How to create a Gantt chart in Google Sheets

Manage your projects with a Gantt chart

Project managers are often expected to be masters of multi-tasking. But there’s a limit to how much information anyone can juggle and retain at one time. And no matter how well you plan a project at the outset, unexpected events will always crop up and throw things off course. Where and how can you track a project simply and effectively? With a Gannt chart in Google Sheets. Here we’ll show you exactly how to do that.

A Gantt chart is the classic project management tool. Originally, it was a paper-based chart, but of course today it’s more likely to be online.

In its most basic form, a Gantt chart is a bar chart showing tasks and time – or a schedule of what activities need doing and when. More advanced versions include other information such as who is responsible for each task, how different tasks relate to each other (dependencies) and what resources are required.

You’ll often find a Gantt chart within specialist project management programs. However, if you’re not a full-time project manager, there’s no need to fork out on expensive software.

Other than the cost, another downside to project management software is that it can be overly complex. If you want simple and clear project reporting in a Gantt chart, you probably don’t advanced project software.

It’s easy to create your own Gantt charts in a spreadsheet, using the many ready-to-use templates that are available.

Why use a Gantt chart in Google Sheets?

Any project will benefit from being well-planned and monitored. When it comes to project management, Google Sheets is perfect due to its collaborative design. Most projects involve multiple people. So it makes sense for the entire team to be able to track and update their progress in the same file.

Google’s collaborative functions allow project managers to share spreadsheets with every member of the team and let them view and/or edit their progress on tasks.

Because it’s cloud-based (online) software, Google Sheets always contains real-time data and every change is saved automatically. This means that the entire team can make updates to the same file from any location, at any time.

This is far more productive for dynamic projects than sending static, offline Excel files back and forth as attachments. A Gantt chart in Google Sheets is more accessible and accurate when planning and monitoring projects.

How to structure your project in a Gantt Chart

Every project has 5 key stages or “groups”:

  1. Initiation/conception.
  2. Planning/definition.
  3. Execution/launch.
  4. Control/monitoring.
  5. Project close.

These groups are then divided into subgroups, and subgroups are divided into tasks. For example, your Group might be “Planning”, your subgroup might be “Communications Plan,” and your task might be “Define communication channels”.

Each task is usually allocated to an owner (the individual responsible for completing it).

Using a WBS for project management

Gantt charts and other project management tools often use a WBS. This stands for work breakdown structure. It’s a method for organizing a project in manageable, deliverable sections. A WBS has a hierarchical, tree-like structure, meaning that you break one large project down into smaller, achievable tasks. In your Gantt chart, a WBS helps you name and identify tasks (and their relation to each other) in this logical way.

For example, Planning (group) could be allocated the WBS number 2. In that case, Communications plan (your subgroup) might be 2.3 and Define communications channels (your task) might be 2.3.1.

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Create a Gantt chart in Google Sheets

Unless you are pretty competent with spreadsheet formulas and building your own charts, the quickest and easiest way to build a Gantt chart in Google Sheets is to use a template. A template provides you with the basic framework, and you can customize it to suit your project.

Free Google Sheets Gantt chart templates

When you create a new spreadsheet in Google Sheets, go to the Template gallery and choose one of the free templates provided by third parties, such as the one below from Smartsheet. This is a standard Gantt chart – just enter the details for your project (tasks, owners, deadlines etc) and then update the % progress.

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Use an automated Gantt chart template

Google Sheets has powerful collaboration functions. But if you’re managing a complex project or multiple projects, you might not want multiple colleagues working on (and changing) the same spreadsheet. As a project manager, it’s already a challenge to keep track of everything. And it’s often safer and more streamlined if you keep data flows segregated.

By using an automation tool like Sheetgo, you can create connections between different Google Sheets. This way, that data is transferred from one to another automatically.

The Sheetgo Project Management workflow template contains input sheets for your colleagues. Here they can update the status of their tasks. The data from these input sheets flows automatically (via Sheetgo connections) straight into your master sheet. Likewise, when you enter or update task information in your master sheet (such as extending the end date) that data is automatically exported to your team’s spreadsheets.

Sheetgo is a tool that can be used to automate every part of your business (from inventory to sales and HR) using spreadsheets, so it’s a more flexible alternative to specialist project management software. Check out the Sheetgo automated project management workflow template here.

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Get an at-a-glance overview of your project timeline in the automated Gantt chart:

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Looking for specialist Gantt software?

If you focus on project management in your work, you might want to invest in more advanced Gantt software such as TeamGantt or GanttPro.

These applications help you plan, manage and collaborate on projects, with an attractive interface for presentation. If you need to share Gantt charts and project visualizations with external stakeholders, it might be worth paying for this type of software.

So now you’ve got the lowdown on why Gantt charts are the best tools for project management and how to create a Gantt chart in Google Sheets using a template.

Looking for other spreadsheet tools and templates to help organize your projects and your business? Check out our post on how to use a Google Sheets template for budget vs actual analysis, to keep your finances on track.

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