Gantt Chart Planner
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- September 5, 2019 Updated
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When you begin planning your next project, how prepared will you be? You may purchase software to help you build a project plan, assemble a team ready for their task assignments, and compose a communication schedule for your stakeholders. And while all of these things are important, perhaps the most important piece you should have ready is a Gantt chart.
A Gantt chart is a (usually) horizontal bar chart that visually represents a schedule. Activities can be linked by, for just one example, their dependencies on shared resources or personnel. For project managers, Gantt charts make it easy to track individual pieces of a project’s progress, to share that information with a team, and to see how a surprise on one task of a larger job will impact the project as a whole.
There’s no need to invest in expensive Gantt chart software or create a chart from scratch. This Gantt Chart Planner template for Microsoft Excel is a stellar tool for projects of all sizes and managers of different styles. You can use it for multiple projects, include sub projects, add tasks, enter the activity progress, and see everything clearly in one spot.
The Purpose and Benefits
Gantt charts date back to the 1800s – back when managers used paper and pencil – and it’s with good reason that these charts are still widely used in project management today.
The simplest way to describe the purpose of a Gantt chart is to say that it gives you a visualization of your project against time. It helps you plan which tasks need to be done, when they need to be done, and what resources are necessary to do them. Some Gantt charts also give you spots for the who – as in, who needs to complete those tasks.
In a nutshell, a Gantt chart gives project managers a view of a project timeline showing activities, dependencies, overlaps, and the overall critical path of a project.
The advantages of using a Gantt chart can easily outweigh the disadvantages. But you should consider the benefits yourself. A Gantt chart can:
- Connect tasks with resources and dependencies,
- Keep projects on track by breaking them down into manageable pieces,
- Let you communicate project progress easily and organize your team,
- Help project managers see the overall picture for a better way to meet deadlines, accomplish milestones, and manage time, and
- Allow for flexibility to adapt to unexpected changes in scope, project schedule, timeline, and resource allocation.
This is certainly not an exhaustive list of the benefits Gantt charts provide. But it’s an important list to keep in mind.
Now if you’re ready to use this template to visualize all pieces of your project, let’s get started!
Create Your Gantt Chart
With this free Gantt chart planner you don’t have to worry about buying additional software to build a Gantt chart. As long as you use Microsoft Excel, this template pops right into place and is ready for you to work your project management magic.
You have one large sheet to see both areas, including the work breakdown structure section on the left, and bar chart view on the right. These two sections work hand-in-hand to give you a clean picture of your project’s progress from beginning to end.
As we discuss below, you’ll start by entering your project information first and then move onto the work breakdown section.
The basic details for this template include just two pieces which are Company Name and Start Date of Gantt. You’ll see these fields above the work breakdown section on the left.
The Company Name will obviously remain the same throughout your project, but the Start Date of Gantt is a flexible field that you can use to adjust the chart view. As your project progresses, just enter a new date in that field and you’ll see the chart view move instantly for a clear and current display of your timeline.
The Today date field that you see in this section will change to the current date each time you open the file. So, this is a field that you will not manually change.
Work Breakdown Structure
After adding the project details, you’ll complete the work breakdown structure section directly below. This area is formatted for you to include multiple projects and sub projects in one handy place. So, begin with Project 1.
Resource and Lead
Head down to the Project 1 row colored blue. You can leave the Project 1 field as-is or enter a specific name for your first project. To the right, add the name of the Lead on the project.
Below the Project 1 row, you’ll add Sub Project 1 with the Lead for it. This row is shaded light blue. Again, you can rename Sub Project 1 if you prefer.
Next, you’ll enter each project Activity beneath each Sub Project row. To the right of the Activity name, you can add the name of the resource assigned to it.
Adding More Project Sections
The template gives you space for two projects with sub projects and activities, but you can add more rows if needed. If you want to add another project, select the entire project section including sub project and activity rows. Just follow these short instructions:
- Select the project rows by dragging through the row headers (numbers) on the left side of the Excel sheet.
- Right-click and select Copy.
- Go to the bottom row (Row 42), right-click it, and select Insert Copied Cells. This should place your new project section directly above that row.
Adding More sub Project Sections
If you need more sub project sections within a project section, you’ll perform the same steps as above, except you’ll only copy the sub project and activity rows and then insert those rows within the same project.
Adding More Activity Rows
- If you only need to add rows for tasks, you can do this in any project or sub project section.
- Select an activity row by clicking the number on the left side of the Excel sheet.
- Right-click the row and select Copy.
