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The Gantt Chart, commonly used in project management, is one of the most popular and useful ways to show activities (tasks or events) against time. On the left side of the chart is a list of activities and at the top an appropriate time scale. Each activity is represented by a bar; the position and length of the bar reflect the start date, duration, and end date of the activity.

What does Gantt Charts allow you to visualize?

The Gannt Diagram allows us to visualize:

What are the different activities

When each activity starts and ends

How long each activity is expected to last

Where activities overlap with others, and to what extent

The start and end date of the entire project

In short, a Gantt chart shows what needs to be done (the activities) and when (the calendar).

History of the Gantt Chart

The first Gantt chart was devised in the mid-1890s by Karol Adamiecki, a Polish engineer who ran a steel mill in southern Poland and who had become interested in management ideas and techniques.

Some 15 years after Adamiecki, Henry Gantt, an American engineer and project management consultant, came up with his own version of the diagram and it was this that became widely known and popular in Western countries. Therefore, it was Henry Gantt the name that was associated with this type of graphics.

At first, Gantt charts were laboriously prepared by hand; every time a project changed it was necessary to modify or redraw the diagram, which limited its usefulness, since continuous changes are a feature of most projects. However, today, with the advent of computers and project management programs, Gantt charts can be easily created, updated and printed.

Currently, Gantt charts are mostly used for tracking project schedules. For this it is useful to be able to show additional information about the different tasks or phases of the project, for example, how the tasks relate to each other, how much each of them has advanced, what resources are being used for each task, etc.

Who uses Gantt Charts?

Nowadays, almost everyone can use a Gantt chart to help you visualize your tasks. As all the hard work is now done by project management software, anyone can create a simple to-do list, add start and end dates, and the software does the instant job of displaying their tasks on a project timeline.

How to make a Gantt Chart

Whether you decide to draw your Gantt charts, use project management software, or download a Microsoft Excel Gantt chart template, you’ll need to follow these basic steps:

Make a to-do list with all the tasks needed to complete your project

Define the start and end dates of each task

Create a project calendar based on the duration of tasks

Identify task dependencies

Populate the bar schedule with tasks

Assign tasks to your team members

Set the milestones

Identify the critical path

Now that we’ve covered the information you’ll need on how to make a Gantt chart, let’s go over the two most popular methods, project management software and Excel.

Can I create a Gantt Chart in Excel?

Creating a Gantt chart from scratch using Excel is a long and complicated process that will require you to make a lot of formats and use advanced formulas.

In addition to being a labor-intensive process, Excel was not designed to make Gantt charts and therefore lacks many features. Here are the main disadvantages of using Excel to make Gantt charts:

Your Gantt chart will be unresponsive: it’s just a static document that needs to be manually updated every time you need to make changes to the project calendar.

Excel files should be shared with your team members every time changes are made to the document, which can lead to confusion.

You can’t collaborate with your team in real time using Excel Gantt charts.

You can’t link task dependencies, set milestones, or identify the critical path.

If you’re not ready to create a Gantt chart in Excel from scratch, but want to try Excel Gantt charts, you can use a Gantt chart template.

Gantt Chart Templates

You’ll find a plethora of Gantt chart templates online, but most of them fall into two main categories: Excel templates and templates made for specific project management tools like ProjectManager or Microsoft Project.

With ProjectManager, for example, you can import Microsoft Project, CSV, and Excel files to create top-notch Gantt charts that you can use along with all of its project management features.

How to use a Gantt Chart to collaborate with your team

Despite the rumors, it’s easy to onboard your team with most online project management tools. Once you’ve invited your team members to the new Gantt chart tool, you can start improving task management in a couple of different ways. You can coordinate a group call to work out the project plan together, directly in the Gantt chart view. Or, you can pre-populate the task list on the Gantt chart, either with a simple import function or by cutting and pasting the list, so that tasks and assignments are already populated when your team gets in touch.

How to Set Up Your Gantt Chart

The most common columns of the Gantt chart are:

Task name

Of course, this is a description of the task.

Expected start date

It is the date on which it is intended to start working on the task.

Expected duration

It is a unique number that reflects the number of days between the expected start date and the expected end date. It is based on working days, so if a task is scheduled to last a week, it will reflect 5 (working) days in the project calendar.

Planned effort

How many hours of work the task will take within the duration. Think about painting a wall. It may only take you an hour to paint the first layer, but then you have to let it dry two hours before the next one. Then you repaint and let it dry again. It’s only two hours of actual painting (effort) but six hours in total (duration).

Percentage of completion

A figure, almost always based on a guess of the person performing the task, how much work he has done and how much he has left to do.

Professional advice

Beware of tasks that remain at 80% of their execution for too long. This is a sign that the task owner doesn’t really know how much work remains to be done. When you ask for updates, the completion rate should go up every time, unless no work has actually been done. Controlling the completion percentage is a good way to get early warning about tasks that might be delayed.

Assigned Resource

This column tells you the name of the person, people, or type of resource (for example, developer) that has been assigned to work on the task. At the beginning of the project, you may only have the resource type, but as you go you can replace it with the names of the actual team members.

