How to Use an Online Gantt Chart to Avoid These 5 Project Management Mistakes

As the project manager, you know that it’s your job to keep all aspects of an assigned project on track. But let’s just say it: That’s not always an easy task.

The left hand doesn’t always know what the right hand is doing. Deadlines are missed or completely forgotten. Updates and important information are miscommunicated. And before you even realize what’s happening, the whole house of cards can come tumbling down around you.

Fortunately, there are some tools and resources at your disposal that make it easier to keep an eye on your projects and prevent them from running off the rails.

Like what? Online Gantt charts are a great place to start.

What is an online Gantt chart?

A Gantt chart displays project-related tasks compared to time. On the chart, tasks are represented by horizontal bars, and the length of those bars indicates the estimated amount of time that task should require to complete.

One of the best ways to understand a Gantt chart is to actually see one. So, here’s a look at a Gantt chart that displays the tasks involved with the release of a new product:

Online_Gantt_Chart_2

The above chart was created using Wrike. While Gantt charts can be created manually using spreadsheets or other tools, it’s best to use an online Gantt chart maker.

Why does it matter? By making a Gantt chart online, you’ll have a much easier time making updates if something changes — if, say, a task runs over the deadline or the order needs to change.

When using an online Gantt chart creator, things like your timelines and even your task dependencies will shift automatically when you make a change, so you don’t have to recreate the entire chart.

Regardless of where or how you create it, your Gantt chart allows you to get a grasp on all sorts of important project information in one look, including:

  • The order that tasks need to be completed in
  • How long each task will take
  • Any overlap between tasks
  • Task dependencies (indicated with an arrow)
  • Who is responsible for each task

Put simply, a Gantt chart makes it easy to get an overview of all of the different tasks involved with your project, which means you can keep things running smoothly and avoid several common project management mistakes.

Project management mistake #1: Initiating a lackluster project kickoff

The very beginning of your project is an incredibly important time. It’s when you get all of the key players and stakeholders on the same page about expectations, task deadlines, and project goals.

According to executive leaders, a lack of clear goals is the most common reason for project failure. Additionally, inaccurate time estimates are the cause of failure in up to 28% of projects.

Needless to say, you shouldn’t overlook the importance of your kickoff for ironing out these sorts of details. Otherwise, you run the risk of building your entire project on a shaky foundation.

However, when you’re eager to roll up your sleeves and get things moving, it’s tempting to skip over this crucial step and just get people started — without confirming that everybody is operating with the same understanding of how the project will run (and why it matters).

How to avoid it with an online Gantt chart

Arguably, one of the most important pieces of your project is the timeline, as that trickles down and affects everything from your budget to your resource allocation.

While a Gantt chart isn’t quite a crystal ball, it forces you to take a step back and understand the overall schedule, the flow of various tasks, and the connection of different teams.

By mapping this out, you and all of your project players are able to get a bird’s-eye view and ensure that you’re starting with shared expectations.

Project management mistake #2: Forgetting about task dependencies

Any project contains task dependencies — meaning that a certain task can’t be started until the previous one is completed.

Failing to identify these can lead to a nonsensical order of tasks (because you don’t understand how they’re related to one another) and a lack of accountability amongst team members (because they don’t understand how their own setbacks slow the entire project down).

As if that all wasn’t bad enough, this lack of understanding and these constant delays also inspire tons of frustration and confusion amongst your team.

How to avoid it with an online Gantt chart

A Gantt chart clearly illustrates dependencies between your tasks with an arrow, but it’s also incredibly helpful when using the Critical Path Method (CPM), which requires that you understand:

  • The tasks required to complete the project
  • The dependencies between the tasks
  • The estimate of time (duration) that each task will take to complete

All of this information is displayed directly on your Gantt chart. You can use your chart to identify the critical path (which is the longest stretch of dependent activities) and not only better understand how those tasks are connected, but also which ones leave some wiggle room for inevitable delays (without extending the duration of your entire project).

