Project Management guide

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How to Use a Gantt Chart for Project Management

A Gantt chart is a common and popular project management tool that provides a visual of what activities need to be done when. Gantt charts are excellent for tracking project schedules because they help you see interdependencies between tasks—essentially when one tasks relies on another task to be completed. In addition, they can be used to show progress, resources, constraints, and other relevant scheduling information.

How to build a Gantt chart for project management

It’s easiest to set up, update, and manage a Gantt chart using a project scheduling tool that allows you to link tasks and deadlines that are dependent on one another. When working in an effective project scheduling tool, moving or updating the timeline or progress on one task will automatically update tasks linked to it through interdependencies. This saves you time and reduces the likelihood of missing something. However, you can create a manual version in excel, if necessary. You can follow these steps to set up a Gantt chart of your project:

  1. Identify all of your essential project tasks. Make a list of all the important things that need to be completed and how long you expect each one to take.
  2. Identify the relationships between tasks. For example, you can’t post content on your website until the content is written, so these two tasks are related. One needs to be complete before the other can begin.
  3. Now put all your tasks in order of timeline in your software or spreadsheet. You should have one starting task and task to signal the project is completed. Everything else can fit in the middle, based on the relationships and your resources, availability, etc.
  4. At this point, you can assign dates, resources, and progress if the project is already underway. You can also add notes, or input any other relevant information you want to track.
  5. If you’re using software, it will automatically create the visual chart for you. Using a spreadsheet, you will have to do this by creating and formatting a chart. 
  6. Once your chart is created, remember to update it as things change. It’s important to review and update your chart at least once a week to reflect progress and other changes to your project.

Aspects of a good Gantt chart

A Gantt chart should include all of the following data points:

  • The project start date
  • The name or description of each project tasks
  • Resources assigned to each task
  • A start date and an end date for every task
  • The duration (length) of every task
  • The relationship between tasks
  • The project end date

All tasks should be related and connected together. When you have a task with no relationships or dependencies, it may be referred to as a hanging or orphaned task. This is against PMBOK standards as it makes planning and analysis difficult. However, it is possible to have multiple groups of tasks happening simultaneously with each other. There are four types of relations or dependencies you can choose between:

  1. Finish to Start (FS). This is where one task must complete before the next can start, and it is the most common option.
  2. Start to start (SS). In this case, as soon as one task is started, the next one can start as well. Think of a housing project, where once someone starts putting up the drywall, someone else can come behind them and start painting. There’s no need for the whole house to be drywalled before beginning painting the first room.
  3. Finish to Finish (FF). In some cases, a task cannot end until the one before it ends. For example, the inspection of a house cannot be completed until the building of the house is completed.
  4. Start to Finish (SF). This relationship is the least common type. It is where one task cannot end until another is started. Think about customer service employees, where the employee on the day shift is not allowed to finish until the employee on the evening shift has come in and started working.

The benefits of using a Gantt chart for project management

Using a Gantt chart for Project Management provides you with the following benefits:

  • You can break down a project into more manageable chunks.
  • Easily view task dependencies and relationships.
  • Allow team members to view the relationship between their work and others.
  • Visualize and monitor the progress of tasks over time.
  • See constraints and conflicts, such as one resource being assigned to two tasks at once.
  • Identify the critical path of the project.

Further Reading