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7 Elements To Include In A Gantt Chart + Other Gantt Chart Tips
A Gantt chart is an effective tool for project managers. This variation of the bar chart provides managers with an easily interpreted visual representation of their project and its progress.

As with any project management tool, the more you understand a Gantt chart, the more you can utilize it to you and your team’s advantage.

In this article

Elements of a Basic Gantt Chart

By default, a Gantt chart is plain and rudimentary. However, that doesn’t mean this type of project management tool lacks in substance. These charts are configured with task names listed along the y axis while the x axis represents the project’s timeline. Since Gantt charts have been arranged this way since their inception, even a simple Gantt chart will provide the following:
  • The list of tasks needed for this project
  • The start date and end date of each task
  • The progress made toward the completion of each task
  • The dependencies that link task to task
  • The start date and end date of the project’s timeline
  • Where important milestones exist within the project’s timeline
  • The project’s critical path

Other Considerations When Building A Gantt Chart

There are several other considerations you will need to make when building a Gantt chart.

1. Gantt Charts Within The Project Planning Process

A Gantt chart alone is not sufficient to begin project planning. However, if you’re set on using a Gantt chart to report on the progress of your project, the detailed thinking required to create one will help you list and organize the necessary steps of your project plan. Even if you are using a Gantt chart template from your project management software, you will need to make sure each task in the project is clearly defined. Assessing task dependency requires clearly defined steps. Once defined, the Gantt chart will enable you to make sure you assign the best team members to each step and phase of the project. Successful project managers utilize many different project management tools for project planning. A work breakdown structure—aside from providing a task summary—makes it convenient to organize tasks into phases and groups. Once organized into chunks, it’s easier to establish milestones within a project. Achieving milestones, especially in a project that lasts months or even years, can be a necessary motivator for both you and your team.

2. Gantt Charts Communicate with Your Project Team

By utilizing Gantt chart software at the outset of a project, you are creating a project timeline that can consistently report real-time information to your team. Consistently updated progress keeps your team in the know, serving as a motivator throughout the project. Because an online Gantt chart can be viewed and even updated by your entire team, everyone receives the same progress report. Your team sees the same list of tasks that have been completed or are still active. Team members see the same timeline, so each person knows if the team is on track to meet its deadline. When your team works with the same Gantt chart view, the project plan is no mystery, which reduces misunderstanding throughout the project.

3. Labeling Tasks in a Gantt Chart

Once project managers list the tasks of a project, many label each task so as to get a better idea of task dependencies. By labeling each task in this manner, the critical path becomes more obvious, and the start date and end date for each can be more accurately determined. Project managers use abbreviations to label the four types of dependencies.
  • FS – finish to start: One task must be completed before the next task can begin. This is the most common label.
  • SS – start to start: Once a task has begun, a second one can begin even though the first task has not ended.
  • FF – finish to finish: A task that cannot end until another task is complete.
  • SF – start to finish: A task that cannot end until another task has begun. This is the least common.

4. Referring to the Calendar and Schedules

Project managers will also refer to the calendar when collecting their Gantt chart data. Holidays and any non-workday must be considered when creating the project’s timeline. Project planners will also consider the work schedule of their team members. Knowing your team’s availability and how much of their workday can be devoted to a project is necessary for creating a realistic timeline. One of the most essential resources for any project is allocated time. A project schedule will not be reliable until all time requirements are accounted for.

5. Not All Information is Conveyed in a Gantt Chart

No project management tool is perfect—not even the modern Gantt chart. Any Gantt chart will need the information provided by a work breakdown structure. In fact, it is necessary to create a work breakdown structure prior to a Gantt chart because this will require you to list all the tasks needed for a project. A Gantt chart doesn’t list the tasks for you; you’ll need to input these yourself. Once all tasks have been listed and organized, then Gantt chart software can be an effective task management tool. Another consideration to make is that a Gantt chart does not account for all the resources needed for a project. This information is gathered when creating a project plan.

Finally, Gantt charts are organized to report information based on the project’s timeline, not the project’s budget or scope. If keeping up with the cost or scope of a project, you will need to use something in addition to the horizontal bar chart of a Gantt.

Customizing Your Gantt Chart for Your Team and Projects

With such a vast array of Gantt chart software available, it is possible to create a customized Gantt chart that meets your team’s needs. The more specific your chart, the more clearly and accurately it will foster communication amongst your team. Furthermore, a customized Gantt chart can be used as an effective visual when making presentations to senior management. You can also use this tool to report on your project’s progress to stakeholders who want reassurance that deadlines are being met.

Some Advantages to Customization

Gantt chart software provides project managers with myriad ways to customize their bar chart. Different team members can be represented by different colors, or different colors can represent different phases of a project. By customizing the bars, you ensure information is visually conveyed and any confusion is minimized, which is the goal of any report. Gantt chart software allows the timeline to be customized as well. Not all projects work in the same time frame. A project manager may need to adjust a chart from hours to days, from days to weeks, or even weeks to months. Because this can be done in one click, Gantt chart software affords you the ability to adapt to the changing circumstances of a project.

Other Options for Customization

An online Gantt chart allows teams to work collaboratively to keep everyone involved updated on the progress of a project. Email alerts can be customized so those involved with a project’s execution are all on the same page. This reduces any lag time between departments or team members. Gantt charts can also be customized with notes, videos, or links. This allows for greater collaboration, as all relevant assets, discussions, and information can be easily shared among team members. When task dependencies are highly concentrated, this can be invaluable in terms of worker efficiency.

Starting with a Template

The modern Gantt chart has led to a multitude of templates. There are templates available for a variety of industries. Project management software has made it possible to effectively customize these templates so that your Gantt charts are beneficial to you and your specific project.

Reporting from a Gantt Chart

Gantt charts offer project managers an effective way of producing real-time progress reports. This flexibility allows for the consistent monitoring of a project’s critical path and timeline. That is why many consider Gantt charts to be an essential tool for ensuring a project’s success. Beyond providing an at-this-moment snapshot, Gantt charts can also be effective in predictive analysis. They can be used to predict when and where a project’s timeline may need to be adjusted. When the time frame of one task is altered, the timelines of ensuing tasks are adjusted as well. Since tasks can be completed both ahead of schedule and take longer than initially thought, the project manager who utilizes this project management tool is one step ahead of the action and can adjust accordingly.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately the Gantt chart is not just a tool for project managers but for the entire project team. It’s time to find the Gantt chart software that will help you manage your projects most successfully. Related Read: What Is A Gantt Chart Used For? Top 4 Use Cases & Expert Tips
By Ben Aston

I’m Ben Aston, a digital project manager and founder of thedpm.com. I've been in the industry for more than 15 years working in the UK at London’s top digital agencies including Dare, Wunderman, Lowe and DDB. I’ve delivered everything from film to CMS', games to advertising and eCRM to eCommerce sites. I’ve been fortunate enough to work across a wide range of great clients; automotive brands including Land Rover, Volkswagen and Honda; Utility brands including BT, British Gas and Exxon, FMCG brands such as Unilever, and consumer electronics brands including Sony.

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