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How to Make a Gantt Chart in Excel: Metholodogy, Tools & Examples!

The concept of project management dates back to the 1890s. It seems so long ago that a project management system such as the Gantt chart could not possibly be created in that era. However, it is. An engineer and project consultant Henry Gantt created the chart that bears his name in the timeframe between 1910-1915.

At that time, the Gantt chart was drawn and presented on a piece of paper. Now, technological and digital devices took its place. But the purpose of Gantt charts and the reason what they are used for has never changed.

What Is the Gantt Chart Used For?

A Gantt chart, in the simplest terms, is the visual representation of a project. It shows the timeline and the project plan during that time period. Not only the chart demonstrates the current status of the project but also each of the tasks and the people who are in charge of completing them.

The horizontal axis of the chart shows you the progress and the general timeline of the project. The vertical axis lists the tasks that should be done in order to complete the project. The name of the employee or department in charge can be included in one of the axes or on top of the task placed in the timeline.

It is specifically used for establishing a roadmap and clearly seeing what is done and who is done by. You can figure out the milestones you (or your team of employees) achieved during the timeline of the project as well. Think of a Gantt chart as a visually illustrated progress bar. You are able to know which tasks are done and which should be done in order to further the progress of the project.

It is an essential tool not only for project managers or supervisors but also for the team members (employees) as well. As a data analyst, an intern, or a financial consultant, you should be able to see the entire progress of the project on which you are working. It can be considered as a ‘motivational tool’ as well, as you see how much you have advanced in the project and how much you have achieved.

What Is the Waterfall Methodology?

This methodology is a project model that follows a sequential order. That means that every step of a project should be completed and be successful in order to continue to the next step. It takes its name from the flow of a waterfall as each of the tasks follow each other in a downwards method.

As you can see, it is a conventional and easy to follow method for your projects. Due to the design of the model, it works best for smaller sized projects. Because in smaller projects, each step is understandable, clear and the start and the end of each of the tasks can be managed more easily.

The method also allows the projects to finish quicker. The dependencies of a project as well as the documented results help the project to be completed faster.

Does Gantt Charts Use the Waterfall Method?

Yes… mostly, yes. The visual aspect of the Waterfall method actually allows a Gantt chart to be in order and to get each of the tasks in sequential order as well. As it was mentioned, the dependencies element of the Gantt chart works hand in hand with the Waterfall method.

On the other hand, the Waterfall method is not quite flexible. If you are using a Gantt chart for your project and you think that certain adjustments need to be made and unexpected updates will take place; you can choose to use another method in your Gantt chart: The Agile methodology.

What Is the Difference Between the Waterfall and Agile Methodologies?

The Agile project model relies on the continuous change, development, and constant testing of the project. However, unlike the Waterfall method, these stages do not happen one after another; they are actually concurrent with each other.

Every step of the project is happening at the same time as each other, altogether. After the last step and the subsequent review and evaluation periods, another iteration of the project takes place.

Waterfall vs Agile

  • The Agile method allows the client to take part in every stage along the way. The process is very much client-focused. On the other hand, the Waterfall model does not have to include the contributions of customers. The Waterfall approach is an internal event, so it is contained in itself for each project.
  • It takes professionals and experts not only knowledgeable of the Agile method but also individuals who are successful in their management and operational skills. On the other side of the spectrum, the Waterfall method is actually pretty simple and easy to implement for almost any project.
  • The Agile design works well for large development projects. A small project with simple steps does not require this method; smaller and more basic projects can utilize the Waterfall method.
  • The Agile methodology is based upon the fact that the project can constantly change and develop into new and unexpected areas, similar to the Kaizen methodology. On the other hand, the Waterfall method sets the course of every project right at the beginning and follows it as closely as it can.

No matter which method you choose to use, make sure that you are using it with the help of a Gantt chart. A Gantt chart can be considered as it implements the Waterfall method because of its visual image. But you can choose to use a Gantt chart with the Agile methodology as well.

