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Masooma Memon

15 Best Project Management Charts to Visualize Project Operations

Make your data do the talking with handy project management charts! Take a look at our rundown of the most helpful PM charts out there - and pick one that works for you.

Savvy project managers know that analyzing project data is essential for effectively:

  • Planning projects
  • Managing resources
  • Identifying project risks in time

But analyzing data is easier said than done — especially considering the abundance of available project data and its inaccessibility (not everyone can make sense of it so easily).

Thankfully, project management charts can save your day.

These charts visualize your data in an easy-to-read manner, in turn making all the data simple to track and use to make informed decisions. They also make the data easier to share with anyone who needs to see it, helping everyone stay on the same page.

Not sure which project charts you should be using? Let’s walk you through 15 different types of project management charts, how they can help you, and when to use them.

Let's dig in:

What are project management charts? 

Project management charts are visual representations of project data. They make it easy for project managers, the project team, and stakeholders to understand complex data at a glance.

These charts:

  • Come in various shapes and sizes. Think: Gantt charts, pie charts, and flow charts
  • Break down complex data and concepts in different stages of the project lifecycle including initiation and completion
  • And, help in various areas of project management such as resource utilization, budgeting, and scheduling 

Why are project management charts helpful?

Essentially, project charts help us digest all the complex data. Visualization makes available data usable which, in turn, boost project management efficiency.

Thanks to this data accessibility, project management charts help you:

  • Stick with the defined project timeline
  • Align project teams, stakeholders, and customers
  • Better manage project time, budget, and resources
  • Keep all parties involved up to date on project progress
  • Use the data to evaluate project risks and eliminate bottlenecks
  • Save time in going back and forth to collect project data

As a result, project management charts improve project planning, collaboration, and teamwork.

By making the data useable, these charts also help you make better project decisions.

Types of Project Management Charts

Pick from the following types of projects for different phases of your project lifecycle: 

1. Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT) Chart

A PERT chart is a freeform visualization of project tasks and milestones, helping monitor task dependencies and project schedules.

It uses:

  • Boxes or circles (nodes) to represent project milestones
  • Arrows to show tasks 
Pert chart

These arrows also indicate task dependency. That is: the same direction arrows in the chart show which tasks need to be completed after which one. Therefore, signifying the sequence in which to complete tasks to complete the project. 

At the same time, a PERT chart also uses diverging arrows to signify different paths or independent tasks that can be completed simultaneously.

In comparison with flow charts and Gantt charts, PERT charts are freeform (flexible) and use branching paths to show parallel workflows. What’s more, arrows in PERT charts indicate tasks, whereas, in flow charts, they simply show direction. 

2. Gantt chart

Commonly used in both small and complex projects, Gantt charts show project schedules on a timeline with task dependencies.

To this end, the vertical axis of the chart shows project tasks and the horizontal axis represents time duration. As you move tasks on this timeline, you can see how moving one impacts the rest of the timeline.

Gantt Chart

Use them to: 

  • Organize all project tasks and timeline-related data in one place
  • See how tasks are dependent on each other

Thanks to this use case, Gantt charts are incredibly helpful for both project planning and progress tracking. 

3. Process flow chart

As its name suggests, a process flow chart lays out exactly what to do and in what order to accomplish your project objectives.

This project management chart is used in the planning phase — when you set project goals and scope.  

A project flow chart represents everything from the start to the end, using boxes and different shapes to illustrate project tasks and milestones. Arrows, on the other hand, represent how all events are connected and their sequence (what comes before what).

Process flow chart

This chart is useful for visualizing the entire project scope, making it easy for managers to see a blueprint of all the work required. And because a process flow chart lays out the full scope, it also lets you exercise better control over the resources and time you’ll invest in each stage of the project. 

4. Critical Path Method (CPM) charts

A CPM chart visualizes all the project activities and the time it would take to complete them.

Like other types of project management charts above, a CPM chart uses boxes to illustrate project activities or tasks and arrows to show the flow of the tasks alongside their connection.

Critical path method chart

However, within or beside each activity representation is a time estimate which helps you see its duration and the duration of the preceding task — helping you understand the time between two activities.

So how can you use a critical path method chart? Use it to: 

  • Create precise project schedules
  • Estimate project timeline, see project dependencies, and assess risks
  • Determine the minimum time required for completing a project (which, in turn, helps with project pipeline planning and resource allocation) 

5. Cause-effect project charts

Also known as fishbone or ishikawa diagrams (because of the way they look 🐟), these project management charts help brainstorm ideas and potential solutions.

The diagram uses a straight line to represent a problem with diverging paths used to plot and identify potential causes.

Each branch representing a ‘cause’ is further divided to represent potential solutions.


Cause-effect project chart

Use cause-effect project charts to solve problems by brainstorming possible solutions based on potential causes. But remember to plot all potential causes of an issue you’re solving. If you don’t, you won’t be able to accurately solve the problem. 

6. Risk matrix

Risk matrices are also charts for the project planning phase for risk management

Its job? To help you visualize, and therefore evaluate, potential project risks - and chalk out a path to solve them.

