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One of the most effective ways to keep track of projects is by creating a Gantt chart online. Unless you’re new to project management, you probably already know the definition of a Gantt chart. After all, it’s been one of the most popular project management tools for decades.
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However, online Gantt charts are a little different than the standalone solutions that were in use several years back. Instead of saving information to your hard drive, they operate in the cloud and are continuously updated as changes are being made.
Not only does this mean that everyone involved in the project has access to the same up-to-date chart, it also means that the Gantt chart is automatically updated every time a team completes a task. This adds an additional layer of transparency to the workflow, while giving you the opportunity to measure progress in real-time. You can then use that information to help you plan future projects more accurately.
If you’ve been looking for a project management tool to replace your spreadsheets or Gantt chart software, this article is for you. We’re going to look at how you can use a Gantt chart online to enhance your project management skills and create a collaborative work environment.
Benefits of Using a Gantt Chart Online
In our previous article, we talked about how Gantt charts provide project managers with better workload visibility. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Along with giving you a visual timeline of your project and tasks, there are a wide range of other benefits that come with using a Gantt chart online.
Here are some other ways using a Gantt chart online can help you and your teams:
- You can set important project milestones: A good online Gantt chart solution should let you use milestones to define end phases within your project. Usually identified as a diamond shape, milestones can be used to break your project up into stages (like high-priority tasks or important checkpoints) and track the accomplishments of your teams.
- Using a Gantt chart online enhances collaboration: Once you and your teams become accustomed to using a Gantt chart, it will become your canvas for smooth collaboration. An online chart acts as a living project schedule, where management and teams can share information like important documents, view up-to-date project data, and communicate on issues related to the project – all from one platform.
- It lets you compare your plans to the actual progress: A Gantt chart lets you measure the progress of projects and how long it took teams to complete tasks, and compare that to the time you scheduled. Your online Gantt chart should be able to update the progress of tasks in real-time as teams complete work, making it easier to determine whether your teams are ahead of schedule, running behind, or on time.
An online Gantt chart acts as the project’s mission control. You can turn it into a platform that connects teams together, letting them see how their work ties into the bigger picture.
Go for a chart that employs online collaborative tools that eliminate the need for teams to rely on multiple applications. Instead of using emails and calendars to track projects, you and your teams can communicate and keep track of the project timeline without leaving your Gantt chart.
Communicating with a Gantt Chart Online
When you think of communication tools, the Gantt chart isn’t usually the first tool that comes to mind. While it doesn’t operate the same was as an email or live chat platform, the Gantt chart is an important communication tool. After all, its primary purpose is to visually communicate multiple aspects of your project, including:
- The project timeline and deadline for tasks
- The progress of the project
- How tasks are connected with dependencies
In other words, a Gantt chart acts as a hub that communicates all information related to the project. Good communication is crucial. Poor (or no) communication is the primary reason projects fail, and Gantt charts can help you remove communication barriers. Let’s look at some ways you and your teams can enhance communication with the help of a Gantt chart.
Shareability keeps everyone in the loop
Good communication starts with creating your Gantt chart online and sharing it. It’s likely that you won’t be the only person planning the project, so you’ll need to collaborate with teams, clients, executive stakeholders, and anyone else involved.
Fortunately, this is easy with a Gantt chart. Simply add your collaborators to the chart so they can help you plan and plot out your project. If you’re working with external collaborators, you’ll want to have a Gantt platform that lets you invite them with a link.
Keeping data organized
Gantt charts might be designed to communicate data more easily, but that information can easily become chaotic if you let it. The more data that gets added to your chart, the harder it can be for you and your teams to follow.
When choosing a Gantt chart online, select a platform that lets you color-code tasks. Consider implementing a system like:
- Green for completed tasks
- Red for overdue tasks
- Blue for tasks in progress that aren’t overdue
Alternatively, you can assign colors based on teams.
Even neatly organized boards can get too busy if there’s a lot of information on one page. This can lead to communication problems that could negatively impact the project’s performance. You can mitigate this by using a filter feature to temporarily hide irrelevant information from your chart, without affecting the data for other collaborators.
Leveraging real-time communication
Many project management solutions that allow you to create a Gantt chart online also come with built-in communication features like commenting and live chat. This type of platform helps eliminate the communication barrier between teams and project managers.
You and your teams can view important project data while communicating about updates and changes to your project. This effectively turns your Gantt chart into a central work hub where planning and collaboration take place on the same page, without the need for several third-party applications.
Online Gantt Charts and Virtual Teams
Working with virtual teams can be especially challenging. You must keep an open channel of communication between you and your teams. Without good communication, you could run into problems like missed deadlines, siloed teams, and project misalignment.
