Top 5 Benefits of Using Gantt Chart Software For Project Planning

Gantt charts are a critical component of many project planning systems. Gantt chart software is used to perform a variety of project management (PM) functions, including:

    • Setting baselines for project scope, budget and schedule—three metrics that are later used to determine project success.
    • Visualizing the critical path.
    • Determining essential milestones.

In our 2015 analysis of PM software buyers who contact Software Advice, nearly 90 percent request a platform with project planning tools to help them perform these tasks.

 

To help buyers better understand the benefits of choosing project planning software with Gantt chart functionality, we’ve gathered data from actual software users and spoken to PM professionals about their experiences.

In this article, you’ll learn how using Gantt chart software can hugely impact project success.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

What Is Gantt Chart Software?

Gantt chart software is a PM tool that managers use for two critical stages of the project life cycle: planning and tracking (this article will focus on project planning).

Gantt charts are a visual representation of the project schedule, displayed as bar charts across a calendar.

Gantt chart in TrackerRMS: a professional services platform with
project planning capabilities
 

Common capabilities of Gantt chart software include:

    • Color-coding to represent different task attributes, such as who is responsible for completing it (e.g., all Tim’s tasks are blue, or all developer tasks are yellow).
    • Shading to represent how much work has been completed on the task (e.g., a task 50 percent complete is halfway shaded).
    • Stacked or overlapping bars on the timeline to represent simultaneously occurring tasks.
    • “Linking” dependent tasks, often represented by drawing a line between them on the timeline.
    • Assigning due dates and personnel to tasks.
    • Dragging-and-dropping a task to adjust the schedule (due dates on subsequent tasks are automatically updated).
    • Clicking or hovering over a task to view details, such as the task start date, projected end date, percent complete and who is responsible for completing it.

Now, how is Gantt chart software used in project planning? We surveyed current users and asked them to rate the impact this tool has on their ability to perform different planning functions.

75 percent of users report that Gantt charts have a “somewhat” to “very positive” impact on a range of project planning activities.

These activities range from determining the metrics that measure success to managing potential risks.

Impact of Gantt Charts on Project Planning Activities

Digging deeper, we asked users about the specific benefits they’ve experienced using Gantt chart software to complete the planning activities listed above. In the following sections, we’ll explore these key benefits in more detail.

Top 5 Benefits of Using Gantt Chart Software

Benefit 1: Makes Complex Information More Manageable

78 percent of users say Gantt charts’ visual nature makes it easier to manage and comprehend detailed project information at a glance.

Indeed, one Gantt chart user reports that “other tools are less visually intuitive and are harder to understand.”

Using Gantt charts, critical project information is made easily scannable:

  • Who on the team is going to complete the task
  • When they’re going to complete it by
  • How that individual task relates to the project as a whole

To convey this information, tasks are displayed as horizontal lines spanning certain portions of the timeline, and are color-coded to represent the employee or department they’re assigned to.

Gantt chart in Wrike
 

Doug Cooper is founder of Trubelo Development, a business/creative development and PM consulting firm.

Cooper says Gantt charts are a great way to summarize and display complex project data for an audience, because users can choose to display only the information that’s most important for those viewers.

For example, users can sort the chart to show either a broad view of milestones or more specific task details. Gantt charts are collapsible and expandable, he adds, allowing the user to choose the appropriate level of detail.

Doug Cooper, founder of Trubelo Development

“It is not just a chart that looks good. [Managers] can sort items or drill down into the data and interact with the data a lot more.”

Benefit 2: Enables Greater Team Productivity

52 percent of users say Gantt charts improve team productivity and time management.

This is largely because task assignment and progress information is displayed publicly—helping individuals stay on top of their own work while allowing team members to hold each other accountable.

Once a project has begun, Gantt charts display progress in several ways, including:

  • The task will be shaded, reflecting the “percent complete”
  • Users can hover over or click on a task to view additional details, such as “start date,” “end date” and “duration”

Viewing task details in Zoho Project
 

Additionally, some tools allow managers or administrators to schedule email or in-app alerts when a task is nearing its due date or if an activity is at risk of not being completed on time.

For example: If a task is two days away from deadline but is only 20 percent complete, both the manager and responsible party are alerted. This allows corrective measures to be enacted, such as reducing that individual’s workload or assigning another person to help.

