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What is a Gantt chart?

A Gantt chart, commonly used in project management, is one of the most popular and useful ways of showing activities (tasks or events) displayed against time. On the left of the chart is a list of the activities and along the top is a suitable time scale. Each activity is represented by a bar; the position and length of the bar reflects the start date, duration and end date of the activity. This allows you to see at a glance:

What the various activities are When each activity begins and ends How long each activity is scheduled to last Where activities overlap with other activities, and by how much The start and end date of the whole project

To summarize, a Gantt chart shows you what has to be done (the activities) and when (the schedule).

A simple Gantt chart Gantt charts are useful tools for planning and scheduling projects. They allow you to assess how long a project should take, determine the resources needed, and lay out the order in which tasks need to be carried out. They are useful in managing the dependencies between tasks. When a project is under way, Gantt charts are useful for monitoring its progress. You can immediately see what should have been achieved at a point in time, and can therefore take remedial action to bring the project back on course. This can be essential for the successful and profitable implementation of the project.

Gantt Chart History

The first Gantt chart was devised in the mid 1890s by Karol Adamiecki, a Polish engineer who ran a steelworks in southern Poland and had become interested in management ideas and techniques. Some 15 years after Adamiecki

, Henry Gantt, an American engineer and management consultant, devised his own version of the chart and it was this that became widely known and popular in western countries. Consequently it was Henry Gantt whose name was to become associated with charts of this type.

Karol Adamiecki

Henry Gantt

History: Henry Laurence Gantt (1861-1919) was a mechanical engineer, management consultant and industry advisor. He developed Gantt charts in the second decade of the 20th century as a visual tool to show scheduled and actual progress of projects. Accepted as a common-place project management tool today, it was quite a radical concept and an innovation of world-wide importance in the 1920s. Gantt charts were first used on large construction projects like the Hoover Dam, started in 1931 and the interstate highway network which started in 1956. Download Organizing for Work, a book by Henry Gantt. Henry Gantt's contribution to the management process is honored today through the The Henry Laurence Gantt Medal. The award established in 1929 is given for distinguished achievement in management and for service to the community.

Steps In Drawing a Gantt Chart

To draw up a Gantt diagram (Gant diagram), follow these steps: Step 1. List all activities in the plan For each task, show the earliest start date, estimated length of time it will take, and whether it is parallel or sequential. If tasks are sequential, show which stages they depend on. You will end up with a task list like the one in figure 1. This example shows the task list for a custom-written computer project. We will use this same example

for both this section and the section on Critical Path Analysis and PERT. This will allow you to compare the results of the two approaches. Figure 1. Gantt Chart Example: Planning a custom-written computer project Task A. High level analysis Earliest Length Type Dependent start on... Week 0 1 week Sequential 1 day 2 weeks 2 weeks 2 weeks 2 weeks 3 weeks 1 week 1 week 1 day 1 week 1 week 1 week Sequential Parallel Sequential Sequential Sequential Sequential Sequential Sequential Parallel Parallel Parallel Sequential A B A D D E F G C,H E E L

B. Selection of hardware Week 1 platform C. Installation and Week 1.2 commissioning of hardware D. Detailed analysis of core Week 1 modules E. Detailed analysis of Week 3 supporting modules F. Programming of core modules Week 3 G. Programming of supporting modules H. Quality assurance of core modules I. Quality assurance of supporting modules J. Core module training K. Development and QA of accounting reporting L. Development and QA of management reporting M. Development of Management Information System N. Detailed training Week 5 Week 5 Week 8 Week 6 Week 5 Week 5 Week 6

Week 9

1 week


I, J, K, M

Step 2. Set up your Gantt Chart Head up graph paper with the days or weeks through to task completion. Step 3. Plot the tasks onto the graph paper

Next draw up a rough draft of the Gantt Chart. Plot each task on the graph paper, showing it starting on the earliest possible date. Draw it as a bar, with the length of the bar being the length of the task. Above the task bars, mark the time taken to complete them. Schedule them in such a way that sequential actions are carried out in the required sequence. Ensure that dependent activities do not start until the activities they depend on have been completed. This will produce an untidy diagram like the one below:

Step 4. Presenting the analysis The last stage in this process is to prepare a final version of the Gantt Chart. This shows how the sets of sequential activities link together, and identifies the critical path activities. At this stage you also need to check the resourcing of the various activities. While scheduling, ensure that you make best use of the resources you have available, and do not over-commit resource. You can also use color to represent the different resource types that you need to use such as programmers, or analysts. A redrawn version of the example project is shown below:

By drawing this example Gantt Chart, you can see that:

If all goes well, the project can be completed in 10 weeks. If you want to complete the task as rapidly as possible, you need: 1 analyst for the first 5 weeks. 1 programmer for 5 weeks starting week 4. 1 programmer/QA expert for 3 weeks starting week 6. Note: Activities L and M have been moved back a week. This does not affect the critical path, but it does mean that a single programming/QA resource can carry out all three of activities K, L and M. Analysis, development and testing of supporting modules are essential activities that must be completed on time. Hardware installation and commissioning is not time-critical as long as it is completed before the Core Module Training starts.

