Briefing document: How to create a Gantt chart using a spreadsheet

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1 Briefing document: How to create a Gantt chart using a spreadsheet A Gantt chart is a popular way of using a bar-type chart to show the schedule for a project. It is named after Henry Gantt who created his chart in 1910 although it is said that he took the idea of someone else who d produced a chart much earlier! But because his idea was the first one published, it was named after him. The chart represents the tasks within a project and shows when they should begin and end. It can also be used to show relationships between tasks dependencies, for example, where one task is dependent on the completion of another. It is also possible to represent tasks that can be carried out at the same time, depending on resources. For example, if you are working in a team, it might be that someone can be working on the audio whilst someone else works on the video. The chart provides a very visual way of showing the progress of a project, and allows you to check at any time what should be happening. This briefing document will introduce you to making a project plan for your website using a simple spreadsheet. Step 1: Select your software program Any spreadsheet program can be used for creating a Gantt chart. The program we re going to use in the example is MS Excel. Open Excel and immediately save your spreadsheet into your My Documents area. Call it Project Plan. Step 2: Creating the tasks The first column in the spreadsheet will list all the tasks you need to do in your project. For this example we are going to use research (into existing sites), audience (researching the audience for your website), design (what the website will look and feel like), images (what images you will include), audio (creating the audio content), video (filming and editing the video), content (writing the text), integration (bringing everything together) and evaluation (user testing and collecting feedback). Enter the names in the first column. Your spreadsheet should look like Figure 1 below. Copyright e-skills UK Sector Skills Council Ltd

2 Figure 1: Listing the tasks Step 3: Defining the start dates This is where you have to start planning your project! You need to decide when each task is going to start. This might depend on your deadline that is, the date you need to deliver your final website. Supposing you have seven weeks to deliver your project, and you re going to start on 1 st September The first thing you will need to do is carry out research into existing websites, and some research into your audience type. So these two tasks need to be done first. Realistically we will start with research into websites on 1 st September and research into audience two days later, 3 rd September. To enter the start dates, begin by defining the second column for this variable (a variable is something that has a changing value so in this case it s the different dates that tasks in the project will start on). Enter Start Date in the first cell of column B (make it bold by highlighting it and choosing bold from the toolbar). Right click on the B at the top of the column, and select format cells. Choose date and then select which format you would like your date to appear as. I have chosen the format, but you can choose a different format. Every time I enter a date in this column, it will appear in the same format, even if I type in 1 September. See figure 2 for the steps in this process and what you should see when you enter the dates. Copyright e-skills UK Sector Skills Council Ltd

3 Figure 2: Entering the start dates 1. Select format cells after right clicking the top of the column (so the whole column is selected). 2. Select date and choose the format you would like the date to appear in. I have selected the format Every time I enter a date, even if I write it as 3 Sep, it will change to the selected format. Copyright e-skills UK Sector Skills Council Ltd

4 Continue to enter realistic dates for when you think you will start the different tasks in the project. Go back to the priority list generated in Briefing Document: How to manage a simple project for help with this. If you find you have underestimated the time taken for a particular part of the project, you can change the start date in your spreadsheet later. I have generated dates that I think are realistic. Figure 3: All the start dates added I have calculated that I need to start the design one week after the project starts. Images will need to be sourced quite early too. Audio will take about a week, and so will the video. Content writing starts shortly after the video begins. Integration is a big job, and that can t happen until everything else is ready. I have left over a week for integration, and evaluation starts just six weeks after the project start date. That gives me a week for evaluation as the project needs to end mid-october. Step 4: Working out the time line The next thing to do is work out how long each task will take. You can also add a column here that shows how much has already been done and what is left. So supposing it was the 11 th September, and we were on schedule. We could show in our chart what has been completed and what is still outstanding. The way to do this is to have two columns column C will be Completed and column D Remaining. Enter these two headings in the two columns. On September 11 th, this is how my project is going: Research have done 3 days but need 2 more, so enter 3 under Completed and 2 under Remaining Audience have done 4 days and it s all finished, so enter 4 under Completed and 0 under Remaining Copyright e-skills UK Sector Skills Council Ltd

5 Design have done 3 days and need another week, so enter 3 under Completed and 7 under Remaining Images started yesterday so I ve only done one day and will need another 2 days, so enter 1 under Completed and 2 under Remaining. Audio I haven t started and I think it will need a week, so enter 0 under Completed and 7 under Remaining. Video I haven t started that either, and I think it will need 10 days, so enter 0 under completed and 10 under Remaining Content another task not started, so 0 under Completed and this will take 3 days, so 3 under Remaining Integration a big task, but I m not starting it for a while, so 0 under Completed and 10 under Remaining Evaluation right at the end, so 0 under Completed and 7 under Remaining. Enter this data into the spreadsheet. It should look like Figure 4. Figure 4: The Completed and Remaining data entered Step 5: Making a chart Select the cells A10 to D10. The cells will turn blue. Whilst they are selected, click on the Chart Wizard icon on the toolbar (it looks like a three-dimensional chart). See figure 5. Copyright e-skills UK Sector Skills Council Ltd

