Small projects can often be planned and executed using a simple to-do list. However, larger or more complex projects require a more robust project management process.

If you find yourself always replying to client questions on deadlines or explaining who’s responsible for which task, it’s time to use a Gantt chart for your projects. Gantt charts help you create a detailed action plan that keeps all team members in the loop.

Find out all about Gantt chart project management, how it works, and why Gantt charts can be an incredibly useful tool for managing, scheduling, and tracking your projects successfully.

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What is a Gantt chart?

Created by the American management consultant and engineer Henry Gantt in 1910, Gantt charts are widely used in project and program management.

A Gantt chart visualizes the project schedule and tasks to be completed over a certain period. It is a bar chart that represents project tasks on a vertical axis and task duration on a horizontal axis. Project managers can use Gantt charts to track different project elements, such as resources, tasks, team members, and dependencies.

Gantt charts can include the following details:

  • Overall project schedule, along with start and end dates
  • Tasks to be completed during the project
  • Tasks assigned to specific team members
  • The timeline of each project deliverable, from start to finish
  • Task status — not started, in progress, or completed
  • Task dependencies
  • Project milestones, phases, and progress
  • The critical path of the project

What is the Gantt chart used for?

Gantt charts have many uses in program and project management. However, project managers use them primarily for three reasons:

Organizing projects

Many projects face constantly changing deadlines, increasing client requests, and miscommunication.

A Gantt chart can combat this by breaking down a project into smaller and more manageable tasks represented on a timeline. Team members can view the Gantt chart to quickly understand project milestones, individual and team workloads, resources, and dependencies.

Managing resources and task dependencies 

Most organizations have multiple projects occurring simultaneously. Gantt charts can be an invaluable project management tool for assessing project logistics and resource availability. 

You can also use them to pinpoint task dependencies — the relationships between tasks — and see clearly where tasks should begin or end in relation to other activities. . If a task gets delayed, you can quickly reschedule the dependent activities and resources to account for the delay.

Tracking project success

Gantt chart project management helps managers visualize progress and keep the project on track by proactively accounting for issues or delays.

You can add critical project KPIs to your Gantt chart to ensure that the metric and its related activities are correctly measured. For example, teams can add release dates or project milestones to see if the project is proceeding according to plan.

Are Gantt charts and project schedules the same?

Though they may sound similar, Gantt charts and project schedules are not the same. 

Gantt charts are a versatile project management tool that helps project managers visualize the resources required, task dependencies, and team workload. You can monitor multiple projects on one Gantt chart and see how they overlap, which helps with resource and workload management.

A project schedule, meanwhile, is a simple plan of action that outlines the project's key tasks, dates, and milestones. Project managers create a project schedule in the project planning phase to get a clear overview of the timeline.

What are the different types of Gantt chart dependencies?

Managing complex projects with multiple tasks happening simultaneously can be complicated. Gantt chart dependencies clearly display how the tasks are interrelated, which helps teams prioritize the completion of the most vital tasks. 

There are four kinds of Gantt chart dependencies:

  • Finish to start (FS): In the FS dependency, there is a natural flow of tasks. The preceding task needs to be completed before the succeeding one can start.
  • Start to start (SS): The secondary task can be started once the preceding task has begun.
  • Finish to finish (FF): The succeeding activity cannot be completed until the preceding task is finished. In short, both tasks finish at the same time.
  • Start to finish (SF): This dependency is rarely found in project management. The subsequent activity can only be completed when an earlier activity has begun.

How to use Gantt charts for project management

Project managers use Gantt charts to plan, organize, schedule, and track their projects across diverse industries. Gantt chart project management can be beneficial for:

  • Simplifying complex projects
  • Tracking project progress
  • Ensuring equal workload assignment to all team members
  • Mitigating potential project risks
  • Addressing possible task delays before they occur
  • Managing multiple project teams and stakeholders
  • Managing available resources for one or more projects
  • Visualizing actual and planned project timelines

How to create a Gantt chart

Whether you are building a Gantt chart in Excel, using a Gantt chart template, or utilizing Gantt chart software, here are the steps you need to follow:

  1. List all the tasks that need to be done
  2. Note the planned start and end dates for every task
  3. Outline the project timeline
  4. Categorize task dependencies
  5. Add the tasks to the Gantt chart timeline
  6. Assign the project tasks to team members
  7. Establish project milestones
  8. Calculate the critical path for the project

Essential Gantt chart software features

When evaluating a Gantt chart creator, you need to scout for the following essential features:

  • Milestones: Mark significant tasks, deadlines, or meetings on the project schedule
  • Dependencies: Visualize the relationship between interdependent or interrelated tasks
  • Notifications: Automatically alert team members to changes and updates
  • File-sharing: Attach files, images, documents, audio clips, or videos related to a specific task
  • Drag and drop functionality: Quickly make changes to the timeline in a few clicks
  • Statuses: See the current status of all tasks on the Gantt chart

Kick-start project planning with Wrike’s Gantt chart software 

Looking for the best Gantt chart software? Never miss a deadline, monitor risks, and juggle projects with ease with Wrike’s Gantt chart software.

Control all your projects from our intuitive interface, discover your project’s critical path, and visualize progress using Wrike’s Gantt chart creator. Spot a potential bottleneck? Reschedule tasks in an instant with the drag-and-drop interface, which adjusts dependent activities around your changes. Any adjustments to dates, times, or assignees will be automatically shared with your team, so no one misses a beat.

Get a free Wrike trial to see how our online Gantt charts can help you visualize project milestones, monitor progress, and supercharge your project planning.