Your knowledge of a Gantt chart might be limited—you know they are used to map out activities of complex projects and involve stacked bar charts and timelines.
But how do we define Gantt charts and when is the right time to use them? Should you be using online Gantt chart software or build a Gantt chart in Excel—or stick to pen and paper?
In this blog, you’ll find everything you need to know about what a Gantt chart is, how they work, how we’ve changed them for the better, and when you should (and shouldn’t) use them.
What is a Gantt chart?
Essentially, a Gantt chart is a horizontal bar chart that shows a project’s planned schedule and its tasks or events over a specific time.
It helps you see your entire project timeline, start and finish dates, and track milestones as you go. On monday.com, you have the ability to drag and drop events on the horizontal and vertical axis as things change instead of having to start from scratch—it saves you time and the flexibility makes it work for any team. It also means you don’t have to have everything perfectly planned out before a task’s start.
Modern Gantt charts can also show dependencies (how each task connects to others). They can include multiple team members, color-coded tasks, calendars, and more.
Gantt charts: a brief history
Although the origins of Gantt charts date back to the late 1800s — when Polish engineer Karol Adamiecki created the harmonograph — we know them best because of Henry Gantt.
Gantt was a trained mechanical engineer who in the early 1900s designed a bar chart (aka harmonogram) to illustrate a project schedule.
Before the days of monday.com or Microsoft, project managers using Gantt charts had to painstakingly create them by hand, and their time was consumed when any changes had to be made manually.
The growth of the Internet in the 1990s led to further developments with Gantt charts and, by the end of the millennium, the Gantt chart was one of the most used project management tools on the market.
What are Gantt charts used for?
Because of this, Gantt charts are ideal when managing multiple projects, teams, and budgets at once. Gantt charts are used for any organization that wants to manage its workflows in a visual and organized manner.
You would be hard-pressed to find a 21st-century company that doesn’t implement some sort of a Gantt chart daily to manage projects. From education to marketing to IT, Gantt charts serve as the foundation for project managers and their teams.
What are the key components of a Gantt chart?
While no two Gantt charts look the same, most charts have the same core elements.
- Date/Time: the date and duration of each task is often displayed in days/weeks/months, but it can also be represented in minutes/hours. The current day/time is usually highlighted. P.S., the length of each rectangle tells you how long a task is expected to take, known as the duration of the task.
- Tasks/Items: there are individual activities (or tasks) that live at various stages of completion. Each task can stand on its own, and if you use monday.com you can also group tasks together to create sub-items.
- Owner: this represents the person responsible for the task. Note: This can be more than one person or an entire team.
With monday.com, you have access to more dynamic features that enhance your Gantt chart:
- Status: the status represents what stage each task currently resides in. Common statuses can include “up next,” “planned,” “stuck,” “future steps,” “milestone,” and so on.
- Milestones: the overarching tasks that don’t have a duration, and generally mark the end of a certain part of a project.
- Dependencies: the last major component of Gantt charts is dependencies, which are often represented as arrows that link two tasks together. Many tasks cannot start until another task is completed.
- Vertical line marker — A vertical line that shows you exactly where you are in the project between the start and end date.
monday.com’s Gantt Chart view also allows you to focuses on people, not just tasks, by assigning entire teams to them. It’s powerful enough for expert PMs, yet easy enough to grasp for first-time managers.
How can I create a Gantt chart on monday.com?
- After signing up or logging into your account, create a new board and add all of your tasks.
- Add a ‘task timeline’ column to your board so every task is given a time period.
- Once you fill in all the information, go to ‘views’ and choose the Timeline or Gantt view.
Voilá! This will help you see your entire project’s timeline and see if any tasks overlap. You can then easily switch up the dates until your chart is ready-to-go.
Frequently asked questions:
What should managers know about Gantt charts?
1. Adaptability is key
Making big plans is a must for successful long-term projects, but it’s important to remember that people and projects are unpredictable.
In many traditional Gantt charts, such unexpected changes can throw off a slew of project dependencies, but as long as your Gantt chart system is flexible, you can lay out all of your project and team plans easily and adjust as you need.
