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Unlock the Power of Gantt Charts: A Guide for Project Managers

Gantt charts are a powerful tool for project managers, enabling them to visualize and track progress on complex projects. But where did the Gantt chart come from? Henry Gantt developed this method of tracking tasks over 100 years ago, but today’s project managers use it in much more sophisticated ways. Tracing the development of Gantt charts from Henry Gantt to modern-day project managers, we’ll discuss the various software options available and best practices for achieving maximum benefit. Plus, we’ll provide some best practices to ensure you get maximum value out of using a Gantt chart.

Table of Contents:

What is a Gantt Chart?

A Gantt chart is a type of bar chart used to plan and track projects. Henry Gantt’s invention in the early 1900s of the bar chart used for project planning and tracking has since become a widely-used tool for managing projects. A Gantt chart visualizes tasks over time, showing start and end dates for each task as well as their relationships with other tasks. This makes it easier to manage complex projects with multiple dependencies.

The primary benefit of using a Gantt chart is that it allows project managers to quickly identify which tasks need to be completed first, when resources are needed, and how much progress has been made on the project overall. Gantt charts offer an efficient way to manage a project’s workflow, enabling teams to keep track of what needs doing and when.

Early Gantt Chart
One of Gantt’s early charts, as featured in his book Organizing for Work.

Today, project managers have several options when it comes to Gantt charts: basic or simple diagrams showing only start/end dates; detailed models featuring resource allocations; milestone layouts that emphasize key events and deliverables; critical path schematics exhibiting task dependencies; and interactive visuals enabling users to manipulate data points directly. With the right tool in hand, you can achieve a bird’s-eye view of your project timeline, bringing clarity into complex tasks with multiple relationships.

No matter the kind you employ, comprehending how to make the most of this effective instrument can aid in getting more out of your endeavors and ultimately leading to better results.

The Gantt Chart is a powerful tool that can help project managers and PMOs stay organized, on track, and in control of their projects. Tracing its origin, let us investigate who created the Gantt Chart and how it has altered with time.

History of the Gantt Chart

The Gantt chart was first developed by Henry Laurence Gantt in the early 1900s. He created this visual project management tool to help with scheduling tasks and tracking progress. Over the years, Gantt’s chart has become a widely utilized project management technique.

Who Invented the Gantt Chart? Henry Laurence Gantt, a mechanical engineer and management consultant of American origin, is credited with the creation of the “Gantt chart” between 1910-1915. This came about during his involvement in shipbuilding projects related to World War I. The original charts were drawn manually using pencils or pens on graph paper, but they have since been automated through project planning software.

Evolution of the Gantt Chart:

Since its invention, there have been many changes to how a Gantt chart is used for project planning and tracking progress. The tool really took off when planning software become widely available.  Today’s version includes more advanced features such as color coding, dependencies between tasks, resource allocation tracking, milestone markers, task notes, etc., which make them much easier to read and understand than their predecessors from decades ago. Additionally, new software solutions like online tools and apps have made creating these charts even simpler than before.

It is no surprise why the Gantt chart remains popular today; when done correctly, with attention to detail, a well-crafted Gantt chart can provide tremendous insight into any given project timeline – something that cannot be achieved with traditional linear models alone. This makes it an invaluable asset for any PMO looking to maximize efficiency and communicate timelines effectively within their organization’s portfolio.

The history of the Gantt Chart has been an integral part of project management since its invention in 1910. Moving on, let’s explore how project managers use Gantt Charts to plan, schedule and track their projects today.

Key Takeaway: Henry Laurence Gantt developed the Gantt chart in the early 1900s to help with scheduling and tracking progress; since then, it has become one of the most popular project management tools. Today’s version includes more advanced features such as color coding and resource allocation tracking that make them easier to read than their predecessors, making them an invaluable asset for any PMO looking to maximize efficiency and communicate timelines within their portfolio.

