Displaying Risk in OnePager – Heatmaps

It’s not very often that you might need to look at your entire plan to pick out some sort of pattern. Analyzing our project data is usually not as simple as that.

However, when you’re looking to evaluate the timing of your risk and exposure to outside forces, it becomes important to step back and view the entire project.

In Stephen Few’s book Now You See It: Simple Visualization Techniques for Quantitative Analysis, the chapter on Time-Series Analysis and Heatmaps is very relevant to this specific data visualization in OnePager.

Heatmaps, according to Few, are “any display that uses color to encode quantitative values.” Below is an example of a traditional heatmap.

Election Results

So, how can we apply this to display of risk in a plan?

It’s pretty easy to add risk values to your data in Project, Excel, or another PPM tool, and then visualize that on a heatmap in OnePager.

As an example, I’ve created a Project file and created a Number field with values 1-10, each number a different level of risk. 10 being the highest.

In my OnePager Template, or after I’ve created a Project View in my Project-View Properties, I’m now going to code in conditional formatting rules that drive coloring of my shapes light red to dark red, based on their numeric value in the Number field (for risk value).

My Project View should now use the values I’ve placed in the Number1 field in Project to drive the coloring.

I can now see, specifically:

  1. The timing of when certain high-risk activities are expected to occur
  2. Ask additional questions about how to mitigate the risk, and potentially build those mitigating back into the plan
  3. Ensure that the team is on high-alert during these periods of high risk, or make sure that I’ve got the proper resources, in the event an incident pops up

At a minimum, it allows us to have conversations about, and awareness of, the risks, and what is behind the risk values, which is often enough to significantly reduce their likelihood.

There are many industries who use risk managers, and specific risk management software, which can quantify your risks for you. The values produced by that software can and should drive these visuals in OnePager, if you’re using them.

Here are a few more suggestions about what values might be visualized in a heatmap on your plan:

  1. Cost – to understand the flow and spikes of expenditures
  2. Slack – to understand where your flexibility resides (the inverse of critical path)
  3. Complexity – to understand what tasks might be sensitive to distraction or interruption

What else might we visualize in our Gantt chart using a heatmap?

This entry was posted in Data Visualization, Plan Communications, Project Visualization by Jay Leslie. Bookmark the permalink.

About Jay Leslie

Devoted father of two, lover of mountains, entrepreneurism, and beer. Jay carries with him fourteen years of project management experience within the cable, telecom, construction, software development, and energy industries. The spectrum of projects and programs that Jay has managed throughout his career is broad and deep, enabling him to help clients implement Chronicle Graphics software in a multitude of applications. His employment history includes positions at Narvaes Construction, Leslie Brothers Construction, CSG Systems, Echostar Satellite Services, Comcast, and Level 3 Communications.

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