If you already work as a project manager or are planning to become one, most likely you have heard about the Gantt chart. This is a widespread method of managing projects and tasks that is eagerly adopted by businesses of nearly any size and industry. Its primary advantages are visualization, ergonomics, cost-efficiency and the genuine simplicity of tracking progress. In the review below, we will try to explain what a Gantt chart is, which software is built on the basis of this approach and what one can gain by using it.
Surprisingly enough, the Gantt chart was not invented by a visionary whose surname was Gannt. The first professional to come up with this concept was Karol Adamiecki, an engineer from Poland. He worked as a top manager in steelwork and was looking for innovative instruments to improve the performance of the workflow.
Henry Gantt, a project management consultant and engineer from the US, was inspired by Adamiecki's discoveries and found ways to improve them. It was he who spread the novelty among Western companies from diverse sectors.
At the beginning of the 20th century, a Gantt chart would most often be drawn by hand. It took an inordinate amount of time and effort to modify or update it. With the digitalization of work processes, the charts did not become obsolete, but, on the contrary, they acquired vaster recognition.
A Gantt chart is a table built along two axes: the horizontal one displays the time scale and the vertical one, the tasks to be accomplished. Each particular activity is displayed by a bar. You can determine the start date and deadline of each task judging by its position in the grid. You can mark tasks that need to be finished strictly on time as "critical" and those that can be rescheduled — as "non-critical". Such an approach allows workers to avoid bottlenecks and quickly detect unnecessary tasks that can be eliminated from the workflow.
Tasks can overlap. You can link them to each other and group them. The chart enables each participant to see which specialists handle a particular task and how long the project takes in total. The supervisor can enhance the efficiency of the workflow by arranging the tasks so that the team would be working on several of them simultaneously. If certain tasks require the joint efforts of the whole team, they can be arranged sequentially in the chart.
The Gantt chart method has its drawbacks too. First, if the users add too many activities and dependencies, it becomes cluttered. If you use such an app to address a complex project, you should prepare it in two versions: a detailed and a concise one. Second, the Gantt chart is not too helpful in prioritizing tasks and allocating resources for them. It will show you how much time the task requires — but you will need to guess yourself how many specialists should handle it. This is why managers often resort to PERT charts or other additional instruments.
If a manager is hesitating over whether they should introduce this method to their workflow, they should verify whether their projects meet the following criteria:
Require collaboration of multiple specialists and departments
Enable professionals to work on several tasks simultaneously
Require that the tasks be carried out in a particular order
Allow people to estimate the duration of each task in advance
Give clients, shareholders and other third parties an opportunity to monitor progress
If at least one of these criteria is met, an organization would benefit from the Gantt approach.
To cut down on expenses, one can build a simple chart in Excel. Yet specialized Gantt chart software offers its users a much broader range of functions, such as compiling reports, attaching files and documents to tasks, facilitating communication between staff, clients and stakeholders, and so on. Besides, specialized software can boast a more visually appealing design and a user-friendly interface.
The term "Gantt chart software" is synonymous with "project management", "project scheduling" or "project planning software". The first apps of this type were built in desktop format, which was convenient for individual planning in small and medium organizations. The manager in charge of scheduling compiled a plan and sent it to their colleagues. The business purchased the app's license forever by paying its full price. When the version of the program became outdated, the organization had to purchase the new version of the program.
Today, organizations tend to rely on cloud-based Gantt chart software, which is better suited for sharing and collaborating. All the content that the team members add to the project is displayed online in real time. This approach is more cost-efficient: instead of acquiring the full license, users purchase monthly or yearly subscriptions. The developers constantly update their products, and the customers promptly get access to the newest version, without the need to reinstall the app or invite a technician to their office to configure it.
Below, you will find brief descriptions of the most popular Gantt chart applications, each with its pros and cons.
The target audience of this Gantt chart solution are startups and small and medium businesses. In total, it counts over 8 million corporate clients.
