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What are Gantt Charts?

  • Harina Rastogi
  • Apr 18, 2022
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“Operations keeps the lights on, strategy provides a light at the end of the tunnel, but project management is the train engine that moves the organization forward.” 

~ Joy Gumz


It was Karol Adamiecki, an engineer from Poland who first devised a Gantt Chart in the 1890s. He was interested in management and project techniques and ideas. After him, Henry Gantt around 15 years later devised his own version of Gantt charts.


Henry Gantt was an American engineer as well as a project consultant. His version became very famous in the western countries. His name then became associated with these charts and thus it was called “Gantt Chart”.


Initially these charts were prepared by hand and it was a very laborious and tedious task. Every time some changes were made in the project, a new chart had to be prepared by hand. Redrawing each time took a lot of time.


It was one of the limitations of Gantt charts. Even though it was very useful, any tiny change led to a new chart. No project is fixed, continuous improvements are made during the life of the project. 


Nowadays, we can use multiple softwares as well as computers for drawing these charts. You can change them, reprint or update them every time a change is done.


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Concept of Gantt Charts


“Being a Project Manager is like being an artist, you have the different colored process streams combining into a work of art”

 ~ Greg Cimmarrusti


Gantt Charts are used to graphically represent an activity or a series of activities against the time scale. The X axis represents time, whereas the Y axis shows the activities. Horizontal bars are drawn to represent each activity performed.


It is also called “Bar Chart” because the representation is done in the form of bars. All the information is presented by the position and length of the bars. These bars also indicate the beginning and ending of activities.


This chart helps the managers and project analysts to view the start and ending of each activity along with the milestones achieved in the projects. Elements, tasks, relationships and milestones are depicted through bars.


What are the things you can see on the Gantt Chart?


  • Starting Date of the Project.


  • What are the tasks in the project?


  • Which member is working on which task?


  • When does each task start and finish?


  • Percentage completion of each activity.


  • Relationships between tasks.


  • Task Dependencies.


  • Critical Paths.


  • Finishing Date of the Project


Reasons why Gantt Charts are Preferred

Given below are the reasons why Gantt Charts are preferred by Project Managers.

  1. It is simple to understand. Foreman, Engineers, Top Management, Analysts and Project Managers everyone can understand the charts.


  1. It provides key information in such a simple format that it can be developed and interpreted easily.


  1. It is great for planning and monitoring the tasks and activities done in a project. 


  1. It helps the workers to analyze the capacity for loading the work centre.


  1. All the tiny and big changes can be easily incorporated in the charts. Changes in relation to time, status and loads can be done. Gantt charts are flexible.


  1. It helps the users to get a fast visual representation of the status of each activity and all the anticipated statuses.


  1. You can draw a gantt chart by hand if you have a small project or use softwares if the project is big. These charts fulfill a wide range of requirements for big and small projects.


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Limitations of Gantt Charts


There are some limitations of Gantt Charts as well like:


  1. It does not show the inter-relationships between two different activities.


  1. A Gantt Chart is static. If we do not update it regularly then it serves no purpose. It has to be updated each time a new task is introduced or some revision is done.


  1. It does not depict the variability. Breakdowns, duration of task,  human resource potential or other factors that can affect the workload are not shown in Gantt Charts.


  1. All the minute details of activities and tasks are not depicted clearly.


Uses of Gantt Charts in Project Management


There are a sheer number of uses of Gantt Charts in Project Management. Teams get a lot of help from these charts like:


  • Planning and scheduling Projects.


  • Planning and scheduling Tasks.


  • Planning and scheduling multiple tasks and projects.


  • Viewing tasks


  • Planning in sprints


  • Team Collaboration


  • Management of resources


  • Scheduling Team work


  • Determining and comparing the desired planning time and actual planning time of the projects and tasks.


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Steps to Create a Gantt Chart


There are multiple Project Management application softwares that can be used to create Gantt Charts like Primavera, Microsoft Planner, MindView etc. Given below are the steps that will help you create a perfect Gantt chart for your project.

