Such Happiness In Thought Happens

May 9, 2008

MS Project Gantt Charts comparisons

Filed under: MS Office — Tags: , , — Duane @ 11:32 am

This post is to help explain the uses of the different Gantt Charts to be found in Microsoft Project. A practice file to refer to can be found HERE. Note that the link points to a file that is not a .mpp file. When I attempted to download the uploaded file, all it would do is open the file in the browser. So I didn’t want to take any chances, thus changed the extension of the file to be downloaded. When you download the file, change the .mp_ to .mpp and you will then have a working Microsoft Project file to play with.

The practice file is one I made for a university assignment a few years ago. It is rather simplistic in scope, but the tasks are linked, have resources, and there are costs to the project.

Most users of Project will use the Gantt Chart and not much else. They may use Resource Sheet for resources and possibly the Network Diagram view, but of the other views they do not know what to use them for. I wish to look at the different Gantt Chart views (Gantt Chart, Tracking Gantt, Detail Gantt, Leveling Gantt, and Multiple Baseline Gantt) and the settings that create them. Once you know what is possible, there is no reason you cannot create your own Gantt chart, or modify an existing Chart. This can be seen in the practice file with a view called Complete Gantt. I created this to incorporate the Tracking Gantt and the Detail Gantt, so I could view slack and slippage at the same time as the Baseline vs the Actual.

Gantt Chart
The standard Gantt Chart displays all tasks, milestones, linkages; i.e. all graphical information about the information on the Task Sheet on the left. One important fact to remember is that by default the Gantt Chart uses the Standard Calendar to display Non-working Time. This is important if you have modified the working conditions/hours and put in Public Holidays in a new Calendar, but then can’t view the Non-Working Time in the Gantt Chart. (NOTE the Tracking Chart always uses the Project Calendar for its Non-Working Time, thus will always show Non-Working Time). It is easy to fix this problem. Right click on the Gantt Chart and choose Nonworking Time. In the field Calendar from the right, change from Standard to whatever you have specified as your Project Calendar.

The Gantt Chart by default does not display the Critical Path, unlike the other Gantt Charts. To put in the Critical Path you need to use the Gantt Chart Wizard. There are (as always with Microsoft) numerous ways of doing this: Format>Gantt Chart Wizard; the “wand” icon at the end of the formatting toolbar ; or right click on the Gantt Chart and choose Gantt Chart Wizard. Follow the steps of the wizard, with the main part being the second screen where you choose Critical Path.

Tracking Gantt
The Tracking Gantt displays the Baseline as well as the Actual information of your project. If you have not saved the Baseline (Tools>Tracking>Save Baseline), then all you will be seeing in the Tracking Gantt view is a thin version of the Gantt Chart with % Complete info instead of Resource Names beside the tasks. As mentioned earlier, the Tracking Gantt displays the Project Calendar for its Non-Working Time by default.

Pre-Baseline saved

Post-Baseline saved

The main advantage of the Tracking Gantt is when you make adjustments to the project. The bottom half of each bar (the grey part) does not move as that is the baseline. The top half will move depending upon the changes made. Thus it is easy to view what impact the change has on the whole project, and more specifically the end date. To make most use of the Tracking Gantt view however I would advise using the Tracking table instead of the Entry table. On the left-hand side of the screen which looks like Excel, this part of the view is called the Task Sheet. The columns currently viewed are grouped into what is called the Entry table. If you hover over the large square in the top left-hand corner (intersecting the columns and rows) it will inform you how to change the table.

Right click in the top left-hand corner and choose Tracking. The advantage of this table is that you can choose the Actual Start and Actual Finish dates if they will differ to when the task was meant to start or finish. One suggestion I would make though is to Insert the Indicator column at the start so that you are able to see graphical indicators when desired.

Tracking Gantt Post-Baseline with problem

Detail Gantt
If your project has any slack (that is the amount of time between Non Critical tasks and Critical tasks) the Detail Gantt view will display this. The advantage of this view is that you can see how many days of “free time” you have up your sleeve if anything goes wrong, before it will impact the rest of your project. The Detail Gantt view displays on the screen the amount of days of Free Slack. Also the Detail Gantt displays any slippage that has occurred in the project. Slippage is the difference between Actual Start and Baseline Start fields. To get to the Detail Gantt you must go to More Views, as it is not a standard view Microsoft believes will be used. Either go to View>More Views; or right click on the view titled to the left of the screen (say Gantt Chart, Tracking Gantt, etc) and then choose More Views.

To understand the graphic above, blue bars are non-critical; red bars are critical; the line to the left of any bar or diamond is the amount of slippage (time lost from when a task/milestone should have started) with the number of working days; while the line to the right of any bar or diamond is the amount of slack (how many days you have “up your sleeve” before that task/milestone becomes critical) with the number of working days.

What is important at this time is to double click in some white space on the Detail Gantt so that you can see how the view is created. When you double click on a Gantt Chart you bring up the Bar Styles. The Bar Styles determines how the tasks/milestones/etc will be displayed and what data they use to represent the image. IMPORTANT! If you look at the Slack and Slippage rows this details how these bars are created. Thus you can re-create them in another Gantt Chart view.