Each project is and will be different; each department has its own reasons to use one of the methods; and also, each company will be dealing with different aspects of the business. So, if you try both of the methods and figure out which one can suit better to a project, you will not fail with your Gantt chart.

What Is the Difference Between a Gantt Chart and a Network Diagram?

  • Perhaps the biggest difference is the visual one. A Gantt chart is, basically, a bar chart which the bars stack on top of or next to each other. A Network diagram, on the other hand, is a flowchart in which each of the tasks of the project is connected.
  • Gantt charts deal with time management and the schedules of tasks in the projects. While Network diagrams focus on visually representing the workflow of the project.
  • Gantt charts have a clear start and end dates. The duration and the date of each of the tasks are written down and detailed. Network diagrams list the estimated time frames of the activities and the project in general.
  • While Gantt charts show the progress of the project and the progress of each of the tasks; the Network diagrams only show the tasks and the activities. If you look at a Network diagram, you would not know what percentage your project is on in terms of progress and completion.
  • Gantt charts are quite easy to manage and incredibly suitable for adjustments and modifications. While Network diagrams, due to the fact that they affect each other, need some additional time and effort for planning in order to change the data and details.
  • If you think of a Gantt chart as ‘a detailed Team To-Do List’, you can think of a Network diagram as ‘a complicated Flowchart’. The only difference between a flowchart and a Network diagram is that a flowchart needs to have tasks and activities. A Network diagram can be created by using only individuals, places, devices, and objects.

What Is the Difference Between a Gantt Chart and a PERT Diagram?

  • Gantt charts can be used for basic and small projects. However, PERT (Program Evaluation and Review Technique) diagrams can take on huge and complex projects easily. The PERT was designed and developed by the United States navy in order to manage the missile missions’ planning, organizing, and testing processes. So, it is specifically created to take on hard, complex and intricate projects.
  • A Gantt chart is a schedule and a progress bar chart. On the other hand, a PERT diagram is, merely, a network diagram.
  • Gantt charts are focused on the time and the duration of each of the tasks that need to be completed. PERT diagrams are focused on the dependencies of the tasks. The relations and the connections between the tasks and activities made up a PERT diagram.
  • Gantt charts show the flow of a project. PERT diagrams show the big picture.

A project manager or a supervisor for teams can use each of them and also, at the same time. And in fact, a project manager should use both Gantt charts and PERT diagrams (or Network diagrams) for their projects. Each has its advantages and disadvantages; however, both can only help you with the success and the completion of your projects. No amount of additional useful tools can hurt your project.


Recommended Reading: Can Excel be Used for Project Management?


Gantt Chart: Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • They are incredibly easy tools to use. You can get the help of Microsoft Excel (which is another easy to use the tool) in order to create your Gantt charts.
  • They are ‘easy to look at’. Let’s say you have two options to make a project plan:

One consists of pen and paper (or Microsoft Word) and you just write the things you have to do one by one, one under another. No colors, no visuals; only simple and boring words as a project plan.

The other option includes the lists of the tasks and also, the visual and colorful illustrations of the activities and their durations in a timeline. Which one would you choose?

  • Apart from the individual and separate tasks, you can also see the dependencies of the activities. Which are connected, which need to go together, and which must follow each other, you are able to realize the relationship between these tasks.
  • They are great resource management systems as well. They allow you to see who is in charge of which task so that everyone would be (literally) ‘on the same page’. So, Gantt charts help you to achieve a better level of communication between the members of the teams.
  • They are quite customizable in terms of the colors, the sizes, and the shapes of the parts of the chart. And if you are using Microsoft Excel to create and keep track of your Gantt chart, you will be able to customize a lot more.

