How to make Asana Gantt charts with Instagantt
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After consulting dozens of organizations from Fortune 500 enterprises to 5-person start-ups, I’ve noticed seasoned project managers often get excited when they see Asana in action and how much easier it is to get participation and buy-in from their teams. However, one of the biggest worries I hear is, “So how do we get Asana Gantt charts?”
Gantt charts (developed by Henry Gantt in the early 20th century) are a visualization of a project’s schedule. It’s a quick way to see the scheduled start and end dates for all the tasks, as well as the dependencies between tasks. So if Task B cannot start until Task A is completed, you may have trouble ascertaining that from a list of tasks but it’s obvious with a Gantt chart.
Asana added built-in Gantt chart functionality in March 2018 (called Timeline). But there is also a well-supported integration called Instagantt that adds Asana Gantt charts. Project manager nerds rejoice!
Instagantt allows you to visualize and plan Asana projects and tasks in a Gantt chart. It provides all the functionality you need without the often unnecessary complexity of programs like Microsoft Project.
Instagantt is a separate service with a separate fee. There is a free tier up to 3 projects so you can try it out, or it costs $7/month for a single user or $5/month for multiple users. This is very reasonable for its feature set.
Data displayed in Instagantt lives in Asana and syncs to Instagantt in real time. This includes things likes due dates, assignee, and even color-coding. This is a two-way communication between Asana and Instagantt, so changes made in Instagantt immediately reflect in Asana and vice versa.
You can even create new projects, tasks, and subtasks directly in Instagantt and they immediately populate in Asana.
The process to start creating Asana Gantt charts is fast and easy. On the Instagantt homepage, click “Sign up with Asana.” By using Asana Connect, you can login using your Asana credentials. You will need to authorize the Instagantt app, and then you’re off and running!
The first step is to connect what projects you want to sync from Asana. The synced projects will appear in the left sidebar sorted by Asana organization/workspace. You can always add more projects later if you want. Just click the “+” Connect More Projects button in the left sidebar, then “Connect Project.”
After you add some projects, you can build a Gantt chart for each project individually. Sometimes your projects are part of a larger campaign or initiative, however. In those cases, you probably want to view tasks from those related projects as part of one Gantt chart.
You can do this by selecting the “+” Connect More Projects button in the left sidebar, then “Create Group of Projects.”
Building Asana Gantt charts
Add & adjust start/due dates
After importing a project from Asana, all the due dates will appear on the Gantt chart. Tasks without due dates won’t appear on the chart initially so you need to click on the chart in the appropriate row to set a due date. You can drag the ends of the task to adjust the start and end dates.
If you want to change the timeline for a group of tasks (due to a delay, for example) you can click and drag to create a lasso tool that selects multiple tasks.
Instagantt supports task dependencies so you can visualize that “Task A needs to be completed before Task B.” There are other types of task dependencies in project management planning, but this is the only type supported by Instagantt. Fortunately, it’s by far the most common.
The linking mechanism is fast and seamless. A small circle appears next to a task, and you just drag it to another task. I think you could show all dependencies for a whole project in just a few minutes of linking.
Add special days and milestones
If there’s a special date in your schedule, you can highlight it and choose a custom color. This is useful for critical dates like “Go Live” or company holidays. Right click on an open area in the chart and select “Highlight day.”
You can also make important tasks “milestones.” In the task details, select “Milestone > Convert to Milestone.” The task will now appear as a yellow diamond to symbolize the milestone.
When organizing massive projects with hundreds of tasks, Gantt charts can get a bit unwieldy and too complicated to quickly understand the current status. Filters can help with this problem by simplifying what’s visible.
One type of filter lets you filter by tag. Using this, you could only show one type of task, like tasks tagged “Engineering,” for example. Another type of filter is by user. You could show tasks only related to one assignee in order to get a chart for each person.
There are also other visibility options throughout the program, including toggling whether to show completed tasks, the actual completion date alongside the scheduled completion date, weekends, task names next to bars, etc.
Finally, a Workload view enables you to sort tasks by person to help with load balancing or catching the places in a project where a team member may be overextended.
A baseline is a snapshot of your Gantt chart at a specific time. That baseline can then be loaded on top of the current chart to compare how the reality has changed from the scheduled plan. This is a really neat feature as there is really no equivalent feature in Asana of comparing reality to the plan at a previous time.
Data sharing & export
Instagantt has 3 ways to share the Asana Gantt chart data:
1. Export spreadsheet
You can export all the data if you need to format it in Excel. You can also import this spreadsheet directly into Microsoft Project if you decide a more powerful program is required.
2. Export image
There is a simple menu screen to export a whole project as an image. This can be really helpful for presentations or printed documents.
3. Share public baseline snapshot
If you want to share the most recent baseline with a client or to let end-users know your roadmap, you can create a shareable, read-only URL. You can delete this URL at any time to remove access to the projects.
This is really powerful feature because Trello has a public dashboard feature like this, but Asana does not. Instagantt makes it possible to share a public dashboard with the world.
One thing every enterprise that deals with significant confidential information is concerned with is security and dependability. If that’s you, you may want to read the following before fully embracing Instagantt.
The reason I say this is because my understanding is Instagantt is built and maintained by a single developer in Latin America. This is truly impressive for one person because it’s such a slick application. However, I do think it’s a concern for certain organizations.
Update 1/8/16: In response to this article, the creator of Instagantt shared the following with me: “We don’t store any information related to tasks in our own system. Everything is pulled live from Asana when you use Instagantt. So if you ever want to stop using Instagantt, revoking permission to Instagantt from Asana will remove our access to your data.”
If you’re an Asana user and want more Gantt chart features, then Instagantt is basically your only option. But that’s not a bad thing. Instagantt is reasonably priced and even offers some powerful features besides Gantt charts like public dashboards or baseline comparisons that you don’t get with Asana.
Do you use Instagantt? Are there any other benefits or drawbacks you’ve experienced?