Leveling Gantt
You would only wish to use the Leveling Gantt if you have chosen to Level Now the resources in your project.
(Background info: It is possible that when you have assigned resources to your project, you have by accident over-allocated some of the resources. Over-allocated means that you are giving one or more resources more work in a day than is the maximum hours per day. For example you have Bob on writing the report which will take 6 hours and Bob attending the meeting which will take 4 hours (total 10 hours) when there are only 8 hours available in any given day. You see Over-allocated resources in the Resource Sheet view by the red colour, bold and a graphical indicator in the Indicator column.

One method of resolving over-allocated resources is to use the Level Resources command that is found under the Tools menu. Most experienced Project users will agree that Level Resources can cause more headaches than it is worth, but the Leveling Gantt view shows you what your project looked like before AND after the leveling. Plus you can Clear Leveling to take it back to the original.
(ASIDE I find that if you change some of the options from Level Resources it will work better. Plus you need slack in the project for Level Resources to work well)

To attempt to fix over-allocated resources, go to Tools>Level Resources. Change the settings as required, then press the Level Now button (NOTE pressing OK will do nothing). You may now be viewing a different project timeline to the one you started with. To view what changes were made go to More Views (View>More Views), and choose Leveling Gantt. The green bars on top are the Pre-Leveled tasks, while the blue tasks underneath are the Post-Leveled tasks. You will be looking for where there is a difference in the green and blue, as well as a green line that is the Delay.

To be able to simulate this view I have modified the relationship between tasks 20 and 21. It is currently a Finish-to-Start relationship. If you change it to a Start-to-Start relationship, you will cause a problem that
Management is doing too much work on the date of the 14th May 2008. In the Resource Sheet the resource called Management will be red, indicating that they are overallocated.

  • Go to Tools>Level Resources
  • Tick “Level only within available slack”
  • Untick “Leveling can create splits in remaining work”
  • Press the Level Now button.

Go to More Views>Leveling Gantt and see what changes have occurred between tasks 20 and 21.

Multiple Baseline Gantt
The only time this view would be used is if the project file contains more than one baseline.
(Background info) A Baseline is how you wish the project to run; i.e. “setting in stone” the schedule created, before work on the project begins. A number of columns/fields in Project have more than one name. For example the Start field has the following equivalents: Actual Start, Start and Baseline Start. This also allows for a Start Variance. Start, Finish, Duration, Work and Cost are the main fields I am aware of that do this.

Thus once a user is “happy” with how the project looks to be running, they can save a Baseline. To save a baseline go to Tools>Tracking>Save Baseline. The Baseline allows a user to use the Tracking Gantt to compare how the project is running compared to what they would have liked it to have run; to conduct a review after the project is finished and produce real data to support what has happened to what they would have liked.

If a significant change must occur in the project, a user can modify the project as required, and then save the changes to another Baseline (Baseline1 to Baseline10). The advantage of this is that you can see how the project evolved over its lifecycle. NOTE that the Tracking Gantt view by default uses the Baseline fields to draw its data.
RECOMMENDATION – If more than one Baseline needs to be saved for whatever reason follow these steps:

  1. You will already have a baseline saved, thus the way the project is currently running needs to be saved as Baseline1
  2. Go to Tools>Tracking>Save Baseline>choose Baseline1 for the entire project and press OK
  3. Make any changes you need to make to the project
  4. Go to Tools>Tracking>Save Baseline>choose Baseline for the entire project and press OK

What this allows is to see the progression of the project. Baseline is always the most current version of the project, while Baseline1 is what it started at, Baseline2 3 or 4 being other versions.

Then when you wish to see the changes of the versions of the project go to More Views and choose Multiple Baseline Gantt. This view only allows for three versions of the Baseline to be visible at the same time. This is because each baseline is a line either on top, in the middle, or on the bottom of each bar. If you wish to see different baselines, change the fields as required.

Conclusion
Long post, but it details the main differences between each of the Gantt Chart views in Project. As a suggestion if you use Detail Gantt, Leveling Gantt or Multiple Baseline Gantt often, make them available when you either go to the View menu, or right click on the view from the left-hand side of the screen. Go to More Views, select a view and press the Edit button. In the bottom left-hand corner there is a tickbox “Show in menu”. If you select this, the view becomes visible. This can also be used for the main views if you do not use them.

Look at how each of the bar styles are created in the different views and consolidate them into your own views if you wish to. This is what I did with the Complete Gantt view from the practice file. I copied the Slack and Slippage bars from the Detail Gantt and added them to the Tracking Gantt. You can also modify what the Non-Critical and Critical tasks look like, or make your own bars. The post Project Tips & Tricks details how to make an icon for when a milestone is completed. PMOTechniques left a comment on how to use the Flag fields to change the colour of different tasks on the site PMOTechniques. There are other possibilities as well, you are only limited to your knowledge of Project and your imagination.

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4 Comments »

  1. Excellent post, very informative and helpful.

    Thanks,
    Mike

    Comment by Mike Ritter — February 5, 2009 @ 3:31 am

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