A Gantt chart is a useful tool for analyzing and planning projects. It helps you to plan the activities and the schedules to complete the tasks. Additionally, it can guide you in planning the resources for each activity with regards to the number and type of resources.
Once a project is ongoing, a Gantt chart can help you monitor the progress of the project. Any task not completed on schedule can be identified and remedial actions can be taken to put the other tasks back on schedule.
As you establish the activities for the project, you will notice sequential and parallel activities. Sequential activities are activities have to be completed in sequence. The task has to be completed before the next task can be started. They are dependent activities since they depend on the completion of the previous task before the next task can be started. Parallel activities are activities that can be started concurrently. They do not depend on the completion of any task for them to be started. As such, the manager has the option of when to start the activity as long as they meet the scheduled project deadline. The advantage is managers can schedule the activities during the period when resources are available. The risk is people might tend to put off the activity until the very end and if all parallel activities are pushed to the very end, it might result in a shortage of resources. Some parallel activities might be dependent on the completion of some tasks before they can start. There are two types of dependencies to be considered, the predecessor and successor activities. The predecessor activities are vital since these are the activities which if not completed on time will impact the start of this task. The successor activities are equally as important since these will tell you the impact and repercussions on the prospective tasks if this activity is not completed on schedule. Watch both dependencies closely.
When drawing up the Gantt chart, start with the list of activities. Begin with the major activities. You can expand the major activities later on with the subtasks. At the start, it is vital that you consider all the major activities because missing a major activity could mean the downfall of the project. Set an estimated duration for each of the major activities. Provide for some contingency in your estimates. For instance, people could get sick, inclement weather, or other uncontrollable situations could arise and affect your schedules. Providing contingencies will help minimize adjustment of project deadlines. Depending on the type of project and your experience, contingencies could range from twelve to twenty percent of the total project duration. This is not a standard and any contingency, if ever, depends on the judgment of the project manager. Management and stakeholders will try to cut down the project time since the longer the project takes, the more costs will be incurred. Project managers and team members would prefer having more time to allow them some flexibility and time to compensate for unforeseen events.