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gantt-charts-basics

Creating and using Gantt Charts

Lena WimmerLena Wimmer 10 min read

Apart from a suitable project management method, the right tools are crucial for the success of projects. Deciding on one method and one or two tools can't be that difficult. Well, one should at least think so.

Unfortunately, it often sounds easier than it actually is, especially when it comes to tools for task management. There are a few options: boards, lists, structure trees, timelines. But what tools do you actually need for your project? To shed some light on the subject, let's take a closer look at a very popular tool today: the Gantt Chart.

Note: The Gantt Chart is only one of the most popular project views. Its main focus is on the correct scheduling of processes within a project. To map workflows correctly, methods such as Scrum oder Kanban are suitable, which can be mapped with the help of a task board. In our blog, we also explain different use cases for the Kanban Board.

What is a Gantt Chart?

A Gantt Chart is a bar chart, which is very often used in project management to graphically represent a project plan – with all activities and events in their chronological course. This also includes all deadlines and dependencies to other tasks.

The Gantt Chart was developed as early as 1912 by Henry L. Gantt, an American engineer. A clever man with clear visions, as it turned out. The planning of immense construction projects, for example, was illustrated with the help of Gantt Charts. Want an example? The Hoover Dam! An instrument that was used in the construction of a dam of this size is certainly helpful in other projects as well…

What does a Gantt Chart show?

… indeed: Gantt Charts are suitable for the illustration of various projects and their progress. With the help of the chart, the total duration of a project can be determined and team members can get a clear overview of the current status at any time.

Stackfield Timelines Gantt Chart

Basically, everything as Gantt revolves around axes: the vertical axis represents the activities/tasks/project steps, while the horizontal axis describes the chronological sequence. The correlation of the two parameters is now entered into this system in the form of bars. Depending on the duration of the activities, a different bar length can be observed.

. In addition to this classification, modern Gantt diagrams usually also contain a function to show the dependencies between individual project steps, responsibilities and milestones.

So can bar ranges also overlap? Of course, because tasks are often processed simultaneously.

Now, what can I see from looking at a Gantt Chart?

  • the expected project duration: start and end
  • task/process duration: start and end of individual tasks/project steps
  • responsibilities of individual tasks
  • task description (title)
  • dependencies of individual tasks/ project steps

What does a Gantt Chart consist of?

Depending on the project type or the software used, the terms may differ.

  • task list: is located on the vertical axis on the left side of the chart and lists all activities that are necessary to execute the project
  • timeline: runs horizontally at the top of the diagram and represents a certain time span of the project
  • dateline: runs vertically and displays the current date or time during the course of the project
  • task bars: run horizontally within the diagram and represent the tasks, their duration and deadlines
  • milestones: accentuated elements representing important events and their deadlines (usually represented as a diamond)
  • dependencies: linear linking elements between the tasks/process steps that define a fixed sequence

What are Gantt Charts used for? Use cases and advantages

Gantt Charts are used in almost all industries and business areas, where the scheduling of individual tasks often depends on the completion of other tasks. Here are some examples of use:

  • for complex projects for product launches (e.g. software development)
  • in event planning
  • to carry out PR/advertising or recruitment campaigns
  • and as already mentioned for construction projects

Those who use a Gantt Chart want to benefit from certain advantages in the planning process. The Gantt Chart definitely supports you ...

  • to keep an eye on the progress of projects,
  • to identify potential bottlenecks,
  • to improve the schedule of the project,
  • to optimize the entire process structure,
  • to predict delays and
  • to keep all project participants on track.

What is the difference between the Gantt Chart and the calendar?

At this point we would like to make it clear that a Gantt Chart is not a calendar view, since there is always some confusion. Both views focus on the time-related context, but the Gantt Chart deals very centrally with the connection between the individual work steps. While the calendar only provides individual weekly or monthly views for a better overview of daily tasks, the Gantt Chart gives the user a clear overview of how changes would affect other tasks and the overall progress of the project.

The following table illustrates the differences and gives hints in which cases the calendar or Gantt Chart is more suitable:

Process criteria Gantt Chart Calendar
Time limits It is a project by general definition, i.e. with start and end dates. The project is not explicitly limited in time, i. e. it is continuous.
Monitoring The aim is to complete the overall project on schedule. The project progress should therefore be monitored. The aim is to keep an overview of upcoming to-do's. Therefore, only an overview of all currently pending tasks should be displayed.
Task processes The project consists of a number of tasks, which often depend on other tasks and therefore have to be completed in a predetermined order. Deviations in the processing of one task would inevitably affect a number of other tasks. Tasks related to the project are usually independent of the completion of other tasks. Deviations in the completion of one task would not affect other tasks or deadlines.
Target group The view should serve as a tool for all stakeholders of the project to inform the respective groups of people about the current status. The view is designed to give the team an instant overview of what tasks are currently in the pipeline.

Of course, in certain situations both views can be helpful. However, it is important to remember that the views have different purposes.

What should you pay attention to when creating a Gantt Chart?

If you want to support your project management with Gantt Charts, you should pay attention to a few things. As mentioned, the view is suitable for optimizing and continuously monitoring the time component of project management. This of course requires some preparation, which is why project planning before starting the project execution is especially important:

Requirements should be clearly defined and prioritized in advance. This is the only way to ensure that the timeline later shows an accurate outline of the project.

The first step in creating a Gantt Chart is always to create a project plan. This is an exact list of all tasks/process steps, with priorities, dependencies, duration and deadlines.

