Gantt Chart Thought Process and Considerations
A Gantt chart is used quite often in project management to establish a trackable timeline over the course of a project. I've heard it mentioned in a couple ME courses, in this course, and most recently in my job, but I'm unsure as to how to start one or what factors to consider. I spoke with my project manager about this as to which he showed me one that he worked on and is currently tracking. He shared a useful analogy comparing the process of painting a room to working on project, from gathering materials, recruiting the appropriate specialists, determining processes that can happen simultaneously to save time, etc.. This could be a useful flow of thinking when planning out a project.
What other factors should be considered when creating one? What would be your thought process when organizing tasks? Also, what software do you think works best for organizing your workflow?
I would say that one of the biggest factors to consider when making a gantt chart is establishing the deadline by which the project must be completed by. Oftentimes I find it easier to work backwards from this date, establishing all the major parts of the process are spaced out appropriately. It allows you to meet your project deadlines better which is a huge concern in industry. I would also separate tasks that are dependent on the completion of others vs those that can be done simultaneously or overlap with one another. If able to, I would also suggest leaving buffer room in the organization of tasks to account for any unforeseeable issues that may push your timeline back. Having a buffer ensures that deadlines can still be met. It's also important to note the critical path to help you determine the progress of the project in real time.
As for what software to use, my company and senior capstone project have used Microsoft Project. While it does take some getting used to, the visuals are definitely helpful to gain a high level overview of where the project stands.
As Ridmehta, mentioned most major projects will come with some surprises. It may be impossible to map out perfectly when each segment a project will be completed down to the minute. However, the Gantt charts serves as a guide and will let you and your team members know how progress is going. It is important to establish a final deadline and then prioritize some of the tasks you will be doing. For instance, you do not want to leave a task which 5 other tasks are dependent upon towards the end. Some tasks are continuous and do not end until the project is over. This can be logging, writing, and meeting with members.
Like @ridmehta, I also prefer to work backwards from the project deadline. If there are checkpoints along the way with smaller deadlines, I include those also. I have used Microsoft Project in the past and I find it's an easy software to use. To begin, you should list the main points of your project. Within each of those, include tasks to help accomplish those and so on until the most basic starting point is reached. Once all of your tasks are included with start and end dates, you should think to yourself about which tasks rely on others. So, if task B can only begin if A is completed, specify this within the program. The same method applies if A and B can be completed simultaneously. When completed, you will be able to view the network diagram. In my opinion, it is easier to follow this layout rather than the Gantt chart. You will be able to view the critical path, which represents the path that takes the longest to complete. Sometimes this may push the project behind schedule if errors occur here, so be mindful of that. Including extra time or considering shipping dates, if parts need to be purchased, are good factors to consider. The plus of using a Gantt chart is that your project will be organized. It truly does help you meet checkpoints to achieve your final deadline.
I agree with the points made above with working backwards from the expected project completion date. In capstone, we were told to plan for the product to be complete two weeks prior to the completion date. This gave us really good buffer time when we ran into issues with out product. The expected project completion date should be heavily considered when creating your chart. Other factors to consider are the team members and their respective parts. It is important to not just makeup a timeline for when you expect each component to be completed by, but really taking the time to talk to the different departments and compare the schedule to past schedules and plan accordingly. This in my opinion is the best way to create an accurate chart that everyone will stick to.
I agree with the points above saying that working backward is the best way to gauge how long a project is going to take. I also agree with @srp98 that giving enough buffer space between each completion deadline is just as important as going backward from the time of completion. It is always a great thing if a project is done ahead of schedule, but it is almost never a good thing if a project is delayed. By finishing early, all steps along the way can be thoroughly checked and can allow for time for unexpected situations to be accounted for. Additionally, I would like to add that the best way to make a Gantt chart and implement it would be to attempt to take the shortest timeline possible in a project even with the buffer. This would ensure that every process was running as smoothly as possible with time to rectify situations when they appear.
As many have mentioned before me, it might be the most helpful to work backwards from the project’s estimated completion date. This ensures that all tasks and deadlines are done before the project is expected to be concluded and gives you an idea of how much of a buffer you can give specific tasks. One of the things I have found to be very important to consider are tasks that can happen simultaneously. In a big project with many different tasks across many departments, it is important that you are not wasting time. Consequently, in order to make sure that the project is completed efficiently, tasks that can be done at the same time should be planned to occur simultaneously on your Gantt chart.
Microsoft Project is a useful software that can be used to create Gantt charts. There are a few key elements that are required to set up a Gantt chart including dates, tasks, bars, milestones, arrows, and task IDs. Out of these elements dates and deadlines are one of the most important components of a Gantt chart because they allow the team to keep track of progress and identify when each task will start and end. While Gantt charts are very helpful visual representations of a project's life cycle, there are some limitations of Gantt charts. Such limitations include complexity and the amount of time required to keep the Gantt chart up to date. Another limitation of Gantt charts is that the length of the bars do not correlate to the amount of work or effort required for each ask. What are some other limitations of Gantt charts? If you have managed a Gantt chart before do you have any tips for success?
In previous experience, when we had a two semester course, we would have to make Gantt charts for our projects to ensure our project met the due date.
How we started the Gantt chart was to write out all important milestones that have to be met, and also do them in order, and how long it would take.For example we would break it down if it had 5 important milestones for instance, we wrote them all out, and sometimes a milestone had to be met in order to start another, or some milestones could be slightly overlapped onto others.We then would write how long each would take, and formed out chart in that nature.
This was the overall Gantt chart, and then to get Moree specific we had detailed within each portion who did what, when did they have to do it within the designated time frame, and so on.
During the creation of Gantt chart, its important to keep few things in mind. The overall project scope and the key milestones. Usually what tends to happen is that the dependencies for each task as left out, as one assumes that X task what proceed Y. However having those clearly stated and listed out, makes it easier for everyone to follow the Gantt chart and stay on track with the deadline. Additionally having a clear idea of what steps go next also helps create and ideal Gantt chart instead of just estimating random due dates.