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April 30, 2020

How Can Gantt Charts Improve Your Project Management?

By Brian McHale

Project management isn’t easy.

Fortunately, there are plenty of tools project managers can use to organize their work.

Gantt charts are a staple of the project management toolbox.

In this article, we’re going to discuss Gantt charts.

From (dis)advantages to best practices, here’s everything you need to know about the most popular chart type in project management:


What Is a Gantt Chart?

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According to the definition, it is a graphic depiction of scheduled tasks.

At a first glance, these charts can look complicated. However, the basic charts don’t have to be complex.

All your activities should be on the left, with your schedule on the right.

You can also plan for the duration of each activity with bars. This way, you can see how different tasks overlap.

In short, Gantt charts will show you:

  • All the tasks you need to complete
  • Task overlaps and dependencies
  • Start and end dates of each task
  • The entire project’s timeline
  • The duration of each task.


You’ll see the most important information you need to make sure your project is a resounding success.

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The Advantages of Using Gantt Charts in Project Management

Traditionally, charts were drawn by hand.

Whenever project managers had to make changes to the projects, they’d have to create a new Gantt chart from scratch.

Still, they were such a priceless resource that they’d rather spend time creating them than manage projects without them.

Today, Gantt charts are a completely normal part of project management software.

You can create them with basic software like Excel, as well!

Then, when you need to switch things up, you can simply update your graphic, and you’ll see how the change affects the rest of your project.

Advanced Gantt charts also keep track of:

  • Resources
  • Milestones
  • Task dependencies
  • Task responsibilities
  • Task completion status
  • Different types of tasks.


As such, they’re great tools for tracking project progress.

However, keep in mind that these charts work best when you’ve already planned out your projects.

They’re primarily a project scheduling tool – they’re not meant for project planning.

Another huge advantage of Gantt charts is that you can manage time and teams with more ease.

In general, any tool that gives you the transparency you need to understand who’s doing what at a given time is a tool you need in your stack.

However, Gantt charts are especially useful in that respect.

They don’t inundate you with information. Instead, you can accurately schedule tasks, handle responsibilities, and make sure your team is doing their best work consistently.

Finally, these charts are a great tool for reporting. Top management loves them!

  • They clearly outline:
  • Completed tasks
  • Tasks in progress
  • Tasks that need to be completed
  • Delays.


And since Gantt charts can be updated, you can demonstrate how changes will affect the rest of your project.


The Disadvantages of Using Gantt Charts in Project Management

Now, the charts may be useful, but they do have a few cons.

First of all, if you’re a first-time or occasional project manager, they can be pretty complicated.

They also need to be constantly updated by either you or you and your team members, to stay relevant and accurate.

If your company hasn’t gotten used to managing work with Gantt charts, it’ll take a lot of time to get everyone on board.

In that respect, modern project management tools are a much better option for managing projects.

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Secondly, Gantt charts provide a high-level overview of your scheduled tasks.

However, you can’t see all of your tasks and their details at once. Instead, you have to click or scroll, much like you’d do in a standard Excel sheet.

If you’re a highly visual type, you might need a more modern solution.

Finally, it’s hard to track the amount of work and sub-tasks through Gantt charts. You can technically do it, but it’s not going to be a piece of cake.

With that in mind, it’s time to answer one very important question…

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Who Should Use Gantt Charts?

In general, Gantt charts are great tools if you’re managing project portfolios, and you plan on using Gantt charts for reporting.

They’re great at providing you with an overview of the most important tasks within a project.

However, if you need to manage details, you should use a modern project management solution.

You should also skip Gantt charts as a main project tracking method if you have a lot of task dependencies.

Things can get muddled with constant updates, and Gantt charts aren’t very intuitive.

A Gantt chart won’t intuitively show you how many hours you need to put in to complete a task, nor how much budget you’ve spent.

You’ll need a separate tool to track resources accurately.

All in all, Gantt charts are best used as scheduling tools – not as your team’s go-to resource for project management.

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Best Practices for Using Gantt Charts in Project Management

Setting Up Your Gantt Chart

When setting up your Gantt chart, make sure you enter:

  • Tasks
  • Milestones
  • Start and end dates
  • Task dependencies
  • Team member responsibilities.


Create a Work Breakdown Structure first.

Your WBS will give you the most accurate list of all the tasks you’ll need to complete to get the project done in time.

Make sure you also account for time off when setting up your start and end dates.


Managing Projects with Gantt Charts

If you’re using Gantt charts for project management, update them regularly.

Try to review them at the beginning and at the end of each day.

Make the necessary changes, while keeping in mind how those changes could affect other tasks and general project progress.

Decide whether you’ll allow your team members to update the charts on their own, or if you’ll be responsible for updates.

In the latter case, you’ll need to carefully monitor progress so you can update charts accurately.


Track Progress with KPIs

Gantt charts may be great for tracking progress, but don’t stop using Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

Make sure your project is staying on track by monitoring:

  • Resources
  • Milestones
  • Task completion rates.


Advanced charts can also show you the workload capacity of your team members.

For example, if one team member is taking on more than they can handle, you can offload some of their work to team members who aren’t as busy.


Add a Little Color

Color has a strong psychological influence on productivity and organization.

You should color-code different task groups, for example, you can mark completed tasks as green and high priority tasks as red.


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