Planning and Scheduling with a Gantt Chart. Why Not?
Well, you're in luck!
This quick guide will give you everything you wanted to know about these handy tools. And hopefully by the end, you'll see how the modern Gantt chart is able to help any and all of your planning and scheduling needs.
Planning and scheduling with a Gantt chart
Planning in project management is a necessity. And so are Gantt charts. So whether you are new to project planning or already an experienced project manager, it’s likely that you’ve heard of these tools. In fact, it's also likely that you've already done some project scheduling with a Gantt chart.
According to Dr. Ravish Kumar, today’s standalone web-based software has the advantage of having critical project management features, including the Gantt chart, readily available. Which is great in today’s challenging and dynamic work environment. All you need to do is choose the right tools.
Just imagine being a project manager hundreds of years ago, and trying to build the Taj Mahal or Sagrada Familia without modern planning software. No wonder they took hundreds of years to complete!
Nowadays it's possible to use modern Gantt chart planning to better manage your project resources and control for unexpected situations. There's a reason why we still use this solution, because even after a century, we still haven't been able to think of anything better.
In this article we'll give your a comprehensive guide to using Gantt charts for scheduling and planning. What exactly they are, the elements of classic and modern day versions, and what kind of advantages you'll see when using them.
Discover the story of planning and scheduling with Gantt charts and why it's so hard to find a better solution.
Background of Gantt chartsWhat's in a name? Well, you may be interested to learn that, the chart’s namesake, Henry Gantt, did not actually invent the Gantt chart. That honor actually goes to Karol Adamiecki from Poland. However, Henry Gantt designed the chart the way we know it today.
In around 1910, “The Gantt Duo” - Henry Gantt and his Gantt chart - introduced the world to better tools for project management, control, and planning.
What is a Gantt chart?
- A Gantt chart is a visual project management tool that helps to plan and schedule projects of every size.
- Gantt charts look like a horizontal bar chart that shows project management timelines, task starting and ending dates, dependencies between different tasks, and general project task flow.
- It is a visual interpretation of the project which gives an overview of the project’s progress, timeline, and tasks over its entire time frame.
There are many definitions of a Gantt chart and you can always find the one that’s best suited to you and your business’s needs. All Gantt charts definitions utilize keywords such as “project progress”, “timeline” and “visual plans.” They are constantly developing with the planning environment.
Modern Gantt chart software is making the best of the charts' simplicity, timeline, and visual overview, while taking the opportunity to add details about the project, project manager, the cost of the resources, and any other information your project requires. They also make the process faster, more efficient, and with less room for errors.
Another huge selling point is that Gantt chart software gives the project manager the opportunity to continuously adjust the charts. Something that is part and parcel of the regular project flow.We can say that the Gantt chart has been, (and still is) the easiest tool to plan your resources and projects against a timeline, while simultaneously giving you an overview and control over the different project phases. Modern Gantt charts are more convenient to handle and add information to, but the basic functionality has stayed the same since Henry Gantt’s times.
What are the features of a Gantt chart?
To get the most out of your project and resource planning, here are some key components of a classic Gantt chart.
A simple, classic Gantt chart. The bars tell you when and for how long the different resources and projects are going on for.
A classic Gantt chart consists of:
Projects dates and timeline - this gives project managers an overview of all the project dates. From the start, to dates connected with project tasks, and to the finish. You have the complete time frame at your fingertips!
Gantt chart bars as project tasks - projects normally consist of different tasks and the Gantt chart is a great way to see them all in one place. A visual overview helps you make sure that everything is in the right place on the timeline and nothing is forgotten. Task names are normally set on the Gantt chart. Luckily, modern charts are made so that you can easily change the location and the length of the task bar.
Milestones - milestones are the little “wins” of the projects. They are normally at the end of the task and hold some significance for the project. Usually, milestones are displayed as diamond-shaped - which feels like a bonus after the completion of the task. TIP: Always celebrate your little “wins”. They help to break your project into more achievable pieces.
