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How Do Gantt Charts Improve Workflows In Project Management?

How Do Gantt Charts Improve Workflows In Project Management?

A gantt chart is a must-have tool for project planning, project scheduling, risk management, resource planning, and task management. Learn how it can improve workflows in project management.

Gantt chart is one of the oldest and most practical tools for project management. It allows you to visualize and streamline the workflows of a project, making it easier to plan, schedule, manage risks, allocate resources, and track project progress. This practicality empowers project managers to effectively manage their projects.

But how does the Gantt chart improve workflows in project management?

We will dig deep into this post to learn how Gantt charts improve project management workflows and how to create a Gantt chart.

Understanding Gantt charts: a visual timeline for projects

Gantt chart, the first formal tool for project management, was developed by Henry Gantt around the years 1910–1915. It was originally designed to manage systematic and routine operations. 

Elements of a Gantt chart

A Gantt chart is a versatile tool that can be adapted to various project needs. It contains two parts: a vertical grid on the left side of the chart and a horizontal timeline on the right side of the chart. This versatility gives you the confidence to use Gantt charts in a way that best suits your project.

Here's a breakdown of the key elements of a Gantt chart:

  • Tasks: Tasks are the fundamental units of work that need to be completed within the project. All the tasks are listed on the left side of the chart in a vertical column on the y-axis. 
  • Timeline: The timeline represents the project schedule on the right side of the Gantt chart on the x-axis. It is typically displayed in days, weeks, or months.
  • Horizontal bars: Horizontal bars represent tasks on the timeline. The length of the bar is corresponding to the estimated time required for completion.
  • Dependencies: Dependencies talk about how one task is connected to another. Lines or arrows on the chart depict the dependencies between tasks. There are four types of dependencies in the Gantt chart: Finish-to-start dependencies, Start-to-start dependencies, Finish-to-finish dependencies, and Start-to-finish dependencies
  • Milestones: A milestone in a Gantt chart marks an important event in a project. Diamonds or stars are used to represent milestones.

Five ways a Gantt chart improves workflows in project management

Gantt chart streamlines workflows by helping you visualize the entire project plan and each step on a timeline. Thus, you can ensure each project task is implemented per the defined order, resulting in improved workflow application.

It helps you compare actual progress with planned progress, predict the impact of the delays of one task on the project delivery, and much more to improve workflows in project management.

Have a look at five ways the Gantt chart improves workflows:

1. Visualize all the tasks in a workflow to implement each task

A Gantt chart helps you visualize all the tasks of a project plan on a visual timeline. The left side of the Gantt chart (y-axis) contains the list of the tasks and their details and the right side of the Gantt chart (x-axis) is a timeline that includes bars to represent the tasks.

Image credit: ProofHub

This provides you with enhanced clarity on what you and your team need to work on. It ensures all the tasks in the project workflow are implemented and executed in an order.

2. Set dependencies to control the project

A Gantt chart allows you to set and visualize dependencies between tasks and highlight the critical path. The critical path is the longest sequence of dependent tasks in a project. Any delay in a task will delay the entire task on the critical path, affecting the project delivery.

By identifying the critical path and dependencies, a project manager can learn about the most important tasks of a project in a workflow, schedule the work, and allocate resources accordingly to complete those tasks as planned.

3. Track progress for timely adjustment

A Gantt chart provides you with the baseline to track the real-time progress of each task. It allows you to compare the actual progress of a task to the planned progress. This helps you identify the delays in tasks and take measures to eliminate the potential bottlenecks to avoid delays.

Image credit: ProofHub

Tools like milestones also help you keep your project on schedule. You can set milestones in the Gantt chart to mark the special event in a project and track the progress to find out whether or not a project is on track.

4. Ensure accountability of tasks

Creating a Gantt chart includes allocating resources or assigning task owners to every task. It clearly defines who is going to work on which task and when. This provides clarity to everyone about their responsibilities.

When every team member clearly knows how their work is going to impact the rest of the project, it creates a sense of accountability to complete their tasks on time in order to deliver a project on time. Some people also utilize an infographic timeline to visualize and track the progress of a project in a more visual and dynamic way. This results in the improved implementation of deadlines for each task in a workflow.

5. Effective risk management

A Gantt chart is a great tool for risk management. It allows you to identify and plan for potential risks.

You can identify potential schedule conflicts by visualizing task dependencies and the resource allocation on the project timeline.

Image credit: ProofHub

You can manage the potential risks for most critical tasks by allocating buffer times.

If there are external or internal constraints that can impact the progress of the project, a Gantt chart allows you to add constraints to a project plan on the chart.

Not just that, the Gantt chart helps you with active risk management during the project. When you are continuously updating the Gantt chart, it helps you track any deviation from the original plan and take mitigation steps to eliminate risks.

These are the five main ways the Gantt chart improves workflows in project management. Now, let’s understand how to create a Gantt chart.

How to create a Gantt chart for a project?

In old times, Gantt charts were created by drawing on paper. When a project does not go as planned, a project manager has to re-draw the Gantt chart to visualize the impact. But nowadays, you can create a Gantt chart digitally with ease.

