When should we use Gantt charts for project management?
We have discussed in an earlier post about the many advantages Gantt charts have to offer when it comes to project management. Whenever you feel bombarded by endless tasks or you feel that you have lost focus of the project, we recommend you use Gantt charts. They are user-friendly, visually appealing, and easy to use. They are extremely helpful with task automation and progress tracking, which might be sometimes tedious to do it yourself. Until there comes a time when AI bots fully take command of project management, a Gantt chart will have to do the job since it’s an intuitive and time-saving diagramming method. You should definitely use Gantt charts for project management in the following areas:
Gantt charts help with scheduling and visualizing the overall tasks of the project and their total duration. They help with task dependencies and interdependencies, identifying something that’s called ‘the critical path’ of a project, which refers to a sequence of necessary tasks and activities that take the longest to complete.
By ‘necessary tasks’ we mean those critical tasks who push the project forward. If one critical task gets delayed, it unavoidably sets back the entire project. This sequence is also a management technique which helps with establishing the required tasks to complete a project, estimating the time for each task plus the overall duration, determining dependencies and interdependencies, designating and reallocating resources and staff, and the list could go on.
These critical tasks are called ‘dependencies’ since they depend on each other before they can be started or completed. For example, task A has to be finished before task B can start, and they share about the same resources, overall budget, and so on. A Gantt chart shows which tasks are linked together, thus ‘dependent’. Other critical tasks are called ‘interdependencies’ which refer to different projects being related to one another in various ways, but we will not focus on them. Coming back to ‘dependencies’, there are four types:
- Start-to-finish. Task A must start before Task B can finish.
- Start-to-start. Task A must start before Task B can start.
- Finish-to-finish. Task A must finish before Task B can finish.
- Finish-to-start. Task A must finish before Task B can start.
Another use for Gantt charts in project management is to establish the flexibility of a project, or the time pockets in between necessary tasks. These time pockets are called ‘slack’ or ‘float’, which is the amount of time a task can be delayed and not negatively impact the overall project. Thus, Gantt charts help us visualize these time pockets. Imagine if something unexpected occurred and you had to push some dates or reschedule some tasks to meet a tough deadline. You could then easily glance at your 3-month Gantt chart and come up with a solution.
What’s great about Gantt charts is that you can use them together with your team, and eventually share them with others in case of a large-scale or complex project. Imagine an organization that manages projects with multiple teams in charge of other multiple teams of people. That can get awfully confusing, so some sort of a visualization trick is needed. Gantt charts are collaborative in nature, which is something that we value here at Toggl Plan. For this very reason, you can use our app and add up to five team members on a free plan.
Plus, there are also options for bigger teams with a 14-day free trial. Gantt charts track all kinds of work activities and events, especially milestones and deadlines. Granted, it takes a little bit until you get used to scheduling and rescheduling directly on a Gantt chart, but you will only benefit in the long run. You will get precise planning, accurate deadlines, and feasible tasks.
Project reporting allows management to assess the overall progress of a project, especially a schedule, aims, budget, and so on. It’s crucial that your investors or shareholders know exactly where the project is standing. This is where Gantt charts come to the rescue due to their intuitive and visually-appealing format. In this manner, they will have accurate information, goals and expectations, and a clearer understanding of the workflow, efficiency, productivity, and overall duration. Unfortunately, traditional Gantt charts are fairly limited when it comes to setting milestones or other limitations, such as budget or deadline.
But seek for a solution no more, since the Toggl Plan app has the feature of setting milestones. If you are not yet convinced, here is how milestones affect the overall project planning process.
Another aspect towards accurate project reporting is employing summary tasks. They are part of a phase or step toward project completion and they usually group together a few smaller task. Think of them as ‘cluster’ tasks to better understand what summary tasks are. These summary tasks should not be assigned resources. In addition, they should never have predecessors, Task A, and successors, Task B (as explained above when discussing dependencies).
Also, good reporting is tantamount to good communication. Do not forget to keep your team in the loop by using effective communication apps, such as Slack, Telegram, and others. Good communication helps keep your workflow steady and uninterrupted. We all hate it when someone did not check their notification or e-mail, and thus painfully delaying the critical task. Even if that happens, your Gantt charts can be updated to check the planned versus actual progress, plus the daily estimated time and its unfolding within the week or month.
In a nutshell, Gantt charts are the go-to method for better visualization and understanding of a project. So this begs the question: “When should we use Gantt charts for project management?” Whenever you need to analyze the bigger picture and see whether the project is running its course. We’d say that every project should implement Gantt charts since they are essential to project tracking – from establishing the critical path, dependencies, and slack – and project reporting – assessing the overall progress and employing summary tasks. These two, project tracking and reporting, would not be possible without good communication within your team. So, have you already given our 14-day trial a shot?
Back to you now, have you tried Gantt charts for project management?
Andrei is a Growth Hacker on Teamweek's marketing team. He is the person behind most of Teamweek's SEO-driven projects, including the budget calculator and the worst productivity tips generator. He enjoys writing about project management, graphic design, and anything tech.