Some people ask me again this question: do the Gantt chart for agile methodology exists? This kind of chart was really popular in the past but now, the agile community use another concepts… Is it because the Gantt Chart is not agile or because it’s old school to use it now?
If you work in project management with traditional methods like V-model or others waterfall, you have a lot of chance to meet the Gantt Chart before. This chart was used by a lot of team to manage all the tasks and the links between them.
Gantt chart for agile methodology – definition
The Gantt chart is a chart that tracks the progress of a project while predicting the overall direction of the project. It has the particularity of visually highlighting the necessary links between the tasks.
Some software even offers to manage the distribution of resources to automate the time required to complete each task; it goes as far as taking charge of leave, illness …
The Gantt chart thus presents the tasks vertically and time horizontally; the tasks are linked by the arrows which indicate that the task on the right cannot start before the task (or several) is completed. Visually it looks like a staircase.
Here is visually a classic Gantt chart:
In fact without even talking about agility, the best tools on the market are complete and incredibly efficient. But the question in this article will be different: is it a tool usable in agile?
Gantt chart for agile methodology
The Gantt chart, especially when we use the specialized tools, is incredible in the forecast. And when we master one of the best tools of the market, it is built rather quickly … But if it is useless in your context, its use become a waste of time.
Agile and forecast
Do we forecast in agile?
In agile, forecasting can be important to define different elements:
- delivery on a key date
- need for communication
The people that say in agility, we have not “forecasting”, is a heresy. There are different situations that require forecasting. The product, although developed independently, is not always autonomous from the context.
Some examples :
- obligation to comply with a law
- be ready for a marketing campaign
- testing of extremely expensive equipment
- startup investors want outcomes
Indeed, a law is a law … Not respecting it in the banking world is almost unthinkable … There is therefore an incompressible period. In a hospital, setting up a testing machine can cost some million dollars; it is impossible to postpone this test phase, the hospital does not have the means… And the financial loss could have very bad repercussions like a degraded service for the patients.
In short, in some cases, the equation is not the simplest. So yes, the concept of forecasting exists in agile; however is Gantt suitable for this?
What is agile forecasting?
In agile, the forecast is “an image” of the possible progress of the product’s progress; but it’s not a strict guide for the teams. And that’s the big difference from traditional methods.
The teams are guided by the present moment:
- scrum: according to a short-term goal
- Kanban: according to an influential vision but in real time
However, in some cases, the concept of “cut-off date” requires careful planning. So you have to know how to play with the variable aspect and the incompressible aspect. To think that there is never variability would be a mistake; Hence the importance of working in small batches and prioritizing your backlog.
The agile bet on: fixed cost and deadline but variable scope! However in agile, it’s better if we are less dependent of the costs and the deadlines.
And does the Gantt chart meet this need?
This is a very complex question. I will try to enlighten you on the answer.
1 / The constitution of a Gantt requires real work and an investment of time. This is therefore an important factor because in agile we try to use a tool only if it is really necessary for individuals.
2 / Creating links between all the tasks between them goes against agility. This would complicate the notion of “dynamic backlog”. Here are the essential agile concepts in relation to this subject:
- new tasks are continuously added to the backlog
- user stories (the most popular kind of tasks) must be independent of each other during an iteration
- in scrum, the development team participates in the choice of the realizations to do during the sprint planning
And there, it’s really difficult to manage a Gantt chart with these kind of notions. This would require its maintenance continuously; not impossible but wouldn’t it be time consuming? It is indeed important to calculate the ROI (return of investments) of its use.
In addition, the representation of the independence of the user stories would amount to displaying a task list.
So there is a good chance that the diagram is not a suitable tool for the teams working in agile.
Conclusion Gantt chart for agile methodology
The Gantt chart has been a great tool for managing project progress, but it is not suited to the world of agility. It is better to use other practices even if it may be necessary to have a notion of links between tasks.
SAFe for example (although its agile aspect is highly contested) offers for example a program board where only the necessary links are represented: Program Board SAFe
For incompressible timing such as the obligation to comply with a new law, we will favor simplified displays to avoid the use of a time-consuming tool.
Useful link: forecast management with agile framing