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Gantt vs Kanban: What to Use for My Project?

Running projects should now be easier than ever before, as the introduction of slick new online tools allows you a great degree of flexibility. Yet, with so many options to choose from you might wonder where to get started. The best approach is for you to get to grips with the subject of the Gantt chart vs Kanban board, including the areas where each is stronger or weaker than the other. These are both hugely effective ways of managing the tasks that makeup projects, but the same one won’t always be right for your team at different times. Therefore, you need to understand when to use a Gantt chart and when a Kanban board would be the better choice.

What are the key factors to take into account that will allow you to make the right decision every time? We can get started by taking a close look at what Gantt charts are all about and then take it from there.

What do Gantt charts provide?

The Gantt charts give us a classic way of getting a visual representation of the tasks needing to be carried out on a project from start to finish. This is a bar chart design that has been around for more than a century, and it shows us the timeline and tasks involved in a project in a very simple approach. The Gantt chart method was initially widely used in construction projects and even in planning war-related activities.

The clever way it is set up means that a Gantt chart makes it easy for us to see at a glance the timelines involved in the project and how long each task should take as part of the overall work. It also lets us calculate the changing resource needs over that period.

Gantt chart in Kanbanchi without dependencies between cards

To get started, you just need to know the dates you are working towards and the tasks that need to be completed. As you fill in the chart, you will see that establishing dependencies between different tasks is a vital step in getting a more complete picture of how the project needs to progress.

Gantt chart in Kanbanchi with the dependencies between cards

How do we use Kanban boards?

The Kanban methodology has been in use since the 1940s when it was first introduced by Toyota to allow greater control over the workflow and their use of parts. It is an agile process that also uses a simple visual representation of the work that makes up the project.

However, in this case, what you can see is the progress of individual tasks as they move through the different stages. This is done by moving the task through columns that are marked with labels such as “to do”, “doing” and “done”, giving a sense of the workflow and letting you spot any areas where a backlog is forming.

Basic Kanban board with the lists “To Do”, “Doing”, and “Done”

The set-up process here involves working out which steps we want to follow and who carries them out. The basic workflow stages mentioned above are usually always needed, but you might also need to add in others to cover tasks such as sending out a quote or following up with the client.

The benefits and drawbacks of Gantt charts

This approach to project management has a series of advantages and a few disadvantages, such as the following areas.

PROCON
Being able to clearly see the deadlines that are in place at each stage of the project. This makes it easier to work through a project with a hard deadline in place without losing sight of when it needs to be completed.The fact that you need to estimate your deadlines in advance can be an issue, as any errors in the initial estimation will cause inaccuracies further on in the project. Even one task being out will most likely cause a knock-on effect in others.
It also allows you to break the project down into tasks and see which of them have dependencies with others. The way that everything fits together on one chart means that you minimize the risk of missing a certain task or trying to complete something before a task that needs to be done first of all.A Gantt chart on a big project can become complex and unwieldy
Perhaps the biggest benefit of using Gantt charts is in the way that they allow you to allocate resources for the duration of the work
The Gantt chart is an approach that can be used in many different industries, such as construction, finance and public services
It gives a good level of control over large projects but can also be used on smaller pieces of work just as well

 

The benefits and drawbacks of Kanban boards

As with Gantt charts, we can find a number of positives and negatives when using the Kanban methodology. The following are some of the key points to bear in mind.

PROCON
The project is broken down into smaller chunks, making it easier to see how all of the different pieces that make it up need to fit togetherIn terms of drawbacks, it doesn’t suit every type of project or team culture. For example, the Kanban methodology doesn’t work well in an environment where exact timings are needed for each process.
A very simple way of seeing the latest progress and any areas of concern, such as where a backlog is potentially building up and stopping others from doing their jobs in the next stageThe lack of timescales on Kanban boards can be a problem if it means that team members may be unsure of what to do first
Makes it easier for teams to focus their attention on the most urgent tasks too. Everyone can see the effect that falling behind schedule with their work would have on other tasks further along the line.
Kanban is widely used in the manufacturing industry, where its focus on getting through a high level of output on a series of repeatable tasks fits in perfectly
Can be effectively used in many other areas such as software development

 

When should you use Gantt charts or Kanban boards?

The cultural background of each method is interesting, as Gantt charts were created by American engineer Henry Gantt, while the Japanese engineer Taiichi Ohno is credited with first introducing the Kanban methodology.

