Introduction

Henry Gantt
Over one hundred years ago, an American mechanical engineer and management consultant named Henry Gantt revolutionized the field of scientific management. In search of a way to visualize resource loading and project planning for modern factories, he invented the Gantt chart—and forever changed the field of project management.

Gantt charts were the number one project management tool throughout the twentieth century. But today questions abound about whether or not Gantt charts work with agile workflows. Jeff Sutherland, one of the inventors of scrum, famously banned the use of Gantt charts from sprints. Yet, even Sutherland conceded that Gantt charts are useful when a product owner needs to present to non-agile teams.

The fact is that no team is 100% agile, 100% of the time. We all have deadlines. And Gantt charts help teams reach them by visualizing tasks over time, dependencies, resource allocations and more. The bigger the project, the more teams and members involved, and the more dependencies there are, the more a Gantt chart can help you keep track of it all and meet your deadline.

Keep reading to learn how to use Gantt charts for project management.

KEEP READING

to learn how to use Gantt charts for project management.

What is a Gantt Chart

What is Gantt Chart
A Gantt chart is a horizontal bar chart that shows a project plan over time. It provides a convenient way of visualizing all the tasks (called "issues" in Jira) that make up the project, as well as their dependencies (i.e., if one task must be completed before another can begin).

Gantt charts comprise terminal elements and summary elements. A terminal element is one of several small tasks that need to be completed as part of a larger task (the summary element). A chef, for instance, may have the summary element of making a sauce. Accomplishing this task, would require multiple terminal elements: chop onions and garlic, crush tomatoes, preheat pan, add olive oil, sauté ingredients, etc.

Once all of these elements are defined, we can assign estimates for how much time will be required to complete each element. Using a Gantt chart, we can identify any dependencies (e.g., the ingredients need to be chopped before they can be cooked) or resource constraints (the chef can only do one thing at a time). We can plot the schedule out on paper (or better yet, in Jira) to come up with deadlines and figure out when dinner will be served.

The Benefits of Using Gantt Charts for Project Management

Project management isn't easy. You have to juggle multiple contributors and teams, numerous activities, and a diverse range of stakeholder expectations to make sure it all comes in on time and on budget. Gantt charts help by allowing you to see all the work that needs to be done, what resources are available, and how the project plan will play out over time.

Visualize Your Entire Project Plan on a Timeline: Keeping track of start and end dates in a spreadsheet is a headache. With a Gantt chart, you’re easily able to visualize each task and the entire project schedule. This allows everyone to see how their work fits into the big picture.

Set Dependencies and See Critical Paths: You can’t make an omelet without breaking an egg. This is a dependency. Gantt charts enable project managers to identify and visualize dependencies. This allows you to understand how to sequence and prioritize tasks, and it shows you how one delay can impact the rest of your project plan.
Track Your Progress Against Milestones: Just as tasks allow you to break your elephant-sized project into bite-sized pieces, milestones can be used to divide the timeline into manageable project phases. Gantt charts make it easy to visualize your milestones and see your progress as your team drives towards them.

Update Your Plans on the Fly: In the old days, Gantt charts were very tedious and time-consuming to make and update on paper. Thanks to modern project management software, it’s now possible to instantly update your tasks and timeline simply by dragging and dropping them into place. With many applications, like WBS Gantt Chart for Jira, adjusting the completion date for one task will automatically update the schedule for other dependencies. This makes it easy for you to keep track of constantly evolving project plans.

Should You Use Gantt Charts for Agile Project Management?

