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Gantt Chart 620 X 620

What is a Gantt chart?

A Gantt chart is a project management tool assisting in the planning and scheduling of projects of all sizes, although they are particularly useful for simplifying complex projects.

Project management timelines and tasks are converted into a horizontal bar chart, showing start and end dates, as well as dependencies, scheduling and deadlines, including how much of the task is completed per stage and who is the task owner.

This is useful to keep tasks on track when there is a large team and multiple stakeholders when the scope changes.

As it's in a bar chart format it is possible to check on progress with a quick glance. You can easily see:

  • a visual display of the whole project,
  • timelines and deadlines of all tasks,
  • relationships and dependencies between the various activities,
  • project phases

Project management solutions that integrate Gantt charts give managers visibility into team workloads, as well as current and future availability, which allows for more accurate scheduling. Gantt charts have been around for nearly a century, having been invented by Henry Gantt, an American mechanical engineer, around 1910.

How to use a Gantt chart

Gantt chartThe underlying concept of a Gantt chart is to map out which tasks can be done in parallel and which need to be done sequentially. If we combine this with the project resources we can explore the trade-off between the scope (doing more or less work), cost (using more or less resources) and the time scales for the project. By adding more resources or reducing the scope the project manager can see the effect on the end date.

To create a chart you need to know all of the individual tasks required to complete the project, an estimate of how long each task will take and which tasks are dependent on others. The very process of pulling this information together helps a project manager focus on the essential parts of the project and begin to establish a realistic timeframe for completion.

In summary:

  • When you set up a Gantt chart, you need to think through all of the tasks involved in your project and divide them into manageable components.
  • Then decide who will be responsible for each task and delegate to the team.
  • Identify task relationships and decide on the completion date sequence for each task, showing the expected time duration of the whole project and the sub tasks. A Gantt chart will show the tasks in a sequential order and display task dependencies (ie. how one task relates to another).
  • Determine and allocate your resources.
  • Anticipate the risks and problems you may encounter and create a contingency plan for potential problems.
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Blog: History of the Gantt chart
by Paul Naybour

It is difficult to envisage how a modern project would be managed without at some point creating a chart of tasks to be done in delivering the project’s declared benefits.

One of the most enduring types of chart is the Gantt chart.

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Make your own Gantt chart in Excel

Microsoft Excel has a Bar chart feature that can be formatted to make an Excel Gantt chart.

  • Step 1. List your project schedule in an Excel table. List each task as a separate row and structure your project plan by including the start dateend date and duration.

  • Step 2. Set it up as a standard bar chart based on start dates.

  • Step 3. Add the duration of your tasks.

  • Step 4. Add task descriptions to the Gantt chart.

  • Step 5. Transform the bar graph into the Excel Gantt chart through formatting.

For step-by-step instructions see the full article. You can also do this in PowerPoint, suitable for presentations. Microsoft has an Excel Gantt chart template which you can download.

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