Visuals are compelling.
Whether it’s string theory or your company’s budget, you can make any idea more accessible if you present it as a visual. Not only does this make it simple and easy-to-understand, but it also saves you valuable time and other resources.
And that’s what visual project management is about!
You use project timelines and other visual tools to make managing projects easy and fun.
In this article, we’ll see why virtual project management is effective and explore the six visual project management tools you can implement today.
Let’s dive in.
What is Visual Project Management?
Visual project management involves using visual techniques and tools to plan, complete, and manage projects.
The idea is to improve project visibility and help teams gain quick insights into key information, like the project’s deliverables.
But what’s wrong with the traditional model?
Traditional project management relies on text-based information models. Email threads as long as your monthly shopping list, stand-ups that outrun your calendars… you know the drill.
And nobody wants to deal with such document-heavy processes in a fast-paced business environment!
On the other hand, visual project management uses diagrams and visual boards to present complex project information. This makes the info easily accessible and ensures that everyone involved in the project is on the same page.
And an essential part of the effectiveness of visual task management is visual thinking.
Visual thinking: the not-so-secret sauce for visual management
Remember the last time you visualized characters while reading a book?
Or when you drew a mind map to learn something new?
You might even be able to recount all the scenes from Schitt’s Creek!
This is because our brain loves visual content. It can quickly process and retain multiple images and symbols, which allows us to communicate effectively through visuals.
Visual project management applies this visual thinking ability to manage multiple projects effortlessly.
Through timelines and other visual tools, you make project information more actionable.
You work with the visual information in real-time, analyzing and monitoring it. You can also collaborate with your teammates to make informed decisions together.
The Benefits of Visual Project Management
While visual task management has been trending on the project management scene, you need to understand why it’s important before you can get your team to adopt it as quickly as a viral trend.
Here’s why you should go for visual project management. It can:
- Improve your team’s speed and save time as you can gain insights at a glance
- Make data-driven decisions with a bird’s eye view of the project
- Help you gain clarity on project progress and identify potential roadblocks that could pop-up
- Make communication more convenient across all levels
- Help you understand the impacts of any project change in real-time
Six Popular Visual Project Management Tools
From your basic timelines to boards that gamify workflows, there are various visual project management tools available today.
But remember, it’s important to pick a visual tool that fits your team’s needs perfectly.
So let’s check out six widely used visual management tools to help you out:
1. Kanban and scrum boards
Familiar with agile project management?
Like a Solitaire board, these agile tools slice a project into several columns.
Each column represents a project phase, like project planning, and tasks are described using cards.
Cards? Like hearts ♥️ and diamonds ♦️?
These cards contain various information like task name, assignee, due date, and more. As you go about a task, you move its card from column to column until it reaches the completed phase.
This way, kanban and scrum boards make it easier for an agile team to view task statuses and the overall project progress at a glance.
So what’s the difference between a kanban board and a scrum board?
However, they have two key differences:
- A scrum board only tracks the work performed during a single sprint, usually lasting for about two-four weeks. On the flip side, a kanban board isn’t limited to a sprint; teams work on tasks as they come in
- To boost productivity, a kanban board sets limits on the number of tasks that can be in progress simultaneously. However, a scrum board has no such limits
Still not sure about how these two boards differ?
Check out our detailed kanban vs. scrum board post.
A. When to use kanban and scrum boards
Kanban and scrum boards are perfect visual tools for:
- Dealing with project changes (something that an agile team deals with regularly)
- Improving agile team accountability and workflow efficiency
- Managing projects like software development, manufacturing, and event management
B. How to use kanban and scrum boards
Just like Solitaire, you can drag and drop tasks across columns based on your progress.
You can even move cards vertically to change priorities.
Additionally, this project management software lets you:
- Customize columns based on statuses, assignees, due dates, etc.
- Set work in progress limits to protect your team’s capacity
- Display cover images on cards ✨
- Filter tasks by assignees, watchers, and more
2. Gantt chart
The Gantt chart is one of the most tried and tested recipes for visual project management.
This visual project management tool is a horizontally-stacked bar chart that shows the project schedule, highlighting key information like your tasks, deadlines, and current progress.
And while Gantt charts have a rich history (they were used to construct the Hoover Dam), they have come a long way since then.
Kinda like the Super Mario franchise.
Old, but still evolving and going strong.
Modern Gantt charts also help you gain insights into several things like:
- Task Relationships and Dependencies
- Task durations
- Who’s responsible for which tasks
- The critical path (the tasks you must complete to meet the deadline on time)
A. When to use Gantt charts
Usually, a Gantt chart fits into any project with a plan.
But here are some instances when you definitely need a Gantt chart:
- When there are rigid deadlines
- If you have tasks that must be completed in a particular order
- If you need to roughly estimate how long each task can take
B. How to use Gantt charts
The Gantt chart view in ClickUp is all that you need to visualize your projects.
You get beautiful and dynamic Gantt charts that help you manage your project’s schedule with ease.
Far superior to any Excel Gantt chart!
For starters, you can visualize and manage task dependencies just by drawing lines between related tasks. And once you enable reschedule task dependencies, you can drag the dependent task to automatically reschedule all the tasks in the chain.
This project management app lets you:
- Quickly determine your progress percentage
- Identify your critical path
- Reschedule a group of tasks in a snap
- Mark Milestones as diamonds so that your eyes are always on the prize 🤩
- Color code your Gantt chart based on default, status, list, and priority schemes
If visual project management is a video game, project timelines would be level one. 🎮
Simple, but essential.
A project timeline shows your project events in chronological order, making it a simple way to visualize your project roadmap.