Should You Use Gantt Charts for Agile Project Management?
Gantt charts were originally created for the waterfall methodology of project management. Waterfall describes an approach to breaking down a project into sequential, linear phases, where each phase must be completed prior to proceeding to the next one. There is no return to a completed phase. ​

Waterfall project management has its roots in the manufacturing and construction industries, where project phases by necessity are sequential. (You can’t install an engine before you have built the chassis.) Gantt charts gained their popularity from their ability to break very large, complex projects into manageable tasks and timelines. ​

Because of their origins in waterfall project management, some have questioned the usefulness of Gantt charts for agile project management methodologies. Unlike waterfall, agile methodologies take a continuous, highly iterative approach to planning, development, implementation and testing. This is ideal for software development allowing teams to build features based on customer feedback, fix bugs before they become bigger issues, and deliver innovation faster and more frequently. ​

Yet, there are very few pure agile organizations. Agile teams frequently collaborate with non-agile teams, as well as internal stakeholders who stubbornly insist on project milestones and ship dates. Gantt charts give project management professionals (PMPs) a convenient tool for communicating with these audiences.

Benefits of Gantt Charts for Agile Teams

Provide a unified vision for the project and product roadmap across teams
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Enable teams to take ownership of their work and schedule
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Easier to explain to an executive than a burndown chart
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Simplify project planning and sprint tracking across multiple teams
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Visualize project schedules and dependencies within and between sprints
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Easily move tasks into our out of your sprints, track progress, and manage resources

How to Create a Gantt Chart in Jira

Jira does not offer a native Gantt chart feature. Luckily, there are multiple apps (like WBS Gantt-Chart for Jira) in the Atlassian Marketplace that make it easy to create a Gantt chart in Jira. Learn about the best Jira Gantt chart plugins.

Below is a step-by-step process showing how to create a Gantt chart using Ricksoft’s app WBS Gantt-Chart for Jira. Originally built for Japan’s largest automaker, WBS Gantt chart is packed with useful features, offers an intuitive Microsoft Project-like interface, and provides the fast, latency-free performance demanded by enterprise users.

The Steps

Install a Gantt Chart App

Step 1

Install a Gantt Chart App

Sign up for a 30-day free trial of WBS Gantt Chart in the Atlassian Marketplace, and follow the simple instructions to install the app.
Create a Gantt Chart

Step 2

Create a Gantt Chart

Already have a project in Jira? Then you’re just a few quick steps away from creating a Gantt chart. To get started, simply choose WBS Gantt-Chart from the top-level menu and select Create Gantt.
Create a Gantt Chart
Gantt Chart Creation Wizard
This brings up a wizard that lets you name your Gantt chart and, with a simple click, select an existing project to transform into a Gantt chart. You’ll instantly see all issues related to your project.
Schedule Your Projects

Step 3

Schedule Your Projects

Project planning is easy with WBS Gantt-Chart. To start creating your plan, simply edit the Start and Finish dates on the WBS display. Don’t want to manually calculate Finish dates? No problem. You can simply enter the Start date and Duration. The app will automatically account for nonworking days to calculate the Finish date. The great thing about Gantt charts is being able to visually see and update your plan. With WBS Gantt-Chart, you have the power to instantly adjust task schedules by dragging and dropping either end of a task bar.
Schedule Your Projects
Create Dependency Between Issues
Need to create a dependency in Jira? Simply click on the beginning or end of a task bar, and drag it to connect it to the beginning or end of another task. The app supports four types of dependencies: Start-Start, Start-End, End-Start, and End-End. Now, whenever the schedule changes for one issue, the Gantt chart will automatically adjust the schedule for the dependent issue.

WBS Gantt-Chart for Jira is tuned for enterprise-scale project management. Unlike other Jira plugins that automatically save every change, WBS waits until you’re ready to save your updates. This enables you to freely “play” with your schedule, without sending unnecessary notifications to your team or leaving you waiting on a slow server.
Add Tasks, Epics, and Versions

Step 4

Add Tasks, Epics, and Versions

To add a task, epic, or version, simply click the Add button in the operations toolbar.
Add Tasks, Epics, and Versions
Add a version in the project
Now you can add tasks to your new version by dragging and dropping them into place. ​

WBS Gantt-Chart is seamlessly integrated with Jira. That means you have complete control over your Jira issues from the comfort of your Gantt chart dashboard. Need to update the Assignee, Priority, or other Jira issue fields? Simply select the field in the dashboard, make your change, and hit Save when you’re done. Working in Jira couldn’t be any easier.
Track Progress and Visualize Your Success

Step 5

Track Progress and Visualize Your Success

Once you’re done planning your project, you’ll want to save it as a Baseline Plan so you can keep track of your progress.