How Project Managers Use Gantt Charts

Project managers use Gantt charts to plan, schedule and track progress on projects. A Gantt chart is a type of bar graph that visually illustrates the start and finish dates of tasks within a project. It can be used to identify any potential issues with task scheduling or resource availability.

example of a Gantt chart created using
An example of using a Gantt chart to visualize dates and dependencies on a strategic roadmap (created using

Planning Projects with a Gantt Chart:

When planning a project, the first step is to break it down into individual tasks and assign them start and end dates. This information is then plotted onto the chart in order to create an overall timeline for the entire project. Project managers can utilize the Gantt chart to gain insight into how long each task requires, what tasks must be finished before others can begin, and any resource or timeline issues that may arise. Additionally, they can also see where there may be gaps in resources or conflicts between different tasks’ timelines.

Scheduling Tasks with a Gantt Chart:

Once all of the individual tasks have been identified and assigned their own timelines, it’s time for project managers to determine which ones should come first by creating dependencies between them – i.e., one task must be completed before another one can begin (or vice versa). This information is then added onto the chart so that everyone involved in the project knows exactly when each task needs to get done in order for it all run smoothly according its timeline goals.

Gantt Charts are an essential tool for project managers to plan, schedule and track their projects. Software options abound, making it effortless to discover a program that suits one’s needs. Next we’ll explore some examples of software used to produce Gantt Charts.

Key Takeaway: Project managers use Gantt charts to plan, schedule and track progress on projects. By plotting individual tasks onto the chart with their start and end dates, project managers are able to create an overall timeline for the entire project that takes into account any potential resource conflicts or scheduling issues. Furthermore, dependencies between different tasks can be identified so everyone involved knows exactly when each task needs to get done in order for it all run according its timeline goals.

Examples of Software for Producing Gantt Charts

When it comes to producing Gantt charts, there are a variety of software solutions available. Microsoft Project and Excel are two of the most popular choices. Microsoft Project, a project management program offering task scheduling, resource assignment and progress tracking capacities, provides an integrated Gantt chart utility that makes crafting professional visuals for projects easy. It also has an integrated Gantt chart tool which allows users to easily create professional-looking visuals for their projects.

Although it is not a planning tool, project people often use Excel to create Gantt charts. This is not because it has the same advanced planning features as other programs (it doesn’t!). This is because of Excel’s ubiquitous nature, and due to the fact that sharing Gantt charts created in Excel with project teams do not usually require additional licensing costs.

For those seeking open-source solutions, there are a number of available options, such as OpenProject and LibrePlan, which offer comprehensive project management features. OpenProject is one example; this free platform offers a wide range of project management tools, including a powerful Gantt chart editor with built-in collaboration capabilities. Similarly, LibrePlan provides both basic and advanced features, including support for multiple languages and integration with external systems like JIRA or GitHub.

PPM tools, such as Keto are used by organizations to manage programs and portfolios. They usually have built-in Gantt chart functionality. Keeping everything in one place has advantages for communication, and for linking different elements of project management together – for example linking tasks to cost-centres or org charts.

Image of a KetoSoftware Gantt chart


By using the right software, Gantt Charts can be easily produced and managed. Best practices for utilizing a Gantt Chart are essential to ensure successful project delivery; let’s take a look at some of them now.

Key Takeaway: There are various software solutions available for producing Gantt charts, such as Microsoft Project and Excel; open source options like OpenProject and LibrePlan also exist. PPM tools such as Keto, usually have Gantt functionality built in. For those looking to create a Gantt chart quickly, these programs provide an easy-to-use interface with features ranging from basic task scheduling to advanced collaboration capabilities.

Best Practices for Using a Gantt Chart

Gantt charts get considerable attention in projects because they are seen as the single point of truth for what is expected to happen when, and in what order. But they are only one small part of project management. Whilst it may be tempting to dive straight into building your Gantt chart, it is important to invest time upfront working with stakeholders to build a business case for the project and to create a clear Project Initiation Document (PID) or Project Charter. It is also important to invest time in shaping the project team and helping them understand the key objectives and deliverables. Finally, it is important to consider how you will manage project risk and communication throughout the life of the project.

Let’s assume you know that already, that you are already in the planning phase of your project. Let’s look at some best practices for creating your Gantt chart.

