Project schedules – including a detailed Gantt Chart – are great tools to use when managing your project. But they’re only less than half of the equation. You must be relying on project status reports, project budgeting reports, resource forecasting and allocation, and issues/risks lists as project management tools as well if you want to make sure that all of your bases are covered and if you want to give your project its greatest chance for success.
If your project is complex, you may run into the following problems if the Gantt chart is your only planning tool:
It does not identify potential weak links between phases
Whenever work is transferred from one person or department to another, your project is subject to potential delay. These weak links are the most common causes of delays.
Example: One team member completes his portion of the work for one phase, but another fails to take up and complete his part by the deadline because the email is buried somewhere in his inbox. He did not communicate within the network to find out why the apparent delay had occurred. More than just the Gantt chart is needed here, obviously. Regular, internal team meetings and communications are needed to do status checks on where tasks stand and to keep individual team members accountable.
It does not reveal the problems your team will encounter due to unexpected delays
The Gantt chart
shows only the planned and actual start and completion dates for each phase. It gives you a quick visual overview of the project’s status, but you might need more. The chart does not show how a delay during one phase will impact on the completion of another. Thus, one of the most critical actions you can take - spotting problems and countering them in time - is not always possible by use of the Gantt chart alone.
It does not coordinate the resources or networking requirements needed at critical points in the schedule
Many projects can proceed only when forms, documents, reports, outside help, and other requirements are either developed by your team or supplied by someone else. Thus, a complete schedule should identify these critical points and enable you to plan ahead for the related demands. The Gantt chart does not provide this much detail.
It does not show the degree of completion for each phase
You can use the fill-in method and carefully track degrees of phase completion, but generally, the Gantt chart is not designed for detailed tracking; it is intended to be used only as an overview of the entire project. Once you discover an error, you will have to investigate, identify the cause, and correct the problem. By then, the problem has already occurred. Fortunately, there are alternative scheduling techniques that allow you to spot emerging delays and avoid them - through knowing where the weak links are or being able to anticipate problems.
Use the Gantt chart to define overall scheduling priorities, discuss modifications with your team, track timing goals, and report on the project’s success while it’s underway. But for more detailed monitoring, you will need more advanced scheduling techniques as well as the usual regular project status and forecasting tools mentioned at the beginning of this article.