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What is Gantt Chart? Learn How To Make One With Free Templates

What is Gantt chart?

Gantt chart is typically used in project management, and it is one of the most popular methods for showing tasks or events and their corresponding time. Activities are listed on the left side of the chart, with the time scale displayed on top. Bars represent all activities with starting dates, duration and end periods indicated by bars’ length and position. 

What are Gantt Charts and Learn How To Make One?

The Gantt chart was first conceived by American mechanical engineer Henry L. Gantt at the turn of the 19th century while searching for ways to describe production planning and resource loading for workshops and factories. These charts didn’t look like much then but it was the first time the Gantt chart definition was used as a concept of deliverable-vs-time.

In its early days, creating a Gantt chart was done by hand, with project changes requiring amendments to charts. In some cases, creation of new ones is even called for. As projects tend to undergo changes, manual preparation of Gantt charts often put limits on their benefits. The development of new technology has eliminated this handicap as such charts can now be easily drawn, updated and printed as needed.

Typical Parts of a Gantt Chart:

Source: e-education.psu.edu

To give you another Gantt chart meaning, a brief description of its applications should suffice. Nowadays, Gantt charts are mostly used to track project schedules, allowing users to view more data about project phases and tasks. These additional information may include task progress, resource use and task relationships. Also, Gantt charts are able to monitor and describe just about any business project there is and can be crafted with tools known as Gantt apps. But despite these benefits, Gantt charts are not without inherent limitations.

When To Use A Gantt Chart?

1. When Project Schedules Lack Flexibility

If you want to avoid spending too much time on a particular project, Gantt charts help in visualizing time pockets in between tasks. Time pockets are essentially the allowable time for a task to be delayed without compromising the entire project. Gantt charts can offer solutions to problems associated with rescheduling or meeting deadlines.

2. When You Need To See Your Project’s Progress

Many businesses encounter problems in assessing project progress, which is very crucial to keeping shareholders and investors happy. Gantt charts have project reporting capabilities that accurately reflect project data, goals and forecasts. However, this is true only for more advanced Gantt charts, which can be created from modern solutions. Also, updates can be made to these charts, allowing team members to graph plans against project progress.

3. When You Want To Track Your Project

There are project management tasks where Gantt charts are of great help, among them is project tracking. Gantt charts can aid managers in visualizing and scheduling of all tasks and even forecast the time needed to complete them. You would also need to identify tasks that are deemed as “critical” and take the longest time to complete. These tasks should be carried out in specific sequence, which helps determine dependencies, interdependencies and resource and staff reallocation. They also depend on one another, meaning the start and completion of a task depends on another task.

Gantt charts can show task schedules to help you track the project’s progress (Wrike).

4. When You Need To Boost Communication

Communication is of great importance to both project management and operation teams. This is to provide relevant stakeholders with a complete view of the project. To address this need, Gantt charts allow users to schedule tasks and resources and store them in a single location, which can be accessed by both managers and staff. It is ensured that all users share the same view of deadlines, dates and milestones. This way, efficiency is improved and misunderstandings avoided.

How To Make A Gantt Chart?

There are many tools that you can use to create your own Gantt chart, among them online Gantt chart solutions, project management platforms and even Microsoft Excel. Advanced Gantt chart software automate the whole chart creation process as they come with free Gantt chart templates for the job and can even make updates on their own. Here, for the purpose of providing a better understanding of chart creation, we will focus on how to make a Gantt chart using Excel’s bar graph feature. In addition, the use of a Gantt chart templates Excel is also recommended. 

Excel is a good starting point to familiarize yourself with Gantt Charts.

1. Definition and Identification of all tasks

This is the part where you get to define a project’s flow. You need to determine all the activities that will be involved in your project. Breaking down tasks into smaller portions (subtasks) is done in during this phase. By making clear your project flow, you can reap all the benefits that the chart offers. However, this is the stage where thinking becomes a critical process by which all activities and tasks are accurately identified.

