Gantt Chart – Everything you need to know

If you are into project management of have heavy reliance on project management, charting and diagramming are possibly the two most important factors influencing the progress of your project. While there are so many available software and project management tools available, finding the one that makes a difference for the better can be a tough call to pick. The Gantt Chart is one such amazing software application that makes project management easier and a lot more streamlined.

Gantt Chart Anatomy
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

For those who aren’t aware of what this chart means and everything surrounding this prospect, don’t worry, because we have sorted you out with every last detail that you would need to know about it.

What is Gantt Chart?

Gantt Chart is an online project management software that helps provide with a visual view of all the scheduled tasks in a project over the course of time. This helps in contributing a very manageable and effective way to handle projects of any size and caliber and ensures the execution of the said projects in a very streamlined manner.

The Gantt Chart also makes it a lot easier for you to keep a track on the progress of the project and see for yourself the kind of impacts and changes that the project needs along the way. If you are someone who has been managing their projects on pen and paper, it is now time to make the switch to a much more efficient and reliant platform that speaks results and nothing else.

Gantt Chart makes the following possible:

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  • Helps in knowing when the project started or will start
  • Helps in knowing the kind of tasks involved in the project
  • Helps in knowing who is assigned what part in the project
  • Helps in knowing the start and the end date of the project
  • Helps in knowing the duration that the project is going to last for
  • Helps in knowing the ways to group tasks together for reaching the deadlines faster
  • Helps in knowing the progress to finally finish the project

Gantt Charts nowadays are created using Microsoft Excel or sometimes even with the use and help of the other project management software that are available in the market.

What does history say about Gantt Chart?

Henry L. Gantt

If you want to witness through the evolution of the Gantt Chart, it is necessary that you know where it all started from. If legends are to be believed, it is said that the very first Gantt Chart was devised by Karol Adamiecki back in the mid 1890s. He was a Polish engineer from southern Poland who are responsible for running a steelwork factory.

Taking inspiration from the existing chart back then, 15 years later, another American engineer and project management consultant, Henry Gantt, made modifications and later devised his very own version of the chart. This chart is what we know as the Gantt Chart now and is named after him. It started gaining popularity in the western countries and later spread on to the other parts of the world.

While decades back the Gantt Chart was always prepared manually by hand, things have evolved with the advancing technology and we now have several project management tools and software that help in devising the visual task scheduling process without much hassle using the help of the Gantt Chart.

Nowadays, Gantt Chart are predominantly used to track the task schedules in the project. They provide with streamlined view and understanding of the projects involved with additional information tacked on.

Why are Gantt Charts useful?

Knowing about the benefits of anything is enough to help convince you why you need them in your life. If you are done doing things manually and not been able to keep up with the kind of progress that the project is making, the Gantt Charts can definitely help overcome that for you.

Leave behind the old fashioned ways now that we are going so above and beyond with the technology. The Gantt Charts are now considered one of the most important and crucial parts in the project management sphere that further help in managing, planning and scheduling tasks in a project without any budding confusion. The best part of it all is the fact that you get a visual representation along the way.

For the most part, if you know how to make the Gantt Chart, you’d know that the chart includes two sections – the left side lists out all the necessary tasks while the right side includes all the tasks by the timeline with a bar to explain the status of the task at the moment.

How to create a Gantt Chart?

As we did mention before, there are several project management software available that help in creating the chart. In addition, you will also find several software specifically made for making Gantt Chart.

If those don’t sail your both, one can even make use of the standard Microsoft excel to make a Gantt Chart. The only thing that one needs to be aware of are the steps involved in making the chart in the first place.

To help you, we are first going to sort you out with a step by step guide and then breakdown the various other ways and elements involved in the creation of the chart.

Some of the steps involve:

  • Start with defining the project settings involved including the start and finish date of the project along with the scheduling details of each task involved in the project. One of the common modes of scheduling is the “forward” mode from the starting date of the project and indicates the start of the tasks as soon as the project is started.
  • Once you have the definitive project settings and elements in place, the next thing that you need to worry about is the defining of the project calendar. This is a very important step and helps ensure that everything is managed within the given deadline. There are set weeks and days in the weeks that you need to plan as per the requirement of the project.
  • Following that, one needs to put in the tasks involved and edit or schedule them depending on the timeline and the duration that each one can be defined with
  • With that done, the next step is to set up a designated resource list for the participants to have access to for the task. Once you have the global resource list in place, the next thing that you want to do is assign the resources to the task. This helps streamline the process even further
  • The next step is linking. This helps in elaborating better dependency of the involved tasks in the project. Make sure that you also set boundaries and constraints on the tasks as required.
  • Once everything is in place, the next thing to do is put final touches and adjustments to the project plan involved.
  • With the chart in place and the project started, you need to then look through and keep an eye out on the involved project and inspect it at regular intervals to see whether or not everything is working out in the manner that they should.

Once you enter all the necessary data as per the requirement, you will find that the Gantt applications they display the charts as per the input. If you have a task that is running ahead or behind the schedule, the chart helps in evaluating everything and making the adjustments accordingly to ensure that everything is executed smoothly.

