The Gantt chart has been around for over 100 years, and yet some people are still hesitant to use one. These visual timelines are a great scheduling tool, but many people think they can be difficult to create.
Thanks to Gantt chart software, this planning tool has moved online, making it simpler than ever to creating a Gantt chart. With the right online project management tool it easy to learn how to make a Gantt chart.
Online Gantt Charts vs. Excel Gantt Charts
Let’s face it: creating a Gantt chart in Excel is a tedious and time-consuming task that no one wants to do. Excel Gantt charts are great if you’re collecting data that you don’t want to share with anyone else, or if you really enjoy creating charts and tables in Excel. Sure, you have access to this data, of course, and could make a PDF to email it, but updating any change in status is almost as if having to start from scratch. No wonder Gantt charts have gotten a bad name.
Related: Free Gantt Chart Template for Excel
But if you could make that same chart in minutes, would you?
Of course you would! Plus when you make Gantt charts online, with some software programs, you can share and collaborate on the plans with your team.
With online Gantt chart tools, you add or import tasks on the spreadsheet, when you add due dates, you automatically see a timeline on the right showing your task duration. Plus, when you create Gantt chart online, then you free them from the constraints of Excel and allow the tool to become more useful. There are additional features to using an online Gantt chart.
- Always online and accessible
- Collaborate with others
- Easy to update
- Email alerts
- One-click reports
With an online Gantt chart, you also don’t have to install any software to your desktop, which is also an advantage over other desktop PM tools. With Microsoft Project, for example, you have to install a license on your desktop or server, and then to share files you need to set up SharePoint integrations. That can be costly and doesn’t solve the sharing problem already present with Excel gantt charts.
Far less cumbersome is keeping all that data on the cloud instead of a standalone document or a byzantine project management software.
Creating a Gantt Chart – a Step by Step Guide
Regardless of what type of Gantt chart you use or how you intend to use it, here is an easy step-by-step way to import your task list, or create one, and have it populate a Gantt chart.
- Create New Project – Log into whatever online PM software tool you’re using and select, Create. A spreadsheet will pop up and the Gantt bars will not yet show.
- Add Tasks – Now you want to fill in the spreadsheet with the tasks of your project. The default is that the tasks start and end on that day, but you’ll have an opportunity to edit that next. The tasks then appear in the Gantt chart to the right as circles, rather
- Add Due Dates – When you add the due dates to your tasks you’ll see the bars extend on the Gantt chart to the right, giving you a linear representation of the task’s estimated duration.
That’s it. It’s really that simple. Afterwards, you can assign team members to individual tasks and customize the the Gantt chart to suit your needs and the needs of your team. There are many features for the Gantt chart that you’ll want, such as collaborating. Each task can have a file, comment or note attached, so discussions can happen around them. And, depending on the PM tool you’re using, email notifications can be automated to keep you alerted about status updates on tasks.
Gantt Chart Software Features
So, what makes up a Gantt chart? There are many different kinds of online Gantt charts. Some have just a few features and are merely a visual chart, without going much further than the classic Excel Gantt chart.
However, others take full advantage of being online and can help with project planning. There are several features to every Gantt chart.
- Spreadsheet – This is a timeline table shows the tasks in a spreadsheet, which can be added to, deleted and you can create various columns and organize to sort tasks, etc.
- Bars – The Gantt bar represents a task graphically, showing duration. Each task’s bar shows the horizontal timeline of each task.
- Columns – These vertical columns live apart from the horizontal bar chart and define the task name, due dates, who is assigned and other custom content you want to display.
- Current date line – This vertical dotted line shows today’s date on the bar chart
- Milestones – Project milestones are represented as diamonds that can mark major phases or key dates of the project
- Planned & Actual Progress – This is shown in the spreadsheet or as shading on the bars. This way you can watch the actual progress against the planned length of the task.
- Work Breakdown Structure – This is a hierarchical view of all your tasks in order of dates.
- Dependencies – This is represented by a line and an arrow connecting two tasks that are dependent on one another. When one task is delayed, dependent task dates adjust automatically.
- Baseline – This is a snapshot of the planned project so you can measure your progress against this state.
- Critical Path – This represents the essential tasks through the project that must be completed before it is complete.
- Import/Export – This allows you to import other plans, like MS Project plans, and files, like Excel files, into the Gantt. You can also export them back again.
And there’s so much more, depending on the software you’ve chosen.
Benefits of Gantt Charts in Project Management
Once you’ve begun using an online Gantt chart tool, it’s helpful to understand how useful Gantt charts can be in managing all your projects. Behold, the Gantt charts many benefits:
- Visualize a project schedule
- View tasks that are connected
- Helps teams manage their tasks
- Assists with resource management
- Enhances time management
- Makes task management more efficient
- Tracks project progress
- Color-code tasks by person, team or function
- Track task dependencies
- See planned vs. actual progress
- View baselines and critical paths
- Shows key milestones
So, we’ve hopefully established that creating a Gantt chart is simple to do with online project management tools. The many features available in online Gantt charts can help you manage your projects, tasks and teams.
Not that you have to stop using Excel for other functions. In fact, most online project management tools allow you to import your Excel spreadsheets, which then populates the online Gantt chart. Look for tools that help you retain your original formatting so the import is seamless.
With online Gantt chart software, your old Excel spreadsheets can instantly be transformed into a powerful scheduling and task management tool. For example, with ProjectManager.com, when you import other files, you not only make a Gantt chart online, but you also automatically populates real-time project dashboards so you know exactly how your project is performing. When you get a snapshot of your project in real-time, you can easily share dynamic reports online with your team or stakeholders. See how easy creating a Gantt chart can be in ProjectManager.com. Start a free trial.