The Ultimate Guide to Visual Project Management
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.
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 visibility and help project managers gain quick insights into key information, like key 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 no project manager 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 project management tools, you make 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 project managers gain clarity on 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 project 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
Scrum and kanban 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. The best visual tools for Kanban and Scrum
- ClickUp: The powerful Board view in ClickUp lets you view tasks as an interactive Kanban board or Scrum board.
- Trello: Known for their visual kanban feature with a limited free plan.
- Kanbanize: A visual tool focused on Agile teams that use kanban.
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.
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. The best visual Gantt chart tools
- ClickUp: Dynamic Gantt charts that let you manage task dependencies by just drawing lines between related tasks
- GanttPro: A powerful project management tool focused on Gantt visualizations.
- Excel: The popular spreadsheet tool is commonly used to create simple Gantt charts.
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
Project managers can use this 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. Common project timeline tools
- ClickUp: With ClickUp’s timeline feature you have the flexibility to visualize tasks and schedules as days, weeks, or months.
- Office Timeline: A dedicated timeline maker built into the Microsoft Office Suite.
- Toggl Plan: Toggl’s team timeline feature helps you create visual roadmaps with ease.
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 visual 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 visual 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 a project manager working on construction projects, dashboards can be incredibly useful to get a 360° view of your project management workflow.
B. The best visual project tools for creating dashboards
- ClickUp Dashboards: Create high-level views with customizable status, table, and sprint widgets.
- Celoxis: An enterprise project software focused on dashboards and portfolio management features.
- Wrike: Wrike offers powerful dashboard features as part of their paid plans.
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. The best visual project tools to create mind maps
- ClickUp Mind Maps: Visualize your ideas and thoughts as beautiful free-form mind maps where nodes can connect to tasks!
- Lucidchart: A platform focused on brainstorming and visualization features
- Mindly: A mind map software that has an easy-to-use mobile experience.
- Mural: A visual collaboration platform for teams to create mind maps
Bonus: Check out these 20 mind map examples.
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. The best project calendar tools for visual project management
- ClickUp Calendar: The Calendar view in ClickUp gives you the simplest way to view your project schedule and manage resources.
- Google Calendar
- Microsoft Excel Calendar
Want more visual project features?
ClickUp’s visual project management software gives you several ways to visualize your projects with:
- Interactive Whiteboards: use whiteboard software to collaborate with shapes, connectors, images, tasks and more.
- 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 a project management solution like ClickUp.
With a wide variety of views to suit varying project needs, ClickUp opens the door to creating a visual project. With over 12 different task views, you can visualize your work, your way.
Use ClickUp, the ultimate visual project management software, for free and visualize your path to project success today!