Updated: Aug 18, 2020
Simply put, a Gantt Chart is a visual display of tasks over time.
Gantt Charts are used for planning projects of all sizes and they are a useful way of seeing what work is scheduled and when. They also help with viewing the start and end dates of a project in one simple view.
Some of the common things you might include in a Gantt Chart are:
The project start date,
The different project tasks,
Who is assigned to each task,
Task Start and Finish Dates,
How long is each task is planned for,
How tasks are related to each other,
The Project Finish date.
People used to create these sorts of charts with paper, and though quite old school this might still be a very useful way of starting off.
For example, identify the general, key tasks for a project, write them on post-it notes and create a very basic Gantt Chart to begin to understand the project.
That said, most of the Gantt Charts out there today are created in MS Excel or Project Management Software.
Gantt Chart Software
Computers introduced new ways of working for project managers, who found that they might save time in creating and updating Gantt Charts.
Gantt Chart Software - or Project Management/Planning software was created to automate and support advanced Gantt Chart requirements such as task dependencies, milestones or finding the Critical Path (CP) of the project.
Today, much of this software has moved online, with project managers and planners creating Gantt Charts and sharing them via the cloud to the rest of the project team.
What are the Benefits of Using Gantt Charts?
With Gantt Charts, we might very easily see the tasks that make up a project, any date that has been scheduled for these, and really just come to a very good understanding of what our project looks like.
Having a bunch of dates and tasks written down on paper is nice, but deriving meaning from it and detecting errors is more difficult.
With a Gantt Chart, it may be very simple to see errors in planning and areas for more improvement.
For example, seeing where an activity that relies on another having finished before it, is schedules before its predecessor, or big gaps of inactivity where there is no reason to not go ahead with another critical task to project completion.
Since the widespread use of Project Planning software, it has become very easy to create Gantt Charts.
All that might be required is simply entering basic details of each task, such as its name, planned start date, planned duration, etc - then let the software create the Chart for you.
Now you might be able to derive meaningful insights from your project, at a glance.
But with all this talk about software -
Can we go one better?
Nowadays, software tools do not end with just creating Gantt Charts.
In addition to this, Project Professionals are using additional Plugin Software which takes the schedule files from regular project planning software and running detailed analysis of them.
Basically, think about in the past when you might have taken your list of tasks, wrote out the details on post-it notes, created a basic Gantt Chart on a wall, then stepped back and looked manually for issues or areas for improvement.
Then moved the post-its around a bit.
Then looked again.
Then asked your colleague.
Then the post-its lost their stickiness and you have to write a new one…
Now there are technologies that take the schedule file, run analysis of it, point out errors, areas for improvement and calculate the fastest and most efficient way to project completion.
Welcome to Intelligent Tech in Scheduling!
Intelligent Tech - Are Gantt Charts still important?
Since there is now AI (Artificial Intelligence) technology and other tools available for use in project planning, are Gantt Charts still important?
If we might simply put a project’s details into a couple of software and they give us the actions we need to take… do we need to look at a Gantt Chart again?!
They are still important.
Before getting involved with project planning software, there are multiple phases of the project.
This includes gathering information about the project, in the planning stage, deciding on a strategy, working with stakeholders, etc.
During these phases, a quick and easy Post-it Gantt Chart, or a basic project planning software is useful to communicate to the majority of people - who might not have project experience - what you need them to know about the project.
A Gantt Chart is still a great tool for this.
For example, instead of saying:
“Float is decreasing month upon month, the contractor needs to employ extra resources to meet the task deadline”
We might instead, show what is happening and why it is important with a few post-it notes.
“Task A here is becoming closer to task B, which we need to complete on time to keep the project on schedule and without losing millions of dollars through delay.”
What is a Gantt Chart and Why is it Important?
It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words, Gantt Charts may be no exception.
If you want to be able to have a good look at what needs to be done, what is being done, and what should be done instead in your projects then Gantt Charts are a great tool for this.
Thanks a lot for reading and take care,
The Project Cracker Team