3 posts categorized "Gantt Chart"


3 Things Every Person Should Know

IStock_000004021750XSmall We strive to make project management software easy to use, even if the person using the software is not a certified, fancy-titled project manager.  However, I believe there are certain things that everyone who is using project management software for scheduling should know in order to use these tools effectively.  Here are three things that I think everyone should know.

1.  Dependencies

There are many people that have used a tool like Microsoft Project and understand how to setup a dependency.  There are also many people that do not have a clue what a dependency is or (more so) how to properly use them.  This is essential to make a project management software scheduling tool, such as a Gantt chart, work for you and not the other way around.  A fair number of people open up a tool like that and start manually entering start and finish dates.  If you want your project management software implementation to be successful, and for people to gain value out of it instead of being frustrated by it, provide some basic training on dependencies and scheduling.

2.  Work Breakdown Structures

Work breakdown structures (wbs) are so fundamental to planning a project that it is essential for everyone to understand them.  You may not actually go out there and go through a work breakdown structure phase in your project planning, but your schedule will still be built on one.  You need to understand how to breakout work, the difference between summary and detail tasks (or parent / child tasks), and their implications.  This will make it far easier for you to understand what is going on.

3.  Duration and Effort

You should also know the difference between duration and effort (sometimes referred to as work).  I would not say that everyone needs to be an expert at this, but everyone needs to at least have a fundamental understanding of these.  If you do not, there is no way that you can do effective resource assignments and resource planning of any kind.

Make sure that you have at least a basic understanding of these.  If you are tasking people with using project management software tools (at least anything that tracks a schedule), make sure they understand these as well.  You will not get the value out of it unless they do.

What else would you add to this list?


3 resources we like about using Excel for project management

Microsoft Excel may not be the best tool for organization-wide online project management, but it is the most common so we might as well learn to use it effectively.  Here are three resources we like about using Excel for project management:

1.  Creating a Gantt Chart in Excel

Ralph Phillips created a video on how to create a Gantt Chart in Excel.  This would work well if you need to track the progress of an individual project.


2.  Time Tracking Templates

Microsoft has some downloadable templates for creating various types of timesheets in Excel.  The timesheets can be used to track work spent on projects, tasks, and clients.


3.  Project Action Items (Issues)

Ronda Levine wrote an article on how to use Excel to track project action items (you may refer to these as issues).


If you are stuck with using Microsoft Excel for the time being, use these resources to become more effective!


Tips on the Gantt Chart

We cannot talk about tips on actual project management software usage without bringing up the Gantt Chart. The Gantt Chart is arguably the most popular (or at least the most commonly used) software tool. It became much more common with the release of Microsoft Project.

There are different schools of thought on the Gantt Chart. Some people use it religiously and it is a core part of their planning. Other people stay away from it religiously and never use it. Other people tolerate and use it because they believe that they must. How should you fit it in? Should you use a Gantt Chart and how?

Here are some tips that will help you answer that question.

#1: Understand the purpose of the Gantt Chart.

Here is an excerpt from www.wikipedia.org: A Gantt chart is a type of bar chart that illustrates a project schedule. Gantt charts illustrate the start and finish dates of the terminal elements and summary elements of a project. Terminal elements and summary elements comprise the work breakdown structure of the project. Some Gantt charts also show the dependency (i.e, precedence network) relationships between activities.

So the Gantt Chart is a tool to view the tasks (work breakdown structure), dependencies between those tasks, and the schedule of the tasks (and thus the project). The reason it is common-place is because these are items that most Project Managers want to see and it is an easy way to see them in one view.

#2: Understand the need for training.

A lot of people do not use Gantt Charts or do not like Gantt Charts. There are some valid reasons for this, but I have found that often the reason is a lack of training on how to use a Gantt Chart. We do not like nor do we use things that we do not understand. The Gantt Chart by its very definition includes more complex concepts such as task dependencies, parent vs. child tasks, constraints, etc. There is a minimum level of knowledge needed to effectively use these concepts to gain real value out of Gantt Charts. People that try to use Gantt Charts for more simplified purposes become frustrated.

What that means is get some training. Understand the concepts of dependencies, constraints, and parent / child tasks (or summary / detail) tasks. Then understand how to apply these concepts in a Gantt Chart.

#3: Understand your needs, objectives, and culture.

A lot will depend on your particular organization. If you need to create detailed schedules, then you really need to look at using Gantt Charts. If you do not need to manage schedules in any detail at all, or you have a culture that is very collaborative and not very detail oriented you could probably use a simple task list system instead.

If you are having problems with items being late, then using Gantt Charts could be a good tool to help plan better.

The bottom line is, match up with your organization's needs, objectives, and culture. How important is scheduling to you? If it is very important, then look at Gantt Charts.

Do you use Gantt Charts? How do you use them? What are some common problems that you experience with Gantt Charts? Send those to blog@teaminteractions.com.



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