How to make a Gantt chart in Microsoft Project in 5 steps

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 28 March 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Businesses use Gantt charts for project management and to detail key activities and events. Project management can be seamless when you use the right tools to organise your project by breaking a complex project down into simple, manageable tasks that you can complete within a reasonable timeline. For instance, using a Gantt chart in Microsoft Project can help you create project plans, schedule tasks and track project progress. In this article, we discuss what a Gantt chart in Microsoft Project is, how to make it, its common users and how to use it.

What is a Gantt chart?

A Gantt chart is a project management tool that can help you visually present your project activities from start to finish. It can help you break down a large complex project into manageable phases by streamlining your project activities through assigning tasks and organising deadlines. As a project manager, you can use it to show your stakeholders the progress of various tasks and how their interrelationships contribute to the project's overall success. A comprehensive Gantt chart can help you adequately manage project resources, complex projects and track project progress.

How to make a Gantt chart in Microsoft Project

Using a Gantt chart to present your project details visually can be an efficient way to track your project progress. Follow these steps to create a Gantt chart in Microsoft Project:

1. Prepare a task list

This step involves breaking down your project into simple, manageable tasks and writing them down in a list. To create a comprehensive list, you can organise your tasks in the chronological order they appear in the project as it progresses. You can indent your subtasks to show dependencies at different project stages.

2. Create a new project file

After launching the Microsoft Project application on your computer, you may create a project file (.mpp) which you can use to enter project details. A project file opens two windows or interfaces: a spreadsheet on the left side and a Gantt chart on the right. The spreadsheet contains rows and columns, which you can use to enter project details such as task names and project duration days.

3. Enter project data

You can enter the project data by navigating to the pane on the left side of your window that looks like a spreadsheet. You may use the rows as tasks and the columns to include task data such as start and end dates and duration. For instance, you can click on the first row of your spreadsheet and type the first task as market research. The spreadsheet can have column headings with labels such as task names and start and end dates.

Related: Project scheduling: definition, benefits, formats and steps

4. Set project milestones

Setting milestones can help you keep track of important stages of a project. You can use a milestone to mark the completion of an essential phase or activity in a project. This is an efficient way to track progress. To add a milestone, you may select a row where you'd like the milestone to appear, navigate to the ribbon and click on the milestone button. You may also add a milestone by entering zero days for a task. The application automatically turns it into a milestone that appears in the Gantt chart.

5. Customise your Gantt chart

You might want to customise your Gantt chart depending on the project you're working on or who might view your project. There are two methods you can use to manipulate your Gantt chart: time and colour. You can use Gantt chart time elements that allow a user to manipulate data in two time-tiers. The top tier can enable you to change data in quarters, months or years, while the bottom tier can allow you to fiddle your chart in smaller time divisions such as days and weeks. Using colour involves colour-coding or shading some tasks to enhance their appearance visually.

Purpose of a Gantt chart

You can use a Gantt chart for the following purposes:

Manage tasks

A Gantt chart can help you identify and manage individual tasks in your project. It can help you break down your entire project into manageable tasks that you can assign to teams and schedule a timeframe within which they might be complete. Some tasks that a Gantt chart might help you manage include collecting data about a project, setting milestones, tracking project progress and assigning resources.

Show interrelated tasks

An efficient Gantt chart can help you identify interrelationships between your tasks and their role in completing the entire project. Understanding that a specific task can affect the timely completion of other interrelated tasks can help you maximise productivity, reduce project delays and optimise project workflow. A Gantt chart can also motivate your team because it shows them how their tasks contribute to the project's overall success.

Monitor project schedule

You can use a Gantt chart to measure your project progress towards a deadline. A Gantt chart can help you track your tasks' progress, enabling you to estimate the project's duration. You can share the visual framework with stakeholders as proof of project progress.

Related: A guide to the different types of charts and graphs

Project visualisation

A Gantt chart aims to help you visualise a project from start to finish. By giving you an overview of the duration, milestones and key dates of various tasks, the chart offers you a dependable method that might help you manage your project deliverables. Using Gantt charts may help you avoid risks such as completion confusion, delays and allocating inadequate resources to a project.

Resource allocation

By breaking down your project into simple, manageable tasks, you can efficiently allocate resources. Task details such as the number of assigned people, duration and grouping of tasks can help you determine the number of resources to distribute at each phase. Your project Gantt chart visually shows all the project tasks in sequence, which can help you budget for each phase.

What are the elements of a Gantt chart?

The following are some of the essential elements of a Gantt chart:

Tasks

A task is an activity or work item whose successful completion plays a role in the overall success of a project. To organise your work, you can break down a large project into simple, manageable tasks and sub-tasks that might be easy to manage. You can create a list of all your project tasks in the sequence they appear in the project to track progress easily.

Start and end dates

Dates can help you visualise a project from start to completion. They can also help you plan the duration of individual tasks. Knowing when a task might start and end may enable you to allocate adequate resources and plan for subsequent steps in the project.

Milestones

Milestones can show you important dates within a project schedule. They might help show the completion of essential work activities or phases. A Gantt chart may highlight a milestone by using a diamond symbol at the end of a taskbar.

Related: 13 milestones in project management (with definitions)

Users of the Gantt chart

A Gantt chart can be a valuable tool in managing projects from various sectors. Here is a list of jobs that may require the use of Gantt charts:

Educators

The teaching profession can be overwhelming because of teachers' many responsibilities. As a teacher, you might be responsible for roles such as research, publishing, lecturing, grading, invigilating, mentoring and drafting a curriculum. To efficiently manage all these tasks, you may use a Gantt chart to keep track of all your tasks. For instance, you can use it to track exam dates, students' submissions and grading progress.

Managers

As a manager, you might be responsible for keeping projects in line, maintaining open communication between team members and allocating adequate resources. Your responsibilities may also involve tracking the progress of individual team members and ensuring that they are in line with the overall team project. An efficient Gantt chart can help you visualise the entire project, which can help you ensure that the project progresses seamlessly.

Event planning coordinators

As an event planner, you might need a tool that helps you keep track of your clients, suppliers, entertainers and employees. A Gantt chart can help you simultaneously manage these stakeholders by presenting them in a visual aid that you can easily manipulate. You can also use the Gantt chart as proof of work for clients when they ask for progress reports.

Information technology (IT) managers

Working in the information technology sector involves handling individual and interrelated tasks. Having a Gantt chart can help you visually present each task and its subtasks which can help you maintain a schedule that prevents system breakdown. For instance, you can use a Gantt chart to keep track of which software to update and when. It can also help you manage system updates by showing you the maintenance schedule for different teams.

Related: A guide to the different types of charts and graphs

Advantages of using a Gantt chart

The following are some of the advantages of using a Gantt chart:

  • helping improve team productivity

  • helping to breakdown a large complex project into simple and manageable tasks

  • enabling project managers to visually present project requirements to stakeholders

  • keeping track of the progress of the project

  • improving project time management for team members

  • enabling remote collaboration

  • helping in project accountability and transparency

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

Related:

  • What is a gantt chart? Definition, types, guidelines and uses


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