Project management mistake #3: Failing to coordinate handoffs

Handoffs are another sticky spot when managing projects. Whether the project is being passed over to another individual or an entirely new team or department, it’s challenging to ensure that the new task or project owner is equipped with the necessary information or context to complete their portion well.

Often, updates or changes aren’t communicated and adequate background information isn’t provided, which often leaves that new task owner feeling as if they’re starting an entirely new project rather than contributing to something that’s already well underway.

How to avoid it with an online Gantt chart

With a Gantt chart, you can visualize exactly when project handoffs will happen — between people, teams, and departments. Knowing when these will occur means that you can anticipate them (rather than scrambling at the last minute) and iron out a process for facilitating a more seamless handoff by doing things like:

  • Standardizing some sort of creative brief or questionnaire that people must fill out in order to transfer necessary knowledge to the new owner
  • Instituting a checklist that individuals or teams must complete before handing off the project

In short, you can’t facilitate smooth handoffs if you don’t know when they’ll happen, and a Gantt chart is crucial for understanding exactly where these hurdles occur.

Project management mistake #4: Keeping individual tasks siloed

Particularly when your project involves a lot of different tasks and teams, it’s easy for work to become siloed. For example, the graphic design team has no idea what the content team is working on, and vice versa.

Groups and team members become so intensely focused on their individual assignments and deadlines, they forget how they connect to the larger picture.

What’s the problem? That decreased visibility into the entire project can contribute to:

  • Miscommunication: Team members don’t understand how changes on their end impact the work of other teams.
  • Delays: Work might need to be changed or redone because important information was missed, or team members don’t understand how missing a single task deadline actually delays subsequent tasks.

How to avoid it with an online Gantt chart

Your Gantt chart essentially serves as your roadmap for the entire project. Team members are able to refer to it to understand how their own tasks fit into the overall project. What’s happening before the project is on their plates? What about after? Or concurrently with their own work?

Your Gantt chart also clearly illustrates what happens if a department or team member drops the ball or misses a deadline, as it will delay any dependent tasks that follow. A Gantt chart quite literally resembles a row of dominos, so it’s effective at instilling an increased sense of accountability across your team.

Project management mistake #5: Losing track of project progress

You aren’t perfect either, which means it’s also easy for you as the project manager to get tangled up in individual tasks. You become so focused on ensuring that one certain task is completed correctly or meets its deadline, that you don’t keep a close enough eye on all of the other moving pieces involved with that project.

Sure, that one task that you were closely monitoring might be completed on schedule, but the rest of the project might have fallen behind while you had your back turned.

How to avoid it with an online Gantt chart

A Gantt chart not only grants your team increased visibility, but you as well. You can quickly point to an individual task on your chart and get an immediate understanding of where you are in the whole process of completing the project, as well as what other work should be happening right now.

No more digging through calendars, comments, or files to understand how the whole project fits together. Your Gantt chart does all of that legwork for you.

Creating Gantt charts online: Your secret to project success

A Gantt chart is an undeniably valuable tool for planning and managing your projects, and it can help you avoid numerous common mistakes, including:

  • Neglecting the importance of project kickoff
  • Forgetting about task dependencies
  • Failing to coordinate project handoffs
  • Keeping individual tasks siloed
  • Losing track of project progress

However, remember that not all Gantt charts are created equal. To make the most of this resource, it’s best to find an online project management platform with Gantt chart capabilities, so that your entire chart automatically adjusts when you inevitably need to make changes.

When you create a Gantt chart online, you have the flexibility to oversee and manage your projects, without a ton of hassles and elbow grease. After all, this chart is supposed to make your life easier, not harder.

Ready to get started? Sign up for a 14-day free trial of Wrike, and experience the power of Gantt charts for yourself.

Check out a few more resources to help you make the most of Gantt charts: 

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