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Make Projects Easy-As-Pie with Visuals

Ever wonder why so many project tools are designed with lists of data and text? In the early 1980s, Ron Bredehoeft created a scheduling tool for software engineers that ultimately became Microsoft Project. Since then most other project tools have followed suit with the same look and feel with pages of rows, columns and data. Today, we have more complex projects and more people joining projects, and few have the time and the patience to learn how to use these tools made for the previous era.

What if there was a better way to show your work in a tool that’s more natural, like drawing process boxes on a white board?

How PIEmatrix Approached this Problem

I gave this a lot of thought when building PIEmatrix. I wanted something that could display complex projects as swim lanes like we often sketch on a white board. Also, I didn’t want something like a spaghetti Visio diagram with boxes and lines pointing every which way.

Here’s a pie metaphor to help explain a better and simpler visual:

Imagine looking at a lemon pie from the top down. It's a sliced up circle ready for serving. Now flip this pie onto its side so you can see its layers. The top layer is the meringue, the middle is the lemon filling, and the bottom layer is the crust. Think of this as a project pie with a top layer for project management, a middle layer for the implementation team, and the bottom layer for the quality management process. If you pull out the first slice to serve, you will have a visual way to show activities going in tandem for the project manager, implementation team, and QA team. What if you’re on the QA team? No problem. Just ignore the other two layers and chew away.

Now imagine seeing this in a software tool, like the PIEmatrix Pie process and project portfolio tool. With one click, you show only your layer. One other click drills down into a slice to show your milestones and action steps. The idea is to open up a new and better way of seeing, such as turning complex projects into a simpler model that lets team members see and consume only what’s on their plate.

Image by Kyle