Gantt charts are every project manager’s best friend (and understandably so). The term is often thrown around a lot at project kickoff meetings or when there’s talk of boosting productivity and efficiency.
Gantt charts empower project managers to visualize time and resources within a project as simply and comprehensively as possible. All you need to do is, factor in the task duration and dependencies (if any), and voila, you’ve got a Gantt chart at hand.
What is a Gantt chart?
Gantt chart is named after Henry Gantt, who popularized its use in the early 20th century.
Visually, a Gantt chart is represented with horizontal bars. The chart illustrates a project’s timeline and dates, task owner, project schedule, upcoming milestones, and associated tasks/events during the project lifecycle.
Each bar represents a task, and the length of the bar represents the time it will take to complete said task. In essence, a bird’s eye view of the chart will offer important at-a-glance insights into:
- What work needs to be done, including the project tasks and events
- Who needs to be doing it, and how does each member’s work impacts the overall project progress
- When it needs to be done, including the start and end dates of the project
- How the project tasks connect as well as overlap with each other and how they should be grouped
- What important milestones and deadlines are around the corner
- The percentage completed for each activity
Note: Gantt charts use ‘critical paths’ – a methodology that helps mitigate risks and scenarios where individual tasks could cause unforeseen delays in the subsequent tasks, ultimately derailing the whole project. As the name suggests, the ‘critical’ path allows you to understand which tasks to undertake first to be able to complete the entire project on time and successfully.
So What Is a Gantt Scheduling Software?
Originally, Gantt charts were drawn by hand on a piece of paper. This meant that every time there was a change in the plan, it needed to be redrawn – a huge inconvenience.
Today, project managers can make a Gantt chart online using Gantt chart software. Also known as a project management software, the Gantt chart was built to automate the project planning process.
The software also supports more advanced features such as:
- Creating task dependencies such as start-to-start, finish-to-start, finish-to-finish, and start-to-finish
- Adding milestones and project phases
- Identifying the critical path of a project plan
- Creating a work breakdown structure
- Assign tasks to the team and track project progress in real-time
- Dragging and dropping timelines to update your project schedule instantly
These features enabled project managers to save valuable time and effort. Additionally, there are free online Gantt charts that project managers can leverage online and share with peers to drive a more collaborative project management process.
Project managers can use project management tools that are equipped with a Gantt chart maker online feature. Note that the project management tool should support the format offered by the free Gantt chart maker online for it to work.
You can also use a free Excel Gantt chart template (as Microsoft Excel itself doesn’t allow you to make Gantt charts) instead of a project management tool.
Top-7 Benefits of Gantt Chart Project Management Software
A Gantt chart software offers multiple benefits to users and organizations at large:
- It allows you to map tasks (and, by extension, projects) in a hierarchical and incremental fashion, create accurate timelines, and keep the deliverables on track.
- It helps you to track the project schedule and engage in an informed project planning process.
- It allows you to create dynamic online Gantt charts collaboratively with your team. This includes key tasks such as creating timelines, dependencies, etc., and adding milestones. You can also track costs and keep tabs on the budget. The best part? As the project progresses, the Gantt chart will automatically get updated.
- If you have too many task dependencies, using a Gantt chart can help you understand which tasks to undertake and in which order.
- It allows you to prioritize important tasks and focus on what truly matters.
- It enables you to monitor project progress and stay on top of your deliveries.
- It helps make the project easier to digest as the tasks are broken down into smaller, more realistic, and achievable chunks so Gantt charts are the way to go if you need to build and manage complex projects.
Six Characteristics of the Best Gantt Chart Software Out There
Your Gantt chart software should have the following six features allowing for seamless project planning:
- Milestones: It should allow you to represent the project milestones, which basically mark the end of a task series or a project phase.
- Dependencies: It should throw light on the task dependencies, which demonstrate which tasks are linked together and these ‘links’ are shown by lines, and the arrows indicate which tasks are to be done next.
- Task summary: It should provide a summary of the tasks so you can group them together as part of a project phase; it should also give a glimpse of the task progress to ensure everyone is on the same page.
- Collaboration: It should allow project managers to collaborate with the team online and in real-time, or else your Gantt chart becomes static in nature. It should provide chat and comment features and should help keep the workflow documented from start to finish. Finally, it should provide instant alerts and notifications every time a task is updated or completed so that everyone is in the know.
- File-sharing: It should provide useful file-sharing capabilities, which include sharing images, documents, videos, notes, and so on at the click of a button. This feature allows the Gantt chart tool to double up as a centralized place for all things project-related, empowering project managers to keep all the task and project information together.
- Actual vs. planned progress: It should provide details on the actual versus planned progress. This feature makes an online Gantt chart software better than static charts. All project managers need to do is set a baseline at the start of the project to get invaluable insights into how the project is progressing versus how it should progress. If you want an optimized tracking experience, this last feature is essential.
How Do You Create a Gantt Chart with A Software?
Now that we have covered the basics of Gantt chart software, let’s understand the steps to create a Gantt chart online:
- Step 1: Start by making a list of the tasks you need to be able to finish the project.
- Step 2: Next, you’ll need to define the first and last dates for every task. Make sure to consult your team for this step. Also, factor in additional follow-up tasks you may need to drive past the end date.
- Step 3: Then, you’ll need to create a timeline for the project based on the task duration.
- Step 4: In this step, you’ll need to identify the task dependencies.
- Step 5: This step requires you to fill out the bar chart timeline with tasks.
- Step 6: This crucial step entails assigning tasks to the team members based on their availability.
- Step 7: In this step, you assign the key milestones for your project, such as conducting meetings, getting project approvals, task starting points, mid-phase check-ins, and more.
- Step 8: Finally, you’ll need to work towards identifying the critical path.
Pro tip: Keep modifying your Gantt chart as the project plan changes. For this, you’ll need a tool that automatically updates task/event dependencies in real-time.
Gantt Chart Tips to Keep in Mind
In the final section, let’s run through a few tips to keep in mind to help you make the most out of your Gantt charts software:
- Tip 1: Make the Gantt chart project planning process a collaborative effort. You need to ensure that your team is involved at every stage of decision-making and planning to keep everyone in the loop at all times.
- Tip 2: Make sure to customize the Gantt chart as per your team’s needs. For instance, you can use different colors for different team members when assigning tasks. The idea is to make the Gantt chart your own and see what works for you.
- Tip 3: Make sure to leverage the collaboration features. This includes attaching important files, notes, images, and so on. The goal is to make the plan relevant, updated, and easily accessible by one-and-all.
- Tip 4: Ensure that your team gets email alerts as the plan changes dynamically. Your team members should be alerted whenever a task gets completed or changed.
All in all, a Gantt chart is a project management tool that is intrinsically visual in nature. It empowers project managers to get a real-time overview of the project’s progress and status. This dynamic project management tool includes critical components of a project such as project tasks, duration, milestones, dependent tasks, and so on. Gantt charts online can be used by anyone who wishes to visualize their project planning process in a simple, in-depth, and meaningful manner.
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