Task dependencies

You can also display task dependencies in the form of numbers. Choose the “Linked from” column in the column settings. This is usually an easier way to quickly figure out the critical path and which task is tied to where. Use the numbers in this column to track task dependencies – it can be faster than trying to draw a spider’s line on the Gantt chart.

Gantt Chart users by function

Gantt charts are effective tools for these functions:

Project Managers

Managing Directors

Team Leaders

Operations Managers

Programming Managers

Work and marketing directors

General and technical directors

… and, anyone who wants to have an instant view of a project’s timeline.

Previously, Gantt charts were the exclusive tool for trained project managers. These were people planning complex projects, or waterfall projects, of all kinds: construction, engineering, military, manufacturing, infrastructure, IT, and more. Creating long to-do lists and complex project schedules with many moving parts required training in the art and science of task management, critical path analysis, definition of baselines, etc.

Although still considered the realm of project managers, today, with the wide range of project management software and Gantt chart tools, anyone can use Gantt charts online.

Gantt Chart users per team

Due to the collaborative nature of online Gantt chart applications, more and more teams are using them to plan and jointly track all types of work. Gantt charts can be used by all types of equipment, such as:

IT and development teams

Project Management Teams

Pmos

Marketing teams, professional services, engineering and architecture, construction, manufacturing, product development, remote, telecommunications, health, Public Works, oil and gas industry, Public Administration.

Whereas a project used to have a single project manager who led a single team for a single project, now many people in the organization manage projects with multiple teams of people. And many of those people work on projects under different project managers.

Today’s project teams often have to plan tasks and manage resources across multiple projects across different teams, too. It’s important to make sure that your Gantt chart tools can support resource management, workload management, and task management across projects.

The Gantt Chart when the team is working

Planned duration and effort, as well as overall start and end times, take into account working time.

A Gantt Chart software extracts working time information from working hours from the resources you have established. This gives you the option to change the working time available to each team member, which can be useful if you have people who can’t work the standard 8-hour day exclusively on your project. You can also change the work schedule for everyone, for example, if you’re closing the office for a staff event or want to make sure no one is scheduled to work on a holiday.

Online Gantt Chart Software

Many people who debate the pros and cons of online vs. desktop Gantt chart software wonder about the security of online project plans. Rest assured that most companies offer bank-grade security and encryption with online project management software and have multiple security protocols to secure data and recover it.

Can I link tasks to risks and problems?

Yes, you can link tasks to risks, problems, and changes, making it easier to navigate the software and highlighting when a potential problem may require your attention. You can configure columns to display tasks and related risks with a single click.

Can I customize my Gantt chart?

There are many ways to customize the Gantt Chart with online programs to suit the way you work. If you don’t want all the default options to be displayed, or if you want even more options to be displayed, go to the Gantt chart settings of your project management software and select what you want to see.

One of the easiest and most common things to manipulate is the division of time shown on the Gantt chart. There are two “levels” of time shown, usually the week and then the day. You can change the top level to show weeks, months, quarters, or even years and make the lower level reflect the smaller time division.

You can also color-code tasks, shade time not worked, and customize other elements to differentiate by team, phase, or anything else you want.

How to print a Gantt chart?

Gantt charts are often difficult to print because they are spread horizontally over several pages. You used to see project calendars printed and taped together and then hung on the wall, but nowadays most teams try to save paper and work as much as possible online.

Of course, sometimes you’ll need to print your Gantt chart, or at least a summary of it. Here are 5 tips:

Print it all on one page if possible. If that makes the text too small to read, then

Change the time divisions to collapse the overall project timeline (and therefore the size) as much as possible. For example, if your screen is set to display every day, change it so that the time slots displayed are weekly or even monthly. That will make the stacked bar chart part of the Gantt much shorter, so it doesn’t print on so many pages.

Roll up your tasks, especially if they are already complete.

Use the print preview: it’s annoying to print a bunch of pages and then realize you’ve been wrong. Check it out first.

Print the page numbers if you can, so you can reattach the Gantt chart if it’s located on multiple pages.

The more you use Gantt charts, the easier they will be for you and the more confident you will gain in their use.

The best way to get comfortable using a Gantt chart is to create one. Create a project in your planning program and play with it. Practice with the different settings to see which columns provide you with the information you want in the project calendar. Your test project file is also useful if you want to test a new feature or view before testing it on a “real” project calendar.

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You may also be interested in: The Objectives of Scientific Research

Bibliographic References

Gantt.com (2016), What is a Gantt chart? In: http://www.gantt.com

James M. Wilson (2003), Gantt charts: A centenary appreciation, European Journal of Operational Research, Volume 149, Issue 2, Pages 430-437, ISSN 0377-2217.

Maylor H. 2010, Project Management’,London: Financial Times Prentice Hall, ed. 4th edition ‘This references is from one of the most known and used hand book of project managers nowadays.

Gantt Chart

Gantt chart. Photo: Unsplash. Credits: Kaleidico @kaleidico

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