There are timelines and there are Gantt charts in the world of project management. A timeline is simply a “linear representation of important events in the order in which they occur” (or are supposed to occur, in the case of project planning), while a Gantt chart depicts relationships between tasks, projects, events, etc. Gantt charts can generally show and tell a lot more information, and describe the dependence of one task on another.
We use timelines in a hybrid fashion. Within a timeline, we show concurrent events happening during the project production, such as photography styles occurring parallel to logotype and mark exploration. However, our current setup (which is always evolving) doesn’t call out the direct dependencies. For instance, if logotype and mark exploration get stalled, the team cannot move onto digital and print collateral. Proper Gantt charts make this very clear. These types of dependencies are discussed during project meetings, but they are not indicated within the timeline itself (which could be something we add in the future; again, always evolving).
“We use a timeline as a visual representation...”
We use a timeline as a visual representation of the Statement of Work, to show the team and the client the expected plan of activities over the time allocated. We find the visual representation helps clarify each task and how they are broken down into bite-sized pieces that build on each other over time. We also break down the work into weeks (rather than days) and have a weekly cadence that allows the designers quality heads-down time to really dive deep into a project before presenting the progress to the client at the end of the week.
In the past we have explored the use of Asana, Trello, Smartsheet, TeamWeek, TeamGantt, TeamWork, etc. Several team members actively use Trello for individual task management, but overall, getting everyone to actively engage at the level required for most of these programs to work was just too much. We already use Basecamp for client communications, Slack for internal communications, Dropbox for file storage, Harvest for time tracking, and Float for big-picture project scoping.
It just seemed like we were asking too much for everyone to learn and remember to review another program, not to mention the price tag attached to some of them. We already use Google for email, calendar, and documents; it just made sense to keep our timelines in Google Docs. They are easy to access, edit, adjust to changing projects, adjust to our evolving process – just easy.
Over the course of using Google spreadsheets for timelines, we have and are constantly evolving them to suit the current needs of the team, projects, clients, etc. We’ve tried arranging and ordering the tasks in a variety of manners. In the past we’ve ordered tasks by departments and order of priority. Most currently we have been ordering them based on the individual responsible. This allows people to quickly scan to their group of items per project, and know what they are doing and when. This could change next month… who knows :)
“Always evolving and adapting quickly, it’s all part of staying relevant in an ever-growing industry. ”
Hope this answers some of the questions about our use of timelines for project management. Always evolving and adapting quickly, it’s all part of staying relevant in an ever-growing industry.