Learn how to use Gantt Charts to plan
and schedule complex projects successfully.
Have you ever had to plan a complex project?
If so, you'll know that there are certain activities you can do at any time during the process, while you can only start some tasks once others have been completed. What's more, there can be so many factors to think about that it's easy to overlook important aspects of the project, if you don't plan effectively.
You can make things easier by using a tool such as a Gantt Chart. This type of chart is useful because it enables you to plan all of your tasks in one place. It helps you work out the minimum delivery time for your project, and schedule when the right people need to be available to complete it.
To put together a Gantt Chart, start by listing all of the tasks you need to complete to finish your project. Then, write down the earliest date you can start each activity, how long you think each will take, and whether any of them are dependent on the completion of other activities.
In this example, you think that Task A, the initial design of your project, will take one week. Task B, ordering parts, will take two weeks. But you can't start Task B until Task A is complete. So Task B is dependent on Task A, and those two activities can't overlap.
Once Task B is done, you'll need some people to do Task C, putting the parts together. This will take three weeks. You'll also need to have an instruction manual written. This is Task D, and can be started at any time. It will take two weeks to complete.
Finally, once Tasks C and D are finished, you can do Task E, training. This will take one week.
Next, using some graph paper or a spreadsheet, make a column for each day or week that you think your project will last. Then plot out all of your activities on horizontal bars, where their length represents how long you expect the task to take.
Where one task cannot start until another is complete, show this by starting the second task only when the first is finished. In our example, this applies to tasks B, C and E. However, Task D isn't reliant on any other activities.
Also, think about the people or resources you have available. One person can't do two things at the same time, so schedule that person's tasks appropriately.
At this point, your chart will probably look quite confusing and difficult to use. To make it easier to see and understand, consider color-coding each piece of work depending on the person or resource you'll need to complete it.
For instance, you could put your own tasks in red. And, you know that you'll need a technician to order the parts, and to put them together. So these activities could be highlighted in blue. You'll need to outsource the handbook to a freelance writer, so this could be in green. And so on.
Once you finish your Gantt Chart, you'll be able to see how long your project should take to complete. You'll also know when to call on key resources to carry out the tasks.
You don't have to manually create your chart. Project managers often use software, such as Microsoft Project or Matchware, or Webs app such as Gantto, to make the process much easier.
You can find out more about Gantt Charts in the article that accompanies this video.