  1. Be clear on what you want to use your Gantt chart for. Implementations range from sketching some lines on a whiteboard to complex software models. Planning tools can include a bewildering amount of complexity that may be useful on major infrastructure projects, but are overkill for smaller projects that do not have the luxury of dedicated scheduling teams! Linking resource allocation and resource modeling to a Gantt, can be helpful. Still, it exponentially increases the complexity of the chart, and will increase the time required to maintain the plan over the project’s life. The path of project management is littered with discarded plans! Our advice is to start simple. Map high-level tasks, milestones, and dependencies to start with, and only add more granular detail if you are certain it will help you manage the project.
  2. If the primary goal of your Gantt is to communicate the plan, then you need to think about how it helps you tell a story. If you are sharing with senior stakeholders, they may only need to see a high-level stylized view of the plan. If however, you are using the chart to explain the impact of a change, or the complexity of dependencies between teams, then you will need to be able to focus on those specific areas of detail. Employ ruthless minimalism so that your narrative is clear, and keep superfluous information to a minimum.
  3. Don’t forget the holidays! When setting up your work schedule it is often useful to map out non-working times in advance. Planning software will only factor in national holidays, seasonal breaks and planned office closures if they are keyed in. Failure to account for these has led to many nasty surprises as launch dates suddenly slip by two weeks because everyone forgot to account for Christmas leave patterns and change freezes!.
  4. Consider how the plan will be maintained. Some project teams keep the Gantt strictly controlled, with only one or two key people making changes. Others see maintaining the plan as a collaborative exercise with individuals updating progress as they go. Neither approach is right nor wrong, but both come with risks. Rely on an individual, and plans can quickly become detached from reality. But when everyone is updating plans, dependencies can accidentally be broken, and dates can move wildly, leaving project managers feeling out of control. Think about the right balance for your project, and be prepared to adjust as you go.
  5. Create baselines. Baselines are important to help you see how your plan has evolved over time. Most planning software includes the ability to baseline plans, allowing you to compare old and new versions side-by-side. This can be useful for modeling upcoming change, and also for explaining slippage to stakeholders.
  6. Updating your schedule regularly should also be part of any successful Gantt chart-based project management strategy. As changes to the scope or timeline of a task arise, it is essential that these are reflected in the Gantt chart so everyone has access to up-to-date information and can remain on track with no unexpected delays. This helps keep everyone on track and ensures that no unexpected delays occur due to lack of communication between team members or stakeholders. A Gantt chart offering real-time insight into progress can help managers and PMOs detect potential issues promptly, thereby avoiding possible delays that could result in costly setbacks.

FAQs in Relation to Gantt Chart

What is a Gantt chart articles?

A Gantt chart can be used as an effective tool in planning, scheduling, coordinating, tracking progress and managing changes throughout the life cycle of a project. It also shows how these tasks are related to one another, allowing for better management of resources and timeframes.

What is the importance of a Gantt chart?

A Gantt diagram serves as a vital aid to project administrators, displaying an illustrated timeline of the connected tasks and timeframes of any given venture. It allows them to easily track progress, identify potential issues or delays, and plan ahead accordingly. Additionally, they can be used to assign resources effectively and manage dependencies between different tasks. In short, Gantt charts are invaluable in helping ensure projects run smoothly from start to finish.

What are the 3 main benefits of using a Gantt chart?

1. Gantt charts provide a clear visual representation of project timelines, allowing for easy tracking and monitoring of progress.

2. They allow team members to easily identify potential areas where tasks may overlap or be delayed, enabling proactive problem solving before issues arise.

3. With the ability to assign resources and set dependencies between tasks, Gantt charts can help optimize resource utilization while ensuring that projects stay on track with their deadlines.


The Gantt chart is a powerful tool for project managers to use when planning and managing projects. It can help you visualize the timeline of your project, track progress, identify any potential risks or delays, and optimize resources. With the right software in place and best practices followed, it’s easy to get started with using a Gantt chart as part of your Project Management planning process.

Discover how HotPMO can help you accelerate your project delivery and maximize the value of your project portfolio with our comprehensive Gantt Chart solutions. Leverage our expertise to gain an edge in today’s competitive market.

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