The success of any project comes down to the quality of the planning that has gone into it. And the larger and more complex a project is, the more elements that will need to be managed.
Keeping on top of timings and juggling everything that needs to be done, can be challenging – especially when there are multiple tasks and numerous deadlines to meet. Added to this is the fact that certain tasks may also need to be completed in a particular order, meaning if you miss a key deadline, it could impact on the entire project.
So, for anyone tasked with managing a project or campaign, having a system and the right tools in place to support its smooth completion and delivery, is vital.
You not only need to ensure that all tasks are being completed in a timely fashion, but that they are being carried out in the most efficient way – running activities in parallel where possible and sequentially where needed, to ensure the optimal use of time and resources.
Effective project management is a science in itself and that’s where Gantt charts come in.
So, what are they and how might you use one?
What is a Gantt Chart?
Named after their inventor, Henry Gantt, an engineer and innovator in the field of scientific management, Gantt charts are one the most popular project management tools around today.
They can be created from scratch in many different ways, with most of the readymade templates being designed in Excel.
A Gantt chart – as the name suggests – is a visual representation of data. It’s perhaps best described as a form of horizontal bar chart.
Using details about your project and key deadlines, a chart is produced that provides an overview of the project as a whole, along with all associated tasks and timings. You can use the chart to track and monitor your progress, and importantly you will have a great way to present that data to others in an easy to understand format.
How does it work?
To create a Gantt chart, you need to create or find a suitable template. You then enter details about all the individual tasks that have to be done as part of your project, along with their timeframes. You will also need to input how those tasks relate to each other – i.e. which can be carried out simultaneously and which can’t be started until another has been done, etc.
The chart then allows you to track each task against a timeline, so you can monitor how things are progressing. Each task will be displayed as a bar, which represents the start date, duration and end date of each activity.
At a glance, you will be able to see:
- All the individual tasks
- When each activity is to start and finish
- How long each task should take
- Where activities will overlap and by how much
- The overall start and end date of the whole project
The pros of using a Gantt Chart
Gantt charts are easy to use and super useful for planning and scheduling projects. They can help you more accurately estimate how long a project should take and what resources may be needed.
Once a project is underway, you can immediately see what should be happening by what date, allowing you to act if you need to, to get things back on track. They also encourage detailed planning and structure, which is essential for any project, as well as giving you an effective way to present data showing the status of your project.
Like most tools, Gantt charts have their limitations and will be better suited for certain projects than for others. For example, very large and highly complex projects may need a more sophisticated system. In this instance, one option would be to break the project down into chunks and to use a Gantt chart for each.
They will also only work if you keep them fully updated and it can be difficult to add something that you’ve forgotten at a later date.
But for the thousands of companies across the world who are using them, they are a highly prized and essential tool. So, if you haven’t tried using one already, then now is a great time to take the plunge – especially, as we’re giving you a head start, with a fantastic free template!
Get the Ultimate Gantt Chart template
Here at Lead Forensics, we’re planning geeks and proud, which is why we’ve pulled together the ‘Ultimate Gantt Chart’, to help ensure your next project runs smoothly.
We’ve done the hard work for you, so it’s time to see what all the fuss is about and to turbocharge your project management skills.