If you work in project management, then by now you should at least know what Gantt charts are. You know, those bar charts that illustrate project schedules as a series of bars laid out over a timeline, you’ve seen them, right? Gantt charts can be a powerful tool for you to use in project management, but before you decide if a Gantt chart is right for you it’s important to understand some of their advantages and disadvantages.
Advantages of Gantt Charts
Visually Represent Projects
Gantt charts are highly visual and organize all information about a project in one central location. Humans think visually, so when all team members can see a projects progress clearly it helps motivate individuals and increase productivity. Whether you create a Gantt chart the old fashioned way on paper, in Excel, or within project management software, make sure that the chart is somewhere where your whole team can see it.
Make Communication Easy
Teams can use Gantt charts, especially in project management software, to provide each other with quick status updates and help each other understand task progress. This is a great time saving advantage of Gantt charts because they can be used to cut down on the amount of meetings required to keep everyone updated.
Help Set Realistic Schedules
Since the bars on a Gantt chart represent an amount of time that a task should take to be completed, it is easier to visualize the schedule of a project. This helps project managers and team members manage time and resources more efficiently, thus leading to more efficient delivery of projects before their deadlines.
Organize Thoughts Clearly
As a project manager, it can be difficult to organize your thoughts related to complex projects in one place. With Gantt charts, everything is laid out in front of you so that you can visualize all the information. This allows you to more easily manage complex projects, efficiently lead all your teams, and make more effective decisions.
Disadvantages of Gantt Charts
Can Be Overly Complex
Gantt charts work best for simpler projects that have less tasks and resources to represent. For extremely complex projects with lots of tasks, subtasks, and resources, a Gantt chart can become cluttered and overly complicated. Since one of the biggest advantages of the Gantt chart is that it visually represents a project, if the project is so complex that the Gantt chart stretches to multiple pages then it loses some of its functionality. Ideally, if you are using project management software to create a Gantt chart, then you want it to fit on one computer screen.
Need to Be Constantly Updated
Another disadvantage of Gantt charts is that they need to be updated frequently as things change during the course of a project. This is harder to do if you create a Gantt chart the old fashioned way on paper, or even in Excel. With project management software it is easier to make quick updates to the chart, so this becomes less of a disadvantage.
Bars Do Not Show the Amount of Work Required
The main focus of a Gantt chart is time, and the bars on the chart represent the time period over which tasks will be completed, rather than how much work is required to complete a task. This makes is more difficult to know at a glance how many resources are required to complete any given task. A shorter bar can actually represent more work than a longer bar on a Gantt chart.
Should You Use a Gantt Chart?
Now that you know a bit more about the advantages and disadvantages of Gantt charts, hopefully you have a better understanding of whether a Gantt chart is a good project management methodology for you. As long as you know the limitations of the Gantt chart, it is a powerful tool you can add to your arsenal of project management tools. Balance out the disadvantages of a Gantt chart by using other tools with complementary strengths.