Symbology in Project Reporting

davinciWhen people think of symbology, they often think of The DaVinci Code. Symbology is important in project management, too, though it’s not going to cause as much of a stir as the aforementioned novel and film.

As you create your project reports, you and your colleagues define a set of symbols to represent the different tasks and milestones in your project. Keeping symbology in mind is a good way to maximize understanding from your project stakeholders.

Take the following project timeline as an example. Can you quickly determine which milestones are at risk, and which are on track?

arbitrary-codes2This timeline has two symbols: a square and a circle. We could have put a legend in place to tell you that a circle means “bad” and a square means “good”, but that still requires that your eye decipher the legend and apply it to the timeline. Symbols that have to be decoded because they don’t have any inherent meaning are called arbitrary codes.

Now, take a look at the same timeline using different symbology:

sensory-codesNow, it’s easy to pick up which¬†milestones are in trouble and which are in good shape. Even without the use of color, the thumbs-up and thumbs-down clearly indicate status without requiring a legend or a key. Symbols such as these that can communicate without decoding are called sensory codes.

Here are some examples of sensory milestone symbols that we support in OnePager Pro:
symbologyOf course, this list is by no means exhaustive, but it does provide options for milestone symbols that will be broadly-applicable and easily-understood regardless of your audience. We find that certain industries have their own symbology that is well-understood by industry insiders, but is meaningless to everyone else. If that is the case with your industry, then you can certainly expand the list above to incorporate your own industry-standard symbols.

By choosing milestones with sensory coding, you will save your audience the trouble of decoding the meaning of your project reports, which will allow you to better focus your project discussions.

This entry was posted in Best Practices, Project Visualization by Safford. Bookmark the permalink.

About Safford

Safford is a versatile technology professional with a solid history of empowering emerging growth companies in a broad array of industries. His employment history includes energy industry consulting at Quorum Software, Senior Manager of Client Services and Technical Sales at telecom service aggregator GetConnected, and Vice President of Strategic Partner Management at electronic payment processor IP Commerce. Prior to his tenure as OnePager's COO, Safford was the company's Vice President of Marketing and Alliances. Safford holds a BA in Psychology and management from Rice University.

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