Casual.PM Blog

The Importance of Dependencies in your project

Here’s a typical situation during a meeting: you are trying to figure out why the project is not progressing and it turns out that James did not do a task since he was waiting for Mike to finish something. But Mike did not know that James was waiting for him, and thus, wasn’t in a hurry. As a result everyone gets stressed out, the deadline has to be pushed back and a lot of time is wasted during endless meetings.

This is a typical problem caused by the dependencies of a project. This problem is critical in many projects as either no one really knows about existing dependencies or they are not being tracked effectively.

Let’s take this simple project as an example. Here is how a typical task structure for a project looks:

This is the same project but with the dependencies depicted:

The structure doesn’t look that simple anymore. We need to start with the project brief, but in order to prepare it we need to comprehend the structure of the site, choose its style, and so on. Apart from that, there could be changes that a client wants to be made. It would be great to have all the people involved in the project gathered in the same room but this almost never happens, which makes even a simple project challenging.

If the dependencies are that important, why do we only remember about them during meetings?

(I’m happy if your situation is different but the majority of project teams we’ve worked with had no person in charge of making sure all of the dependencies were being taken into consideration).

One of the key reasons for this is that existing approaches to project organization either do not factor in dependencies or they make them almost unusable.

Let’s take a look at the basic approaches to project management:

Among these key approaches, only Gantt charts allow you to display and factor dependencies in, but they’re aren’t user-friendly whatsoever, so most people just do not use them.

Well, what do you do then? Visualize dependencies!

The best tools to use are project flow charts or network diagrams:

This is where you specify the flow of your tasks or activities and the dependencies between them. It looks like a mind map or WBS but is fundamentally different since the tasks are not grouped together according to directions and are located one after another.

This is how the diagram of a project for building a site would look like:

Of course, you can create a more detailed description of the tasks. Here’s an example of subtasks for creating mockups:

These subtasks can also be interconnected with other tasks.

You can visualize such diagrams by using either a board and a marker, or one of the services for drawing diagrams for project management which use similar methods for organizing projects (e.g.

The most important thing: don’t keep all the dependencies of your project in your head; record them in any way you prefer: on paper, online etc. And it’s even better if you do it in a such way that the entire project team is also able to work with them.

About the author: Nick Nikolaiev is the Co-founder of Casual. He has been working as a digital project manager for more than 4 years.