Yet, it would be wrong to look at this as being a decision between American vs Japanese ways of working. Teams from all over the planet can benefit from using both of these approaches if they use the right one for each occasion.

Work out which one is right for you and answer this question of Kanban vs Gantt for yourself. This short list of the ways that Gantt and Kanban can be used to good effect in a variety of situations will be helpful.

 

KANBANGANTT
Use for achieving continuous improvement on a repeatable processSuited to working towards a fixed goal made up of unique milestones
Gives a clear, visual representation in real-time of a workflow processCan be used to provide an overview of the timeline and priorities
Is suitable for cases where no detailed, up-front plan is neededUse this method where there are interdependencies that need to be shown
For day-to-day, business as usual tasksIs best suited to one-off projects with a diverse set of tasks
Can help avoid teams waiting around for others to complete their part of a taskFor a project with tasks that need to be completed in a specific order and by fixed dates
If there is no set start or end dateIs ideal where several teams are involved in tasks that all fit together eventually

 

As we can see, by looking at the work that needs to be managed, it should be easy to work out where a Gantt chart or Kanban board is your best choice. In some cases, you might see that you need to get the benefits offered by both methods on a single project. What should you do in this case?

We’ll take a look in a moment at how both ways of working can be combined, but first of all, we need to see how the introduction of tools has changed the landscape.

Using Gantt tools and Kanban tools

Both of these methods can be carried out on a manual basis. In fact, they started as paper-based charts and boards that were updated manually at each stage. Thankfully, the introduction of the latest technology has allowed us to move on to a slicker way of working, with on-screen and online versions of Gantt charts and Kanban boards now available.

This provides your team with a series of crucial advantages that make it easier to use both of these tools more effectively. One of the biggest advantages of using an online tool is that it is far easier to share and collaborate with remote team members. There is no need for everyone to rely on a physical chart that can only be accessed or updated in a certain location, allowing greater productivity gains.

Going online to manage your tasks and projects gives other important benefits that are worth bearing in mind. A good example can be seen with the option of setting permission levels, while you can also link into other projects or use it with other tools like the calendar or email from a suite such as Google Workspace.

With more complex or larger pieces of work, a physical chart can get messy, while an online tool will always present a clean, orderly look that is easy to follow. It is often possible to customize these online tools, adding in the colors or the layout that best suits your team, or even adding custom fields if required.

Overall, the fast, simple process of updating these charts anywhere at any time means that the full power and versatility of Gantt and Kanban can be unleashed more easily than ever before. The days of whiteboards or paper copies as a means of tracking tasks are now just about finished.

How both can be used and be useful together

As we have seen, Gantt charts and Kanban boards are each extremely useful in different situations. It will often be clear which of these options is right for any situation but what about those cases in which you might be best using a combination of these tools?

The clearest benefit of using both approaches together is that you get an overall view of the project in one way while drilling down to the individual tasks on another. This can be a particularly useful method of staying in control of several projects at one time.

Combining these two popular tools gives you the benefits of both without having to deal with the drawbacks of either of them. For example, the dependencies and overall deadlines are shown in the Gantt chart, while the Kanban board is where you can look for continuous improvement on the repeatable tasks.

All of this means that you can choose exactly what you need to see at any given time. You can keep track of the day-to-day processes that are needed at each stage without taking your eye off the ball in terms of the overall project deadlines and objectives.

Kanbanchi combines Gantt chart and Kanban board synched in real-time

Probably the biggest issue in the past would have been in combining both methodologies in a way that made them easy to manage and kept them synchronized at all times. It is easy to imagine the confusion that could be caused if one chart is updated with the relevant information but the other isn’t.

The good news is that the presence of online tools makes it easier to keep your information right at all times. With the Kanbanchi app, both types of boards are synchronized in real-time. With all of the correct data at your fingertips, it is a simple way of getting the best of both worlds.

Another reason that combining the Gantt and Kanban methods in this way is so effective is that Kanbanchi is integrated seamlessly with Google Workspace. This allows you to make full use of the suite of Google tools without having to leave your project management tools to one side to do so.

There is now no longer any need to choose between the Gantt chart vs Kanban. By using Kanbanchi, you can enjoy all of the benefits of both approaches in a smart, modern way that suits any type of business.

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