A roadmap is a visual representation of a project’s timeline of development. It not only delivers the project’s big picture, but it also allows you to share a strategic vision with your team. With a project roadmap, your team can coordinate efforts and achieve objectives effectively according to a common plan.
At its core, a good project roadmap should show these four key details:
However, this list can make for a very complicated display of information when you factor in all the moving pieces of your project. To help you visualize this information in a nutshell, the Gantt chart can be your best friend. Yes, we just said that.
What Is A Gantt Chart?
A Gantt chart is effectively a graph that displays a list of tasks side to side with the amount of time allocated to get them done.
Gantt charts often get a bad rep because they can get over-complicated and difficult to interpret, but there are a number of reasons to give them a second look:
- Share information easily: Everyone in the project gets notified of updates at the same time. Sharing the big picture is often a good way to motivate each other.
- Get planning peace of mind: Once planning is done, you can make more focused and effective decisions regarding resource allocation, timetables, and even your own tasks.
- Monitor project progress for productivity: Gantt charts help you leverage tasks and deadlines for maximum efficiency. Think of it this way: If someone is waiting for your work to be done, and you can see that every time you look at the Gantt chart, are you going to procrastinate?
The key to leveraging these perks is to use Gantt charts to their full potential without making them a burden to prep and update. Building a project roadmap in Trello gives you an automatic way to generate Gantt charts on demand. Plan your project, and your chart will follow. Not so scary now, is it?
Here’s how to make a Gantt-geared project roadmap using Trello and the new Elegantt Power-Up.
Keep Your Board Focused
A Trello board is often created with a specific end result in mind, so maybe your day-to-day Trello board isn’t ready to be the great roadmap of your dreams. Instead, create a new one that is focused on your project plan. Keep your project goal visible on a Trello card so you can refer to it every time you have a doubt about the project tasks or priorities and ask: “Is this really helping us reach our goal?”
Since each task on the board will become part of your roadmap (and Gantt chart), define and review project priorities on a regular basis. Don’t be afraid to throw tasks away if they’re not in sync with the goal you defined earlier. Ask questions like:
- “Is this effort good enough for what I want to do?”
- “Do I have enough time to complete this task without disrupting the project’s schedule?”
- “Is this task really helping me with my objective?”
By constantly questioning your board, you’ll also be able to better detect the critical path, a sequence of tasks which must be completed on time if you don’t want to delay the entire project. Your project’s critical path is made up of “must-have” dependencies: tasks that can only be started when previous ones are completed. Task dependencies are displayed on your Gantt chart like this:
The bottom line? Set your team up for success by keeping focused on what tasks are truly critical to the project’s completion.
Break It Down (And Down Again)
Next, start organizing your lists with a simple Kanban-inspired workflow:
Using the Kanban method, you "pull" work as you have capacity, rather than work on tasks by being "pushed" into the process when requested. This means that as a task is worked on, its card moves from left to right on the project board.
After setting out workflow stages of “To Do,” “Doing,” and “Done,” break your project down into major divisions. Choose the top level of task organization according to your project, and identify these using labels. You can organize tasks by your different teams (such as Marketing, Dev and Design) or the main parts of the project itself (like Logistics, Location, Guests and Honeymoon). You’ll be able to sort tasks by these labels later.
While you’re designing your project, it can be helpful to sort all of this as a draft in a separate document. You’ll want to break the project down further with sub-groups if necessary, tasks, checklists, and so on, until you get short enough tasks that they can be easily estimated in terms of duration. The trick here is naming your task with the pattern verb + subject so you’re sure it is specific enough. For example, “Press Relations” is more a sub-group than a task, whereas “Make a list of tech journalists” is a real task.
Once you’re satisfied with your project structure, you can create each task on your Trello board under the “To Do” list. Use different colored labels to organize tasks by your top level teams or project parts.
Another part of the “break it down” principle is to make sure your task titles and descriptions are clear enough. If anything is ambiguous, a seemingly-small bit of work could become a huge problem when multiple teams are involved and important milestones are on the horizon.
Set Your Project’s Schedule
Timing is one of the biggest parts of project planning. You have to define milestones to mark significant achievements along the way and deadlines to ensure all tasks keep on track to finish the project on time. Here are some tips to help you there:
- Ask yourself what could ruin your plan. Where are the risks? How could you avoid them?
- Coordinate with your team and have them estimate how long each of their assigned tasks will take to complete.
- Deadlines are good, but visualizing durations is better. Your roadmap has to show end dates and start dates. Tasks that seem “easy” or “fast” to complete are seriously exposed to procrastination. Avoid deadlines on weekends or holidays. Even better, decide in advance if each deadline is better completed on the Monday after or Friday before to keep fire drills to a minimum.
Then, just set a due date on each card. With all your tasks itemized, categorized, and set on a timeline, your Gantt chart is just a click away.
Gantt Gets Automatic
In order to generate an automatic Gantt chart for your project roadmap, you’ll need to enable the Elegantt Power-Up in Trello.
Once enabled, you’ll see an “Elegantt” link on the top right of the board, next to ”Show Menu.” Select it, log in with your Trello account, and approve the app permissions.
The Elegantt Power-Up will automatically create a Gantt chart based on your cards, calculating start and end dates according to your cards’ data. In fact, dates are pretty important for the Gantt chart process: Elegantt will take into account the existing due dates of your cards to draw your Gantt chart. If no due date was set for a card, Elegantt will set it to the Friday following its start date.
Start dates are also automatically calculated, unless otherwise set. If a card was created or moved to the current board on a weekday, the start date will be set to the next Monday. Otherwise, it will be set to the previous Monday. The idea is to automatically group the cards into weekly sprints. Elegantt will attempt to schedule a member’s upcoming cards so as to avoid overlaps during the sprint.
Pro Tip: Activate the Elegantt for Trello Chrome extension to set custom start dates on each card instead.
See Your Project’s State Of Affairs
Once your chart is up and running, use the Planned and Effective views to see your cards according to two states of development:
- The Planned Start and Due dates correspond to the time you planned to spend on a card (according to due and start dates)
- The Effective Start and End dates will reflect the time you actually spent on it, based on the card’s movement through the board (hence the Kanban style).
You can also see a percentage of completion for each card. The completion percentage is calculated with the position of the card on the board (leftmost list = 0%, rightmost list = 100%) as well as the ratio of completed items in the card checklists:
Want to see progress in more detail? You can filter tasks according to their labels, or change the timeline view. Zoom in week-by-week view or out to a month or quarterly view at your convenience.
Building a Gantt-geared roadmap can be pretty intuitive when you pair it up with actively using Trello to manage your project’s tasks and progress. You can add comments, suggestions, and learn more about both the Elegantt Power-up and Chrome extension features on our public roadmap, made with Trello (obviously 😉).