Project managers are often working on more than one assignment at a time. For this, they need to handle a large number of activities and multiple teams to ensure that there are no missed deadlines. Juggling all these tasks daily often becomes cumbersome and can make way for chaos and unwanted errors.
To guarantee the successful completion of projects, project managers must have a plan that gives a clear picture of how everything is being done at a glance.
For this, Gantt charts provide a visual method that’s handy to track the progress of all the tasks while giving an overview of a project.
Gantt charts are visual bar charts that are widely used around the world to represent a project schedule more clearly. To better understand its usage, let’s dive deeper into understanding what a Gantt chart is, its history, and its role in project management.
What Is a Gantt Chart?
A Gantt chart is a horizontal bar chart that depicts the progress of a project or a project schedule across an established timeline. This popular project management tool displays the planned duration of individual tasks within a project vs. actual work completed.
This representation helps project managers track the tasks within a project and their dependencies for project planning. This chart is useful from the start to the end of a project.
A Gantt chart represents a visual of the project plan for an indefinite period. It’s often used as a powerful information source in project management to illustrate the timeline, status, activities, milestones, dependencies, and task assignments of the project.
A Gantt Chart provides the following information:
- The complete duration of the project from the beginning to the end
- List of individual tasks, with their start and completion dates showing the durations
- Task responsibilities assigned to each individual in a project
- Description of the tasks
- Task dependencies
- Percentage of work completed per task
- Project priorities
For example, when you work on a stakeholder management project, compliance project, or a change management project, there are a lot of tasks. Then, your goal as a project manager should be to achieve successful completion of the project on time.
Here, Gantt charts are useful in helping you visualize and track your tasks over a period of time.
Advantages of Gantt Charts for Project Management
A Gantt chart can facilitate the management of projects in the following ways:
- Divide a project into smaller, easier-to-manage parts
- View task dependencies and relationships easily
- Show team members how their work relates to others’ work
- Visualize and track tasks’ progress over time
- See limits and conflicts, like assigning the same resource to two tasks at the same time
- See the project’s critical path
If we look at a standard Gantt chart, we’ll see a Y-axis that displays individual tasks or group tasks and an X-axis that shows the project timeline, divided into days or weeks.
Dependencies in a Gantt Chart
All tasks in Gantt charts should be related to each other and multiple groups of related tasks can also exist. For this, there are are 4 types of relationships or dependencies that exist:
- Finish-to-start: Task 1 must be finished before Task 2 can begin. This is the most popular task relationship.
- Start-to-Start: Task 2 can’t begin unless Task 1 begins.
- Finish-to-Finish: Task 1 and Task 2 can take place at the same time but Task 2 is contingent on Task 1.
- Start-to-Finish: Task 1 cannot be finished until Task 2 starts. This is the least popular task relationship.
Know this: Not all planning tools provide dependency functionality, which can be a great advantage. As the plan changes, the workflow will remain consistent.
Now that we’ve understood what a Gantt chart is, let’s move ahead and take a look at its history.
History of the Gantt Chart
- Gantt charts derive their name from their creator Henry Gantt, an American mechanical engineer and management consultant. He created the first bar charts between the years 1910 and 1915 to display a project schedule. He further published articles about his creation during this time, making a mark in the history of project management.
- Before this, Karol Adamiecki, a Polish engineer, management researcher, economist, and professor, came up with something similar in 1896. He called these charts ‘harmonograms’. Adamiecki published the chart in Polish and Russian after many years in 1931. Hence, he isn’t often recognized for creating this type of chart.
- In 1912, Swiss engineer Hermann Schürch issued a chart that would be considered a Gantt chart for a construction project.
Initially, the charts were static and didn’t have all the elements that Gantt charts have today. However, the United States was using them during World War I while businesses and project managers had started implementing them as well.
- Walter Polakov, a collaborator of Gantt, introduced it to the Soviet Union in 1929. The charts were used to create the country’s First Five Year Plan.
- The use of Gantt charts increased during the 1980s when more people started owning personal computers. The chart no longer needed to be drawn by hand. There were programs available that enabled people to make the charts or any other changes in them more easily.
- Ten years down the line, with digital advancements, people started using web-based applications to make Gantt charts. This entirely changed how a Gantt chart was used, providing people with something different in terms of recording information and making changes as needed.
