The Gantt chart is an essential project planning tool for any project manager. But how to build it? Which tool to use: Excel or dedicated software? To find your way around your tasks and deadlines and meet your deadlines, Appvizer guides you through 6 steps to build your Gantt chart and lead your project to success!
What Is A Gantt Chart? Definition
The Gantt chart is a project management tool that graphically displays the following:
- the different tasks (in order),
- and their execution times (on the abscissa) according to the chosen time unit: days, weeks, months, etc.
If it was invented in the 1890s by the Polish engineer Karol Adamiecki, today we use the version made a few years later by the American Henry Gantt.
What Is The Use Of A Gantt Charts For A Project Manager?
It allows you to understand at a glance:
- the various tasks planned,
- the beginning, the end and the estimated duration of each of them,
- any overlapping of tasks,
- the dependencies between specific tasks,
- the beginning and the end of the project in its entirety,
- the possible risks to circumvent in terms of task planning.
In short, it gives an overall view of the project, defines the roadmap, and helps the project manager to plan it and then manage it in the best conditions.
How To Make A Gantt Chart In 6 Steps?
Step 1: Define The Scope Of The Project
In the pre-project phase, before you start, you must be clear on the following:
- the objective (s ) of your project,
- the schedule: to start, do you have an expected delivery date?
- the resources available, in particular the project team,
- and finally, the expected deliverables, which help to define the milestones of the project.
Step 2: List Tasks And Milestones
Start by dividing your project into main tasks: these are the major stages of your project. Identify the main milestones punctuating the project’s progress: rendering of deliverables, validation, etc. For each main task, list the sub-tasks to be performed. The milestones represent the critical stages of the project, such as intermediate objectives to be achieved, for example. They segment your project into significant phases, punctuated by important events, and serve as benchmarks during management.
What level of granularity to choose for the division into subtasks? Depending on your project’s scope, only you can define it. Our advice: be specific enough to distribute the tasks as well as possible within the team and to see the project progress by completing tasks, but not too much, at the risk of getting lost in the number of tasks.
Step 3: Estimate Task Duration
- For some, you already have a deadline defined if it corresponds to the rendering of a deliverable, for example. So you know what duration to associate with it.
- For the other tasks, estimate their durations according to the unit that seems most precise to you for your project (hours, days, weeks, months).
How to estimate the duration of a task? Take, for example:
- the difficulty of the task to be performed,
- The need for coordination and necessary communication: exchanges between stakeholders can slow down the completion of a task,
- The validation steps: for example, don’t expect that your management will be able to validate a decision as soon as it is made; it can take time according to their agendas.
The tasks must then be distributed over time, in chronological order, with the following:
- their start date,
- their end date,
- and their duration.
Each is thus materialized in the form of a horizontal rectangle, like a progress bar.
Step 4: Create Dependencies
Make connections between tasks in your project to define their logical flow. Example: the completion of a task “Collect the user need”, and its completion will condition the start of the next task, “Write the user story “.
There are several types of dependencies :
- start to start: a task can only start if the previous one has started;
- start to finish: a task can only be finished if the previous one has been started;
- finish starting: a task starts only if the previous one is finished;
- finish to finish: Tasks must finish at the same time.
Help yourself with a PERT chart ( Program Evaluation and Review Technique ). He “prepares” that of Gantt by determining a date at the earliest and a date at the latest for each stage. It also highlights the critical path: the optimal sequence of tasks to complete your project by the due date.
Step 5: Schedule Tasks
For each task, you already have a start date, an end date and a duration. All you have to do is place them on your project schedule. Several tasks overlap, and you need to learn how to prioritize them. Use an Eisenhower matrix to define each task’s degree of urgency and importance.
Step 6: Assign Human Resources
Last step: assign each task to a manager. Estimate the amount of work allocated to each person to balance the tasks according to availability. Each project team member has his own schedule and knows how to prioritize his tasks. Our dedicated article shares tips for sound management of project resources.
Free Excel Gantt Chart Example
Excel is a good tool for creating a simple Gantt chart for a small project using a stacked bar chart. It is much more practical than Word or PowerPoint! Don’t bother building it yourself; Appvizer has created a ready-to-use free Excel Gantt template: All you have to do is fill in your tasks and their deadlines! Please note, however, that Excel is not a collaborative tool, and its maintenance can be cumbersome (at the slightest change in the deadline, the file must be updated for all stakeholders). Its readability is reduced as the project grows.
Which Gantt Chart Software To Use?
free Gantt chart software To gain performance and agility, opt for free online Gantt chart software:
- Elegantt, a Trello extension ,
A few drawbacks to note: the free plans do not allow you to benefit from complete history or synchronization with your calendars. The last two tools are, moreover, limited in the number of users.
Our Selection Of Project Management Tools To Master Gantt
Software to create a Gantt chart is legion. From simple task management to project portfolio management: all the options exist; it’s up to you to find what suits you! Here is our selection of project management software :
- Been busy is betting on the simplicity of implementation and uses to offer its users “When”, “Who”, and “What” views to help with decision-making.
- In Fitness Manager, the manager can visualize and assess at a glance all the employees’ schedules because of the project’s progress.
- monday.com relies on collaboration and centralizes all project information in a straightforward and fun interface with a customizable Gantt view.
- In the Plan zone, dependencies between tasks are updated in real time as the project evolves and highlights the task flowchart.
- Poggio offers a dynamic, easy-to-learn and visual solution covering business needs from planning to execution.
- Sciforma encompasses the requirements of agile or Prince2 methods, which give pride of place to the Gantt chart for project management.
Note that some tools go even further with tailor-made features to integrate the Gantt chart and other methodologies or tools (mindmap or Kanban, for example). They are ideal for managing substantial projects and integrating them with other tools. We note in particular:
- SuitePro G by IQar ,
- z0 Gravity.
Final Tips For Using The Gantt Chart
- Consider presenting the status of each task visually to communicate this information to all stakeholders.
- Do not forget to indicate the version used: “version of…” or “last update on…” for example.
- Include milestones, often shown as diamonds on the chart, because they don’t have a set duration.
- Adapt the chart to your work environment: the dates, the status of the tasks, and the priorities of each vary according to the companies, the departments, the teams, and the projects themselves.
And you, are you already a fan of the Gantt chart for your projects?