Usually, this visual project management tool displays:
- All the tasks in your project
- The start and end dates of each task
- The task duration
Wait… how’s a project timeline different from a Gantt chart?
Think of it this way:
A timeline is like looking at the Moon. You get a quick overview of the surface.
On the other hand, a Gantt chart is like looking at the Moon through a telescope. You get a larger picture of what’s up there.
Want a more detailed breakdown of how both of them differ?
Check out our Gantt charts vs timelines post!
A. When to use project timeline charts
You can use this management tool for:
- Roadmapping software development projects
- Dealing with scope creep
- Clarifying goals and assigned roles
However, as timelines are usually basic, you should use them along with other tools like kanban boards for efficient project management.
B. How to use project timelines
The Timeline view in ClickUp gives you the flexibility you deserve to visualize tasks and schedules as days, weeks, or months.
Plan projects, create roadmaps, keep clients up-to-date… this collaboration tool gives you the right space for all that.
You can also:
- Group tasks by status, assignee, priority, tags, Lists, and custom field
- Add, edit, and move tasks around with ease
- See overdue and unscheduled tasks
- Customize your view by hiding weekends, viewing subtasks, and more.
Project management is like driving a car. 🚘
You have to keep your eyes on the road (aka your project goal) to ensure you’re on the right track.
And while Google Maps can’t help you out here, dashboards surely can.
A project dashboard highlights essential project information under one roof, describing its overall progress. This visual tool also helps you manage resources, track KPIs, see task statuses, and more.
Pretty much everything to help the project team and stakeholders stay informed, organized, and steer in the right direction!
With that being said, an excellent dashboard should:
- Have intuitive visuals like graphs and charts
- Support customizable features to reflect your project needs
- Show precise and accurate data at all times
- Be super user-friendly
A. When to use dashboards
Whether you’re dealing with product development or construction projects, dashboards can be incredibly useful to get a 360° view of your project.
B. How to use dashboards
Instead, just use ClickUp Dashboards.
With high-level views of everything happening in your Workspace, it’s the best way to stay on top of your projects.
And to help you visualize work any way you want, Dashboards lets you use a wide variety of customizable Widgets like:
- Sprint Widgets: track your project execution with velocity, burnup, burndown, and cumulative flow charts
- Status Widgets: see the number of tasks in progress, number of tasks closed, and more
- Table Widgets: gain insights into your team’s performance with reports on tasks completed, worked on, etc.
5. Mind Maps
Mind maps help you learn stuff. No doubt.
But you can also use it for effective project management.
You’ll have a central idea from which several sub-ideas radiate out. Each sub-idea will have further sub-ideas of its own, and the mind map keeps growing.
Until you’re literally out of ideas, of course!
A. When to use mind maps
Mind maps are a great visual thinking tool for:
- Having productive brainstorming sessions
- Breaking a complex project into smaller components
- Improving team collaboration when creating the project plan
B. How to use mind maps
Want to know how to mind map?
Just use ClickUp!
Wait, isn’t ClickUp a project management software?
But ClickUp is amazingly flexible, and it can adapt to your changing needs instantly. 😉
Project management, productivity monitoring, mind mapping… ClickUp’s got you covered!
Mind Maps in ClickUp lets you visualize your ideas and thoughts as beautiful free-form mind maps.
For maximum functionality, this project management app gives you two modes:
- Task mode: map out your tasks and projects to view the bigger picture
- Blank mode: draw a mind map from scratch and convert them into tasks quickly
You can even share your Mind Map with anyone outside your Workspace to ensure they don’t miss out on valuable brainstorming sessions.
Managing projects without calendars is like making unicorn chip cookies without an oven.
You could try, but that’s not the right way. 🤷
With a project calendar, you can plan your project’s timeline and ensure you deliver results on time. And while you won’t get a detailed view, you can identify important project dates and events with a single glance at your calendar.
Plus, most people can look at a project calendar and understand the information being shared instantly.
A. When to use calendars
This management tool is suitable for:
- Getting a quick view of crucial milestones for multiple projects
- Scheduling meetings
B. How to use project calendars
You guessed it. With ClickUp!
The Calendar view in ClickUp gives you the simplest way to view your project schedule and manage resources.
Once you add start and end dates to your project, ClickUp will automatically map them to your calendar.
You can also customize your calendar with various formats like:
- Day: view the scheduled tasks for any specific day
- 4-days: see tasks over a rolling four day period
- Week: visualize the tasks for an entire week
- Month: know what tasks you have to tackle for any month
- Work week (mobile app): view Monday to Friday only
- Schedule (mobile app): view a multi-day continuous layout
This visual project management software gives you several ways to visualize your projects with:
- List view: view your tasks as a powerful to-do list
- Box view: see what people are working on for efficient resource management
- Workload view: plan and monitor your team’s workload quickly
- Profiles: dive into each member’s responsibilities with ease
Visualize the Future of Work!
Effective visual project management can speak volumes, enhancing transparency and collaboration in your project team.
But it depends on using the right set of visual tools, like complementing timelines with kanban boards and Gantt charts.
And that’s why you need ClickUp.
With a wide variety of views to suit varying project needs, ClickUp opens the door to powerful visualization. Kinda like having a customized version of the all-seeing eye. 👁️
Use ClickUp, the ultimate visual project management software, for free and visualize your path to project success today!
Evan is a Content Coordinator at ClickUp, where he’s usually absorbed in composing copy making efficiencies more efficient. When weather permits, he can be found jogging around Cleveland. When it doesn’t, he can be found somewhere warm painting, cooking, and consuming all things horror- and fantasy-related.