Last year I wrote a post called “Microsoft Project doesn’t work“. The headline is a bit sensational, but the sentiment is something I am going to explore further in this post.
Project management tools usually require the entry of tasks and all their accompanying data via hierarchies. A group of tasks are made a subset of a parent task, which fits within a project, etc…. The end result is a single view hierarchy for a scope of work.
The problem with static hierarchies is that they are just one view of a complex world. Another person in the exact same job as you, might see the structure/relationships differently. Yet another person in a completely different role from you will almost definitely create different groupings and sub-structures for the tasks. Over time, even YOU are likely to believe the task relationships aren’t quite right due to new information about the world changing around that structure.
Despite most project members’ mild buy-in to the initial work breakdown structure and despite the fact that almost all project plans become rapidly irrelevant, they are still the favored structure for project managers.
What if rather than grouping tasks and building a hierarchy, tasks are just tagged with keywords? There are relatively sophisticated tools now for building views on top of those tags to show the work plan in the way that makes most sense to the viewer. There could also be filters to take out extraneous (to that person) information and simple hyperlinks to view related sets of tasks.
There would still need to be dependencies between tasks, but those related tasks could be initially found through keyword searches and links could be established via collaborative project start-up sessions. With dependencies established, individualized views could allow software to display specific gantt charts.
Avoiding the static hierarchy means one less artifact pinning down the original plan thereby giving more opportunity for the plan to stay ahead of the reality taking shape around it over time.
Does anyone know of any project management tools out there that work more like this? I have not found them yet.