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How to Use a Gantt Chart to Keep Your Projects on Track

By Kristen Frisa

Since construction projects are always on the clock, creating and maintaining a project schedule is one of the most crucial aspects of a job. It’s no easy gig, either. Each task within a construction project relies on the completion of some other job, and missed milestones could lead to expensive liquidated damages payouts. That’s why construction managers are always on the lookout for better ways to create and understand project schedules.

Many project managers rely on Gantt charts to simplify their schedules. Since the conception of the Gantt chart over a century ago, there have been many improvements in the way the Gantt chart is created, viewed, and updated. This continuous development has made the Gantt chart one of the most popular ways to manage project schedules.

What is a Gantt Chart?

A Gantt chart is a kind of project chart that plots tasks over time to provide a visual guide to a project. The horizontal axis represents time, while the vertical axis lists out the jobs to do. The bars show the start date, end date, and how long each task will take by their length and position on the chart. A Gantt chart is a straightforward way to display which tasks will overlap. A Gantt chart allows a scheduler to avoid conflicts and offers a quick glance into where a project stands at any given moment.

The History of the Gantt Chart

The Gantt chart comes by its name honestly-the scheduling tool was reworked and popularized by Henry Gantt in the early 1900s. Back then, creating a Gantt chart would have been very time-consuming, and updating it would have been just as bad. Written by hand, any change in the schedule would require recreating the chart, thus making the project chart of limited usefulness within the industry.

Now that computers and software can help create and change Gantt charts, they’ve become very convenient. They can illuminate many aspects of each task, including who’s doing it and how far along that task has come at any given moment. The Gantt chart is a living document, changing as the project progresses.

Who Uses Gantt Charts?

Managers on a construction team may refer to a Gantt chart to see what needs to be done on any given day, for instance, when supplies should be ordered, and analyze whether any changes are necessary. However, it’s created and most heavily used by the project manager. The PM is in charge of construction scheduling and Gantt schedule maintenance, and the Gantt chart helps them manage dependencies and keep an eye on workloads. A Gantt chart is a powerful tool for identifying and limiting scope creep, which according to the Project Management Institute’s 2018 Pulse of the Profession study, is a growing concern in a competitive industry and can cause significant cost overruns.

What Aspects of a Construction Project are Usually Presented in a Gantt Chart?

There is a great deal of information about a project in each Gantt chart. It outlines project phases from supply sourcing through construction and closeout. Individual tasks are listed and can be tracked as the project moves through each phase.

Milestones that track a project’s progression are added to the Gantt chart, and alerts let the construction team know of incomplete tasks or if the project is falling behind on milestones. Dependencies between tasks are also noted and tracked on the Gantt chart.

When Should you use a Gantt Chart?

A Gantt chart is most useful for time-constrained projects that involve multiple people or teams. Construction projects often benefit from the use of Gantt charts because they are so timeline-dependent. The Gantt chart should be created after deadlines are set and tasks are identified. The Gantt chart should be treated as a visual representation of the project plan rather than a tool to create the original schedule.

What are the Benefits of Using a Gantt Chart?

Construction teams collaborate particularly well using a Gantt chart as they can be kept up to speed on a project’s progress at a glance. Rather than sifting through correspondence and endless files, stakeholders can quickly check completed tasks and next steps. Gantt charts are also great for spotting dependencies so they can be managed accordingly, and they’re particularly helpful for setting project timelines.

What are the Limitations of a Gantt Chart?

To the uninitiated, the bars on a Gantt chart can be misleading. Users may wrongly assume a shorter bar indicates a simpler or less involved task. The length of the bar indicates the time it takes to complete the task, but it doesn’t reflect the importance or the complexity of the task, nor does it show all the moving parts it takes to complete it. Managers familiar with Gantt charts should know that a small bar doesn’t indicate an easy or insignificant task.

The downside most associated with a Gantt chart is how complicated they can be. While their ability to track every task, milestone, and dependency is the key to their usefulness, it can also be their downfall. Excel charts and older desktop apps make it difficult to view and change all of these elements. Luckily, modern Gantt chart software has improved usability.

How do you Create a Gantt Chart Using Procore?

Feeling a little intimidated about creating your own Gantt chart? No need-many find that it’s easier to create a Gantt chart by employing a project management solution like Procore. When you use Procore’s Scheduling Tool to input each task and its associated information, you can then toggle over to Gantt view to see a bar chart representation of your project. From the Gantt view, you can add filters to choose what information shows up in the project chart and enable the “percent complete” view so the bar’s color gradient shows each task’s level of completion. Any changes you make using the scheduling tool are reflected in an updated Gantt chart.

How can a Gantt Chart Help my Project?

With a little bit of practice in creating and reading them, Gantt charts can be a useful check-in and communication tool on nearly any construction project. Ditch the spreadsheets and track your project with simpler project management tools to make the most of your time and resources.◾️

Kristen Frisa is an Ontario-based freelance writer and reporter specializing in construction tech, HVAC, and finance. Her work has been featured on Ontario Construction News and Canadian Design and Construction Report.

Originally published at https://www.procore.com on May 17, 2021.

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