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Step by Step guide to make a Gantt Chart

Gantt Chart

Gantt chart is a visual view of tasks scheduled over time. Gantt charts are used for planning projects of all sizes and they are a useful way of showing what work is scheduled to be done on a specific day. They also help you view the start and end dates of a project in one simple view.

 

When and how to use a Gantt Chart?

A Gantt chart is constructed with a horizontal axis representing the total time span of the project, broken down into increments (for example, days, weeks, or months) and a vertical axis representing the tasks that make up the project (for example, if the project is outfitting your computer with new software, the major tasks involved might be: conduct research, choose software, install software). Horizontal bars of varying lengths represent the sequences, timing, and time span for each task.

Gantt charts give a clear illustration of project status, but one problem with them is that they don’t indicate task dependencies – you cannot tell how one task falling behind schedule affects other tasks. The PERT chart, another popular project management charting method, is designed to do this. Automated Gantt charts store more information about tasks, such as the individuals assigned to specific tasks, and notes about the procedures. They also offer the benefit of being easy to change, which is helpful. Charts may be adjusted frequently to reflect the actual status of project tasks as, almost inevitably, they diverge from the original plan.

 

Example of a Gantt chart:

Software development gantt chart example

Software developers frequently use gantt charts to manage their projects. This example shows a gantt chart for a software development project using the agile approach. Tasks have been organized into groups based on sprints, with milestones for sprint planning and deployment.

 

Construction scheduling gantt chart example

Construction project managers rely on gantt charts to manage moving parts across large projects. In this simple gantt chart example, each phase of the construction process has been broken down into its own group of tasks. Important planning meetings, contract sign-offs, and inspections are represented by milestones.

 

How to make a Gantt chart in Excel

1. List your project schedule in an Excel table
Break down the entire project into chunks of work, or phases. These will be called project tasks and they form the basis of your Gantt chart.

In Excel 2007, 2010, 2013 or 2016, enter your data by listing the Start Date and Finish Date of each task, and also it’s Duration (count of days required to complete that task). Also include a brief description of the task. Make sure to sort these tasks in order, by placing the earliest start date first and the latest start date last.

  1.     Begin making your Excel Gantt by setting it up as a Stacked Bar chart

From the same worksheet that your Excel table is on, click in any blank cell.

 

Then from the Excel ribbon, select the INSERT tab.

 

In the Charts section of the ribbon, drop down the Bar Chart selection menu.

 

Select Stacked Bar which will insert a large blank white chart space onto your Excel worksheet (do not select 100% Stacked Bar).

Add the start dates of your Tasks to the Gantt chart

Right-click the white chart space and click Select Data to bring up Excel’s Select Data Source window.

 

Now we’re going to add your task data.

On the left side of Excel’s Data Source window you will see a table named Legend Entries (Series). Click on the Add button to bring up Excel’s Edit Series window and here you will begin adding Task data to your Gantt chart.

Now we’re going to add your task data.

i. First we need to name the data (Series) we will be entering. Click and place your cursor in the empty field under the title Series name, then click on the column header that reads Start Date in your table.

ii. Staying in the Edit Series window move down to Series value. This is where you will enter your Task start dates. It is easy to do. To the right of the Series values field you will see an icon which looks like a spreadsheet with a red arrow on it.

Click on it (the one by Series values) and Excel will open a smaller Edit Series window. Now simply click the first start date in your task table and drag your mouse down to the last start date. This highlights all of the start dates for your tasks and inputs them into your Gantt chart. Make sure you have not mistakenly highlighted the header or any extra cells.

 

iii. When finished, click on the small spreadsheet icon again Edit Series Button
(the one with the red arrow) which will return you to the previous window called Edit Series. Click OK. Your Gantt should now look like this:

Add the durations of your Tasks to the Gantt chart
Staying in the Select Data Source window, click on the Add button again to bring up Excel’s Edit Series window.

 

Here we will add the duration data to your Gantt chart.

i. In the Edit Series window, click in the empty field under the title Series Name, then click in your Task table again, on the column header that reads Duration.

