The following post is an excerpt from our "Guide to Project Planning" download it now for more info on how to build a great project plan.
Before you start building your gantt chart, you should have sketched your project plan and confirmed the most important process details.
If you have done this, building the chart is a lot easier because you did all of the hard work when you sketched your plan and thought through all of the details of the project.
While this work is easy, there are some things you should do to make your plan readable. Here are 8 best practices you need to know when building your gantt chart to ensure that it will be as useful as possible:
1. Enter tasks in groups
Creating Groups of Tasks will make your plan easier to read, and it will allow your readers to see what tasks are part of a deliverable, or a phase.
2. Get granular with tasks
The more detail you can spell out when it comes to tasks, the better you will be able to track progress and steps leading up to a deliverable. Refer back to your Work Breakdown Structure and list the steps you used to create that.
3. Identify responsible parties (company, people)
Identifying what company is responsible for each task will help your readers to easily seek out their tasks. When creating a task, you can easily put the company name (or an acronym) in front of the task. You’ll also want to take that a step further and assign a responsible person for each task. This will help you with resource planning and accountability. In the following example PT = Product Team and GM = Gantt Museum
4. Be sure to display start and end dates for each task
Seems like a silly tip, but it’s easy to hide this info in some apps! If you’re using TeamGantt, you’ll see the dates in the gantt view. Regardless of what tool you’re using, you want to make it clear not only when a task ends, but when it starts. Again, this will help to keep your team and clients accountable.
5. Account for time off and holidays
Now is your chance to block time off in your plan. This is important now, because as soon as your timeline shifts (you know it will, don’t fight it), you’ll open yourself up to making an error and dropping a deadline on a date that should be blocked. If you note them in your plan, that won’t happen.
6. Note dependencies
If you’re not going to move forward on the project without an approval, or one task must be done before another, now is your chance to note it. Not every planning tool offers dependency functionality, and it can be a huge help. As your plan shifts, the flow of the work will stay in tact.
7. Use the notes field to capture details
Sometimes our team and clients forget what they committed to, or maybe they don’t fully understand the intent of a task or group. Use the notes section of your plan (most good gantt software should provide this) to spell things out.
8. Check team availability
If you’re lucky enough to use a product that shows you overall team availability, you better use it! Knowing how your team is booked and what projects they are a part of will play a huge role in how on time your project will be. Having an overall view of their time available and conflicting work will help you to adjust your plan to either meet the needs of existing project work or shift the milestones you’ve put in your plan.
Creating a project plan is just like writing an article, creating a design, or building a bike. You want to be sure you get it right before it’s read, viewed, or used.
If you deliver a plan that has a mistake, misinterprets a task, or even misses a date, you’ll end up looking bad. People lose faith in project managers easily, so you must be diligent about the quality of your work. Grab a teammate and ask them to review the plan before you post it for review.
Of course, you’ll also want to be ready to get some feedback on your plan. Formalizing a plan means that you’re taking a set of ideas and expanding on them. That also means that you might interpret something differently than a teammate. That’s okay! If you set up your plan using the guidelines in this post, you’ll have an easy time of managing and updating.