Gantt charts are the standard project management visual aid. The Gantt chart, at its simplest, is a bar chart representation of tasks over time. This is easily accomplished by using spreadsheet applications, and it is no accident that Excel Gantt chart templates are so common, and so commonly searched for. Typing “Excel Gantt chart template” into Google will give you more than four and a half million results!
Why Use Excel Gantt Chart Templates?
If you are managing a simple project, Excel Gantt chart templates are a wonderful. They save time, money, and let you jump right into your project.
If you’re a PhD student submitting your thesis plan to your adviser, being able to put together a Gantt chart quickly, and for free, is a big help! If you’re plotting out a private side project, you can avoid the task management SaaS options and their costs with an online search. Maybe you need to slap together a Gantt chart for a presentation somewhere, and it’s more of a progress report than a project plan. Presto – a few clicks, some data entry, and your presentation is good to go.
If this describes you and your need for a Gantt chart, stop reading here. Download this Gantt Chart template, use it, and live happily forever after. If it doesn’t, keep reading.
Why Are There Free Excel Gantt Chart Templates?
An eagle-eyed searcher may notice that many of the results in that free online Gantt Google template search are from project management software companies. There is a reason these companies are giving you an alternative to their product for free.
Excel Gantt chart templates don’t work.
Excel Gantt chart templates are simple, straightforward, bar chart graphs. Unless you are a spreadsheet wizard, the most you’ll get out of it is the most basic of project plans. For small businesses, or PhD students, this might well be enough. When you get to modern and complex projects, though, using Excel Gantt chart templates is like using instant soup mix for a fancy dinner for three hundred people.
It might get the job done, but it will leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.
When it comes to project planning, the Excel templates are just not up to the task.
Especially for complex projects.
The Gantt chart templates lack the basic tools project managers need. Excel lives in a vacuum. There is no team collaboration with an Excel spreadsheet. Even if you use an online Gantt chart template, which allows for team members to input progress or changes, you’re still lacking basic tools like team loading and planned vs actual tracking.
What all those project management software companies are hoping for is that you’ll download their template. And when you realize that Excel isn’t the right way to manage your project, you’ll come back to them and use their software instead. You already like them, because they gave you something for free and tried to be helpful. It’s brilliant marketing!
Everything Has A Cost
Free is rarely free. On the one hand, the old adage “you get what you pay for” is accurate. On the other, what you save in money you will often spend in time or quality. The iron triangle is accurate, too.
Using free Gantt chart templates saves you money. It also will cost you extra time in chasing after the team for progress updates, in task management, and in basic project management functions like workload balancing.
Task Management Becomes A Black Hole
You have your Gantt chart in your Excel spreadsheet. Great.
How will you manage your team’s workflow and tasks? On a second tab in the spreadsheet, listing the tasks? Manually, tracking everything on your own?
How will you get progress updates and input them into the project plan?
Tracking Project Progress Is Impossible
How will you track delays and identify upcoming problems in the project?
How do you track planned vs. actual progress for the project?
You’ll receive no reporting from Excel. Whatever metrics you plan to use to measure project progress, you’ll need to do it by hand. Good luck.
The Elephant In The Room
The elephant in the room is simple. Project management in the modern work environment has evolved. Gantt charts plan projects around tasks. Today’s projects are not task based. Modern projects, like modern organizations, focus on people instead of tasks. The outdated mental model of a production line still reigns supreme in project management, where tasks are the organizing principle of a project.
Gantt charts are a hundred years old. It was created to optimize manufacturing lines. That is why tasks are its organizing principle! For linear, input-to-output processes, the Gantt chart is a pretty solid tool.
Modern projects don’t have outputs, they have goals. They have inputs from far flung places, only some of which are direct inputs. Far from linear, modern project management resembles an airline route map, with the project manager as the hub connecting all the various spokes. A Gantt chart is a woefully inadequate tool for modern project management.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is simple. The free online Excel Gantt chart template you are looking for is of limited value.
- It cannot manage complex projects
- It cannot be used for task management
- You’ll be lacking basic project management tools
- Measuring project success will be difficult, as reporting on project management metrics will need to be done by hand
- Excel lacks collaborative capabilities
- Excel Gantt chart templates are not capable of managing modern projects
- You might be saving some money, but there is a massive time expense instead
Don’t waste your time. Find the tool that works for you and your team.
Want help with that? Here’s a project management tools list that you can use to identify the best fit for your team or organization.
Or jump straight to the top, and see why organizations like Sodastream, Verifone, the World Anti-Doping Agency, and American Railcar are using Proggio.