6 Figure 5: Selecting the cells to use with the Chart Wizard When the Chart Wizard opens, select Bar and find the stacked bar option (the box on the right side of the wizard tells you which option you have selected). See figure 6. Figure 6: Selecting the stacked bar chart option Copyright e-skills UK Sector Skills Council Ltd

7 Click, Next, Next and Finish and you should have something that looks like Figure 7. Figure 7: The stacked bar chart This isn t quite what a real Gantt chart looks like, so we need to carry out some formatting to make it easier to read and use. Step 6: Making the stacked bar chart into a Gantt chart Double click on the blue section of the top bar, and a dialogue box headed Format Data Series will appear. Click None for Border and None for Area and click ok. See figure 8. Figure 8: Formatting the data series Copyright e-skills UK Sector Skills Council Ltd

8 You should have something that looks like figure 9. Figure 9: After formatting the start date data series Next we are going to format the axes. Double click on the vertical axis (the one that lists all the tasks) and the Format Axis dialogue box will open. Select the Scale tab along the top. Select the Categories in Reverse Order checkbox. See figure 10. Figure 10: Changing the task order Next step click on the Font tab along the top and select font size 8 in the right hand box. See figure 11. Copyright e-skills UK Sector Skills Council Ltd

9 Figure 11: Formatting the font size Click ok. Your chart will appear with the Research task at the top of this axis and the Evaluation task at the bottom and the labels will be smaller this fits with the order in which the tasks are carried out on a Gantt chart. The next step is quite complicated, because we need to find some General numbers that correspond to the dates of our project time line. In your spreadsheet, click on the cell that shows the start date of the first task 1 st September Select Format and Cells. When the Format Cells dialogue box opens, select General. A number appears in the small box on the right. Make a note of it. In this example, it s See figure 12. Now we need to find the same number for the date the project should be finished let s say the 19 th October. To find what this date is, enter 19 th October at the bottom of the Start Date column, highlight it, then select Format, Cells and General. The number in this case is Again make a note of it. See figure 13. Copyright e-skills UK Sector Skills Council Ltd

10 Figure 12: Locating the project start date general number Figure 13: Locating the project end date general number Copyright e-skills UK Sector Skills Council Ltd

11 Now we re going to format the horizontal axis, which is now at the top of the chart. Double click on it to bring up another Format Axis box. Select Scale and a series of boxes with numbers in will appear. We re going to put some new numbers in the boxes. In the box labelled Minimum type the general number for the project start date In the box labelled Maximum type the general number for the project end date In the Major unit, we re going to type in 4 this means the chart will show us every four days along the axis. The Minor unit will be 1 which means 1 day. Also make sure the Category (X) axis crosses a maximum value box is checked. See figure 14. Figure 14: Formatting the horizontal axis Next, click on the Alignment tab, last one at the top. You will see a box under Orientation on the left side. Highlight the 0 that is in there and type in 45. Click ok. The dates at the top of your chart should now be aligned at an angle of 45 o to the axis. See figure 15. Copyright e-skills UK Sector Skills Council Ltd

12 Figure 15: Realigning the text in the horizontal axis and its result We re nearly there! A couple more formatting tasks and we have completed our Gantt chart. Click on the horizontal axis at the top and bring up the Format Axis box again. Select Font from the tabs, choose font size 8 and make it bold. Click ok. The dates across the top axis will appear smaller and clearer. The last step is to sort out the box with the data labels, which is showing Start Date. This box is called the legend. Double click on it to bring up the Format Legend dialogue box. Click on the Placement tab, and select bottom. See figure 16. Figure 16: Formatting the legend Copyright e-skills UK Sector Skills Council Ltd

13 When you click ok, your chart will now have the legend box at the bottom. Finally, highlight the words Start Date and click delete to remove it. You can make your Gantt chart larger by dragging it out from the corners. To remove it from the spreadsheet program, you can highlight it, copy it and paste it into a word processing program, such as MS Word. Make sure change the Page Setup in Word to landscape to accommodate the chart. It should look like this: You have used some advanced formatting functions within MS Excel to create this chart. Now you can create your own chart for your project and use it to monitor your progress. If anything changes in the project schedule for example, a task being finished faster than you expected, or something taking longer than expected just change the values in the Completed and Remaining columns and the chart will automatically change. You can then copy and paste the new one into MS Word if you want to keep a record. Copyright e-skills UK Sector Skills Council Ltd

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