Now, let's walk through the process of creating a Gantt chart for a project. We'll break it down into clear steps to make it easy for you to follow and understand.

Step 1: Create a work breakdown structure

The first step is to create a work breakdown structure (WBS) for a project. It includes breaking a project into phases or deliverables and further breaking phases into tasks and subtasks.

The hierarchical structure of the work breakdown structure includes four levels, but to keep it simple on a Gantt chart, you can customize it to two levels. You can represent the phases of the project and the tasks involved in each phase on the Gantt chart.

Create a list of all the tasks required to complete a project. Group the tasks in corresponding phases and arrange them in the order they need to be completed.

Step 2: Add the details of all the tasks, add start and end dates, and allocate resource

The next step is to add the key details of the task required to create a Gantt chart. It includes the start and end dates of the task to calculate its duration, percentage completion, and task owners.

Image credit: ProofHub 

Most project management software allows you to visualize the owner of tasks on the bars in the timeline. Thus, you can easily allocate the resources for a project and balance their workload.

Step 3: Choose the tool: spreadsheet or project management software 

A Gantt chart can be created in Excel or project management software. It is fairly easier to create a Gantt chart in project management software than in Excel. It is because you need knowledge of the formulas, formatting, and bars to create a Gantt chart in Excel. On the other hand, project management software like ProofHub and GanttPRO automatically creates Gantt charts with the details you added.

Step 4: Set up the chart

The procedure to create a Gantt chart in Excel and project management software is different but they both need the same details.

Here is how to set up the chart:

  • Create a grid on the left side of the chart that includes multiple columns: list of tasks in a project, start and end dates, task owner, and percentage completion.
  • Add bars. In Excel, you have to add bars manually and insert them on the Excel sheets. Whereas in project management software, these bars get automatically created along the timeline on the right side at the x-axis in a Gantt chart.
  • Set dependencies. In Excel, you need to use formulas to set task dependencies whereas in a project management software, you can set the dependencies with simple drag and drop.
  • Add milestones. In Excel, you have to designate tasks as milestones whereas, in project management software, you can directly add milestones.
  • Customize chart: Excel allows you to add as many custom fields in the Gantt chart as you want but not all project management software provides you with the capability to customize fields in the Gantt chart.

Step 5: Use the features of the chart and make changes

A Gantt chart allows you to create a project baseline, add project constraints, and highlight critical paths. Use these features to make full use of the Gantt chart to improve workflows and regularly update the chart to reflect changes in the project timeline, task status, and dependencies.

These are the five steps that can help you create a Gantt chart.

Examples of a Gantt chart 

Let’s take an example of streamlining a marketing campaign launch with a Gantt chart.

Project: The marketing team is launching a marketing campaign for the launch of a new product.

Step 1: Creating a work breakdown structure for a project

Divide the campaign into phases and outline the tasks of each phase.

1: Market research

  • Competitor research
  • Customer surveys 
  • In-Depth Interviews

2: Strategy development

  • Defining target audience and ideal customer profile
  • Brand positioning and messaging
  • Choose the preferred content marketing strategy

3: Content creation

  • Creating content
  • Content editing
  • Design and production
  • Content approval

4: Content distribution

  • Publishing content

5: Campaign analysis

  • Tracking performance
  • Conclusion

Set start and end dates for each task and calculate the duration of each task. Add columns for percentage completion and task owner to make the Gantt chart useful. Set milestones at the end of each phase for efficient tracking.

Step 2: Setting dependencies between the tasks

For example, customer surveys and in-depth interviews must be conducted after competitor research (Task 1.1). Task 1.2 and Task 1.3 are dependent on Task 1.1.

However, customer surveys (Task 1.2) and in-depth interviews (Task 1.3) can be conducted in parallel. They are not interdependent.

Similarly, content creation (Phase 3) must be started only after choosing the preferred content marketing strategy (Phase 2). Thus, the beginning of Phase 3 is dependent on the completion of Phase 2.

Step 3: Assigning task owners and manage workload

Assign a task owner to each task and allocate the resources for the project. Gantt chart allows you to visualize workload distribution across team members. By seeing who is assigned to which tasks and their durations, managers can prevent resource overloading and ensure tasks are allocated efficiently. 

Your Gantt chart for the marketing campaign is ready to use. This visual representation of all these factors on a Gantt chart ensures everyone understands the sequence of tasks, their responsibilities, and task deadlines, leading to a smooth and successful campaign launch.

Conclusion

A Gantt chart is a great tool for project planning, project scheduling, risk management, resource planning, and task management. With the right practices, you can create a Gantt chart that helps you improve workflows in project management. You can successfully implement, execute, track, control, and optimize the workflows of a project with Gantt charts.

Sandeep Kashyap is the CEO of ProofHub, a project management tool. He always seeks innovative solutions for better project management and team collaboration. Passionate about leading his team, his only mantra is "Keep growing; don't stop." In his spare time, he enjoys traveling and trekking.

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