- With the row still selected, right-click the row and select Insert Copied Cells. This should place your new task row directly above the one you copied.
Note: Be sure that when you add any rows that you do so above the Gantt chart outline (Row 42) so that the built-in formulas apply, and they are included in the chart view.
Start and Days
Once you enter your projects, sub projects, and activities in the work breakdown section, you can add the Start dates and Days.
- You can use any date format to enter the Start date and the template will automatically reformat it and display it as shown.
- The number of Days you enter for an Activity is the length of time, in workdays, that it will take to complete the task. Just enter a simple number.
It’s important to keep in mind that you will be adding these pieces of information for each Activity and not for the Project or Sub Project rows.
Here’s how it all works together. When you enter the Start date and Days for an Activity, the Project and Sub Project rows for that activity will populate automatically as follows:
- Start: Will display with the earliest start date for an Activity in that section regardless of which Sub Project it falls into.
- Days: Will display the total number of Days for all Sub Projects and attached Activities in that section.
Do not add the End dates for any activity or project in the template. The End dates are calculated automatically based on the Start dates and Days fields that you complete.
This is a wonderful feature of this Gantt chart template because you don’t have to manually calculate those end dates.
Like with the Start and Days fields, you will only add Progress for each Activity. The Progress will be averaged and then populated automatically in the Project and Sub Project rows.
You can just enter a simple number for the Progress of each task and the template will reformat it as a percentage. In addition, you’ll see convenient, colored indicators in the progress column.
Here is a summary of the indicator colors:
- Black: Zero progress on an activity.
- Red: 1 – 49 percent progress complete.
- Yellow: 50 – 99 percent progress complete.
- Green: 100 percent complete.
The Progress that you enter for each task will display in that column along with the chart view. So, you have a couple of quick and easy ways to see the progress of each activity, sub project, and project. We’ll discuss the chart view in detail later in this tutorial.
The Status column is another terrific and useful feature of this chart template. Using the Start, Days, and Progress fields, the Status is automatically determined and populated for you. You can see, with a quick glance, the current status of all tasks, sub projects, and projects in your Gantt chart.
Here is a summary of the status types:
- Not Started (gray): The Progress for an activity is at zero percent.
- In Progress (tan): The Start date has passed, End date is still in the future, and Progress is above zero.
- Delay (red): The End dates have passed and the Progress is less than 100 percent.
- Finished (green): The Progress for an activity is at 100 percent.
Along with the text for each status, you have a color to go with it. This makes it easy to view the Status column for tasks and see which are complete, as well as which are in danger.
The Chart View
Your project timeline appears in the Gantt chart view on the right. With the details you enter in the work breakdown structure section, you get a nice view of your project’s progress throughout its lifecycle.
At the top, you’ll see the week starting dates and week numbers. The first day of the week is Monday in this template.
Below the weeks, you have blue boxes. The dark blue boxes cover the number of weeks from the Days column for the activities while the light blue boxes show Progress for the activities.
For example, if you set an Activity Start to January 1 and add a duration of 14 for Days, you’ll see two dark blue boxes that cover the two weeks for the activity’s duration.
Using that same Activity, say you change its Progress to 50%. Now you’ll see one of the dark blue boxes turn to light blue. This shows you that the task is half finished.
And when that Activity is complete and you change the Progress to 100%, both boxes in the chart view will turn to light blue.
You can scroll to the right in the chart view to see upcoming weeks and when activities are scheduled.
Alternatively, you can use the Start Date of Gantt field we discussed earlier and enter a specific date for the template to move the chart view for you. This is helpful for shifting the view of your project timeline quickly.
This neat and clean chart view gives you a great way to see the timeline, tasks, and schedule for each of your projects.
Alternative Gantt Chart Options
Of course, there are alternatives to this template. You can purchase specific Gantt chart software, look at web-based project tools, or even search for templates that work in other Microsoft Office applications like Word or PowerPoint.
But this Gantt Chart Planner template has three huge advantages over those other options:
- It’s free with no strings attached, such as purchases for additional features.
- It does not require an internet connection once you download the file.
- It uses Microsoft Excel to its full potential, with built-in formulas and integrated formatting.
When you consider the other software options for creating a Gantt chart for your project, it’s easy to see why this template is the ideal choice. And creating a useful Gantt chart couldn’t be any simpler.
Prepare for Your Projects with a Planner
When you have a few different projects to manage at the same time, one clear overall view can help you manage everything better. For project management, this free Gantt Chart Planner template gives you the flexibility and features you’ll appreciate to drive your projects to success from initiation to closeout.
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