Enter all relevant project information in an Excel spreadsheet, using separate rows to list individual tasks. Project plan should be structured by entering the prescribed time period for the project, which include a start date, end date and project duration.

2. Setting Dependencies

Assigning task dependencies in Gantt charts.

The second step is to determine relationships between activities and tasks. This applies to tasks that come in sequence in which one task cannot be initiated without completing another task first. Once these are identified, parallel tasks must also be singled out. These are those that can be done simultaneously as they are not interdependent of each other.

To do this, set up a typical stacked bar chart to start constructing your Gantt chart. A range of start dates should be selected using the column header, after which a stacked bar chart will be added to the worksheet. You now may add duration information to your chart. You can also add task descriptions by replacing the dates on the chart’s left side.

3. Information Feeding

After all tasks are established, you can now proceed with filling your chart with data. This can be performed manually on paper or through the use of spreadsheets. However, project management software have become the popular choice for this process.

4. Progress Tracking

Once all the necessary information are entered into your Gantt chart, you can now monitor the progress of your progress and be able to forecast projects outcomes more accurately. The chart can also be shared with members of your project team, allowing everyone to view project progress.

All project changes can be easily mapped visually. To do this effectively, you will need to use Excel’s Format Data Series function. Make the blue bars transparent so that only the orange bars remain. You can further improve the appearance of your Gantt chart by removing the blank white space where the blue bar used to be, this makes the chart more compact and visually attractive. If you choose to, you may change border colors, fill colors and even use 3D format.

Free Gantt Chart Templates

Now that you have a basic idea on how to create a Gantt chart, it is now time to learn how to make the process a lot faster. The best way to do this is through the use of Gantt chart templates. These not only make Gantt chart creation faster, they also allow you to customize you chart. And the best part about these is that they come absolutely for free. Numerous sites offer free Gantt chart templates, which can be downloaded directly into your computer.

However, knowing that free templates abound is not enough, one should also be able to choose the right template for your project. Just keep in mind that your Gantt chart template should be designed to improve project team productivity. The template structure should also allow them members to manage their tasks easily. However, for those who are beginners when it comes to project management and do not have the software needed to do Gantt charts, there are a variety of free Gantt chart templates that can be found online. Here, we will outline 5 Gantt chart templates for Microsoft PowerPoint and Excel.

1. Extensive Gantt Chart

This template from Template Lab is ideal for teams that have existing WBS. It is ready for numbering, tasks and has four subtask levels and an assignment field for resources. Project duration, actual duration, actual end dates and completion percentage can be included in this template. Automatic field updates make this template ideal for detailed projects. You can download more Template Lab templates here.

2. Multiple Option Gantt Chart

This Gantt chart template from TeamGantt can help users adjust their charts through manual entries. It offers three tabs, which include manual duration chart, manual end date chart and a complete manual chart, providing users with greater flexibility. You can find more TeamGantt chart templates here.

3. WBS Gantt Chart

This is a Gantt chart template from Vertex42. It is ideal for users whose projects have work breakdown structures. It eases the format transition from written to visual project management. WBS is known to help users determine all project components into an understandable sequence. You can download Vertex42 Gantt chart templates here. 

4. Subtask PowerPoint Gantt Chart

This Gantt chart template from Template.net is designed for use in PowerPoint. Although a bit limited, it allows users to enter subtasks, timeline sections, dates and milestones by week. The template provides for easy reading and even provides for automatic chart updates. Find more free Gantt chart templates here.

5. Detailed Gantt Project Planner

This Gantt chart template from Microsoft Office can be downloaded from the app’s website or searched through Excel using its online template search feature. This can be used in both project and financial management. It has a beautiful color theme making it not only suitable for detailed project management but easy to read as well. You can get more Microsoft Office Gantt chart templates here.