Which mode is better?

When it comes to preparing Gantt Charts, there are two distinct ways in which you can do that, one is on the desktop using the standard office tools that you have and the other is with the various available online Gantt Chart software applications.

Explaining which is a better option can often be a struggle that you have no idea about.

  1. It is true that Gantt Chart can be made on Microsoft Excel with ease but if you want dynamic ones, chances are that you are going to experience shortcomings with them. It can make the basic ideas and the visual representation but there are chances that the same won’t sit well with the big projects that you have going around. These kinds are often best suited for the single project manager who just wants to keep a track of the progress on his own.
  2. On the other hand, making a Gantt chart on the varying online software can make it a lot more clean and crisp than you could have ever imagined it to be. There are several available Gantt software on the internet that you can check out and see for yourself. It is ease to share and collaborate on, making the project progress a hit. Given that everything is online always, it makes it more accessible to the people involved in the project and edit and transform the progress of the tasks based on the pace that the participants are working in.

In addition to that, the online software also cost a lot lesser in comparison to the desktop versions. The main reason why that is so is because it doesn’t involve any kind of involvement of the server installations and the associated licensed roots involved in this.

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How can one use Gantt Chart with a team involved in a project?

Now that you have a basic idea of how to create a Gantt Chart, the next thing that one does need to focus on are on the ways one can use the chart to involve the team in a specified project.

Despite what many people might say, using the Gantt Chart is quite easy and less complicated. Here we are going to share some easy and effective ways that you can use a Gantt Chart to collaborate better with your team on a project.

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[i] Start by assigning the tasks

The very first step of usage of the chart is to assign the tasks. The Gantt Chart is so flexible that you wouldn’t face any issues with assigning and even reassigning the tasks depending on the availability of the members involved. You will find that the people assigned to a specific task have their name highlighted beside it.

[ii] Customize the chart

The next thing in line is the process of customization depending on the kind of work schedule that best suits your team. You will have color coding options on Gantt which makes it easier for you to identify the people involved in the project and work along accordingly for better impacts on the progress of the project.

[iii] State the opinions

Another way to collaborate with the team on the Gantt Chart is by attaching the necessary files on even leaving behind comments and remarks based on the work progress of the team members. When you have the entire team collaborating on the Gantt Chart, you can do a lot more than simply assigning the task and ending things there. It allows you to interact with the team members with comments and other means on the specific levels of the project to have an open platform for that.

[iv] Get the alerts

Since the Gantt Charts are made online, any kind of edits and customizations will alert you with an email update so you can keep track. You can even get customized email alerts, based on the kind of requirements that you have going. This is also quite helpful for the team to get updates on the changes made to the project right to their cell phones.

[v] One stop solution

Last but not the least on how Gantt promotes team collaboration is because it helps keep track of everything on just one activity page. It lets you see the kind of tasks that the team is working on and even edit and reallocate things based on the convenience of the project and the team involved.

What essential components on a Gantt Chart should one know of?

Given that project management is such a streamlined process, you can be assured of the fact that the Gantt Chart will have specific components involved in it which further help streamline the project results.

Knowing about all the components of the Gantt Chart beforehand helps ensure that you know what kind of features are involved in it. It also helps a team member understand the layout of everything better as well.

To help you gauge things better, we are going to share the top 9 components that are involved in a Gantt Chart that you need to know of.

[i] Dates

The very first thing is to know of the dates if you need to have a clear idea about the scheduling process. The dates in the Gantt chart are displayed along the top of the chart. This allows the managers involved have a look at the start and the end date for the project and even have an overall look on the dates involved for the individual tasks.

[ii] Tasks

The tasks on a Gantt Chart, as we did mention before, are listed down on the left side of the chart. You will find that if the project is on a massive level that the tasks will also come along with individual sets of sub-tasks with it. Having all the tasks mentioned around in one single spot ensures easy management of the progress involved with each task in the project.

[iii] Bars

The significance of “bars” in the Gantt Chart is mainly used to represent the time that each of the tasks is expected to take to complete. Once the manager lists a task and assigns it to a team member, it makes it easier for the team members and the managers to keep an eye out on the progress of the task. As the project progresses and the work is completed in steps, the bars also fill out to indicate the progress made along the way.

[iv] Diamonds

Another element in the Gantt Chart that you should know of are the diamonds. They are used to indicate the milestones achieved in a project. The milestones are the tasks in a project which are instrumental to the growth and the progress of the project. Unlike the other sub tasks, know for a fact that completion of the milestone better ensures the success of a project. You will find the diamonds, that indicate the milestones, at the end of a particular taskbar.

[v] Small arrows

If you have tasks in a project which showcase dependencies, the same is expressed with small arrows. There are some tasks which are individual and can be completed at any time but there are some sub-tasks which depend on another one’s completion to be fulfilled. These kinds of dependencies within the project are expressed with small arrows in a Gantt Chart.

[vi] Shading on taskbars

One of the most important factors involved in the project management is to know of the progress of the tasks involved. In a Gantt Chart, the same is expressed with the help of shading on the task bars. Having an indication with that helps keep an eye out on the progress of a specific task and see whether or not the same is running as per the schedule.

