Advanced Uses of the Modern Gantt Chart

Chapters

As I said in the summary of this guide:

“There simply isn’t a more visual way to get the full picture of a project than with a gantt Chart. To-do lists, card systems, and spreadsheets can all be used to varying degrees of success, but none of them give you the complete picture of your project like a gantt chart can.”

The ability to get a high level, bird’s eye view of your entire project from start to finish is invaluable. You can immediately see when a task or group of tasks starts to run behind, glean some information as to _why_ it may be happening, and make changes to fix the problem and adjust for the change in timeline from one single screen. Changes to the plan are updated in real-time to everyone in the project so they can make the appropriate adjustments “on the ground”.

Progress Updates (percent complete)

Checking things off a list is a pretty satisfying thing to do. What’s even more satisfying is updating the percent complete of a big task and watching the taskbar fill in until its completion. Seeing the status of your teammates and coworkers tasks can be a healthy motivating force, too. When you know the up-to-the-minute status of other tasks, especially those tasks that may rely on your tasks, keeps everyone moving in the right direction.

Baselines

Remember how I said that no matter how much planning you do, it’s likely that something will come up that requires you to move your timeline? It’s handy to know how much you’ve had to move things over the course of a project. Enter: Baselines.

What is a baseline?

A baseline is a “snapshot” of your project in time. When you create a baseline set, you’re grabbing a picture of your whole project so you have something to compare to when things inevitably shift for one reason or another.

 

Baselines are extremely important because they give you the “real” picture of shifts that have occurred. It’s easy to think that things are _’looking pretty good.’_ when in reality you’re three weeks behind and $10,000 over budget. Things can creep slowly and without a set of baselines to compare to, it can be easy to get behind and not even fully realize it.

Using multiple baseline sets

A single baseline is great, but a single point doesn’t show trends. Stringing multiple baseline sets together will give you a _much_ clearer picture of when and why your project slipped. Was it due to consistently dragging manufacturing estimates? Or was it that the client was consistently slow in approving designs and signing contracts? Baselines can tell you exactly what you need to know so you can improve your estimating practices.

Baselines aren’t just for showing you the negatives of your project. They’re equally useful for seeing where things have gone _better_ than expected. Just like you have to shift things around when tasks are delayed, you may have to make adjustments when things run _ahead_ of schedule.

As you get better at tracking your projects slippage, you’ll get better at making realistic estimates on timelines. Once you’ve mastered that skill, you’ll have customers lining up because they know that when you plan a project, they have a timeline they can count on.

Using Subgroups

Just having a single list of tasks in your gantt chart works fine if you only have a few tasks in your project. As your projects grow in both length and scope, a single flat list will be difficult to navigate.

Subgroups allow you to categorize and organize all of the tasks in your project to help keep things neat and orderly. This allows you to have _much_ bigger projects and keep them manageable since you can collapse groups that you don’t need to look at at the moment and focus only on what’s important right now. And subgroups can be nested as well. Have as many as you’d like.

Viewing Multiple Projects

Many PM’s out there will be managing more than one project at a time. If you haven’t had to do that yet, don’t worry, you will at some point. Don’t freak out though. It’s not as bad as it may seem on the surface. Especially since TeamGantt allows you to open multiple projects in one single view.

As a matter of fact, TeamGantt allows you to open as many projects as you’d like at any one time. They’ll be separated in the gantt view so you’ll know, easily which project you’re looking at.

Time Tracking

Being able to estimate how long a task should take is something any Gantt chart can display. Without knowing how long the task actually took, though, it’s much less valuable. Sure, workers could throw another estimate out about how long they worked on a task, but that’s fraught with potential inaccuracy concerns. What if there were a way for team members to not only see what tasks they have to work on for the day, but also be able to start a timer that tracks how long they’ve been working on that task? That’s solid data.

It’s that easy, too. In TeamGantt, your team members will see a _Track Time_ button on each of their assigned tasks for the day. They can simply pick the task they’re going to start working on and start tracking. When they’re done, they click _Stop Timer_ and move on to the next task, activating the time when they’re ready to begin.

As they track their time, the tasks in the gantt view will display an indicator to let you see how those tasks are doing in relation to their estimate.

Comparing actual vs. estimated

If you’re using hourly estimation, (you are using hourly estimation, right?) you now have data to compare your actual tracked time against how long you thought it should’ve taken. This isn’t just good data to see how a particular task or project performed against an estimate, though that is the maybe the most obvious, it’s also an amazing tool for learning how to estimate better for future projects.

Wrap up

I hope this document has helped you understand gantt charts a little better, and see why many project managers still, and will continue to use them to manage their projects every day.

Additional resources

TeamGantt offers multiple other _free_ resources that you can download and use to help you on your project management journey. Everything from basic leadership and productivity information on our YouTube channel to guides to project management and project planning from highly experienced PM’s.