While this section describes how to draw a Gantt Chart manually, in practice project managers use software tools like Microsoft Project to create Gantt Charts. Not only do these ease the drawing of Gantt Charts, they also make modification of plans easier and provide facilities for monitoring progress against plans, as well as generating resource histograms.

Enhancing a Gantt chart

Gantt applications generally include features to make your Gantt chart easier to use. These vary from application to application; here are some examples:

Adding explanatory notes to tasks. This is especially useful for tasks that have constraints. Constraints override links and can lead to illogicalities or schedule conflicts in the plan, so you will need to keep an eye on them. Highlighting the critical path in order to see at a glance the tasks that are currently directly affecting your project end date. In a project plan, the critical path corresponds to the tasks or chain of linked tasks that cannot be delayed without delaying the entire project. A task lies on the critical path if a change to its start date or duration affects the end date of the project (or the start date if you are scheduling from the end of the project). Keeping a close eye on the status of your critical tasks at any time is therefore key to good project management. If the overall project duration is too long, the only way to make it shorter and bring in its end date is to shorten the critical path.

Setting milestones or deadlines to mark key dates. A milestone is a task with zero duration. It appears on the Gantt chart as milestone symbol. Milestones are generally used to indicate important dates on the project plan, often key events or goals. For example, you might use milestones to mark desired completion dates, or project review meetings.

A deadline marker does not affect any of the Gantt calculations, but places a visible marker on the Gantt chart as a reminder. In most Gantt applications an indicator will warn you if a task moves past its deadline marker.

Giving tasks priorities.

Showing a percentage completion for any task, visible on the task bar. Customizing the appearance of the project plan on the Gantt chart, for example the color of task bars, the display (or not) of informational labels.

Gantt Chart Advantages

While there are a number of reasons to use Gantt charts below are five key reasons they are often advantageous: 1. Avoid Completion Confusion: Gantt charts were created to keep users on track, providing a visual timeline for starting and finishing specific tasks. By providing a visual overview of milestones and other key dates, these charts are thought to offer a more understandable and memorable method of maintaining timescale-based tasks and deliverables whether tracked on a daily, weekly, monthly or yearly basis.

A Gantt chart template available at Creately( click to use as a template )

2. Keep Everyone on the Same Page: Where there is a visual framework for the work to be done, there are fewer chances for misunderstanding, especially when it comes to highly complex tasks. Using Gantt charts allow all types of stakeholders to have the same information, set mutually understood expectations, and conduct their efforts according to the desired protocol. 3. Understand Task Relationships: These charts can make clear how various tasks are interrelated and perhaps rely on the completion of another to meet specific objectives. These task relationships revolve around understanding the timing of each task, which then impacts other tasks listed. This can better assure the optimum workflow, maximized productivity and overall project success.

A Gantt charts makes it very easy to visualize related tasks 4. Effectively Allocate Resources: By being able to look ahead on the Gantt chart, users can clearly discern where resources need to be anticipated, allocated or shared to maximize the use of those resources. The more closely the chart is followed, the better chance there is of keeping project costs within budget while also better assuring on-time completion. 5. Get a Handle on the Future: While it is often easy to get caught up in day-to-day tasks as detailed on a chart, Gantt chart advantages include helping decision-makers look farther ahead to ensure each given project

is working toward the achievement the organizations long-term strategic objectives.

Gantt Chart Limitations

For those Gantt chart cynics mentioned earlier, this method is not designed to be the cure-all for an organizations project management ills. There are some situations where other tools may indeed be more effective particularly in scenarios when a particular milestone or critical task is missing because the project manager didnt include. Other limitations include the inability to include certain constraints like time, scope, and costs. Overall, however, Gantt chart advantages have been realized by all types of organizations for applicable applications. Because of the many advantages offered by Gantt charts, thousands of companies use Gantt charts to become more productive, enhance their communications, forecast over the long term and track results. While some naysayers believe they limit the size of the project that can be tracked,