[vii] Vertical line marker

Another important factor involved with the elements of the Gantt Chart is the vertical line marker which help indicate the current date of the task. This helps with effective time management and sees the overall process of the project status at one glance. It helps in assessing the amount of work that is left to do and the kind of progress that the project is undergoing.

[viii] Task ID

The penultimate one in the elements of Gantt Chart is the Task ID which helps with easy identification of the process involved in the project. It helps keep all the team members on one page and ensures to keep an eye out on the overall progress of the project.

[ix] Resources

The last one that you need to know of are the resources that are assigned and identified in the project platform. Not every Gantt Chart has the facility to showcase each and every single one of the team member involved in the project. In such cases, listing out the names and the tasks that are assigned to the people can be helpful in keeping everything streamlined as per the requirements.

When should one use a Gantt Chart?

Just because you are managing a project doesn’t mean that you will need to make use of a Gantt Chart. This is a common misconception that several people have.

That being said, if you have a project that involved multiple team members and requires a strict deadline to get everything done, it is best to use a Gantt Chart to keep up with the progress and have everything streamlined as per the needs.

Any kind of big project with multiple team members and a strict deadline needs a Gantt chart for smooth operation.

What are the benefits and downsides of Gantt Chart?

We have been talking about Gantt Charts all along. But, having a specific idea of the benefits as well as the downsides of the chart can help project managers make informed decisions.

Let us take a look at all the possibilities, shall we?

[i] Benefits of Gantt Chart

Some of the benefits of Gantt Chart include:

[i] Know the status of the project

The very first and possibly the most important advantage of the Gantt chart is the fact that it helps in knowing about the status and progress of the project. It helps provide the project managers with a one stop solution knowing how the project is progressing and whether or not the tasks are happening at the pace that they are supposed to be in. It is actually an amazing prioritization and visualization tool for your project.

[ii] Better communication with the team members

Since the online Gantt Charts have everything in one place and can be accessed by the team members from anywhere across the world, it does make the process a lot easier to handle. Communication between the team members is a lot more streamlined. It allows the managers to keep an eye out on who is working on what and explain the progress a lot better.

[iii] Prevent unnecessary resource overload

Another common advantage of the Gantt Chart is the fact that it helps avoid the resource overload. The chart has been made and created in a way that ensures proper utilization of the resources involved in the project. It prevents wastage and ensures assured success at the end. You can also use this chart to breakdown the task assigning without overburdening anyone in the process.

[iv] Keep an eye out on overlapping tasks

With a project on a big scale, there are possibilities of task overlapping. If something like that happens, you can cross it out with the Gantt Chart which ensures to help manage even the most complex project at hand. Having a direct overview of the project allows you to have a look on the overlapping tasks and even the task dependencies so you can plan things accordingly.

[v] Better clarity with the progress

With projects, there are chances of confusion if things are clear and there’s lack of clarity in the process. Gantt charts provide with better clarity on a project and the kind of progress it is undergoing. It helps in keeping track of how things are unfolding with the project.

[vi] Ensure better time management

With projects and the deadlines, the most important factor involved is time management. Lack of time management often does end up causing problems all together. The Gantt Chart helps the project members understand and know of the deadlines which further help in proper management of the progress of the project that further ensure better management of the time at hand.

[vii] Can work well with remote team members

Given that the Gantt charts are all based online, you have the complete ease and reign over handling the remote team members with ease. It allows you to assign work to them and not have to worry about anything at hand. It makes everything a lot more accessible than what you would normally expect.

[viii] Better flexibility

Last but not the least on the list of the benefits for the Gantt Chart is the fact that it promotes better flexibility with the project. Even if you have everything planned and everything seems foolproof, there are chances for one thing or the other to go wrong. This is something that the Gantt avoids and also promotes better transparency among the team members to not get blindsided in the end.

[ii] Disadvantages of Gantt Chart

Now with the positives done, it is important that one knows about the downsides of the process as well. To help you further with it, we do have some important insights to share.

[i] Lack of uncertainty

As weird as it sounds, one of the most common limitations with the Gantt Chart is the fact that it shuffles around the project details to suit better completion of the project. While this can be a good thing, it can also prove to be a pain when things are getting edited out of nowhere, without any kind of further intimations.

[ii] Can be hectic for massive projects

We did mention that Gantt Charts work amazingly with big projects but if it comes down to massive projects with hundreds of members assigned, there are chances that the same wouldn’t work the best with such projects. It is also often considered as not the best option for the long term projects. Majority of the project managers suggest breaking down the big projects into smaller fragments to further overcome this shortcoming.

[iii] Constant updates

Another issue with the Gantt charts is the fact that it needs to be updated constantly. The projects involved with this kind of charting need to be updated on a regular basis so as to ensure better streamlined results. This can prove to be hectic at times for the people involved in the project.

The End Note

If you have been into project management for a long time or even if you are just starting out, integration of the Gantt charts are a necessity above anything else. It is very important that one knows about the basics to ensure maximum impacts for the success of the project without any fail at all. Make sure that you go through all the basics and important insights that we have mentioned to get a better outlook on things.

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