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Zoho Projects Offers Two “New” Gantt Chart Features

Zoho Projects has recently announced two new Gantt chart features: a baseline health check and a critical path highlighter. Both are helpful, but hardly gamechangers in the project management space.

“Health check” and “highlighter” are my terms, not official Zoho branding. But as Zoho describes the new features in a recent blog post, both features have been developed to help keep project managers focused on how far ahead or behind forecasted baselines the project is, as well as to emphasize the task, dependent tasks, or multiple sets of tasks that make up the project’s overall critical path.

As the Zoho post states, the two new features “predict when tasks can be finished and possible delays, so you can plan ahead.”

For the baselining feature, an additional gray bar against each individual task bar in the Gantt chart shows how far behind or ahead of schedule the project is. If no gray bar is present, then you’re on target for that task. In addition, a column in the Gantt shows baseline variances by days – a positive red value indicating a delay for that task and a negative green indicating that task is ahead of schedule.

Zoho’s new functionality for critical path is a toggle that will make critical path tasks or sets of tasks highlight red so the project manager can “keep on eye on key tasks and make sure they’re never pushed behind deadlines.” Additionally, noncritical tasks are accompanied by a “slack line,” that highlights acceptable delays for those tasks.

Our Take

While perhaps new to Zoho Projects, these Gantt chart features are hardly new to the project management space. Monitoring baselines and the critical path is core to what project managers do; and at this point, functionality that highlights both concerns is fairly table stakes in the project management software industry.

What’s more, the last 20 years of project management in IT has revealed that Zoho’s claims in this post that the “baseline, coupled with the critical path, ensures that you stick to your direction, complete milestones on time, keep customers happy, and delivery promised results” is bloated marketing jargon. A Gantt chart alone can’t achieve these outcomes, nor can an individual project manager achieve this on their own.

The challenges that prevent project managers from repeatedly hitting baselines and sticking to the critical path can only be cured through an effective project portfolio management layer that monitors the resourcing on projects across the portfolio, demonstrating how resourcing shifts will impact baselines and urging responsible stewardship of available hours from senior executives.

Source: SoftwareReviews, Screenshot December 2019.

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