Thursday, March 7, 2019

Custom Gantt Chart Improves B2B Communication

Key Challenges

   Create an advanced Gantt chart visual that displays all relevant construction details at a glance.
   Create an image carousel to display images of construction site progress.
   Enable the visual to scale smoothly to large projector screens.

Finding Communication Middle Ground

Our client, a local construction company, was building an office complex for a large software company. The construction company needed to present their progress to the executives of the software company. The executives of the software company needed to monitor construction progress. Visits to the physical site were deemed inefficient by the construction managers. Presenting over-sized paper Gantt charts everyday was impractical. We developed an innovative Power BI Gantt chart visual to easily display construction updates.

Going Beyond Out-of-Box Features

Power BI provides an out-of-box Gantt chart, but it was not adequate for the needs of the construction firm. Their physical Gantt charts showed information that couldn’t be easily transferred to the out-of-box (OOB) Power BI Gantt chart. We created a Gantt chart that was large enough to identify all relevant details at a glance. We also provided features unavailable in the OOB Power BI Gantt chart. Our Gantt chart allowed construction managers to display project milestones (as is typical of Gantt charts) and other details. Managers were able to indicate whether certain milestones were flexible or had hard deadlines. A small completion bar showed plan progress and milestone progress. Our client also wanted to include actual images of the construction site with plan overviews. To meet requirements, we created a separate custom visual called Image Carousel and linked the two visuals.

Our initial design did not account for form factors used for review presentations. About one week into the development of the custom visual, the construction company informed the engineering team the Gantt chart custom visual was constantly blurry. When our team asked about the screen resolution, the construction manager replied, “very large screens.” The construction manager's response prompted our engineering team to adopt the use of SVGs, which scale for resolution. Even the adoption of SVGs was insufficient. Our team was not able to determine a workaround until we realized that the "very large screens" were projectors.

Quick Delivery and Continuing Innovation

The project required that we create the Gantt chart and Image Carousel custom visuals in three weeks. One week was added at the end of the project for UI changes and to implement user feedback. We completed the entire project in four weeks, prompting our client to comment, “The pace of your work was really outstanding!” In addition, one week later we were approached by a different client asking for our Gantt chart custom visual. The visual proved so popular that we created an open source version to share on Microsoft AppSource. So far, our generalized version of the Gantt chart has been downloaded 50,000 times.