Difference between Gantt charts and PERT charts

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Difference between Gantt charts and PERT charts
A chart is often more effective than a block of text or numerical data for communicating projects. (Image courtesy of Microsoft Developers Network.)

Both Gantt and PERT charts are used in project management. Managers often find charts effective as visualisation tools; they use them to formalise the structure of a project, make sure it stays on track and communicate the tasks and aims to teams of employees. Gantt and PERT charts perform similar roles within the project management process, but there are some key differences between them.

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Charting

One of the key differences between Gantt and PERT charts is the visualisation models used to represent the project graphically. A Gantt chart uses the bar chart format, whereas a PERT (Program Evaluation and Review Technique) chart is a type of network chart. In spite of this key difference, the two chart types usually represent some of the same data items for a project, such as the tasks and activities involved in it as well as completion duration.

Project elements

Gantt and PERT charts represent the elements of a project using slightly different focuses. A Gantt chart primarily focuses on time management for the tasks within a project. The tasks in a Gantt chart are represented in terms of their estimated timings in order to meet a predetermined schedule. PERT chart also expressed include timings, but with more information. A PERT chart also seeks to represent the relationships between the activities within a project, which is particularly valuable when there are dependencies between the tasks involved. Gantt chart also show relationships and dependencies, but this not to the same degree as PERT charts, because complex relationships are difficult to express in a Gantt chart.

Clarity

Gantt and PERT charts are suited to different projects and task types. Each chart type has advantages and disadvantages for particular project management activities. For example, a Gantt chart is simpler so makes an effective communication tool for providing an overview of project progress. For this reason a Gantt chart is often clearer than PERT charts.

Information

While a PERT chart may be more complex, for projects with lots of interdependent tasks it can represent finer detail in terms of the progress of individual tasks and the project as a whole. Since a PERT chart tends to be a little more complex, it may require more time to create and update than a Gantt chart. For some large or complex projects, a Gantt chart isn't detailed enough to facilitate project management in the way that a PERT chart could.

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