Trubelo’s Cooper says that by tracking progress publicly, Gantt charts can also serve as a motivational tool.

Doug Cooper, founder of Trubelo Development

“[Progress tracking] is not just to catch people when they slip, but can be used to help motivate teams to strive to achieve and complete the items they are responsible for.”

Benefit 3: Scheduling Becomes More Effective

49 percent of software users say using Gantt charts improves scheduling because it helps managers visualize their resource capacity.

One survey respondent states that “Gantt charts help us to visualize dependencies and resource [i.e., employee] availability.”

Another respondent notes that “[Gantt charts] provide a means to quickly see planning conflicts.”

Leigh Anne Bishop is a digital project manager at BrandExtract (a branding agency specializing in building websites and other digital experiences for clients).

She says Gantt charts allow managers to distribute work more effectively, because they can see both current and future project schedules mapped out across their respective timelines. They can then split work more evenly across teams and between employees.

Leigh Anne Bishop, digital project manager at BrandExtract

“We are able to simultaneously see the full scope of multiple projects, as well as the timing of the different aspects, to plan and manage effective work teams without overweighing certain employees with specific skill sets.”

Of course, Gantt charts aren’t the only scheduling tools managers use. Many PM platforms include resource management functionality that allows managers to assign staff to tasks and projects.

However, PM systems that include Gantt charts offer resource management functionality plus the visual project plan, giving managers additional insight into employee utility and availability.

Benefit 4: Keeps Different Groups on the Same Page

37 percent of users say Gantt chart software helps consolidate project information for sharing among teams, managers and stakeholders.

“[Gantt charts] are a great visual aid that allow a large number of people to see the schedule for projects that we have, along with due dates, making it easier to prioritize new tasks,” one user states.

Cooper notes that centralizing project information in a Gantt chart helps align these groups, allowing them to easily share information and stay up-to-date with project changes. Bishop agrees, noting that Gantt charts allow multiple groups to get a quick snapshot of current progress.

Leigh Anne Bishop, digital project manager at BrandExtract

“We are able to communicate effectively to multiple players at the same time. Rather than having to use multiple organizational tools, the Gantt chart is as close as you can get to an ‘everything for everyone tool,’ since it’s a tool so easily understood by many people, it keeps us all on the same page.”

This is especially true when teams use cloud-based project management software, which automatically updates and reflects any changes made to schedules or requirements in real time.

Since cloud solutions allow any user to log in at any time from any compatible device, geographically scattered groups can be even more connected when using these systems.

Benefit 5: Clarifies Project and Team Requirements

36 percent of users say using Gantt charts helps employees better understand their responsibilities and how their tasks relate to the entire project.

Displaying the project across a calendar helps highlight task dependencies and potential risk areas, allowing managers and employees to dedicate more attention to the tasks involved.

This also helps managers and stakeholders determine project milestones—a process that’s especially important when milestones are tied to mid-project billing and invoicing.

Leigh Anne Bishop, digital project manager at BrandExtract

“Gantt charts serve as a big picture ‘map’ that help everyone attached to a project, from strategist to designer to developer, visualize how we’re going to get from the start to our end result.”

Gantt chart in WorkZone
 

This type of high-level “roadmapping” helps managers and stakeholders measure how much effort is required from each individual or each department. In turn, this allows them to more accurately determine the project’s scope, budget and timeline.

“Managers [can] see when projects will be reaching their department, as well as understand the capacity of teams in other departments that they collaborate with,” says Bishop.

Next Steps

As noted above, Gantt charts are a useful planning tool that can help drive project success. If you’re looking to invest in a project planning software solution, here are three things you can do to help narrow your search:

    • Take our online PM questionnaire: The PM market is vast, and wading through hundreds of vendors is time-consuming. After answering a few questions, we’ll match you with up to five vendors whose products fit your project planning needs.
    • Speak to a Software Advice expert at (855) 998-8505: Sometimes there’s no substitute for a one-on-one consultation with a PM software specialist. Our unbiased experts can provide you with a list of Gantt chart software solutions to help drive your project success.
    • Read user reviews: Once you have a short list of products, read reviews from real users to find out how your peers have rated the platform for such characteristics as ease of use and customer support.

 

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