Working in the public sector regularly means I don’t have access to Microsoft Project or similar dedicated project management software. Excel is often the project management tool of choice but finding an intuitive and capable Excel Gantt Chart template can be surprisingly challenging.
A Google search produces a multitude of template charts (as well as a multitude of adverts); from simple colour-by-numbers grids, to complex formula-based tools, some free, others not.
Below you’ll find a range of free template Gantt Charts, from the super-simple to the more complicated, scaled on a range of complexity depending on Excel skill and level of detail required. Each tried, tested and improved though practice.
A link to download these templates and further information about each is available below.
The Super-Simple Gantt Chart template
The most common Gantt chart type I encounter. It’s easy to use and easy to understand, giving relevant information without overdoing it on data. You can see all constituent tasks, the time in months they’re expected to be delivered and how they relate to each other. This type is often used where little detail is required or known, such as early procurement bids and high-level reports.
There’s no clever bells and whistles; it’s a basic colour-by-numbers chart, keeping it simple and user friendly. It doesn’t show detailed data, such as resource availability, worktime requirements or even exact start and end dates. It doesn’t have any fancy formulas so you can’t ‘break it’. You don’t have to be an Excel expert to use it – and that’s what makes this so useful.
And the best thing: doesn’t make a fuss about copy and pasting into a word document – so you can stick it in your report to management board with minimum of fuss.
Download it here: Super-simple Gantt Chart template
The simple(-ish) non-Gantt Chart Gantt Chart template
This is not strictly a Gantt Chart as it presents data horizontally and doesn’t cascade individual tasks, but it does present projects in a visually interesting and condensed format. It’s especially useful for PowerPoint presentations where space is limited, highlight reports and high-level briefings. It probably wouldn’t suit an audience of professional, detail-oriented project managers.
This template allows you to illustrate complex projects in a way that’s quickly and easily digestible. Instead of additional lines for each task, this chart illustrates tasks along a horizontal line, showing lifespans of entire workstreams and activities adjacent to each other.
It does require a some artistic flare and Excel skill to create something visually interesting, but there’s no complex formulas to accidentally break. ‘Notes’ can be used to provide additional information, and stars can be dragged and dropped to highlight key events and meetings.
[I use these regularly in project highlight reports. The chart above was used recently to illustrate an expected period of high demand on a project, encouraging the project board to assign additional resources with minimum prompting.]
Download the template here: Simple-ish non-Gantt Chart template
Medium complexity, self-mapping Gantt Charts
Self-mapping Gantt Charts are where we really start to experience the benefits of a good template. Both the below examples automatically map tasks by start and end dates into a cascade on an self-generated calendar to produce a full project timeline.
The simple/medium complexity Gantt Chart template
This Gantt Chart has been produced by Vertex24, who provide a whole range of Excel documents and templates.
This template prduces a timeline automatically according to start and end dates as inputted manually or you can edit the formula to input the number of days a task is expected to take (you’ll need to know how to manipulate the formula bar).
It’s basic and clearly shows the timescales for each task and provides completion indicator.
You can access the template here: https://www.vertex42.com/ExcelTemplates/simple-gantt-chart.html (MoM bares no responsibility for information hosted on external sites)
The medium complexity Gantt Chart template with risk information
This Gantt Chart delivers similar functionality and additionally allows you to input goals, milestones, activities, tasks and categorise activities by the level of risk, with the chart automatically colour coding the graph and displaying appropriate indicators.
It’s highly automated, mapping tasks against task start dates and the number of days expected for the task, and then creating a colour coded graph.
Most users won’t need to fiddle with the formulas, if you do want to you’ll need some Excel skill.
Download the template here: Medium complex Gantt Chart
Complex Professional Gantt Chart template
This is for the serious project managers out there. It’s highly automated, creating timelines that track tasks by day, calculates the number of resource days required, and indicates whether there are sufficient resources to deliver each task in the given number of days.
You can input the number resources days per week available allowing the chart to automatically compare this figure to the number of calendar days and resource days required for each task. If a task/workstream/project requires more resource days than is available during the calendar period it will alert you to this; very useful for resource planning.
You can input the completion indicator for each task, allowing the template to calculate the completion percentage for each workstream and the overall project.
The chart can collapse and expand each workstream, allowing you to drill down to examine individual tasks, making navigation easier; especially for more complex projects.
[I use this template regularly. It’s detailed enough to suite my purposes, whilst giving me the option of modifying the formulas as I need]
Download the template here: Complex Gantt Chart Template