Can Gantt Charts be Agile?

June 4, 2010 Robert Holler

Project managers love their Gantt Charts. For years, we were asked to deliver a Gantt Chart for agile development projects.  Resisting each time in the name of everything agile, our internal name for a Gantt chart had previously been a Can’t Chart.  Just the idea of a Gantt chart with its phases, activities, dependencies, etc. causes agile stomachs to churn.

Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, Gantt charts can visually represent a great deal of information in a small amount of space.  Attempting to shake the baggage associated with Gantt Charts, we tried to incorporate the visual benefit of a Gantt chart without getting trapped in the detail of the Gantt’s “cascading interdependencies”.

The below is simply a visual progress representation of agile projects based on their respective dates and feature progress in terms of progress against the estimates.  The red dotted line represents today’s date.  If the green progress bar stops to the left of the red dotted line, then the team is behind based on their current project scope and features completed to date – if the green bar extends to the right of the dotted line, then the team is ahead.  Here we see that Release 1 is ahead of schedule, but because no progress has been made on Release 2 yet, both Release 2 and the Call Center project are behind.

Project SummaryThe value of the information displayed here is in its simplicity, and any attempt to go into more detail could quickly muddy the waters.  Going down to the iteration level is a slippery slope – potentially causing more harm than good, but at the overall project level, viewing this type of status information can be very informative, especially from a program management standpoint. Just like Burndown and Velocity charts, simpler is definitely better, especially when displaying multi-project information.

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