Steps to create Gantt Chart :1. Review Scope Baseline2. Create Activities3. Sequence Activities4. Estimate Resources5. Estimate Durations6. Develop Schedule

Steps to Create a Gantt Chart

  1. Review Scope Baseline


The first step to make a Gantt Chart is to gather your whole team and review the scope baseline. It has three elements:


  1. The scope statement


  1. Work Breakdown System (WBS)


  1. Work Breakdown Dictionary (WBD)


The project team should ensure that the scope baseline matches 100% with the project scope.A scope baseline is basically a bundle of documents that sets out the scope of the project. The results and conclusions of the project are compared with this baseline. 


Every project has a project scope statement which defines its goals and characteristics. Uses of a scope baseline are:


  1. Controlling and measurement


  1. Agreement document


  1. Change control assessments


  1. Protection against creep


According to James Taylor “scope baseline as a synonym of project baseline which includes technical, cost, and schedule baselines”.


  1. Create Activities


The second step is to create activities. There is a technique known as Decomposition using which the project managers  break down the WBS in multiple activities.


Once the scope has been set, it is time to prepare a systematic breakdown structure. The team needs to create a set of rules for scheduling each activity. The last and final schedule has to be effective and efficient.


Make sure that there are limited activities i.e. not too much or not too little. Establishing deadlines and milestones while breaking down the project is also important.


  1. Sequence Activities


Every activity in the project is related to other activities. So, the third step is to create a sequence of all the activities. The starting and ending schedule are not related but all the activities are related to its former and latter steps.


One must create a right sequence of activities so that each step falls correctly after the other. In order to create appropriate relationships, sequencing is very important. 4 different types of relationships can be formed. They are:


  1. Finish to Start


In this type of relationship, successor activity cannot be done until and unless the predecessor activity is finished.


  1. Start to Start


In this type of relationship, successor activity cannot be done until and unless the predecessor activity is started.


  1. Start to Finish


In this type of relationship, successor activity cannot be finished until and unless the predecessor activity is started.


  1. Finish to Finish


In this type of relationship, successor activity cannot be finished until and unless the predecessor activity is finished.


In all the four relationships First and Second are used most commonly. You can observe that a finish to start relationship is purely sequential whereas the start to start relationship is parallel or overlapping.


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  1. Estimate Resources


Before the durations are set, it is vital to estimate the resources that you have. Thus, the fourth step in preparing a Gantt Chart is to estimate the Resources. In this you have to identify the resources available to you.


Material, Equipment and labor are the resources. You can use techniques like Parametric, Bottom Up or Analogous to estimate the resources. There are three parameters for estimating:


  1. Skills


  1. Competence


  1. Technology


Once the resources are estimated, they are loaded to each activity or schedule. A resource calendar is made to identify the needs and availability of resources.


  1. Estimate Durations


Now that you have estimated the resources, it is time to estimate the durations of each activity. Duration is the time taken by each activity from starting to end. The techniques that you use for estimating the resources can be used to estimate the durations.


The only thing to keep in check while estimating durations are the “constraints”. Constraints are the limitations or restrictions on activities performed.


  1. Develop Schedule


The last and the most interesting step is the development of the schedule. In this step you gather all the information that you collected from the previous steps and load it into the project management tool that you are using.


Make sure to review it to remove all the errors and risks that you have addressed. Check whether all the response plans and contingencies are included or not. You can check schedule contingencies by adding buffers at each activity, project or both.


Basically, Buffers are activities that do not have scope or resources to offer extra time and reduce the risks as well. Techniques for resource optimization like smoothing, leveling etc. are used to create schedules.


You have to review each schedule and approve it. All the approved schedules become schedule baselines for gantt charts.


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If you do not want to spend money on buying project management tools or softwares then you can use online free templates to create your own Gantt chart. You can also use Microsoft Excel templates to create a Gantt Chart.


Obviously the tools will give you better and quicker results, but these templates are also not a bad option. Small companies that want to try out Gantt Charts for their projects can use it as a learning alternative before investing in tools.


In Microsoft Excel you will find static Gantt Charts. It means you will have to update them each time a change is done. There is a limited scope when you use the templates but for beginners it works well.

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