- As time progressed, computers became more advanced and powerful making it easier to write better programs that allowed users to manage project resources almost instantaneously.
Today, a Gantt chart is one of the most popular tools used for project management. We can just input the data into software and have the entire project outline ready in an instant.
With this insight into the history of Gantt charts let’s have a look at the professionals who find it useful.
Who Uses Gantt Charts?
Almost everyone can use Gantt charts to visualize a project even if they come from different work backgrounds. The most common users of Gantt charts are as follows:
- General managers or Chief Executive Officer
- Construction project managers, engineers, and architects
- Business managers, operations managers, marketing managers, consulting/finance managers, event planners, and customer service managers in the business industry
- Information technology managers, remote product development managers
- Military officers
- Public infrastructure managers
Gantt charts were initially employed solely in industrial production processes when they were designed. That’s not the case anymore, though.
Today, Gantt charts are useful for a range of areas, from factories to design firms. If you have a project with a set deadline and task dependencies, then Gantt Charts can help you reach your goal.
Examples of Gantt Charts
If you’re planning for a project and need to understand how Gantt charts can help you along the way, here are some great examples to start with.
Gantt Chart for Project Management
Gantt Charts are most commonly used in project management as they give you a visual breakdown of your project strategy and activities every day or week.
This way you can make sure everything gets done on time.
A Gantt project management chart can contain the following information:
- The start date of the project
- The title or description of each task assigned to the project
- The resources assigned to each task
- The start and end dates for each task
- The duration of each task
- The relationship between tasks
- The project end date
Here’s an example of Gantt diagrams for management of a software launch project shown below:
Gantt Chart for Human Resources
Human resource planning involves a lot of work. As an HR professional, you’re responsible for managing many tasks and responsibilities including the following:
- Estimate current staffing model requirements
- Employee onboarding and offboarding
- Employee payroll
- Managing and updating all company policies
- Keeping track of employees’ records
- Employee training and development
It’s essential for HR professionals to plan accordingly to successfully carry out all of these tasks. This includes being prepared for any potential changes that may occur within the organization. That’s why, the Gantt Chart is an ideal tool for human resource planning as it offers a variety of strategic options.
By utilizing charts, it’s possible to document the progress of projects and HR processes, such as employee evaluation, interviews, selection, job postings, and so on.
The following is a sample example of a Gantt chart in the area of Human Resources:
Gantt Chart for Email Marketing
To effectively strategize as an email marketing professional, it’s essential to maintain a comprehensive record of all email marketing efforts. This includes-
- Tracking which content is performing optimally and which is not
- Staying updated about the current state of the business
- Managing a large amount of data associated with emails and contacts, such as dates, times, and subjects
The Gantt chart is a useful tool for email marketers to manage their tasks. It provides a comprehensive overview of all emails, contacts, activities, follow-ups, and more.
By utilizing the Gantt chart, email marketers can easily get started and remain on track. Without it, they may miss out on numerous connections and leads resulting eventually in loss of sales opportunities.
Gantt Chart for Sales
It’s not easy being in sales. There’s a lot to be done – from making cold calls to follow-up calls to reaching out to leads and then making a sales presentation, sending emails, videoconferencing, and more. This puts you at risk of losing sales and money, especially if you don’t track all these things.
That’s not what you would want if your goal is to attract new clients for your business.
A Gantt Chart can help you simplify the sales process at different stages while ensuring that everything is on track. Here’s how:
- Monitor your incoming leads and know which ones you need to reach out to first.
- Help you manage multiple sales opportunities at the same time.
- Improve sales productivity and overall performance.
- Keep track of your potential clients’ status and help them decide whether or not they want to purchase your product.
- Identify at-risk sales opportunities at the appropriate time.
Because the process is repetitive, you’ll gain insight into which types of actions work best with your prospects and which don’t.
There’ll hardly be any chance of tasks slipping through the gaps with a Gantt chart as it’ll have all the information you need.
Below is an example of what a sales Gantt chart can look like:
Gantt Chart for Marketing
A marketing campaign can quickly get out of hand in terms of timing and budget if teams and tasks are not properly managed. Using Gantt charts in marketing projects helps teams keep their tasks on schedule.