Gantt Charts In Project Management Software

As earlier stated, project management software are one of the many modern tools that make Gantt chart creation much easier and a lot faster. These tools make the process fully automated and offer users the benefit of automatically updating their charts, which is one of the most known weaknesses of manual methods. But making these charts is but one of the reason why project management software is useful.

If you’re looking for a project management software that will let you easily create Gantt charts consider Wrike. This platform is popular for ease-of-use, able to monitor and manage, tasks, schedules and projects. It is designed for use by project team members who have distinct task assignments. Chart creation is very simple all you need to do is enter data into the platform and adjust task schedules, after which you should be able to check work progress. You can, in fact, start using this platform to practice creating Gantt charts at no cost when you sign up for a free Wrike free trial hereHere, we cite some of the features of Wrike related to Gantt chart creation and use (but it can do much more than that).

1. Three-Pane Project View

Wrike’s three-pane layout provides users with a clear view of project operations, housing all project details in a single page. This allows for the quick implementation of tasks with additional displays reflecting subtasks or allowing one to move across various projects. Task details are also displayed. This feature likewise enables users to request for updates, communicate with team members, prioritize tasks and control work progress.

Assigning task using project management software.

2. Team Engagement

The software’s Activity Stream tool provides project managers with total visibility into projects while allowing them to manage small tasks. All shared activities are displayed chronologically. What’s good about this is that it allows team members to view one another’s activity progress. Attention to particular issues may be called with recipients are alerted and tagged as task followers.

3. Project Progress and Individual Tracking

A basic function of Gantt charts, managers can break down projects into much smaller tasks known as subtasks. These, can be further broken into particular activities. By doing so, users are provided with a clear view of unresolved tasks, helping them pinpoint bottlenecks that hinder project progress. Task prioritization can likewise be carried out with the tool. In a nutshell, Wrike provides you with an idea as to the amount of work that still needs doing, by whom and how long.

Using Gantt chart to track project progress.

4. View and Share Project Data

Wrike is the perfect tool to get your project organized. The system can store items in numerous folders without committing duplication errors. Tags and folders enable users to view and organize data based on projects, tasks or whatever category is deemed necessary. What’s nifty is that the solution can display task changes while allowing for the sharing of tasks even with other teams.

Problems With Using Gantt Charts

Despite the benefits that Gantt charts offer project managers, there are limitations and issues that have been associated with their use. Here, we take a look at the downsides of Gantt chart use.

1. They Are Dependent on Work Breakdown Structure

Gantt charts rely on existing work breakdown structure. The problem with this is that should there come a time when a major task or milestone goes missing in the WBS, the Gantt chart will not be able to inform users. The risk of having to redo the entire schedule is possible if duration is inaccurately estimated or something is not included.

2. They Work Well Only With Small Projects

Another problem with Gantt charts is that they are suited only to small projects. When tasks and duration surpass a single page, a chart basically fails to be fully functional. This is due to the fact that charts with multiple pages are harder to navigate and view on computer displays. Gantt charts are also unable to accurately reflect complex tasks and milestones.

3. They’re Not Good For Project Triple Constraints

Gantt charts just cannot handle project triple constraints, which include time, cost and scope. Full project scope just cannot be displayed in a Gantt chart, the reason for which is that Gantt charts focus on time.

And that’s about it for Gantt charts. By this time, you should already have an idea as to what these charts can do for your organization.  Regardless of the method by which you make them, Gantt charts are bound to make project planning and management easier and more accurate for you.

Stephanie Seymour

By Stephanie Seymour

Stephanie Seymour is a senior business analyst and one of the crucial members of the FinancesOnline research team. She is a leading expert in the field of business intelligence and data science. She specializes in visual data discovery, cloud-based BI solutions, and big data analytics. She’s fascinated by how companies dealing with big data are increasingly embracing cloud business intelligence. In her software reviews, she always focuses on the aspects that let users share analytics and enhance findings with context.

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