Planning And Scheduling With A Gantt Chart. Is There Any Better Way?
Whether you are new to project planning or already an experienced project manager, it’s likely that you’ve heard of Gantt charts. Or maybe you have even done scheduling with a Gantt chart. And you might already know the power of Gantt charts. Or you're on your way to discovering it.
The Gantt chart’s namesake, Henry Gantt, did not actually invent the Gantt chart. That honor 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.
Planning in project management is a necessity. And so are Gantt charts. According to Dr. Ravish Kumar’s article, 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. Imagine being a project manager hundreds of years ago, and trying to build the Taj Mahal or Sagrada Familia without modern tools such as planning software.
Today it is possible to use modern Gantt chart planning to manage your project resources in a better way 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 a better one. 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.
What is a Gantt chart?
- A Gantt chart is a visual project management tool that helps to plan and schedule projects with different sizes.
- 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. They can be considered as a visual representation of a project 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 revolve around 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 many other conditions. Gantt chart software also gives the project manager the opportunity to change the charts based on the continuous changes that are part of the regular project flow.Generally, we can say that the Gantt chart has been and still is the easiest tool to plan your resources and projects by 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 components 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 components 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. 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 flexible planning. And 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, they are a great alternative to Excel.
There are several other components that can make scheduling easier:
Ganttic as a 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!
8 reasons to do your scheduling with a Gantt chart
We strongly suggest you try a Gantt chart when you need to make plans involving people, resources, and different types of competencies. When you have a bigger project that requires dividing it into smaller tasks, it is wise to invest in Gantt chart software for smoother planning. We also have some advice on how to choose the right Gantt chart software as well as our recommendations for the best resource planning tools.
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 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 hundreds of resources to manage, all of which require an overview. Perhaps you share resources with other project managers and you need software that allows you all to succeed. Having a great visual overview about dates, bookings, and availability will let you sleep better at night.
2. All project-related issues in a single placeHave you ever needed to be in two places at the same time? What about when you double-booked a person or another resource - say 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. And everyone can actually be on the same page. Literally!
3. Use your resources effectively
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 us as project managers see the bigger picture for the future. When should another task start? How far we are with Task X? Are there any resources missing?
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 your dependencies between tasks. This will help build your foundation, walls, and roofs all as planned… or at least change the plan if needed.
Gantt chart software really do a lot for your projects if you take the time to get to know them better.
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. The Gantt Chart task bars do not actually show you 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 realize the true amount of work.
TIP: Following your resource utilization can help you to use the resources more efficiently.
3. Visibility of long-time period planning
To really handle the Gantt chart view for a large project, it might not fit on only one sheet or screen. In this case, you need a program that enables you to see the details from a weekly, monthly and 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.
An example of a Gantt chart in Ganttic. Viewing your plans from different ways can help you stay organized and on top of your projects.
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!