You’re planning your team’s next project and you’ve made a long list of the tasks that need to be completed. Now, you just need to set a deadline.
But you’re stumped. You want to make sure you’re being realistic. However, it can be challenging to figure out exactly how long your team will need in order to get that project across the finish line.
This is where a Gantt chart (and, subsequently, a Gantt chart creator) can be a huge benefit. Not only will it assist you in establishing a realistic project timeline, but it will also serve as a handy resource to monitor progress and keep your whole project team in the loop.
What is a Gantt chart?
A Gantt chart is a tool that displays your project-related tasks compared to time.
There are several Gantt chart components, but here’s the basic gist: every task is represented by a horizontal bar on the chart. The length of the bar indicates the estimated amount of time the task will take to complete.
Nothing adds clarity like an example, so here’s a peek at a Gantt chart that displays the tasks for releasing a new product. This example was created using Wrike, which offers a simple Gantt chart creator.
Gantt charts are a popular project management tool and, as Capterra explains, they are used across a variety of industries—from education to construction to marketing.
Why use a Gantt chart creator?
Yes, it’s possible to create a Gantt chart using a simple spreadsheet or even just a pen and paper. However, using a Gantt chart creator online is a better solution for teams. Here’s why.
Even the best-laid plans need some adjustments, and your project is bound to change and evolve as your team begins tackling tasks. For example, maybe you’ve hit a snag and now a task duration needs to be extended by three days.
When you use Gantt chart software online, subsequent tasks and timelines will automatically shift when you adjust that single task. If you opted for a manual method when creating your chart, you’d have a lot of time-consuming work ahead of you to make those updates yourself.
What to look for in Gantt chart creator software
The last thing you want to do is invest hours of elbow grease into making a ton of manual updates whenever something small changes with your project. Now you probably understand the benefit of finding a Gantt chart creator online.
From free Gantt chart creators to more complex solutions, there are plenty of options available to you. Here are four key elements you should be looking for to separate the wheat from the chaff.
1. Team assignments
Your project tasks might all have different owners, so you want to make sure everyone is crystal clear on what’s been assigned to them (and when it’s due!).
Previously, you’ve tried emailing them with assignments and project updates, but things keep getting lost in translation — likely because the average worker has 199 unopened emails in their inbox.
Solve this by choosing a Gantt chart creator that makes it easy to assign project tasks directly to your team members. They’ll be able to instantly see what’s been assigned to them, and receive notifications and reminders about approaching deadlines.
2. Task dependencies
Projects often resemble a row of dominoes. A single oversight can send the whole thing toppling over.
Task dependencies are largely to blame for this. In fact, according to Project Management Institute’s 2018 “Pulse of the Profession” survey, 12% of respondents blamed task dependency for the failure of their projects.
Gantt charts are helpful when it comes to accounting for dependencies between tasks. Look for a tool that connects tasks, rather than treating them as isolated events. Wrike allows you to set dependencies in four ways:
- Task A can’t start until Task B has been completed
- Task A can’t start until Task B has started
- Task A can’t be completed until Task B has been completed
- Task A can’t be completed until Task B has been started
Keeping these task relationships in mind will help you be more realistic with your end dates, and also plan more efficient and effective project workflows.
3. Intuitive color-coding
Ideally, your Gantt chart exists to give you and your team a quick rundown of the project’s timeline. It shouldn’t be something that’s complicated or overwhelming to look at.
Something like color-coding might seem like a minuscule detail, but it can make your Gantt chart that much more intuitive to view and use. With Wrike’s color-coding system, your team members will be able to immediately see the status of a task at a glance.
- Green tasks are completed
- Red tasks are in progress and overdue
- Blue tasks are in progress and not overdue
A straightforward system like that makes it easy to tell where tasks stand, without having to click in for details, updates, and conversations.
4. Filtered views
For large projects with a lot of moving parts, you might need a more narrow view that looks at specific people, dates, or work statuses.
Look for a Gantt chart creator that includes these filters so that you can have a narrower view of the information you want to see at a given time. This is one of many features that will make your Gantt chart far more user-friendly for you and your team.
Make a Gantt chart your project’s not-so-secret weapon
Setting timelines, accounting for task dependencies, monitoring progress, and keeping your team in the loop are some of the many challenges that you face as a project manager.
A Gantt chart (and an online Gantt chart creator) can help you tackle these hurdles without breaking a sweat.
Ready to get started with your own Gantt charts? Find out how Wrike can help, and then sign up for a free trial.