Dependencies - there are always tasks in your projects that need to be completed before the next task can begin or end. So one task is dependent on the other’s start or finish. In Gantt charts, dependencies between the tasks are shown with little arrows. TIP: dependencies can help you focus on the base tasks that are directly connected with the general project flow.
- Resources - In a classic Gantt chart, you can add a resource to your task to see who’s responsible for the task and who’s working on it. In modern Gantt charts, there are ways to make it more visual and understandable. It’s not rare to use Gantt charts for resource planning and project portfolio management, in addition to single project planning.
Modern Gantt chart features that help with scheduling: The Ganttic example
Gantt charts can help you not only with projects but also with resource planning. You can handle your people and other resources (such as machinery, rooms, tools, etc.) by actually assigning tasks to them. In these cases, you can list your resources on the left (X-axis) and use the bar-charts to keep the task position.
It is rare to have just one project to handle at one time. As such, modern Gantt charts are created to have project portfolio management in mind - this means, it is actually easy to handle several projects in at one time, with one view. By adding multiple layers to the charts, users can see the different projects overlaid on one another, giving them a broader overview of the tasks, resources, and progress.
Plus, technology has made scheduling and resource reallocation a breeze. Most of today's Gantt chart software comes with drag and drop, for quick and flexible planning. So if you know how to use Excel, then you can use most modern Gantt charts.
All the customization of spreadsheets but with none of the frustrations, are one of the reasons why they are a great alternative to Excel.
There are several other features that can make scheduling easier and quicker:
Ganttic as Gantt chart software offers extra Gantt chart planning components. Such as:
Color schemes - use it for tasks (combine tasks by colors), for projects (use different colors for different projects) or for stages of projects (red for “canceled,” green for “completed”). An overview of your project is one of the keys to success, and this customizable feature gives you a quick assessment of your needs and metrics. It'll bring you one step closer to project success.
Custom Data Fields - customize your projects, tasks, people, and other resources by their metrics that are important for their projects. It could be their skills, the year when certain machinery was bought, or the name of a project manager. This allows for your tasks and bar graphs to handle way more information. You graphs are more detailed and you can then use this info in your planning and reporting.
Notes and history - you can write notes for the tasks and see the history of changes in tasks. This helps you avoid mistakes by keeping track of who made changes and to what. It is like a sticky note on your whiteboard… but happening in real-time, so everyone can see it!
Utilization - planning allows you to use your time and resources more efficiently. In Ganttic you have an overview of the utilization of ALL your people and resources. This lets you ensure that nothing is overbooked or gives you the option of taking unused capacity from another project. Efficient planning is growth planning.
- Reports - sometimes not only the graph but the tables of calculation can be helpful, so you can actually calculate the hours, utilization, durations and many more. Plus, a lot of times you can choose to even automate your reports, so you'll get them at the time interval you want. Let the program do the work for you, so you can focus on other things.
- Flexible timeline- since Gantt charts are not drawn manually on paper anymore, there are programs that let you play around in your timeline. If you need to see today’s plans, just zoom in. When you need to understand the next month’s plans or schedule next year’s project, just zoom out. You are the project manager who handles your projects, not the other way around!
You can utilize the best features of a Gantt chart - whiteboard visuality and modern agility - all while using Gantt chart software.
8 reasons to do your scheduling with a Gantt chart
Here are the TOP advantages of Gantt chart in scheduling management with Gantt chart software :
1. Get a visual overview about the whole projectA quick image search for Gantt charts will give you plenty of examples which contain only 5 or 6 tasks per project. This is of course not always what the reality.
Perhaps you have tens or even hundreds of resources to manage, all of which require an overview. And maybe you share these resources with other project managers and you need software that helps you all to succeed. Gantt charts not only help with the overview, but the best ones give you automatic calculations about resource utilization, which prevents the risk of overworking your equipment or team members.
Having an instantaneous, sharable visual overview of these dates, bookings, and availability will let everyone sleep better at night.
2. All project-related issues in a single placeMost jobs require us to multitask. So if you've ever needed to be in two places at the same time, you can understand what a pain that must be to plan. And why it's might happened that you've accidentally double-booked a person or another resource -like a room or a machine?