Cons:

  • Let’s start with the biggest disadvantage of Gantt charts: They are getting a little bit out of date with each passing day. Before certain technological developments and especially the creation and the rise of social media platforms, project plans were much more linear. Of course, if your projects (or your workflow) still follow a linear timeline, Gantt charts are great ways to create schedules for your projects. However, with the ‘always consume’ mindset, not every project can follow a linear pattern for their workflow. In today’s world, projects lend themselves to be more accessible to the Agile method of project management systems. In order to save time and money, the cross-functional management systems are used instead of subsequential (Waterfall method) and linear Gantt charts.
  • As for the visual aspect of the chart, the length of the bar does not show the size of the work. This means that a two-day long process can be seen as an easy task to complete. However, that process can be a lot of hard work and it would not show in a two-day sized bar.
  • If you are willing to take on the creation of a Gantt chart, you have to take on the task of updating a Gantt chart as well. Because you might have several projects going on at the same time and they are going to need to be updated for the completion (or change, adjustment, etc.) of each of the tasks.
  • Due to the fact that the timeline on the chart is horizontal, it can be difficult to see the whole plan for the project. Also, subsequently, it is hard to print a Gantt chart for a project. It is even harder if the project is somewhat larger than the others.

Best Online Gantt Chart Makers

  • GanttPRO

GanttPRO might have one of the easiest to use interfaces among the online Gantt chart makers. The user interface looks like a mix between Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets. That helps to improve the usability of the product and also, offers an uncomplicated design.

Additionally, it provides risk and portfolio management systems. It also has a scheduling feature that allows you to automatically generate updated project timelines. If you change a date, a task, a resource, your whole plan will be updated automatically.

There are useful, small yet important features such as adding comments, getting notifications as well.

You can sign up and get the 14-day free trial version, the plan for personal use starts at monthly $15 and the team plans start at $4.50 (per member).

  • Workzone.com

Workzone Gantt Chart Maker allows you to create, build one by one, and edit individual tasks, individual projects, and more than one project. It is also an interactive Gantt chart, allowing you to change any detail you want in the chart without worrying that any mix up can happen in the project.

The user interface is more basic than other online Gantt chart makers. Even though some of the features are customizable, it is still ‘some’ of the features.

If you are looking to create an easy to use and simple project plan, you can get in touch with Workzone.com and request a demo.

  • monday.com

This Gantt chart maker allows you to realize and look at the crucial details of Gantt charts and projects in general. Without going into and examining each of the projects, you can see the deadlines and the progress of your projects.

The user interface is simple but the usability of it is intuitive, so it allows every member of the team to use it easily. It is perhaps the most integrable tool among these online chart makers. You can access your Google Drive, Google Calendar, Dropbox, Google Sheets, and even Slack to communicate with your coworkers.

It has a two-week trial version and the product itself starts from $17 per month.

How Can You Create a Gantt Chart in Microsoft Excel?

In this chapter, you can read three different ways you can create your Gantt chart:

With Charts:

  1. Let’s start by entering the necessary data of the project. These include Tasks, Start Dates, End Dates, and Durations. List them in different columns and in different rows.
  2. Highlight the Start Dates. Be careful that includes the column header and exclude any empty cells.
  3. Click on Insert located in the toolbar on the upper section of the window. There, select Bar in the Charts section.
  4. There will be 2-D Bar, 3-D Bar, Cylinder, and Cone options. Select the Stacked Bar.

A basic bar chart will be created.

  1. Now that you have the Start Dates set up, you will include the duration of the tasks. Right-click on the bar chart created and click on Select Data.
  2. A window will appear titled Select Data Source. On the left, there will be Legend Entries (Series) section which will include your Start Dates. Select the Add button just below that section title.
  3. The Edit Series window will appear, type Duration in the ‘Series name’ section (or just click the header cell in the spreadsheet). Then, click the range selection icon which has ‘=1’ right next to it.
  4. Now, you can select the data located in the Duration column. Do not include the header cell or any empty cells.
  5. Collapse the small window. And click OK.
  6. Now, in the Select Data Source window, you can see Start Date and Duration titles in the Legend Entries (Series) section. (If you see both of them) Click OK.

