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Project management tools and strategies: Gantt charts, PERT charts and PM planning tools

Project managers often use Gantt charts, PERT charts and other graphics to schedule tasks, organize resources and gain a greater understanding of their projects. These tips and articles and explain how to use project management tools.

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 Gantt charts, PERT charts, PM planning tools

The Gantt chart and the PERT chart are probably the two best known charts in project management. Each of these can be used for scheduling, but because Gantt charts don't illustrate task dependencies and PERT charts can be confusing, PMs often use both.

The Gantt chart, frequently misspelled as "Gant" or even "Gannt," is a great tool but can become extremely long and unwieldy. This is especially true for larger or more complicated projects. PERT charts have their limitations as well. Another PM chart can be made using the critical path method (CPM). However, the critical path can be displayed in both PERT and Gantt charts, as the articles and tips below explain.

Burn charts are used in agile methodologies such as Crystal, Scrum and Extreme Programming (XP). Regardless of the method you use, burn charts -- which include burn-down and burn-up -- can be a useful addition or alternative to more conventional charts.

  • Article: Gantt and PERT charts: This article offers a definition of each chart and a very clear, large example created using Microsoft Project. The definitions are not particularly thorough, but the graphics are perfect for visual learners.

  • Article: PERT chart: For those having trouble understanding PERT charts, this article outlines the whole planning process. Details such as different time methods -- which are designed to help account for uncertainty -- are fleshed out.

  • Article: Critical path analysis and PERT : There are tips on how to draw a critical path analysis chart and how to use PERT within this structure.

  • Lesson: Critical path method (CPM): This a class lesson with detailed instructions. Those following along can practice the critical path method in Excel.

  • Article: Gantt charts -- How to schedule complex projects: While PMs often use tools to draw Gantt charts, this article details how to manually draw the chart using graph paper. This version also breaks tasks down into critical and non-critical paths.

  • Tutorial: Brief tutorial on Gantt charts: Here are the basics on creating a work breakdown structure and, using that information, a Gantt chart. Also included are details on creating Gantt charts in Excel and in other programs.

  • Article: Burn-down chart instead of Gantt: Expert Bas de Baar argues that burn-down charts, usually found among some agile methodologies, can be a superior alternative to Gantt charts in many types of projects.

  • Q&A: Project management graphics (or Gantt charts): A PM creates an 18-page Gantt chart and wonders if there are more practical task charts available for his situation. A number of experienced project managers offer their advice.

  • Book excerpt: Earned value and burn-down charts: Here are detailed instructions for created burn-down and burn-up charts to track progress. Alistair Cockburn adapted this page from his book, Crystal Clear.

  • Tip: Big Visible Charts: No fancy MS Project screenshots here. The Big Visible Charts (BVC) in this tip are all drawn by hand using whiteboard markers (this is a suggestion, not a requirement). In addition, the subject of a BVC may vary wildly. The creator of the chart can make it about whatever he or she needs, although the author proposes a few ideas, such as customer acceptance tests and burn-down charts. This is an XP site, but the ideas are good for many different types of projects.

Our next section contains Other useful resources for project managers.

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