What Is a Gantt Chart?: How and When to Use Gantt Chart Software
This is your introduction to one of the most popular project management visualization tools.
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The Gantt chart has become one of the most critical tools for project managers in various industries. According to Capterra, some of the major industries employing Gantt charts include education, finance, marketing, IT and construction.
What is a Gantt chart?
Gantt charts provide a visual overview of the project at hand, which facilitates quick yet effective project planning, management, and monitoring. Instead of having to go through multiple instances of tedious reports and documents, a Gantt chart gives a pictorial overview of the workflow, the milestones achieved, planning phases and associated bottlenecks and risks.
Gantt charts can also be used to show dependencies between different activities in a project and project status. Online Gantt charts offer a smarter way of project management by automatically notifying of an issue such as potential delays of excess time consumption by activities.
Gantt charts provide an overview of multiple tasks associated with a single project, or a high-level view of multiple projects.
Melanie Haselmayr is a real estate agent and real estate investor with CURATED. According to Melani:
“Gantt charts are best for projects that are timetable dependent. Their layout in timeline format allows you to stay on top of your deadlines, and keep an overview of the progress of the project.”
Gantt Charts and Team Collaboration
One of the numerous advantages a Gantt chart project management tool can offer is increased teamwork and streamlined collaboration among teams. Integrated with a calendar, a project management tool that includes Gantt chart features can make project planning and monitoring easier by keeping the team on one page.
Certain Gantt chart apps even allow depicting the task owner with the task on the timeline. With project relationships and dependencies structured in a transparent manner, it is easier to shuffle task priorities, share workload and arrange substitutes in case resources are not available. This helps deter overwork, identify issue owners and expedites the process to identify root causes of problems.
According to an article by Scott Berinato, a Senior Editor at Harvard Business Review,
“Visual communication is a must-have skill for all managers, because more and more often, it’s the only way to make sense of the work they do.”
How to Make a Gantt Chart
A Gantt chart can be visualized as a bar chart that illustrates a project schedule through a work breakdown structure (WBS) of a specific project. The first Gantt chart is known to be devised by Karol Adamiecki in the mid-1890s.
Adamiecki was a Polish engineer that worked on management ideas and techniques. Later on, an American engineer, Henry Gantt took up the idea of such charts between 1910 and 1915. In turn, these charts became associated with his name.
A Gantt chart is essentially made up of the following basic elements:
- A defined timeline showing start and end dates of the project
- Project tasks and activities
- The task owner
- Start and end dates for each task
- The duration for each task
- If needed, task grouping and dependencies/relationships
Who Uses Gantt Charts?
A Gantt chart can be used by anyone who needs to keep a check on projects or workflow; it isn’t limited to a specific industry. Rather, multiple roles can use the same Gantt chart to oversee progress from their level. Some of the common roles using Gantt charts include:
- The C-Suite: CEOs, CIOs, CFOs and CTOs
- General Managers
- Project Managers
- Marketing Managers
- Operations Managers
- HR Managers
- Scheduling managers
- Team Leads
Laura Shin is a crypto/blockchain journalist and host of the Unchained and Unconfirmed podcasts. Laura says:
“I highly recommend Gantt charts for project management, whether you work on a team or solo. They are visual representations of how long each project will likely take and what your start and finish dates are. It is immensely helpful not only in projecting future timelines but also determining when you have too much work on your plate.”
Pros and Cons of Gantt charts
As with everything else, Gantt charts also come with their own sets of advantages and disadvantages. Here are certain factors you should know before deciding whether or not to adopt a Gantt chart software into your project management practices:d
Simplify Complex Workflows Into Manageable Activities
Gantt charts can reduce a seemingly overwhelming task into a manageable set of tasks with a transparent view.
Organize Tasks and Projects
You can organize complex workflows into tasks and projects. This helps design and prioritize major activities relevant to each project goal.
Help Set Realistic Timeframes
You can set realistic timeframes for task initiation and completion.
Identify Critical Path
Gantt charts help identify the critical path of a project. In essence, it is the path that determines the minimum amount of time required to complete a project.
Facilitates Goal Attainment
Gantt charts help you attain your project goals due to a practical timeframe on all levels.
Provide a Transparent View of Work
It is easier to keep atop of every detail through a transparent visualization of the tasks involved.
Highlight Potential Problems
Gantt charts can help highlight issues and risks including time overlaps, milestone delay or excess time consumption by any activity.
May Increase in Complexity Levels
Although intended to simplify work, depending upon the number of projects being managed simultaneously, a Gantt chart can become complex. It needs an eye for detail and good management and improvisation skills.
Need Constant Monitoring and Updates
To ensure the project is rightfully depicted as it goes, the Gantt chart needs to be monitored for consistent updates, by all team members. It is important to have your resources and work assigned carefully planned to render results efficiently.
Not Feasible on Paper
Although initial Gantt charts started in physical form, these are difficult to retain on paper. Therefore, these are mostly limited to and best managed digitally as they cannot be printed effectively as done with reports and other forms of documentation.
Gantt Charts for Project Management
Despite various tools and frameworks for project planning, Gantt charts continue to be popular globally with professionals. Incorporated in the latest developments of project management solutions, project management has become easier and more efficient using Gantt charts.
Especially with the option of switchable tasks between projects and repeating tasks, Gantt charts are far more dynamic than ever before.
According to a recent survey by Software Advice, a significant number of project management professionals, about 43%, still carry out project planning using manual methods. 35% of the respondents show an inclination towards applying Gantt charts within project management tools.
Do you use a Gantt chart software? If so, how do they help you out in managing your projects and workflow? Share your story in the comments below.
Published at DZone with permission of Fred Wilson, DZone MVB. See the original article here.
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