Gantt charts are a valuable project management (PM) tool. Used for planning and tracking waterfall projects, Gantt charts help stakeholders coordinate and agree on baselines for scope, budget and timeline—metrics used to determine project success.
Gantt chart software automates many PM functions, allowing managers to more easily create project schedules, assign tasks to users, track the progression of work items and share updates with the team.
Whether you're looking to purchase your first PM Gantt chart system or update your current software, this buyer's guide can help you make a more informed decision.
Here's what we'll cover:
A Gantt chart is a graphical representation of a project, displaying the scope (e.g., tasks and milestones) on the y-axis, against the schedule, or time, on the x-axis.
Tasks are illustrated as horizontal bars. Their position and length reflect the start date, duration and end date. Dependent tasks are connected using a physical link, e.g., the arrows in the screenshot below, and concurrent tasks are stacked according to their start dates.
A Gantt chart in Mavenlink
Gantt chart software is used to create digital Gantt charts, automating and saving time on various actions, including:
The ability to cascade changes across subsequent tasks is a benefit that cannot be overstated. If Task A is late by one day, the start dates and due dates for each task following it will update accordingly. Managers receive an alert so they can schedule notifications to let team members know how the delay will impact their activities. They'll also have the option to notify stakeholders if corrective action is required.
Gantt charts act as visual aids that communicate project status at a glance. Information is centralized, which keeps stakeholders on the same page at every stage of the project life cycle, from planning to closeout.
Often, when Gantt charts are included as an application within a larger platform, teams can choose from "multiple views," meaning they can view tasks in a calendar view, list format or in a Gantt chart. If your stakeholders have different preferences for how they want to receive updates, you should consider this type of solution.
Best-of-breed tools are often more specialized than integrated suites. If you have industry-specific needs, or require custom fields and templates, a stand-alone system is more suitable.
Look for the following capabilities as you evaluate Gantt chart tools:
|Task management||Identify project requirements, break requirements down into deliverables and individual tasks (e.g., work breakdown structure). Assign start and due dates, assign priority and cost, add task notes and assign tasks to users.
Drag-and-drop: Set start and end dates by manipulating the bar length on the calendar. Reorder tasks by dragging-and-dropping them along the timeline.
Critical path: Identify the critical path by highlighting the longest sequence of tasks that determine the minimum amount of time needed to complete a project.
|Resource management||See each team member's availability and workload. Assign users to tasks based on availability and skill set (recorded and saved in a skills database), or use a placeholder resource until a user with that skill becomes available.|
|Project planning||Form the project initiative; create the work breakdown structure; set baselines for scope, budget and timeline; develop the risk management plan; and develop a communication strategy for stakeholders. Some tools may include project templates you can choose from, or you can create and save your own.
Read more: "Project Planning Checklist: 5 Steps Every Plan Should Follow"
|Project tracking||See project status at a glance. The Gantt chart acts as a live dashboard showing a bird's-eye view of project progress. Reports will vary, but can include baselines (comparing actuals to the original plan), resource forecasting, time tracking and risk reports.
Color-coding: Use colors to represent task attributes such as status (e.g., all overdue tasks are red), or to indicate who the task is assigned to (e.g., all Bob's tasks are purple).
Task-shading: Use shading to represent percent complete, e.g., a task that's 25 percent complete would be one-quarter shaded.
|Document management||Upload files to tasks, share with other users and store in a centralized, searchable repository. Ask vendors about storage limits within product tiers, archive or delete tasks and documents and integrate with new or existing content management systems.|
While there are many benefits to using Gantt chart software, small and midsize businesses considering these tools for the first time should also be aware of potential challenges.
Our service is simple and 100% free to customers like you because software vendors pay us when we connect them with quality leads. You save time and get great advice. Vendors get great referrals. It's a win for everyone!