Bitrix24 enables people to automate management and communication procedures using either a stationary computer or a portable gadget. After you create an account in the system, you can either build new custom apps or work with the ones that you already have. Users get a unified set of tools at their disposal that allows them to manage their projects, tasks, files, messages and contacts. The Activity Stream enables you to monitor progress.
The shortcomings are not too numerous:
The CRM lacks accounting capabilities
The interface is not too customer-friendly and seems a bit outdated
When you send an email, a Bitrix24 reference is attached at the bottom of the message (but only as long as you stick to the free subscription)
On the other hand, the software has plenty of advantages:
The product features a good deal of useful in-built functions, such as video conferencing, an activity stream intranet center, built-in email management, workflow management, user profiles and instant messages
Extranet integration will help you to handle external communications
The app is easily customizable
Teams that consist of 12 individuals or less can use Bitrix24 at no cost. The free subscription applies not only to desktop but also to mobile versions for Android and iOS. Bigger companies can select between cloud-hosted premium plans or on-premise solutions. The latter are used for managing data, acquiring additional tools and accessing source codes. The most budget-friendly plan starts from $24 per user per month but is restricted to a maximum of 2 users. To add an unlimited number of users, opt for the business plan that costs $199 per month.
This Gantt chart app is distributed exclusively in a cloud-based format. After you create a project, you can smoothly merge it with another one. Both will be displayed in one timeline. Feel free to employ color coding to format the tasks and monitor the completion percentage of individual tasks. Once you leave a comment, it will be seen by all relevant parties involved in this particular task. Once you start a conversation thread, it will automatically be saved in the project.
The primary drawback of this solution consists in the lack of a budget section. The manager will need to rely on some other apps to control the expenses of the project. Also, the customization capabilities of TeamGantt are rather limited. It is a "plug and play" product that does not require a lengthy configuration and can be used almost immediately after installation.
Here is a brief list of its advantages:
It is genuinely simple, and its navigation is remarkably intuitive. Even if someone has no previous awareness of the Gantt chart, they will quickly figure out how the system functions.
This product is nearly unmatched when it comes to visualizing the interdependencies. It enables users to allocate resources more reasonably and maximize the efficiency of the workflow.
It is easy to add documents to the tasks.
When allocating the resources, you will immediately see those specialists who are the busiest at the moment — their names will be highlighted in red.
Team members can communicate not only with the help of comments but in the chat box too.
This Gantt chart solution is available for free if your team counts 3 or fewer persons and you are happy with limited functionality. Paid plans start from $25 per month per individual. Newbies are invited to a free 30-day trial period for each plan.
If you aim to use a Gantt chart for free, this is your chance. No, we are not talking about a free trial period — the product will remain free forever. Its developers claim that they are planning to release additional extensions in the future — yet the basic operations will still be available free of charge. Customers get access to the following functionality and advantages:
A nice design. The app is visually appealing and comprehensive.
A dashboard view, which can be used as a checklist for all projects and allows you to see which projects are running in a particular time range.
Dependencies. Not too many free Gantt chart apps display dependencies, yet this one does.
Color coding. Feel free to categorize the projects according to their priority or timing.
Drag and drop. You can regroup or reschedule a task in a couple of clicks.
Upload documents from Dropbox or Google Drive.
Export and sync the tasks to Google Calendar or Excel.
Create teams. In addition to assigning individual tasks, you can allocate projects to the relevant departments of your organization. No need to say, all the parties involved will receive timely notifications about any modifications of tasks.
Picky users manage to find only two faults with Agantyy. First, it lacks an in-built chat where team members could discuss their work. Second, if you have conservative stakeholders who still prefer printed documents, it might be tricky to transfer complex projects to paper format. However, if your stakeholders would like to see the ongoing work in digital format, you can effortlessly share the link with them — Agantyy will allow you to do it even if the recipient of the link is not assigned with a task.