2. Aesthetics matter
There is a reason Gantt charts rose in popularity the way they did— most people understand concepts and plans best through visuals. monday.com allows you to use color to make meaningful Gantt charts- you can use it for statuses or even grouping items.
3. Workload should be managed in parallel
We already mentioned that Gantt charts were originally used for industrial projects, but there are ways to incorporate resource management to make sure you are distributing work evenly across your team. With a visual and flexible workload functionality, it’s easy to shift and reassign work while abiding by your long-term project goals.
When should I use Gantt charts?
1. Planning out your workflow
Understanding a project’s scope and requirements is made easier with Gantt charts because they provide a visual representation of your project at any stage, including task dependencies, priorities, and ownership.
2. Determining your project’s critical path
The critical path method is an approach used by project managers to determine the longest sequence of tasks that must be completed for the project to be a success.
Gantt charts allow you to quickly visualize which tasks are auxiliary, which are most critical, and which of all tasks are most vital to the delivery of a project happening on time.
3. Interpreting and setting task deadlines
Once you know a project’s critical path, you’ll need to set some deadlines for each individual task. Having a clear view of the project timeline and any necessary deadlines also helps project managers to report back to superiors and stakeholders accurately.
Are there alternatives to Gantt charts?
While the Gantt chart is a gold standard of project management software, there certainly are other solutions that businesses prefer.
While a PERT (Program Evaluation Review Technique) is also a visual representation of a project, it is represented more like a network diagram. Instead of bars and dates, a PERT chart uses lines to connect nodes (often depicted by circles and rectangles). PERTs tend to be used more for larger-scale projects that require a high-level plan. Its goal is more focused on dependencies than on time to complete.
Kanban boards are popular amongst those who prefer an Agile workflow and are comprised of 3 or 4 columns and cards (tasks) live under each column heading. If you’re thinking, “I want to assign work story points instead of setting timelines with a start and end date,” back away from the Gantt.
Timelines are generally comprised of a single line and are reserved for more simple, high-level project overviews. Timelines can show dates and events, but fall apart when you start to add more complex dependencies.
Note: Timelines can be part of a more complete Gantt chart — super flexible, intuitive, and focused on people.
A task (or “to do”) list is the most simplistic of project software tools. Add tasks. Mark them as complete when done. This is task management in a nut shell.
What is the connection between WBS, Agile, and Gantt charts?
Work breakdown structure, or WBS, is a specific method of breaking down large or complicated goals into manageable objectives. WBS does not factor in time to completion. For more details, check out our quick start guide.
WBS is often the foundation for creating a solid Gantt chart. It depicts what tasks (and subtasks) are to be completed, but it does not show when each task will begin and end.
Start with a hierarchical representation of tasks and their dependencies (WBS) and layer in Gantt chart components such as time, ownership, status, milestones, etc.
Agile or Agile project management is a project management methodology comprised of short (1-3 week) sprints or iterations, where a team is hyperfocused on a small set of items that need to be completed during that time window.
You can still incorporate the agile process into any Gantt chart. In fact, we’ve shared the 11 steps to implement Agile Project Management into your workflow.
How to choose a Gantt chart software
To help you figure it out, we’ve outlined a few of the benefits of using monday.com for your Gantt chart.
With monday.com, you can filter, sort, and customize your Gantt chart. You can also choose to view it by day, week, month, or year.
Easily make updates
With our Gantt chart view, you can update items directly on the timeline.
Leverage split view
Split view lets you simultaneously view your chart and board you are working on.
How to make Gantt charts, easily
There is no shortage of articles about Gantt chart templates and software. You don’t have to look far to find a free (or paid) Gantt chart template and solutions.
But not all Gantt chart templates and software solutions are created equal.
The more sophisticated Gantt chart template and software solutions offer:
- Different chart views: change the way you see data
- Customizable automations and integrations: notify everyone about progress
- Filter and sort data or search with toolbar: no more endless scrolling
- Eliminate dependencies – see what teammates are working on and add tasks in conjunction
So if you are looking for a visual solution that can manage projects of all sizes and industries plus a robust Gantt chart…check out monday.com.