If you’re still using spreadsheets and emails to collaborate with virtual teams, you’re not working as efficiently as you should be. Making the switch to a Gantt chart online can help you keep track of work and resources much more effectively, while also making it easier for you to monitor deadlines, work progress, and resources as projects move forward.
Let’s look at how you can use a Gantt chart to optimize work and improve collaboration with virtual teams.
Avoid overworking your teams
As a rule, overworked employees don’t produce the best work. They often feel stressed and overwhelmed, which can result in greater human error. When you’re not working with teams every day in an office setting, it’s harder to see whether your employees are overburdened.
Gantt charts let you keep a watchful eye on your most important resource – your employees.
You get a visual representation of every employee or team’s assigned tasks and deadlines.
Your Gantt chart can even show you an employee or team’s assigned tasks across two or more projects. This makes it easier to identify when resources are spread too thin, as well as make informed decisions when planning and scheduling future projects.
One of the major differences that sets the Gantt chart apart from a simple project calendar is the ability to connect dependencies between tasks. Chances are that your project is more complex than a series of milestones that need to be completed.
It’s likely that you have tasks can only be started after another task has begun or has been completed. These interconnected tasks are called dependencies, and they can be mapped out on your Gantt chart.
Setting dependencies is an important step when creating a Gantt chart online. It’s important for you and your teams to have a good understanding of the sequence of work and how tasks interact with each other.
Fortunately, linking dependencies is a quick and intuitive process with most online Gantt tools. You’re usually given the opportunity to define dependencies when you create a new task or edit an existing one.
Mapping out dependencies on a Gantt chart also makes it easier to find your project’s critical path. The critical path is the longest string of dependent tasks within the project timeline.
Setbacks during this part of the project can slow it down significantly, because work must be completed in a domino effect. As such, you want to keep a watchful eye over the work being completed within the critical path, so you can catch bottlenecks before they grow into bigger problems that throw the project off course.
How to Find the Best Gantt Chart Online
Using a Gantt chart can help you recover from several problems you may encounter in a project, including:
- Losing track of the progress of the project
- Keeping project data contained within departmental silos
- Forgetting to connect some task dependencies
- Failing to cover key information in your project kickoff meeting
But not every Gantt chart is the same. Some are too simplistic and fail at enhancing remote collaboration, while others may be difficult to navigate or slow to sync across computers and devices.
With so many platforms to choose from, how do you find the best online Gantt chart for you and your teams?
Instead of purchasing a standalone Gantt chart program, consider a cloud-based project management platform that lets you create and manage Gantt charts online. This will provide the benefits that come with using a Gantt chart, like improved project planning and tracking, as well as access to other tools to help you and your teams work more efficiently.
Below are some features you should look for when browsing different online Gantt chart tools:
- Ability to set up a Work Breakdown Structure: Choose a Gantt chart that comes with features like setting important milestones, start and end dates for projects and tasks, and the ability to define dependencies. While these are features that come standard with Gantt charts, make sure you can set high-level plans, as well as create plans at the granular level.
- Access to a wide range of templates: Gantt charts can be used for nearly every type of project in every type of industry. Having access to templates means you can set up a chart quickly for any department within your organization.
- An interactive and intuitive interface: A big part of being a project manager is being able to quickly adapt to change. Choose a Gantt chart online that offers drag-and-drop Gantt bars and other interactive features that make it easier for you to update the chart at a moment’s notice.
- Comprehensive collaboration tools: Collaborative tools are important for everyone, but they’re a must-have if you’re managing distributed teams. Choose a platform that lets you create and share the Gantt chart online, while also offering centralized document storage for important project files, a chat feature for communicating on project-related issues, and integrations supporting popular workplace tools.
- Other project management tools: There are several other project management tools you can use alongside your Gantt chart to empower your teams even more.
- In-depth reporting and forecasting: Choose a project management solution that offers detailed reporting so you can accurately predict the time and budget of future projects, forecast bottlenecks, and keep a watchful eye on resources and the progression of tasks.
Manage Your Projects More Easily
The Gantt chart is a powerful tool that highlights your project’s planned progress and compares it to the actual progress teams are making. By adding extra visibility to your workflow, Gantt charts make it easier for you to monitor resources and plan projects with greater accuracy.
Now that we’ve talked about the benefits of using a Gantt chart online, are you ready to get started? Sign up for Projectplace’s fully functional 30-day trial and see for yourself how using a Gantt chart alongside other innovative project management tools can enhance the way you and your teams work.