Whether you’re a project management rookie or veteran, you’ve probably heard of a gantt chart. While a gantt chart might seem intimidating, they’re not as mystifying as you might think.
In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about a gantt chart—from its definition and parts to pros and cons and side-by-side comparisons to other alternatives. You’ll learn what a gantt chart is and how it works, plus why so many project teams use gantt charts in project management.
Watch this video for a quick breakdown of the basics.
A gantt chart is a horizontal bar chart used in project management to visually represent a project plan over time. Modern gantt charts typically show you the timeline and status—as well as who’s responsible—for each task in the project.
Here’s a quick look at the details a gantt chart enables you to capture at a glance:
In other words, a gantt chart is a super-simple way to communicate what it will take to deliver a project on time and budget. That means it’s a whole lot easier to keep your project team and stakeholders on the same page from the get-go.
Gantt charts may seem complicated at first. But once you learn the basics, you’ll be able to read and create a gantt chart easily and tell exactly where your projects are and what needs to happen to guide them to success.
Reading a gantt chart really comes down to understanding how the different elements come together to make a gantt chart work.
Let’s review some basic terminology so you understand the key parts of a gantt chart and how they function in a project plan:
Here’s a gantt chart with these components highlighted. This gantt chart highlights 8 features every gantt chart should include:
In project management, gantt charts are used for planning and scheduling projects. A gantt chart is incredibly useful because it allows you to simplify complex projects into an easy-to-follow plan and track the status of tasks as work progresses.
Gantt charts also help you keep track of project deadlines, milestones, and hours worked so you can spot and address delays or overages before they wreak havoc on your project.
The first project management chart was invented by Karol Adamiecki in 1896. So why isn’t it called an Adamiecki chart? Good question!
Here’s a quick history of gantt charts:
Gantt charts are useful in almost any industry. Here are just a few types of teams and companies that use gantt charts to plan, schedule, and execute their projects:
Want to see how gantt charts apply to different projects and industries? Check out these gantt chart examples.
So how do you know when to use a gantt chart to manage your project? We think a gantt chart’s handy for any project with a plan! But here are a few sure signs you’re going to need a gantt chart to get the job done.
If ANY of these are true about your project, use a gantt chart:
Project managers use a variety of tools—from gantt charts and kanban boards to spreadsheets and task lists—to keep up with project details, deadlines, and to-dos.
Here’s what separates gantt charts from the rest of the pack when it comes to time-sensitive or complex projects.
The comparison is clear: Spreadsheets, kanban boards, and tasks lists fall short when it comes to important project management tasks, like building a timeline, outlining dependencies, and managing workloads.
Without these 3 gantt chart features, you’ll have a tough time communicating the plan to your team, clients, and stakeholders and answering simple questions like:
The good news is, you can use a gantt chart without foregoing other alternatives. Your team may prefer kanban boards for managing daily tasks or using a spreadsheet to create a RACI chart, and that’s okay.
With TeamGantt, you’ve got choices. View and manage projects as a gantt chart, task list, calendar, or kanban board, and upload important spreadsheets to the project documents. No matter how you look at things, everything ties back to your plan.
Let’s take a closer look at how a gantt chart can help you manage projects better.
What’s to love about gantt charts? And what should you be aware of before diving in? Here’s a quick snapshot of the pros and cons so you can decide if a gantt chart is right for your projects.
A gantt chart is like a front-row seat to the project action. All the tiny details you never noticed from the nosebleed section suddenly come to life in full color right before your very eyes. It’s nearly impossible to miss a game-changing move!
Let’s explore some of the biggest gantt chart pros in project management.
A project plan is one thing. How it plays out is another. A gantt chart gives you a start-to-finish view of your entire project timeline so you can see how tasks are progressing in real time. That means you can provide up-to-the-minute status reports to managers and stakeholders in a flash.
Let’s face it: Things change. Lucky for you, modern gantt charts make it easy to shift tasks around without breaking your stride. With dependencies—a star feature of any gantt chart—you can keep tasks connected even when your timeline gives you the ol’ switcheroo.
Clear communication is a must-have in any project. Without it, you risk project delays and cost overruns. Web-based gantt charts, like TeamGantt, ensure no one’s left in the dark. That’s because all your project info and discussion threads live in one central hub that everyone can access, making team collaboration a breeze.
If you want to make smart business decisions, you’ve got to have a good grasp on your resources. With gantt charts, resource management is no longer a guessing game. You can see who’s got bandwidth to take on new tasks at a glance.
Some folks think gantt charts are too complicated to build, read, and update. While traditional desktop apps have their limitations, most of the cons people associate with gantt charts don’t apply to the online gantt chart software you’ll find today.
That’s because modern gantt charts ushered in a whole new era of project management. Now gantt charts offer clean and simple design with drag and drop scheduling so you can build and adjust project plans in an instant. And because everything happens online, it’s easy to share plans, collaborate on work, update tasks, and track progress in real time.
Let's look at how modern gantt charts compare to traditional desktop apps.
Gantt charts come in many forms—from good old-fashioned paper to desktop apps and even web-based software.
Bringing gantt charts online transforms them from a static document that quickly becomes obsolete to a living, collaborative representation of a project’s current state. Team members can update their progress in real time, and stakeholders can check in on project status without having to go through you. Plus, it's easy to stay in sync and push projects across the finish line more quickly.
See how TeamGantt’s modern gantt chart tool compares to 2 popular desktop apps:
A good modern gantt chart should be a part of a complete project management solution. Look for these advanced gantt chart software features to ensure your team and projects stay on track:
TeamGantt has all of this! Try it for free.
Now that you’ve got the gantt chart basics down, you’re ready to roll up your sleeves and create a gantt chart of your own! Keep reading to learn what you need to get started and how to build a gantt chart that makes your next project a breeze.
When you’re a project manager, every minute counts. So why waste time building out a bunch of complicated spreadsheets just to keep tabs on a project?
At TeamGantt, you don’t have to. Our free online gantt chart software enables you to stay focused on the tasks that move the needle. Whip up a project plan in minutes, and watch your team cross the finish line faster. It really is that simple.