Project management is not always easy. To complete a project successfully, you need to carry out a wide range of activities, on time and within a set budget.
A project can easily get derailed if a task is not finished by the deadline, causing a range of issues from additional costs to disappointed customers.
If you’re struggling to manage a complex project, it’s worth taking a look at Gantt chart.
What is a Gantt chart?
A Gantt chart is a visual representation of all the information you need to manage your project. The tasks that need to be carried out are shown on the vertical access, while the timeline in which they need to be completed is shown along the horizontal axis.
Gantt charts can help you:
- Work out how long a project will take
- Identify what resources will be needed
- Establish a critical path showing the order tasks need to be completed
- See how completing one task will have an effect on other planned activities
- Ensure you assign the right people to each task
- Anticipate any problems that might prevent tasks being completed
- Monitor the overall progress of your project
- Take remedial action if a project lags behind schedule
By giving you an instant overview of your project, the tasks involved and when they need to be completed, Gantt charts allow you to organise and run your project successfully. They also help you to communicate details of the project to your team and to clients.
Who came up with the concept of Gantt charts?
Gantt charts were developed around 1910 by Henry Gannt, an engineer and management consultant. He used as his basis a visual work-flow chart called a harmonogram, which was devised by Polish engineer Karol Adamiecki in the late 1800s.
How to create a Gantt chart
Creating a Gantt chart is simple if you follow the basic steps.
- Identify essential tasks
List every activity you will need to carry out as part of your project. Add the earliest start date and how long it will take; this could be a day or a number of weeks.
2. Establish the relationship between tasks
Note which tasks need to be completed before another one can start. For example, carrying out market research before a product is designed. Interdependent activities are known as sequential or linear tasks. Note also which tasks can be done in parallel.
Sequential tasks are related in three key ways:
Finish to Start (FS) tasks – these can’t be started before a related task is completed
Start to Start (SS) tasks – these can’t be started until a preceding task starts
Finish to Finish (FF) tasks – these can’t end before a preceding task ends
Start to Finish (SF) tasks also exist but are very unusual.
Working on as many activities as possible in parallel will help to speed up the delivery of a project.
3. Create a template or use software to input activities
This can be drawn by hand or created using specialist software. Find a template on Microsoft Excel or search online for examples. Hosting your template in the cloud will allow team members to access it from wherever they are, particularly useful when people are home working or projects spread across several work sites.
4. Chart your progress
Projects can change and evolve as they progress. A client may want to alter a detail, there could be an issue with quality control, or you might identify a more cost-effective or better way of carrying out part of the project.
As soon as such an issue arises, you should update your chart and communicate the change to your colleagues, suppliers, clients and any other relevant people.
Gantt charts are one of the most straightforward business tools for managing your project.
Following the simple model of listing tasks against the time they will take, in the order they need to be completed, will help you to complete your project successfully, on time and to budget.