Business Tech

3 steps to make effective Gantt charts online

You may have heard of Gantt charts, but if you’ve never used a Gantt chart to plan a project, it can feel like you’re navigating uncharted waters. You might be surprised to find out that people across several industries have been using Gantt charts for more than 100 years to manage everything from small projects to massive undertakings.  

Back in 1910, famed engineer and management consultant Henry Gantt first developed the concept. It played a key role in the construction of the Hoover Dam. While your project management needs are likely a tad less monumental, the Gantt chart is a great tool for helping take your project from Point A to Point B, as seamlessly as possible.  

What is a Gantt chart?   

What is a Gantt chart exactly? It’s simply a bar chart that provides a visual representation of a project from start to finish. The modern-day Gantt chart is easier than ever to create.

Here are some tips for building effective Gantt charts:

 1. Define and plan your project

Before you decide to use a Gantt chart for your project, make sure it actually is a project. A project is defined as having a beginning and an end. It is not an ongoing task.

Once that’s out of the way, it’s time to jot down some notes and create a high-level roadmap. It should be a simple overview of the steps needed to nail down the project and the people involved.

Here’s a very basic look at what a Gantt chart will include: 

  • Your project name 
  • Start date 
  • Tasks in chronological order (and how long each will take) 
  • Who’s assigned to each task  
  • Project completion date

Unless you’re the only person working on the project, it’s a good idea to host a quick discovery meeting with your team. This ensures everyone is on board during the dates you have in mind before you get started.  

With multiple people involved, it’s also critical that you create a Gantt chart online. Why? While you could conjure up a Gantt chart in a spreadsheet and then save it, it’s a big file that’s not easily sharable. The pros of using an online Gantt chart maker include: 

  • Quickly sharing tasks and upcoming milestones with all project stakeholders 
  • Creating customizable views  
  • Making changes in real-time for instant version control 
  • Using drag-and-drop functionality  
  • Seeing the big picture with on-board tools like reporting capabilities (e.g. financials) 
  • Built-in Gantt chart templates that start you on the right path, so there’s no need to create project plans from scratch. 

2. Collaborate effectively  

With online collaboration comes better teamwork, which is key to a project’s success. A recent study found that one of the top causes of project failure is poor communication. Using a Gantt chart will help improve internal team communication, exchanging information with clients, and avoid scope creep.  

Here are some ways Gantt charts keep everyone on the same page: 

  • The entire team has real-time insight into tasks, dependencies (linked tasks) and resources, which can include people, materials, equipment and budget amounts. 
  • A panoramic view of issues and gaps provides better checks and balances on your project. 
  • Having visibility into progress can have a domino effect, allowing all team members to stay agile. 

3. Make impactful charts 

The same colors and visuals that give us cues in everyday life also play a role in a well-crafted Gantt chart. They communicate messages without being overbearing and inspire task holders to take the desired action.  

Here are some ways to use visuals to your advantage: 

  • Use semantically-resonate colors when possible because they help people process information faster. For example, use red to indicate urgent high-priority items, green to indicate get started or go ahead, yellow to indicate slow or behind schedule, and blue to indicate serene, or on task.  
  • Group together related tasks by color  
  • Use contrast for clarity, like white text instead of black text over darker backgrounds 
  • Use dynamic shapes and icons to boost engagement and provide guidance (e.g. flags, arrows, exclamation points, milestone markers) 
  • Experiment. One way to get comfortable with Gantt charts is to use them outside of work for small personal projects, like a bedroom makeover, a weight-loss goal or for party-planning purposes.  

By experimenting with different formats, colors and shapes, you’ll start to see potential for improvement.  

4. Share it online

As with any deliverable, make sure your Gantt chart is ready to go before you share internally or with clients. Charts wrought with typos, missed dates or incorrect resources can cause stakeholders to lose faith before your project even begins. Prior to presenting it during your discovery meeting, be sure to have an extra set of eyes review it.  

When you’re ready, share your Gantt chart online so all stakeholders will see one version in real-time. You’ll be updating it as information and feedback rolls in, and these adjustments will help you formalize your project plan as you move forward.  

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Microsoft 365 Team

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The Growth Center does not constitute professional tax or financial advice. You should contact your own tax or financial professional to discuss your situation.