You can plot this chart on a 3 by 3 or 5 by 5 chart. Use the horizontal side of the matrix to jot down the severity of a risk, and the vertical side to assess its likelihood.

Risk matrix

You can determine each risk based on historical data and your experience. By using this project management chart, you can: 

  • Evaluate risks as accurately as possible
  • Communicate potential concerns with your team and stakeholders in time
  • Prevent risks from showing up as well as take corrective measures well in time 

7. Work breakdown structure (WBS)

A work breakdown structure is an easy-to-make project chart that breaks down all the tasks involved in a project in a hierarchy.

To do so, a WBS chart lays out tasks in levels. The first level or level 1 captures the main tasks. The tasks in level 1 are then broken down into sub-tasks — listed downward — to form level 2. Tasks in level 2 can be further divided to form a level 3 and so on.

Work breakdown structure

Because WBS breaks down tasks in a systematic manner, you can use it for not only better project planning but also resource allocation (scheduling and assigning work).

8. Control charts

Control charts are used to monitor particular project processes.

The chart looks very much like a graph — having an upper control limit, a lower control limit, and an average process line or centerline.

Control chart

If a process behavior follows the centerline, it means it’s fine as it’s sticking to the average behavior. But if it touches any of the extreme limits, it means the behavior needs your attention. 

Use control charts to: 

  • Track problem areas in a project
  • Determine if a specific process is stable
  • Identify problems in an ongoing process
  • See how non-routine events impact a process

9. Pareto charts

Pareto charts combine a bar chart with a graph to provide more detail than the two alone can.

Pareto chart

Use them to identify and track specific factors in your project so you can determine the common reasons behind their occurrence.

Since Pareto charts help you see how specific factors impact the concern you’re tracking, they help with better problem identification and more informed decision-making. 

10. Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed (RACI) charts

The RACI chart is a table-based visualization showing who is involved, what they’re responsible for, and the level of their involvement.

It maps out:

  • Responsivities. Who is responsible for which tasks
  • Accountability. What will someone delegate and what would they review
  • Consulting. What input or feedback a person would give
  • Informed. Who are the folks/stakeholders who need to be updated and what
RACI chart

Use this chart to allocate resources and determine which stakeholders to update and when. 

11. Milestone chart

A milestone chart sketches all project milestone on a graph — showing you important events, which helps track project progress

The chart uses vertical lines to represent milestones with the left side describing them. The horizontal time scale maps out the full project.

Many project management software give you dynamic milestone charts — Runn is one example here.


Milestone chart in Runn

A dynamic milestone chart not only uses different symbols to determine different milestones but it also lets you assign tasks within the same graph.

Milestone chart in Runn

 Use this visual timeline to keep team members, stakeholders, and clients up to date on project progress. 

12. Burn-up or burn-down project charts

Burn-up and burn-down chars help with agile project management by showing managers the speed with which their teams are working on projects.

A burndown chart, for example, is a visual representation of how fast a team is progressing through user stories. Here, the vertical axis shows work to be done, whereas, the horizontal axis shows time passed.

Burn-down project chart

Keep in mind, you can use burndown charts to track sprint or iteration progress as well as product development. 

That said, a burn-up chart lays out the total amount of work to be done and work completed.

The vertical axis measures the tasks, whereas, the horizontal axis depicts the time duration in hours, days, or weeks.

Burn-up project chart

13. Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) matrix

A SWOT analysis chart is a four-quadrant project management chart. Each quadrant captures one of the following aspects of the project: its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. 

SWOT matrix

Use this chart to identify which areas of a project need more focus and what potential risks can impact progress or the outcome.

However, make sure that when you make this chart, you brainstorm and list out all possible factors in each quadrant. It’s only then that you’ll be able to prioritize and rank factors to focus on. 

14. Stakeholder analysis matrix

Like a SWOT analysis, a stakeholder analysis is also a four-quadrant chart. In this case, each quadrant reviews stakeholders to determine how to best coordinate them.

Stakeholder analysis matrix

Make this chart at the start of a project to devise a plan of action for keeping each stakeholder (including investors, team members, sponsors, clients, and advisors) updated. 

The matrix will help you determine exactly which strategy to use and what amount of information to share with each stakeholder.

15. Cumulative Flow Project (CFD) charts

The cumulative flow project chart is one of the advanced charts used in agile project management. It plots all the tasks required in each stage of your workflow in a given time. 

The vertical axis here denotes tasks. The horizontal one depicts the process timeline.

CFD project chart

This type of chart is great for visualizing vast amounts of data. As a result, you can use it to monitor your workflow’s stability. You can also use it to make your processes more predictable.

Wrapping up: Which project chart is best for you?

The best project management charts for you are ones that simplify and streamline your processes — not overcomplicate them. To this end, choose the charts based on what you want to track (example: project progress, resources, or timeline) and the complexity of your project. In short, choose the charts that work best for you and your projects.

We hope this rundown has given you some ideas - go forth and starting 'charting' your path!

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