How does a Gantt Chart Software help?

The times when the project management process was supported by sticky notes are over. Today, a large part of the process is digital. Some project management software, including Stackfield, offers their own Gantt Chart views. But what advantages does a Gantt software offer, for example in comparison to a traditional creation in Excel?

Location and time independent access to the Gantt Chart

The probably most obvious advantage of a Gantt software is especially shown with regard to the changing world of work. What we are currently experiencing is that distributed teams are becoming more and more standard, that home offices are becoming more and more popular in companies and that, due to globalization, even collaboration between managers in different time zones is no longer unusual.

If a cloud solution is used, managers can access the Gantt Chart at any time, no matter where they are. This makes work in (globally) distributed teams much easier and enables an effortless switch to the home office.

Stackfield is a German provider with a special focus on data protection and thus absolutely GDPR compliant.

The software links Gantt Charts with the task management in the team

The Gantt Chart does not stand alone in Stackfield - it is linked to other tools within the platform. For everyday work, this means that all updates within the team's task management are also directly visible on the Gantt chart. If there are changes and delays in processing, the Gantt chart does not have to be updated separately. The software automatically takes over this part for you and keeps the progress and effects of changes visible for everyone.

The Gantt Chart keeps everything centrally available

Since the Gantt Chart is composed of the task cards, which in Stackfield contain all key data, files and documents, the corresponding information is also directly available via the Gantt Chart. Stackfield thus prevents the team members from having to switch between the different views too often.

Gantt Software: How to create a Gantt Chart with Stackfield

Note: Note: To create a Gantt Chart in Stackfield, the corresponding Timelines module must be activated in the respective room. You will find this option under the tab "Modules" in the room settings, which can be opened by clicking on the room name.

A detailed project plan is essential for the creation of a Gantt Chart. Create a catalogue of requirements and think carefully about which tasks need to be done during the project. Be aware that three important components of the project - the scope, the resources and the time factor - are correlated. As soon as one of the components changes, the other two will inevitably be affected.

Create a detailed list of tasks and prioritize

In the first step you should create a list of all tasks as precise as possible. A division into larger process sections can be useful here. Think about what is necessary to complete each process and then formulate this in the form of tasks.

You can create tasks in Stackfield directly in the Timelines module or via the Communication, Calendar or Task modules. The Board View in the Tasks module is a great way for you to get an overview of the overall workload: You can first add all tasks to the To Do status column and then simply drag and drop them in order to prioritize them as accurately as possible. This helps you to date the tasks. Labels can also be helpful if you use them to divide the tasks into broad project sections.

Prioritizing tasks for Gantt

Determine the task duration and date

As soon as the order is determined you can start setting due dates for the tasks. You should first think about the duration of the individual tasks in detail and also take buffer times into account.

Stackfield allows you to set due dates and time ranges directly via the task cards. A more convenient option may be found in the Timelines module. Here, you can view tasks without a due date (unplanned tasks) by clicking on the calendar icon in the upper part of the view and add them to the Gantt Chart with a single click. Once you have added the task to the Gantt Chart, you can adjust its duration and move it to the right time by simply using drag & drop.

Setting dates in the timelines

Set milestones

Important intermediate dates - or goals - can be included as milestones in most Gantt Charts. These are usually visualized in the view with a diamond symbol.

Click on the plus symbol in the Timelines module and select "Add Milestone" to add a milestone to your Gantt Chart in Stackfield.

Set a milestone

Alternatively, you can convert existing tasks into milestones. You can do this by using the more button (icon: three dots) in the opened task card - select "Mark as milestone".

Set task as milestone

Create dependencies

Finally, we come to the central part that makes the Gantt Chart a Gantt Chart: the task dependencies. In order to visualize the project plan optimally, all interrelationships between the tasks should be considered. Thus, if tasks depend on the completion of other tasks, it is important to establish a dependency relationship between them.

Dependencies can also be created in Stackfield's Timelines module simply by dragging and dropping. Move the dependency from the predecessor task to the successor task.

To better understand the dependency relationship: The dependent task is always the task to which the dependency arrow points. The task from which the arrow points must therefore be completed first.

Creating dependencies via drag & drop within the Timeline

Alternatively, you can open the corresponding task cards and enter the dependency manually using the more button (symbol: three dots). To do so, click on "Add dependency" and select the corresponding task via the search mask.

To better understand the dependency relationship: The opened task then depends on the task selected via the search mask.

Creating dependencies via

In Stackfield you can also create multiple dependencies from and to the same task, i.e. when multiple tasks depend on the completion of a task or when a task depends on multiple predecessor tasks.

Keep an eye on progress

With the completed Gantt Chart you will receive the total project duration.

You can display the project in a weekly, monthly or yearly view.

Change the period that is shown in the Gantt view

Various filter options help you to individualize the Gantt view. The task list, which displays the task names, start and end dates and the task duration, can be restricted and extended as desired.

Gantt filter

Furthermore, tasks can be grouped by status and sorted according to the various criteria of the task list.

Group and sort the tasks in the Gantt view

Finally, the entire view can be narrowed down in terms of the time period (year selection), various status options and responsible members.

Narrow down the Gantt view

The Gantt Chart is one of the most useful tools for tracking the progress of a project. If you take your time when creating the chart and if you do some important preparatory work in the form of a project plan, you can definitely benefit during implementation.

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Lena Wimmer
About the Author:
Lena Wimmer is Product Marketing Manager at Stackfield. She is passionate about American literary history, great content and cinematography.
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