Your bar chart will be updated.

  1. Right-click again on the chart, choose Select Data. Select Data Source window will appear again. Select the Start Date in the Legend Entries (Series) section. Then, click the Edit button located in the Horizontal (Category) Axis Labels.
  2. Axis Labels window will appear and (the similar way you selected the Duration cells) you will be selecting the cells in the Tasks column.
  3. Click OK to close all the windows.

Your Tasks will be featured on the left of the bars on the chart.

  1. Now that you have your simple bar chart, let’s turn it into a Gantt chart. Click one of the blue bars in the chart, all of them will be selected. Right-click (again, on the blue bars) and click on Format Data Series.
  2. On the Fill section (on the left), select No Fill. And then on the Border Color section, select No Line.
  3. Click on the tasks on the left side of the chart and select Format Axis. A window will appear, on the Axis Options section, click on the box next to ‘Categories in reverse order’.
  4. Now it looks like a Gantt chart. You can get rid of the white empty spaces on the Gantt chart by right-clicking on the orange bars and opening up Format Data Series. There, in the Series Options section, make Series Overlap 100% and Gap Width 0%.

You will be having a Gantt chart similar to the one below:

You can choose to customize your Gantt chart further as the size, the color, the format of the bars.

With Formula

  1. Similar to any way you create your Gantt chart, enter your data.
  2. Now, unlike the chart way, select the cells in which you want to place your Gantt chart.
  3. On the Home tab located in the toolbar, choose Conditional Formatting.
  4. Select Pick New Rule.
  5. An empty box will appear for you to enter a formula. The formula is =AND(date>=start,date<=end)

The ‘date’ is the beginning cell of your Gantt chart. Let’s say it is E1.

If you have your start date for one of the tasks for example in the B2 cell and the end date in the C2 cell, your formula should look like this:

=AND(E$1>=$B2,E$1<=$C2)

The dollar sign ($) symbols and their locations are important. If your formula returns ‘true’ results, your spreadsheet and Gantt chart will look like this:

You can customize the colors of the cells (your Gantt chart), if you want, by clicking Format and Fill Color.

With Pivot Tables

  1. Enter your data.
  2. Make a Pivot Table from your data.
  3. Set up the outline for your Gantt chart.
  4. Now, you have to use the MIN, the WORKDAY, and the MEDIAN functions, respectively in order to create your Gantt chart. It asks for more formulas than even the ‘formula way’. You can use third party templates that are already equipped with these formulas, therefore, allowing you to automatically create your Gantt chart. Let’s give some details on one of these templates.

How to Create Your Gantt Chart with the Someka Gantt Chart Maker

As it is mentioned above, all of these formulas and complicated tasks to follow in order to create a simple Gantt chart can be both time and energy-consuming. Your time is valuable, so here is a Gantt chart that does not make you work and waste your time.

Someka’s Gantt Chart Maker uses the pivot table technique to form your Gantt charts; however, it has already done all the complicated work! You just need to enter your data and you can create your Gantt chart in 30 seconds!

You will have your timelines for projects, task details, milestones, and date information in one spreadsheet and presented in a professional-looking visual design. There are also additional Subtasks, Task Categories, Holidays, and Off-Days sections in order to give you some extra useful features. And the customizable, colorful adjustments will improve your experience!

FINAL WORDS

No matter how you achieve it or how much time you spent on it, it is an inarguable fact that Gantt charts are crucial for project management. But do not forget that Gantt charts are there for saving you time and sorting your projects. If you have to spend more time and energy than you will be gaining, there is no point in dwelling on creating your own from scratch. You can always choose to use an easier, more useful, and better-designed option: A third party template.

Because why should you spend that much amount of time and complicated tools to create a Gantt chart, right?