Few things are more tried and true to project management than the classic Gantt chart and, nowadays, the Gantt chart software that project managers use to generate them.
In this article, we’ll cover what Gantt chart software is, key features and functionalities, project types that best suit Gantt charts, and a list of the best Gantt chart software on the market.
In this article
- What Is Gantt Chart Software?
- What Gantt Chart Software Can Do?
- Gantt Charts For Specific Project Types
- Options For Gantt Chart Software
What Is Gantt Chart Software?
Before explaining Gantt chart software, we first need to explain a Gantt chart. A Gantt chart is simply a fancy term for a visual representation of project activities, timelines, and dependencies.
From the screenshot, you can see at a glance that the project plan includes three activities that are dependent upon each other and which occur over a two-month time horizon.
Gantt chart software, then, is project management software that has the capability to generate Gantt charts. Different Gantt chart software vendors offer different features for planning project tasks and objectives.
More on why you should be using Gantt charts here.
What Gantt Chart Software Can Do?
When Henry L. Gantt developed the first Gantt charts to plan production and factory resource loading, the charts looked like tables that illustrated deliverables spread through a timeline. Gantt charts created using software still operate on their original goal of visualizing time constraints for project deliverables, but online Gantt chart software makes the process much easier.
The original Gantt chart maker was a human who manually drew the chart and highlighted dependencies. If any new task dependencies affected a project task or project timeline, someone would have to redraw the project schedule to accommodate these changes.
Project managers can be thankful that Gantt chart software offers easier functionality than its original iteration. Pesky task dependencies can be adjusted without having to redraw the entire project plan.
Gantt Chart Software Functionality
Project managers, project team members, and other stakeholders can use a Gantt chart app for a variety of purposes throughout a project’s duration.
First, project managers develop the chart in the Gantt chart tool, using information from the project plan, the work breakdown structure, and the resource management plan. Project managers can use the Gantt chart templates that the software often provides, or they can design their own Gantt chart from scratch.
After the project manager develops the schedule, team members and other stakeholders can view milestones and deliverables in the online Gantt chart software and use this information as the basis for status reports throughout the project.
As dependencies change and project managers adjust the Gantt chart, the team can automatically see the updates and receive notifications about relevant changes.
Learn more about what Gantt charts should include here.
Gantt Chart Software Features
Gantt chart software comes with a variety of features that can improve project management and project workflow. These features include the ability to:
- assign tasks and resources
- create and easily revise the project schedule
- adjust the design, including column headings and chart colors
- send reminders, alerts, and notifications
- share the Gantt chart with internal and external stakeholders
- identify the critical path
- offer multiple views of project progress
- display an overview dashboard
- import and export Gantt charts
- integrate with other software
Gantt Charts For Specific Project Types
A simple Gantt chart is based on task duration, project tasks, and the critical path. While Gantt charts also consider task dependencies, not every project’s dependencies are clear from the start. Certain project methodologies lend themselves better to Gantt charts than others.
Project Types that Benefit from Gantt Chart Software
Gantt chart software works best with:
- simple projects with a plan-and-execute strategy
- challenging projects with many task dependencies
For example, a mobile app development project that follows a waterfall methodology may use a Gantt chart to outline the specific tasks, deliverables, assignments, milestones, and deadlines.
Dependencies may shift the project timeline, but an online Gantt chart lets the project manager easily adjust the schedule to meet project goals with minimal disruption.
While it is possible to use a Gantt chart to manage an agile project, the team needs to be aware that the Gantt chart is dynamic and likely to change frequently. For example, Scrum is an agile framework that prioritizes communication, teamwork, and speed, often changing or shifting objectives that would typically appear on a Gantt chart.
Alternatives to Gantt Chart Software
Gantt charts are less suitable for:
- complex and chaotic projects with unclear or unknown cause-and-effect relationships
- projects where the critical path is unknown at project outset.
For example, a marketing campaign that runs A/B testing trials and iterates in response to customer feedback does not have a clear view of deliverables or assigned resources at project outset. Even after the project begins, project activities and milestones may vary depending on the results of ongoing tests.
This type of agile project would benefit from a framework like Kanban. Kanban emphasizes work status and reduces work in progress. Once a task enters the workflow in the “to do” column, the task receives attention in the “doing” column until completion, when the task moves to the “done” column.
Options For Gantt Chart Software
Gantt chart software comes with different features and functionality for creating Gantt charts from scratch or using templates (like our Gantt chart template), along with tools for assigning tasks and resources. There are options for free Gantt chart software and freemium software. Paid software is also available that offers both basic and premium plans, depending on your company needs.
The Best Gantt Chart Software
Here’s our list of the best Gantt chart makers on the market today.
- 1. monday.com — Best for customization capabilities
- 2. Wrike — Best Gantt chart maker with built-in time tracking
- 3. ClickUp — Best free plan for Gantt chart maker
- 4. Smartsheet — Best for Gantt chart templates
- 5. Height — Best for its intuitive Gantt view
- 6. Zoho Projects — Best for automated Gantt charts
- 7. Miro — Best Gantt chart maker with built-in communication tools
- 8. Canva — Best for small teams and businesses
- 9. Microsoft Project — Best Gantt chart maker for its 38 years on the market
- 10. Paymo — Best Gantt chart maker with built-in invoicing
Get more detailed reviews of each Gantt chart maker on our list here.
How To Choose Gantt Chart Software
Before adopting Gantt chart software, companies should consider their needs and intended usage. According to the British Association for Project Management, project managers can use Gantt charts in many ways:
- scheduling projects
- allocating resources
- modifying projects
- tracking progress
- controlling and communicating the schedule
- displaying milestones
- identifying and reporting problems
Organizations should consider which of these features they need and whether they would benefit from additional features that may be available in project management software, such as time tracking, discussion boards, or Kanban board views.
Other considerations include:
- Project complexity: an overwhelming number of dependencies and prospective schedule adjustments may make Gantt charts more troublesome than helpful
- Task priority: this information is not always clearly displayed in Gantt charts, so review software options to determine what works best for your company and project needs
- Available budget: many project management apps limit specific features to higher cost subscription tiers.
More on choosing the right software tool here.
Evaluation Criteria for Choosing Gantt Chart Software
When considering whether to purchase Gantt chart software, assess the following:
- how many users and stakeholders will need access to the software. If you have a small team, you might want to consider project management software for small businesses instead.
- how much data storage you will need
- how much and what kinds of software you intend to integrate with your project management software
- how many and what kind of automated workflows you may need, such as push notifications to devices and other applications
- what views you need for your projects, such as Gantt and timeline views
- desired messaging and communication options
- whether you need reporting and analytics tools
- the level of customization and customer support required
After reviewing these criteria, you may even find you can manage with free Gantt chart software.
Choose Your Gantt Chart Software Wisely
Maybe your project management practices tend toward waterfall, where information from the project plan is communicated to your team from the start. Gantt chart software lays out the project schedule to keep your team on task and up to date.
Or, perhaps you work primarily in an agile environment like Kanban or scrum. In that case, you need to keep your team moving toward project goals in an adaptive process while communicating project timelines. Gantt chart software keeps your team aware of upcoming tasks and dependencies that contribute to a shared project vision.
For more on specific project management software and how to find a project management tool that fits your needs, subscribe to The Digital Project Manager Newsletter.