PERT Charts vs. Gantt Charts — What Are the Differences?

As a project manager, you need the right tools in your bag to help you organize project plans, streamline tasks, and maximize efficiencies for on-time and on-budget delivery. Gantt charts and PERT charts both meet those criteria. 

In this post, we’re going to dig deeper into what makes these two tools so useful for PMs, when each chart is best utilized, and how you can use them both to plan and monitor your projects for the most successful outcomes possible.

Gantt charts vs. PERT charts: What’s the difference?

Both Gantt charts and PERT charts are tools to help visualize projects from beginning to end, along with the individual tasks associated with them. The key difference between the two charts is the way in which they present project data. 

Essentially, a Gantt chart is a bar chart that lays out project tasks and timelines linearly. The y-axis is made up of individual tasks and the x-axis represents time. Gantt charts are great for improving efficiencies and optimizing time management, as PMs can adjust tasks in the chart as the project progresses to keep it on track for a timely delivery. 

A PERT chart, on the other hand, is structured as a flow chart or network diagram that displays all the project tasks in separate boxes and connects them with arrows to clearly show task dependencies. Although PERT — short for Program Evaluation and Review Technique — charts don’t have dates along their x-axes like Gantt charts, the individual boxes that make up PERT charts identify the time needed to complete each task.

What is a PERT chart used for?

The PERT methodology was developed in the 1950s by the U.S. Navy to help manage large, complex projects. With a PERT chart, project managers can define all tasks and activities required for the project, then develop a realistic timeframe for project completion. PERT charts are also useful in scheduling and coordinating team members to accomplish the project’s tasks.

What is a Gantt chart used for?

A Gantt chart, named for Henry Gantt who developed the tool back in 1910, is used to visually display every task required by a given project in a linear fashion. This timeline view makes it easy to see exactly how long each task (as well as the overall project) is expected to take. Gantt charts are also great for visualizing the order of specific tasks as well as the teams and individuals responsible for each task. 

What is the advantage of a PERT chart?

Typically, a PERT chart is advantageous at the outset of a project’s planning phase to get a high-level overview of all the tasks involved, their dependencies, and their estimated completion dates. Because it is laid out like a flow chart, with each task pointing directly to the next sequential task (or tasks), a PERT chart provides an excellent visual representation of the relationship between each project activity

On the downside, PERT charts can quickly become complicated and even confusing when used with large, complex projects with hundreds of individual tasks. 

What is the advantage of a Gantt chart?

Conversely, Gantt charts are usually the better option for monitoring projects once they’re underway. Gantt charts provide project transparency to team members and stakeholders and clearly represent both task and overall project timelines. With a Gantt chart, PMs can quickly identify whether a project is progressing as scheduled and know precisely where each task should be at any given point in time during the project cycle. 

The disadvantage of a Gantt chart is the time it can take to create and update. However, with modern software, you can easily make and manage Gantt charts to help monitor your projects. 

PERT vs Gantt: Which one is right for me?

Because of the unique ways in which Gantt and PERT charts visually represent project tasks and life cycles, they both have their place in the project manager’s toolkit. With Wrike, you can easily make and modify both types of chart to help you optimize planning and time management throughout the entire project cycle. 

Wrike enables project managers to:

  • Simplify project planning, prioritize scheduling, and efficiently assign tasks
  • Create custom workflows and automatically assign the right work to the right person in the right order
  • Forget about the PERT vs. Gantt debate and easily utilize both tools for maximum efficiency

Ready to see just how easy project planning and monitoring can be? Fill out the form below and start your free two-week Wrike trial today!

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