Motion Chart – A useful tool for Project Managers

Posted on May 12, 2011

Hans Rosling – Pioneer of Motion Chart

The first time that I came to know of Hans Rosling was through the book “Presentation Zen” by Garr Reynolds. I did not check out the Ted Talks video then but some time later I came across Hans Rosling’s TED Talks presentation. Most folks have been impressed by Hans Rosling’s presentation and so was I. I came across another video he made for BBC which you can see down here.

Pretty neat, isn’t it?

Applying to Project Management World

I started figuring out how to apply my new found knowledge to my work and my search led to Motion Chart. Long story short, Google bought the Gap Minder software that Hans Rosling used to make these charts and is now available in Google Docs as a free gadget called Motion Chart. Pretty neat.

Status Report Content

Most status reports that I am used to in the Project Management world show the following information.

  1. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and the Red Amber Green (RAG) status
  2. Percent Completion on Project Milestones
  3. Accomplishments for the week/month depending on the frequency of the report
  4. Risks and Issues with mitigation plans
  5. Planned Tasks for the next reporting period

There may be some variation in the content depending on the project stakeholder needs but overall some or all of the above items make up a status report. 

First Problem with the status report

One problem with the status report is that it is static. It is a snapshot that does not give you the information of how you got to where you are now. Were the previous reporting periods fine and you are now in trouble or vice versa? Unless you as a stakeholder remember the previous statuses or pull up the older reports you will have no idea how this week’s status compares to earlier week’s. 

Second Problem with the status report

If you have a portfolio of projects then there is no way of comparing which project is doing relatively better than the other project. You also cannot see trends in your portfolio. Trends that can give you an idea whether your projects tend to grow bigger in size as the projects get res-estimated.

A Simple Motion Chart Example

To address both these problems, I have created a very simple motion chart. In this motion chart, I am tracking the life of 4 projects from start to finish and the Budget At Completion (BAC).  What can be seen from this chart is the journey of each project from start to finish as represented by the X-Axis. The BAC is shown in Y-Axis and for most projects it keeps growing as the projects gets re estimated.

Again, this is a very simple example. I am just very excited now about figuring out a way to use motion chart. So, my example could be a stretch to match with a real life scenario but more to come later.

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