From the Tools dropdown in the operations menu, select All Child Issues to create your Baseline. Now you’ll see light gray colored bars underneath your tasks showing the Baseline Plan. This makes it easy to track whether you’re ahead or behind schedule.
Track Progress and Visualize Your Success
See a critical path
No Gantt chart would be complete without a Critical Path feature. To see the critical parts of your project, go to the Tools dropdown, and select Critical Path. This highlights dependencies between tasks and gives you an instant snapshot of tasks that directly affect your project schedule.

How to Choose a Jira Gantt Chart App

As mentioned above, Jira does not have a native Gantt chart feature. Fortunately, there are currently more than half a dozen Gantt chart apps in the Atlassian Marketplace, including Ricksoft’s popular WBS Gantt-Chart for Jira.

Below we provide an overview of key Gantt chart features to help you select the best app for your project management organization (PMO).

Must-Have Features

Milestones
Projects are full of milestones—look for a Gantt chart app that supports them. They’ll allow you and your teams to quickly see important dates and how you’re tracking against them.
Create Dependencies
No Gantt project would be complete without dependencies. Look for an app that makes it easy to link tasks and then automatically updates your project schedule based on changes to dependent tasks.
Critical Path View
As a PMP, you know that some tasks are more important than others. The critical path is the series of dependencies that directly impact the finish date of your project. You should look for an app that lets you see the critical path at a glance, so you never lose sight of your finish line.
Baseline Plan Tracking
Need to know how well your original project plan worked? Some Jira Gantt chart apps let you save and highlight the baseline plan, so you can easily see where your estimates were off and learn how to improve your project planning in the future.
Jira Integration
There’s a big difference between a “Jira Gantt view” and a “Jira Gantt chart.” The first only provides a static graphical overlay of your Jira issues, without any ability to edit the tasks from within the Gantt view. A proper Jira Gantt chart plugin provides full integration with Jira, allowing you to modify issues, view issue details, modify schedules and more from within the Gantt chart.

Key Considerations

User Interface (UI)

One of the great things about the Atlassian Marketplace is that you can sign up for a free trial of any app. You should take advantage of this opportunity to test the usability of any Gantt chart plugins you’re considering. Look for an app that is easy to use, with an intuitive UI. This will facilitate adoption and save your users from the frustrations of learning new software. If you’re coming from another Gantt chart software like Microsoft Project, selecting an app that has a similar look and feel can help users get up to speed quickly. Lastly, think about whether or not your teams would benefit from being able to customize the UI or project templates. Some Gantt chart apps provide a lot more flexibility here than others.

Enterprise-grade performance

How many users and issues do you need to support, today and tomorrow? This is a critical consideration when selecting a Gantt chart app. Some of the apps in the Atlassian Marketplace were built to help small teams get started with Gantt charts. They work great for small teams and projects, but they don’t offer the features, customizability, or system performance required to perform at scale. Likewise, you should be wary of apps with autosynching functionality. If you’re a PMP dealing with hundreds or thousands of issues, the last thing you want is to wait for the server every time you update a task.

Market proven

One of the best ways to validate your decision is to confirm that other businesses like yours are successfully using it. Be sure to read reviews, check customer references, and talk to other Gantt chart users to make sure that the app will work for your teams. Then, take advantage of the free trial to confirm your decision.

Discover the Power and Simplicity of Gantt Charts for Project Management

When you have thousands of Jira issues standing between you and success, there’s only one app you can count on to manage dependencies, master milestones, and keep your projects on schedule.

WBS Gantt Chart for Jira is built for enterprise-grade collaboration. It’s lightning fast, packed with features, and surprisingly easy to configure and use. Try it today for free, and see why innovation leaders like Toyota, Bosch, and Google trust it to handle their biggest and most important projects.