and makes it so that the people in the frontline continually plan out how they’d like to accomplish their tasks daily. The problem this causes is that it makes it almost impossible to set deadlines and estimate the financial cost of a project. Although it does lead to increased flexibility and an expedited delivery process, the fact that the agile method does not allow for a plan-driven development process makes it increasingly difficult to present to a client. How do you convince your client you are the right team for the project without an actual plan?

The simplest thing project managers can do to make their job more efficient is to adapt a hybrid project plan. As a project manager, you need the ability to create a plan and have it adapt to any last minute changes. The best way to achieve this is to combine the two approaches with a hybrid approach. This hybrid approach takes the best of agile and traditional Gantt strategies and combines them into one. Like the traditional approach, there is an overall goal to accomplish and several deadlines to meet along the way, but like the agile approach, team members have flexibility with how they go about reaching those goals. This means that as a project manager, you would set the key items (budget, timelines and milestones) and your team would carve out the specific tasks and the estimated time to complete the designated task. This would allow the project manager to keep track of deadlines and budgets without having to predict all the trivial details up front.

For many professional service businesses, selecting a project management software that adapts to their project-planning methods can be a real challenge, especially considering that most systems out there only support one of the two approaches, either agile or traditional gantt method. They either fail to give the people doing the work the power to adjust project plans and tasks, or fail to give project managers the structure they need to plan and manage projects properly. With an adaptive tool that allows for a hybrid project plan, project managers are able to create a project plan that dynamically adjusts and adapts whenever you receive input from your client, deadlines change, or scope and direction changes - basically anything that will influence your timeline and estimates, you can adjust automatically with an adaptive tool. Having a solution that allows you to take into account any project changes that may arise makes it easier to run frequent or common projects with flexible milestones. And with dynamic gantt charts that updates automatically when new tasks are created, estimates are updated, or deadlines change, you are easily able to make forecasts and projections in regards to your project status and deadlines.This way you can see your project just like you would if you were building it in traditional software- but in this case, the changes are made in real time, allowing for the flexibility found in the agile method.



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