 

ii. Staying in the Edit Series window move down to Series value and click on spreadsheet icon with a red arrow on it Edit Series Button again.

iii. Select your Duration data by clicking on the first Duration in your project table and drag your mouse down to the last duration so all durations are now highlighted.

iv. To exit, once again click on the small spreadsheet icon with the red arrow to which will return you to the previous window. Select OK and you should now be back at the Select Data Source window. Click OK again to build your Gantt chart which should now look something like this:

Add the descriptions of your Tasks to the Gantt chart
Right-click on one of the blue bars in the Gantt chart, then click on Select Data again to bring up the Select Data Source window.

On the right side of Excel’s Data Source window you will see a table named Horizontal (Category) Axis Labels. Select the Edit button to bring up a smaller Axis Label windows.

Again, click on the small spreadsheet icon. Click on the first name of your tasks (my first Task description is “Preparatory Phase”) and select them all. Be careful not to include the name of the column itself. When you are done, exit this window by clicking on the small spreadsheet icon again.

 

Click on OK and then OK again to exit the Select Data Source window, and now your Gantt chart should have the correct Task descriptions next to their respective bars. Your chart should now look something like this:

 

Format your chart so it looks like a Gantt chart
You have really built a Stacked bar chart. Now we need to format it so it looks like a Gantt chart. To do that, we must make the blue parts of each task bar transparent so only the orange parts will be visible. These will become the tasks of your Gantt chart.

To select all of the tasks bars at once, click on the blue part of any bar in your Gantt chart, then right-click and select Format Data Series, which will bring up the Format Data Series window in Excel.

In the Format Data Series task pane, click on the Fill & Line icon (it looks like a paint can) to get the Fill & Line options. Under Fill, choose the No Fill radial button and under Border choose the No Line option. Don’t close the Format Data Series task pane because we’re going to use it in the next step.

Your Gantt chart should now look like this:

you probably also see that the tasks on your Gantt chart are listed in reverse order with the last task on top of the Gantt chart and the first Task listed at the bottom. This is easy to change in Excel.

i. To do so click on the list of tasks along the vertical axis of your Gantt chart. This will select them all and it will also open the Format Axis task pane.

ii. Click on the Bar Chart icon in the Format Axis Task Pane and expand out the Axis Options menu.

iii. In the Format Axis task pane under the header Axis Options and the sub-header Axis Position put a check into the checkbox called Categories in reverse order.

 

Finish your Gantt chart with these styling tips

 

Optimize the Gantt chart

Removing some of the blank white space where the blue bars used to be will bring your tasks a little closer to the vertical axis of your Gantt chart. To remove some of the blank white space in the chart, click on the dates above the task bars. One click should select all the dates, then right click and select Format Axis to bring up Excel’s Axis Options window.

In the Axis Options window, under the header called Bounds, note the current number for Minimum Bounds. It represents the left most boundary of your Gantt chart. Changing this number by making it larger will bring your tasks closer to the vertical axis of your Gantt chart. In my case I changed the original number which was 41750.0 to 41820.0. At any time you can hit the reset button to return the original settings. This gives you the opportunity to try a number of different settings until you find the one the makes your Gantt chart look best.

Adjust the density of the dates across the top of your Gantt chart

In the same Axis Options window under the header Units, you can adjustment the spacing between each of the dates listed at the top of the horizontal Axis. If you increase the unit number your Gantt chart will enlarge the space between each date, which will also lessen the number of dates your Gantt chart shows. Doing the opposite, reduces the space between each date and therefore crowds more dates onto your Gantt chart. In my case I changed the original number from 20 to 30.

Thickening Task bars on your Gantt chart to reduce white space

Right-click on the first Task bar and choose Format Data Series to open the Format Data Series control. Under the Series Options header you will find the Gap Width control. Sliding it up or down will increase or reduce the size of your Task bars on your Gantt chart. Play around until you find something that best works for you.