A Gantt Chart is a project management tool that illustrates activities that need to be done and their schedule.
Consider how difficult it is to build a house. You can’t proceed to the next stage without first finishing the previous one. Project management is like building a house—you need to do the previous steps before proceeding to the next. If you can’t keep things in order and on schedule, the entire planning can go haywire and have negative consequences. This is where the Gantt chart comes into play.
Project managers need to have a clear picture of tasks, schedules, and the people assigned to work on them.
What is a Gantt Chart?
A Gantt Chart is a visual representation of project tasks as scheduled over time. The chart was designed by Henry Gantt, an American management consultant and engineer, in the early 1900s. Back then, it was created to help manufacturing managers have visuals on their work schedules.
Gantt charts convert project management timelines and tasks into a horizontal bar chart. It’s a valuable tool to show tasks’ start and end dates, task owners, and the dependencies between tasks in one simple visual. Through this, it’s easier for project managers to track project progress and ensure the timely completion of each initiative.
When to Use a Gantt Chart
Gantt charts can be used for projects of all sizes, although they are meant to simplify complex projects involving many tasks. A Gantt chart is commonly used for the following:
- Build and manage complex projects: The more comprehensive and complex the project, the more tasks you need to manage. Gantt charts help project managers visualize projects and organize them into smaller, more manageable tasks.
- Determine task dependencies: When tasks are dependent on each other, you should quickly determine delayed tasks. If project delays happen, then dependent issues are automatically rescheduled. Gantt charts ensure that a new task can only begin once the previous task is complete.
- Monitor project progress: Gantt charts allow project managers to keep an eye on the progress and make adjustments as needed.
Benefits of Using a Gantt Chart
No matter the project, it should be well-managed and organized. That way everything is easier for team members to stay on top of their workload and complete tasks on time, so you can meet your deadlines. Here are the 4 key benefits of using a Gantt chart:
Gantt charts help calculate realistic project completion times and set goals based on available assets. It allows project managers to delegate tasks and align resources without burdening team members with too much work. Team members can then perform more efficiently.
Individuals have access to the same information, allowing everyone to know the progress of each task. Gantt charts help create a sense of accountability in the workplace by allowing the project manager to highlight big wins and major failures.
The visual aspect of Gantt charts allows project managers and team members to analyze workflows for constraints and adjust their work accordingly. The chart can help managers track the progress of each project and easily visualize if any elements are missing in the delegation of tasks.
Gantt charts give high-level visibility into the who, what, when, and where of a project. At a glance, you’ll immediately see the progress, and in which task delays usually occur.
How to Create Gantt Chart in Excel
If you’ve never created one before, the good news is that creating a Gantt Chart in Excel or Google Sheets is simple. Here are the steps to create your own Gantt chart.
Step 1: Create a Project Table
The first step is entering your project’s data in an Excel spreadsheet. List each task in separate rows and structure your project plan by including the following:
- Start Date
- End Date
Your sheet should look like this:
Step 2: Make a standard Excel Bar Chart Based on Start Dates
The next step is to set up a usual Stacked Bar chart.
- Select the range of your Start Dates with the column header. In this case, it’s B1 to B6. Do not select the entire column.
- Click on the Insert tab, then Charts, and click Bar.
- Select Stacked Bar under the 2-D Bar section.
After doing so, you should see a Stacked bar on your worksheet. It looks like this:
Step 3: Add Task Duration to the Chart
Next, you need to add the Duration to your Excel Gantt chart-to-be.
- Right-click anywhere within the chart and choose Select Data from the drop-down menu.
- When the Select Data Source window opens, click the Add button to add the Duration data.
- In the Series name field, input “Duration” or any other name you prefer. Then, just click on the cells under the Duration column in the Series Values field.
The chart should now look like this:
Step 4: Add Task Descriptions to the Gantt chart
Now, you have to replace the days on the y-axis with the list of tasks.
- Bring up the Select Data Source window again.
- Select Start Date on the Legend Entries and select the cells under the Task column on the Horizontal (Category) axis labels.
Your chart should have task descriptions on the y-axis and look like this:
Step 5: Transform the bar graph into Excel Gantt chart
At this point, your Gantt chart is still a stacked bar chart. So, you now have to edit the formatting to make it look more like a Gantt chart.
We want to remove the blue bars in the chart, so only the orange bars representing the tasks’ duration remain visible. You will not delete the blue bars; instead, make them invisible.
- Click on any blue bar in the chart to select them all, then right-click and choose Format Data Series.
- In the Format Data Series window, switch the Fill tab to No Fill. Then, select No Line on the Border tab.
- After doing the first two steps, your chart will still be in reversed order. Just click on the list of tasks to prompt the Format Axis window. Find the Axis position and then select the Categories in reverse order option.
After following all these steps, a Gantt chart is now created in your spreadsheet. The chart should look similar to this:
Gantt Chart: Map Your Projects Effectively
Project management is easier when you have a clear picture of what you have to accomplish, in a single glance. It promotes efficiency, cohesion, and accountability among your team, ultimately resulting in a more productive working environment that enables quality outputs.
With the help of a Gantt chart, you can quickly navigate through projects and adjust processes and tasks when necessary to achieve product completion.