This solution was initially designed as an Asana integration app. The latter is a popular project management instrument that allows managers to maximize the productivity of the operational activities, plus encourage collaboration and communication within the team. But a Gantt chart is absent. Professionals who prefer other project management solutions can download Instagantt separately. However, it would be more reasonable to combine it with Asana:
The "drag and drop" function enables customers to create and modify projects. All the updates will be synchronized with Asana. A handy minimap facilitates the navigation.
When you modify a task that is dependent on some other ones, the changes will apply to all interrelated items. After switching to the workload view, you see all the tasks that different team members are currently working on. In the chart, there is a specific lane for each participant. Plus, there is a critical path there that can delay the project.
Team members get access to numerous useful details such as progress tracking, scheduling, subtasks and so forth. The tree structure is suggested as an optimal structure for organizing the workflow. To indicate special events, tasks can be transformed into milestones. Users can resort to color coding to customize the color of the chart bars.
Only Asana users are allowed to collaborate on the chart inside the app. All the others can share snapshots or export spreadsheets, PDFs or images.
This Gantt chart app features a 7-day free trial. Once it is over, the customer will be required to pay either $7 per month for a single subscription or $5 per month for a team subscription. The difference between the two is not too drastic: the latter includes license management and workflow management for teams.
This solution is distributed in a web-based, cloud and SaaS form. Its target audience are small organizations that are focused on tasks rather than projects. Still, the application can handle projects, provided they are not too bulky. Apart from the Gantt chart view, feel free to organize the content in the format of a kanban board.
Customers can log in to RedBooth either from their computers or mobile devices.
If needed, they can integrate this solution with Evernote, Zendesk, Box Enterprise, MS Project and Outlook to share documents and files more efficiently.
Those who sign in with their Google account can immediately integrate RedBooth with their Google calendar and documents. This facilitates the sharing events and files.
Each task can be fragmented into subtasks that, in essence, resemble checklists.
You can set repetitive tasks that will take place each week. The task list will display only its most recent version.
Colleagues can talk to each other through a built-in messenger. They can attach files to their conversations and convert their dialogs into tasks.
The main shortcomings of RedBooth boil down to the following:
There is no budget management and cost-to-completion tracking.
Fully-fledged collaboration opportunities are available only in paid business plans. Within the app, it is impossible even to properly collaborate on documents in real time.
The notifications by default are sent to one's email where one can easily miss them.
The free trial period for this one lasts 14 days. The price of the paid plans starts at $9 per individual per month. With the free plan, the storage is limited to 2GB and the number of workspaces — to just 2. To track the time, tag the manager, assign the same task to several persons, create custom tag groups and assign subtasks, the customer needs to upgrade to a paid plan.
Hopefully, this overview of popular Gantt chart products came in handy, and now it will be a no-brainer for you to pick a functional and ergonomic solution. If none of the above-listed solutions suit you, feel free to consider other alternatives. When choosing an optimal Gantt chart application, you should pay attention to the following factors:
Price. Opt for the one that features a free demo period.
Availability both in desktop and mobile format. The latter is particularly important for real-time notifications.
Team assignments. Your team members should clearly understand who is in charge of each task. The app should send them reminders about the deadlines and notifications of modifications of all tasks that they are involved in.
Filtered views. These are indispensable when handling bulky projects.
Task dependencies. These help to visualize the interconnection between diverse tasks. Thanks to dependencies, you will avoid situations when a certain task cannot be completed only because some other task failed.
Color coding. This visualization method enables all the parties involved to assess the status of each task by eye, without a single click. Usually, finalized tasks are marked as green, their ongoing counterparts as blue and the red color is reserved for tasks that are either critical or overdue.
No matter how intuitive the app seems, make sure to conduct training for all the members of your team before you start using the new piece of software. This might sound like a too obvious recommendation — yet in practice, some team leaders wrongly assume that their colleagues will share a uniform interpretation of the app's marks and symbols, which later leads to misunderstandings. The Gantt chart will help you to enhance your team performance, ship products more frequently and boost your revenue. This method works wonders in nearly any business sphere, be it software development, human resources, consulting, marketing, event planning, education, construction, manufacturing and so forth.