It offers them a practical strategy for accomplishing their campaign goals and improving communications with everyone involved.
An example of this Gantt chart in the field of marketing is given below:
Gantt Chart for Product Management
Product management is one of the most important areas where Gantt charts are useful. These charts help project managers determine the tasks involved in each project, create a timeline for each activity, and schedule dates, tools, or status updates on any of the products under development.
There’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to product management. Yet, the order of operations across most organizations is relatively similar.
The product management process is lengthy and requires stakeholder involvement and contributions from various departments.
Although the names and specifics may differ from one workplace to another, almost all products follow a similar path. Here are some of the components your Gantt chart can include:
- Stages of the tasks involved
- Tasks or activities
- Project owners
- Milestones that are important to your product team
- The relationship between two initiatives that must be executed in a particular order
What Is a Gantt Chart Used for in Project Management?
Project managers in diverse industries use project Gantt charts to plan, organize, schedule, and monitor their projects.
Gantt charts can be useful in project management to:
- Prioritize: Align activities according to their priority and outline their dependencies
- Monitor: The progress of a project to ensure that all participants are on track and it’s completed as scheduled
- Identify: Any possible bottlenecks and address possible delays
- Modify: The project schedule whenever required
- Maximize: The entire structure of the project
- Manage: Multiple project teams and stakeholders
- Funding: Oversee available funds for one or more projects
- Visualize: The actual and planned project timelines
- Alleviate: Any risks related to the project before they take place
- Equalize: Workload for all members of the team
Components of a Gantt Chart
At first glance, a Gantt chart can look complex and overwhelming. But, when you understand the parts that comprise the chart you’ll be amazed at how simple it actually is.
A basic Gantt chart has three main components that you should know about before delving into the other components:
- Tasks that need to be completed are shown on the Y-axis on the left side of the chart.
- Timeline of the tasks to be done is seen along the X-axis, which can be at the top or the bottom of the chart.
- Bars showing the beginning and end of each task on the chart.
A Gantt chart’s intricacy is directly related to a project’s complexity. In such cases, activities are further broken into smaller tasks that are assigned to individuals in a team. At times, a Gantt chart is also used to document individuals responsible for each task.
Going forward, let’s take a closer look at other important parts of a Gantt chart so that you have no trouble interpreting it while working on a project.
What Are the Parts of a Gantt Chart?
There are nine essential parts or elements that you should be aware of while working with Gantt charts. They’re as follows:
These are one of the primary elements of the Gantt chart. These enable project managers to visualize not only the start and end dates of the entire project but also the completion dates of each task. The dates are presented at the top or bottom of the chart.
A Gantt chart is a tool used by project managers to keep track of the various sub-tasks of a large project. The sub-tasks are presented on the left-hand side of the chart to ensure that nothing is overlooked or delayed.
Tip: Put task groups together to make it easier for people to scan and understand your plan. This will also help your team and stakeholders understand the tasks involved in a deliverable or phase.
Following the list of sub-tasks, the bars indicate the timeframe within which each sub-task is to be completed. This allows for the completion of each sub-task in a timely manner, thus ensuring the completion of the project as a whole.
Milestones are tasks that are essential for the completion and success of a project. Unlike the small details, which must also be completed, the achievement of a milestone provides a sense of accomplishment and progress.
Tip: Keep task descriptions specific to easily monitor the progress and stages that lead to the deliverable. Review the work breakdown structure and list the stages that can be used to generate the deliverable.
In a project, there’ll be tasks that can only commence after another task is done. This relation between such tasks is called dependency (as discussed before). They’re represented on the Gantt chart by small arrows between taskbars.
This area of the Gantt chart shows the progress of each task. Progress is shown by shading the taskbars to represent the portion of each task that has already been completed.
Vertical Line Marker
Another way to keep track of your project is to use a vertical line marker on the chart that shows the current date. This helps you keep track of how much time is left and if you’re on track to finish on time.
You’ll probably have a number of jobs going on at once in today’s rapidly-paced business world. Including a task ID in your Gantt chart makes it easier for everyone involved to quickly identify the task you’re talking about.
Tip: No matter which tool you use, ensure that you specify the start and end dates. This, in turn, will ensure accountability to your team and customers.
