5 Elements of a Good Gantt Chart

The Gantt chart is a powerful project planning and management tool. It helps you visualize your task progress over time, and can also be used as a way to report the overall progress of your project.
But it also confuses the heck out of some people.
All those tiny horizontal bars cascading down off into the horizon look pretty, but they get in the way of the spreadsheet columns. And then there are words like “baseline” and “critical path” that are useless to anyone who just wants to simply manage their tasks and team.
You might think that Gantt charts are only for experts, right?
Wrong! When you know the basics of a Gantt chart, you can save a lot of time and money managing and planning your projects.
And they’re really quite easy to use, now that they’re online. In fact, with an online Gantt, you simply add your tasks, and the Gantt magically appears to represent the rows of tasks and the deadlines you set.
The result is a visual of each task’s duration, which is really handy for getting clear on how long your project will actually take. But not all Gantt’s are alike.
Here are the 5 elements of a good Gantt chart:
1. Drag & Drop
As you fill out your tasks in the spreadsheet, you’ll see your Gantt populating to represent how long that task will take to complete. But it’s really handy if you want to change the date of the task delivery right on the Gantt.


Find a tool where you can just drag & drop the task bar to extend or shorten its date, and then have that data populate magically on your spreadsheet. It saves time and sanity.
2. Milestones
When you’re planning your project, it’s helpful to think of several key milestones to define either key project phases or just key dates in the life of the project, like the start of quality testing, for example. In some Gantt chart tools, a milestone can be represented as a little diamond over a key task.
This little diamond is your friend. It can help you see at-a-glance when key parts of your project are coming up. You might even want to plan meetings around those milestones. Just a suggestion.
3. Color-Coding
You can use colors to represent any number of things: the person the task is assigned to, different project phases like planning or QA, client-focused tasks, or anything else you can think of.
Look for a tool that allows you to set the colors as you see fit. It can actually be… fun!
4. Task Dependencies
Some tasks are dependent on others and can’t be started until one is complete. When that first task is running behind schedule, however, it’s vital to be able to accommodate changes to the downstream and dependent tasks to make sure they don’t start ahead of time. You can link tasks together in some online Gantt charts to help manage tasks when they become complex. It’s really simple to do.
5. Collaborative
This is probably the most important element of a good Gantt chart. Rather than have the project spreadsheet or Gantt on someone’s desktop (where no one can see it) look for an online Gantt that the whole team can participate in.
And they don’t actually need to know how to use the Gantt chart!
Amazingly, your team can simply update tasks in their simple task list, by adding photos, videos, notes or documents, and those are automatically added to the Gantt as an attachment on the task itself! In this way, the whole team is connected to the Gantt and your project is updated by the whole team.

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