Gantt charts actually help you get a great overview of everything that is happening, when it’s happening, and who is involved. They can help you avoid the nightmare of double-bookings. And the best ones make it possible to schedule tasks concurrently if you do need to multitask. Helping everyone be on the same page. Literally!
3. Use your resources more effectively
Seeing how your resources interact with the graph's timeline helps you make better decisions. This in turn can give you the opportunity to secure more profits. More money, less problems!
4. Agile and real-time changes
The best thing you can do is to keep the team informed about the changes when they happen in real-time. No more communication errors here.
5. Keep an eye on future, long-term planningGantt charts let project managers see the bigger picture for the future. When should another task start? How far along are we with Task X? Are there any resources missing? Or if someone is ill, how we can find a replacement for him for next week? Gantt charts can help to give us the directions for the future, now, and makes long-term planning easier and less stressful.
6. Solve the problems before they happenProblem-solving is a critical task for a project manager. It is way easier to solve problems ahead of time instead of in the middle of a crisis. Gantt charts help sort out the bottlenecks before they occur. Lack of resources, an overload of work, timing issues? Problems always occur, but it’s best to solve them ahead of time while they are still “invisible.”
7. Handle the dependencies between the tasksIt is obvious that you can’t start building walls before you have a foundation. Gantt charts, present a visual tool to help see the dependencies between the tasks. It allows you to understand what is starting, what is changing and what is ending, and how all this might affect the dependencies between tasks. This will help build your foundation, walls, and roofs all as planned… or at least change the plan if needed.
8. They can be used in every industryGantt charts are great because they are versatile. There's a reason they are so popular, it doesn't matter if you are in a creative industry, or engineering, IT, or construction, working in a lab or in a sound booth, you can easily customize the charts to fit your needs. Plus, modern cloud-based solutions make it easy to sign-in and update even when you're on-the-go, and can be a great option for varied work conditions such as coordinating remote teams.
Disadvantages of planning with a Gantt chart
Although there are many advantages to using a Gantt chart, there are of course some disadvantages as well. Keep these things in mind when using a Gantt chart for the most effective results.
It’s important to remember that:
1. Plans can get complex
Of course, they can, that's life. Especially when we are talking about dozens of different resources and hundreds of details within the scope of several projects. It might get tricky with all those dependencies, to the point where even the smallest changes can be time-consuming and difficult to manage.
TIP: It all depends on the way you customize your info and structuring it in a way that’s right for you. Look at plans through different views or organize your resources using custom data fields.
2. Gantt chart task bars don't always show the amount of work
A week-long task does not necessarily mean a full 8h/day workweek. It may also mean that extra assistance is needed on some days or only half a day was used. Here the utilization percentage becomes important, to allow you to actually understand the true amount of work.
3. Visibility of long-time period planning
To really get a handle on larger projects which can span months or even years, it can be frustrating to see as a Gantt chart and fit it only on a single sheet or screen. Especially if you turn your Excel into a Gantt chart, which offers limited capabilities. In this case, it's better to use a program that enables you to see the details from a weekly, monthly or yearly perspective.
TIP: The best remedy for this is Gantt chart software which allows you to zoom in and out with just a few clicks. A flexible timeline can make it super simple to see the exact time and date you need.
In Ganttic we’ve learned from real-life experiences, practices, statistics, and feedback over the past 10 years. There are companies who depend on planning only from Ganttic, and there are companies that use Ganttic in conjunction with other long term planning software such as ERP. Either way, Gantt charts make better planning possible!
Time to get started with a Gantt chart
Projects are different. Companies are different. Resources and methods are different. But once implemented in your project planning, a Gantt chart can outline how resources can be allocated and scheduled more efficiently and in the best ways for your specific needs.
So planning and scheduling with Gantt charts may actually be one of the best solutions out there for resource and long term project portfolio management. Maybe even the best one.
If you want to utilize the full power of Gantt charts, give Ganttic a try. You can even start with a free trial. Sign up for FREE
May the Gantt charts be with you!