It’s important to note that not all Gantt charts include the names of the individuals assigned to work on the project. However, if the project is expected to be completed by a large number of individuals, the inclusion of names and the tasks assigned to them can prove to be extremely beneficial.
The identification and allocation of resources to each task allows for the efficient management of personnel, resources, and skills to ensure that each project is completed on time.
Now that we’re acquainted with the basics of a Gantt chart, we can begin to construct our own Gantt chart.
How to Make a Gantt Chart
This section will provide you with the necessary information to create a comprehensive project plan. Before venturing out to build a Gantt chart, it’s important to have some basic information about your project.
That’s why it’s a good idea to answer some questions like:
- What are the primary objectives of the project?
- How will these objectives be achieved and by when?
- What are the milestones to be achieved?
- What needs to be prioritized for the project?
- Are there any dependencies that could affect the timeline?
- Who is part of the project team and what’s their role in the deliverables?
These questions will help you get all the information you need so you can start making a plan for your project before working on your chart.
Gantt charts can be created in a variety of ways, either by using traditional desktop applications or collaboration project management software to generate these.
Here we’re going to discuss how to create a Gantt chart using MS Excel spreadsheets. Just follow the steps below:
1. Add columns for the task name, start date, end date, and duration to your MS Excel worksheet for Gantt. Fill them out with the basics for your project tasks.
Format the columns as follows:
Task Name = Text format
Start Date = Date format
End Date = Number format
Duration = Number format
2. Using a simple formula, subtract the starting date from the ending date. This way, your MS Excel worksheet automatically calculates the duration of each task in the Gantt chart for each task.
3. Select the values under the start date column and Insert a Stacked Bar Chart from the Bar chart section.
4. Add data to the chart’s horizontal or X Axis:
- Click on the chart > Select data > Click on Add
- Mention Start Date in the Series name field > Click OK
- In the Data box that appears next, enter the series name, select all the values from the start date column (except the column header) and click Enter.
- Repeat the same step for the Duration column
5. For the vertical Y Axis, enter series data from the Task column
6. Now click on the blue bar in the chart to find its formatting options > select no fill so that the actual duration of the tasks is clearly visible on the chart
7. To change the way the chronology of tasks shows up on your chart you can click on them and reverse the order by going to Format Axis > Selecting Axis Options (Vertical category Axis) > Clicking on the checkbox named Categories in reverse order
8. Double-click the Chart Title text box to enter the name of your project.
9. Now select the Horizontal Axis of Your Gantt Chart, Right-Click, and select Format Axis.
Below Bounds, the fields Minimum and Maximum are available. The Minimum and Maximum values are the initial and final “dates” in the chart respectively.
The Minimum value is the number obtained when converting the initial task date to a number, while the Maximum value is the number for the final task date.
Tips for improving the appearance of your Gantt Chart in MS Excel
- If the label on the Horizontal Axis shows numbers instead of data, expand it by clicking on the Number section in the Format Axis window. You can also change the category to Date. The Horizontal Axis will now display data that’s legible.
- Right-click on the vertical axis, select Format Axis, and select Categories. By selecting Categories, the reverse order check box is ticked, and the date axis is moved to the upper part of the chart, where it’s more useful.
Robust Project Management at Your Fingertips
Gantt charts originated from manual writing, which made it difficult to modify or update the chart. Fortunately, modern project management software facilitates the addition, subtraction, and alteration of tasks in other ways without manually altering the entire chart.
There are a variety of widely used project management software and tools that utilize Gantt diagrams or task structures for business, interpersonal, and professional development purposes.
When overseeing a project, it’s essential to ensure that each individual task is completed promptly and effectively. A Gantt chart can assist in achieving this goal.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. Why is a Gantt chart important?
When it comes to project planning and scheduling, Gantt charts can be really helpful. They can help you figure out how much time a project will take, what resources you’ll need, and what order you’ll work in. Plus, they can help you keep track of the dependencies between different tasks.
2. How to read a Gantt chart
- View how tasks are divided as per deadlines and imminent milestones to see what needs to be done.
- See start-finish dates and task durations to see what should have started already, time for each task, and any task overlaps.
- Update the status regularly to know project progress.